The Ducks beat the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1, on Tuesday. Here's what we learned.
1. Cam Fowler is making himself too valuable to trade.
The Ducks' depth on defense and their salary cap problems triggered speculation they'd have to trade a defenseman, and Fowler's name began to pop up in just about every trade rumor that involved the Ducks. He'd be a great addition to just about any team: He's mobile, smart, just short of his 25th birthday and in his seventh NHL season. And he carries a $4 million annual cap hit through the 2017-18 season, a manageable number.
But Fowler has played so well for the Ducks this season and has stepped up so impressively while Hampus Lindholm negotiated a new contract and Simon Despres exited the lineup because of a concussion that he has become one of their most pivotal players. He played 23 minutes and 52 seconds Tuesday, tops among the Ducks' defensemen, and scored what stood as the winning goal, his seventh goal and 14th point of the season. He also recorded one hit and two blocked shots.
Of note is that Fowler took four shots, continuing his plan to shoot more than he has in the past. He has been credited with 50 shots in 23 games this season, an average of 2.17 per game. Before this season, he averaged 1.43 shots per game.
"I'm trying to have more of a shooter's mentality," said Fowler, who on Tuesday tied Chris Kunitz for 10th on the franchise scoring list with his 192nd point. "By no means am I shooting the lights out. I'm definitely getting some good bounces here and there. I'm kind of a believer that you have to put yourself in the right situations to create your own luck.
"In previous years, I haven't been shooting the puck enough. Not nearly enough. So, the more pucks I can direct toward the net, the better off I am. I'm happy to see a few bounce my way right now."
So are the Ducks. They're handling their cap problems well at the moment but might have to make a move later. Fowler is making a strong case on why he shouldn't be the one to go.
2. Rickard Rakell is making up for lost time.
The Swedish forward missed the first nine games of the season while negotiating a new contract and recovering from surgery to remove scar tissue from the area of an appendectomy. But he hasn't needed much of an adjustment period to get up to speed, further proof that training camp is overrated.
Rakell's goal on Tuesday gave him the Ducks' team lead at nine, one ahead of Ryan Kesler. He has 13 points in 14 games and has been the most productive member of the Rakell-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry line.
Perry, incidentally, has gone 15 games without a goal. He was stopped point-blank by Carey Price several times Tuesday and got into a fight with Montreal's Andrew Shaw in the first period.
3. Ryan Kesler gets motivated by seeing Montreal.
The Ducks' center had two assists on Tuesday and has five goals and 16 points in 18 career games against the Canadiens. Remember, he has spent his whole career in the Western conference and hasn't played the Canadiens and other East teams very often.
But Kesler has been finding similar success against other teams lately. He has four assists in his last three games, two goals and six points in his last seven games and seven goals and 14 points in the 14 games the Ducks played in November. They were 8-4-2 in November.