The Ducks laid an egg on Monday and suffered their third consecutive setback in a 4-2 loss to the visiting St. Louis Blues. The Blues pressured the Ducks all game long, and Corey Perry admitted the other club “played a little bit harder.” Here’s what we learned.
1. The pairing of Francois Beauchemin and Kevin Bieksa was a failed experiment. Since Marcus Pettersson made his NHL debut last month, he’s been a fixture in the lineup.
But for the second time in three games, he was a healthy scratch, ensuring both veteran blue-liners would be in the lineup.
And this time, they were paired together, in an attempt to ensure the Ducks had two strong combinations to log heavy minutes in Cam Fowler-Brandon Montour and Hampus Lindholm-Josh Manson.
Bieksa, 36, was on the ice for three of the Blues’ four goals. Beauchemin, 37, was out there for one.
“We felt that we have four other defensemen who we feel are capable of playing against the one-two lines,” said coach Randy Carlyle, “and that would give an opportunity for two veteran guys to form a solid stay-at-home pair for us.
“The veteran presence of those two, we felt that they should be able to provide us 15 minutes of safe and hard hockey.”
Bieksa and his $4-million salary come off the books this summer, and he’s unlikely to be back. Beauchemin is set to retire at season’s end.
2. Derek Grant continues to solidify his role as the club’s fourth-line center. After being forced into top-line duty at times early in the season because of an injury, Grant has been in and out of the lineup.
But recently, he has played in place of Antoine Vermette, and he’s rewarding the staff’s confidence in him.
The journeyman pivot displayed his hockey smarts on the Ducks’ second goal.
Grant dished it to Chris Kelly and then immediately glided over to provide the screen in front of Blues goalie Jake Allen, and he was able to deflect the wrist shot into the net.
He now has 21 points on the season, and although he’s a free agent following the season, he’s likely someone Bob Murray wants to keep.
3. The Ducks still need to generate offense from other areas. Sure, the fourth line scored a goal, but it’s the fourth consecutive contest where the second and third units didn’t produce at even strength.
If they’re going to stave off the other clubs fighting for the playoffs, the Ducks need more offense from the Ryan Kesler- and Adam Henrique-led lines, a point Carlyle bemoaned Sunday.
The top unit continues to excel, and it was Ryan Getzlaf who again created magic with a beautiful pass on Perry’s second-period goal.
But sooner or later, they’ll need more contributions if they want to keep playing hockey into mid-April.