For the first half of Sunday’s game, it might as well have been Madison Square Garden West. New York Rangers fans had a heavy presence at Honda Center, and their Rangers were skating up and down the ice as if they were on Seventh Avenue in New York City.
But these Ducks have felt at home for some time now, and their 6-3 win indicated they might be playing the best in the Western Conference.
Here’s what we learned:
All four lines are set
Was it six months ago that the Ducks fielded a lineup with Nick Sorensen, Michael Sgarbossa and Joseph Cramarossa?
Nothing against those players, but it took a long time for the Ducks to get the lineup they wanted, under the salary cap.
Patrick Eaves has solidified the top line, with Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell, and taken pressure off the line of Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano.
The third line of Nick Ritchie, Antoine Vermette and Corey Perry has been a fixture, as has Nate Thompson, Chris Wagner, Logan Shaw and Jared Boll rotating through the fourth line.
“I think, from a lineup standpoint, we’re as comfortable as we’ve been all year,” Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said. “We have a fourth line that we can play — you don’t hold your breath every time they go over the boards or there’s an icing call.
“We have a third line that has size and has scoring on it. Vermette’s good in the face-off circle. Ritchie’s a young kid that’s finding his way. Corey Perry’s scoring again. So then we’ve got balance through our lineup.... That’s probably the biggest change from the beginning of the year to where we are now.”
The Ducks had to adjust to a freestyle game
Trading chances isn’t their style, and that’s the way the Rangers play. The Ducks allowed more odd-man rushes Sunday than in recent memory, and they had to curb that to get back to their methodical ways.
The four-goal first period was hardly what Carlyle often refers to as a “3-2 game” the Ducks usually play.
“The fact is when you play the Eastern [Conference] teams, it’s a little bit of a different game — flipping the puck, skate on to it — those kinds of things,” Getzlaf said. “Sometimes it takes you a little bit to get adjusted to that. I thought, tonight, we did a better job, as the game went on, of keeping everyone in front of us.”
The schedule did the Ducks a favor
For the second straight game, the Ducks played a team on the back end of consecutive games, with the Winnipeg Jets and Rangers coming in tired.
To their credit, the Ducks recognized that. It might have been particularly helpful Sunday because goalie Jonathan Bernier didn’t have his best game, nor did Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Rick Nash’s shot trickled through Bernier’s legs, and Bernier later caught a break when a Rangers goal was waved off.
“When you get a team that played the night before, we were rested, waiting for them,” Carlyle said. “You’ve got to try and take advantage of that. I thought we didn’t really get going in the hockey game until the third period we were more consistent than we were in the first two … but we were in decent enough position.”