The Canucks have that look about them.
Seeing as many (if not more) Canucks sweaters than Ducks sweaters in the stands at Honda Center is one thing — chalk that atmosphere up to a rare Saturday-Sunday Kings-Ducks doubleheader that allowed fans to come down from Vancouver for a weekend of hockey and (mostly) sunshine.
The best magic is taking place on the ice. The last two days have seen Vancouver beat the Kings and Ducks each at their own game. Sunday’s 3-0 win required only 16 shots on goal and a strong performance by backup goalie Cory Schneider. Following his first shutout of the season, Schneider has a better goals-against average (2.14 to 2.21) and save percentage (.928 to .925) than starter Roberto Luongo.
Two goals by third-line center Manny Malhotra off a pair of Ducks miscues, and a power-play goal by Daniel Sedin that went off Andreas Lilja’s stick, proved the Canucks are more than just a two-twin pony. They outmuscled the Kings in a 3-1 win Saturday. On Sunday they frustrated Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan into submission (Getzlaf put 11 shots on goal but converted none), and took their chances with everyone else while capitalizing on a couple mistakes by Lilja and Cam Fowler.
It’s a good strategy against a Ducks team that is still missing two-thirds of its second line. Jason Blake (hand) and Saku Koivu (groin) have now missed back-to-back games. The Ducks did well to gain two points against two teams ahead of them in the standings, Dallas and Detroit, in their last two games.
Stopping the Canucks right now seems to be getting harder with every game. Are they the best team the Ducks have seen this season?
“They’re definitely one of them,” Getzlaf said. “The standings will show you that before you get on the ice. It’s not a trick in this league to get to the top of the standings, it’s hard work and they’ve been doing it all year.”
A few more notes:
It was a tough night for Lilja and Fowler, who both finished minus-2. Lilja was on the ice for all three goals against. Defenseman Andy Sutton was a healthy scratch for the sixth straight game, but Lilja gave head coach Randy Carlyle a reason to put Sutton back in.
The Canucks’ 16 shots on goal were two off their season low — also a victory, 4-1 at Minnesota on Feb. 15.
There was no change in the playoff picture thanks to the Nashville Predators’ loss in Calgary. Nashville, Anaheim and Minnesota all have 75 points — one less than eighth-place L.A. — through 66 games. The Wild hold the tiebreaker and are the ninth-place team by virtue of having won more games in regulation.
One pleasant surprise in all three games this week was the sight of George Parros, Sheldon Brookbank and Kyle Chipchura cycling the puck effectively. They did just as well converting their scoring chances today as everyone else and Carlyle rewarded them with no less than 9 minutes, 14 seconds of time on ice at even strength.
It was a quiet return to Anaheim for Maxim Lapierre: 9:15 TOI, two hits, one takeaway, one blocked shot 1-4 in the faceoff circle.
The Ducks will not practice tomorrow. They’re back on the ice Tuesday.