Ducks sweep four-game road trip in style

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune’s Derek Lee recaps the Ducks’ four-game road trip.

The first road trip of the season for the Anaheim Ducks appeared to be a daunting task on paper. A matchup with Adam Fantilli and the Columbus Blue Jackets followed by a reverse fixture against a Boston Bruins team that they’d gone toe-to-toe with just last week.

A pair of games against two Pennsylvania-based teams in the Philadelphia Flyers and the new-look Pittsburgh Penguins would round out the roadie.

But these aren’t last season’s Ducks. Not only did they hold their own against the quartet of teams, but they won all four games—some of them in convincing fashion.

Second line is “en fuego”

They were powered by the second line of Frank Vatrano, Mason McTavish and Ryan Strome. This line has failed to register a point in just one game this season (against Dallas), one that the Ducks lost.

McTavish and Strome closed out the road trip on simultaneous five-game point streaks and Vatrano now has nine goals in nine games. The latter scored the game-winning goal against Columbus in overtime and added a hat trick in the game against the Flyers.

Oct 28, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Anaheim Ducks right wing Frank Vatrano (77) celebrates his third goal of the game during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Anaheim won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

McTavish scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the Ducks’ ferocious comeback against the Penguins, with his game-winner coming with 12.8 seconds remaining in the third period.

Lineup depth coming through

Another positive was that the Ducks got contributions from all across their lineup during the four-game road trip. Brett Leason scored the game-tying goal against Columbus and Benoit-Olivier Groulx had the primary assist on Vatrano’s overtime winner.

Radko Gudas scored his first goal as a Duck against the Bruins off a primary assist from Urho Vaakanainen, who registered his first point of the season. Sam Carrick had some key faceoff wins down the stretch as the Ducks furiously mounted a comeback effort and he was rewarded with the secondary assist on Leo Carlsson’s second goal of the season.

The third line of Max Jones, Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg has now registered points in consecutive games. Silfverberg scored against the Penguins in his 700th NHL game while Henrique had the key interception and the primary assist on McTavish’s game-winning goal.

Goaltending keeping pace

The goaltending has been stellar as well, with both John Gibson and Lukáš Dostál making saves at key moments to keep their team in the game. Gibson left the game against Pittsburgh after the first period with an upper-body injury, but Dostál replaced him in seamless fashion, making 33 saves.

In past seasons, Gibson has been heavily relied on as the starter, but Dostál has proved up to the task this season and could earn himself more starts down the road, especially if Gibson is out for an extended period of time.

Welcome to the Crone Zone

Head coach Greg Cronin was absolutely livid after Ross Johnston’s first goal as a Duck was waved off due to goaltender interference from Sam Carrick. The replay showed minimal interference with Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry, but Carrick was in the crease when the goal was scored.

After the Ducks challenged the call and it was upheld, Cronin continued to grill the officials and was given a two-minute misconduct. That didn’t seem to phase the Arlington, Mass. native one bit. He continued to bark at the officials and earned himself a game misconduct.

Cronin has never been to shy away from saying how he’s feeling and this latest instance is just another example.

Less for Leo?

Leo Carlsson is currently on a development schedule which has him limited to playing two games per week. He had his first-career multi-point game as an NHLer against Boston on Thursday and then played against Philadelphia on Saturday.

Oct 30, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Leo Carlsson (91) warms up before the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After playing in tonight’s game against Pittsburgh, all eyes will be on whether he plays in Wednesday’s game against Arizona with another game on Sunday against Vegas. With three days of rest in between, the trend could possibly be bucked for this week.

My youth is yours

Speaking of Carlsson, he’s just one of the many young players on the Ducks who has helped contribute during the early part of the season. Pavel Mintyukov has impressed in his first season in the NHL thus far and Jackson LaCombe has carried the momentum from his cup of coffee in the NHL last season into this season. The aforementioned Dostál has been solid in net and the Ducks have McTavish, Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry up front as well.

Zegras scored his first goal of the season on Saturday, a power play tally and his first point of the season since Oct. 19. Terry’s goal against the Bruins with the goaltender pulled tied the game and helped take Anaheim to overtime.

After collecting three points tonight, McTavish is now tied for the team lead in points (11) along with Ryan Strome. His shorthanded game-winner was the first shorthanded goal of his NHL career.