It’s a scenario they’d like to repeat later this year in the Stanley Cup Final, and in a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Honda Center, Anaheim has visibly affixed its eyes on that destination.
No. 2 goalie John Gibson stopped 37 of 38 shots and veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin scored a goal and continued impressively urging on his teammates to a defensive commitment.
And while there’s been some residual impact of the six trades Anaheim General Manager Bob Murray made in the week-plus before Monday’s NHL trade deadline, there’s still more help to come.
Takeaway No. 1: Gibson and No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen are treating their situation professionally.
Ego is inherent in athletes, especially professionals driven to be the best.
Instead of being threatened by each other, Andersen and Gibson are feeding off the other’s performance.
Andersen appeared in 20 straight games when Gibson was hurt. Gibson played in 10 straight with Andersen injured.
Andersen stopped 29 of 30 shots Tuesday in Arizona. Gibson denied 37 of 38 a night later, against stronger Montreal.
“You just worry about the team winning the game,” Gibson said when asked if he drew motivation from facing a gifted team while matched against NHL goals-against average leader Carey Price. “I’m sure some people do [concern themselves with the competition]. I just go out there and want to win. Doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”
Takeaway No. 2: Institutional knowledge helps.
Former Canadien forward Jiri Sekac knew to charge toward Price as Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm sent in a shot from near the blue line.
“I knew [Montreal defenseman] PK [Subban] wasn’t going to rim the puck,” Sekac said. “He always tries to make some play. I knew I had to play the body.”
Because of it, the Lindholm rebound skidded off Sekac to Anaheim center Rickard Rakell, who scored for a 2-0 second-period lead.
Sekac showed far more joy than Rakell. Of course, he had reason, less than nine days from being traded for Devante Smith-Pelly.
“Nothing gets better than beating the team you used to play for,” Sekac said.
Takeaway No. 3: So he’s feeling at home?
Sekac said he’s still living in a hotel, but after languishing under Montreal Coach Michel Therrien’s defensive philosophy, he was beaming after the victory in which he contributed his third assist in five games.
“Everyone believes in me here, so I’m trying to do the things they got me here for,” he said.
Takeaway No. 4: And just think who’s not here.
Because of various injuries, the victory came without top-scoring defenseman Sami Vatanen, 21-goal scorer Matt Beleskey, top trade acquisition James Wisniewski and former Toronto defenseman Korbinian Holzer.