What the Ducks showed in beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 Friday night is that the winning formula they’re establishing doesn’t always need Frederik Andersen in goal.
Buckling down to ensure rookie goalie John Gibson wouldn’t endure a repeat of the indignity he suffered through 15 days earlier in Pittsburgh, the Ducks only let the visitors take 17 shots on goal.
“More of a complete game than we’ve played in a while,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said.”It was a pretty physical game. We did well.”
The Ducks took 33 hits from the tough Blue Jackets and dished out 32 of their own, winning 41 of 67 faceoffs to seize game-long control of the puck after scoring two early power-play goals.
Andersen was 6-0 after Gibson was hammered for six goals on 39 shots in Pittsburgh, but the “identity” that defenseman Cam Fowler said has emerged during a seven-game winning streak is what’s truly shining now.
Takeaway No. 1: The Pittsburgh loss officially looks like an aberration.
Yes, the Ducks will be tested by pure talent over their next five games -- all against returning Western Conference playoff teams -- but Gibson and the men in front of him were in clamp-down mode.
By keeping the fifth opponent in six games to one goal or less, the Ducks are now tied for seventh in the NHL by allowing 27.2 shots per game.
And there were none of the fast breaks that Pittsburgh achieved in the season opener.
“We have a good group in there, a good bunch of teammates … they want to pick up if somebody’s down,” Boudreau said. “We played well, limiting that team to less than 20 shots is a real coup.”
Takeaway No. 2: It may not last, but Devante Smith-Pelly is showing increased comfort on the first line.
As injured veteran forward Dany Heatley (groin) gets closer to playing -- he’ll join the team on its four-game trip to Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas and Colorado -- Smith-Pelly has points in four of his last five games, including a goal and six hits Friday.
Smith-Pelly had another chance denied by the left post.
“Go to the net, it’s going to come to you,” Smith-Pelly said. “Good for one to finally squeak in.”
Takeaway No. 3: These seven-game win streaks are getting to be a ho-hum accomplishment.
This is the fourth time the Ducks have won seven straight since the start of last season, and there have only been 10 such streaks that long in the NHL.
The longest such stretch was Boston’s 12 straight from March 2 to 22 earlier this year.
Takeaway No. 4: Big wins, big numbers.
The Ducks lead the NHL in goals (28) while defenseman Sami Vatanen has the most power-play points (seven) in the league.
On Vatanen’s first-period goal, rookie William Karlsson achieved his first career NHL assist.