The Anaheim Ducks Have Found the Second Line They Have Needed


Outside of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the first line, the Anaheim Ducks have had a revolving door of lines beneath them over the past few seasons. This is partially because coach Bruce Boudreau is always willing to experiment and use the blender to mix and match different combinations. However, line chemistry is a relevant thing, and this team’s hopes of winning a Stanley Cup are made better with continuity on the lines. Perry’s absence in the lineup may have given Boudreau a strong second line. Matt Beleskey, Ryan Kesler, and Jakob Silfverberg need to play more games together, as they have been terrific in the two games they have played with each other.

Yes, the Ducks have only played 16 games thus far, and that trio has only skated together for two games, but they have proven in limited action that when healthy, those three should be together at even strength whenever possible. The trio has been dangerous on nearly every shift in the two games, and despite the fact that the Ducks lost both games (albeit in the shootout), it does not take away from the fact that they were effective at creating scoring opportunities. In their first game as a line, Beleskey scored his seventh goal of the season, with Kesler and Silfverberg both drawing assists. Each member of the trio played north of 18 minutes and recorded 16 of the Ducks’ 39 shots on goal against Arizona.

On Sunday, the trio was held off the scoresheet. However, they faced off against the Sedin line, holding Vancouver’s top line to six shots on goal, neutralizing Vancouver’s most dangerous scoring line and holding them scoreless. Beleskey played 16:48, but Silfverberg played 19:26, while Kesler led all Anaheim forwards with 22:09. The defensive effort by the line was great, but they created havoc in the offensive zone as well, creating great scoring chances and driving play.

Silfverberg, who signed a one year deal in the offseason, has really taken steps forward in his play this season. After a broken hand caused him to miss 24 games, Silfverberg seems to be returning to the form that the Ducks expected him to be at when they acquired him as part of the Bobby Ryan deal. Though Silfverberg does not have a goal yet on the season, he is contributing on areas of the ice besides the scoresheet. He is battling for pucks, engaged on the forecheck, and creating scoring opportunities for his teammates and himself in the process. Last season, Silfverberg seemed tentative to engage in puck battles and sometimes was a spectator on the perimeter. He has added the aggressiveness and willingness to battle along with his spectacular two-way play, as he is one of Boudreau’s most trusted forwards on the penalty-kill. Unless he suffers a catastrophic injury or has horrendous puck luck, Silfverberg will eventually find the back of the net, and that first goal could give him confidence and lead to a flurry of scores for the Swede.

For Beleskey, he has had no problem finding the net, potting seven goals so far on the young season. Beleskey had success with Getzlaf and Perry in limited action the past couple of seasons, and he should find a similar level of success with Kesler and Silfverberg. He and Kesler help each other offensively, with both players willing to dig for the puck in the dirty areas and feed the puck to one another. Kesler is a threat to make a play happen with the puck on his stick, and having a player willing to win the puck and get it to him is beneficial to both players. Beleskey has an extremely heavy shot, and he is using it with more consistency. He has added more offensive skill to his game this season: in previous seasons, his goals were a product of crashing the net and winning in the crease, but he has shot the puck incredibly well this season. Beleskey has become one of the most important depth forwards on this team, and the Ducks will need Beleskey to continue producing if they hope to make a deep playoff run.

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When Kesler chose Anaheim as the destination he wanted to be traded to, he did it for one reason: to win the Stanley Cup that he seeks. So far, he has had to carry the load on the second line, but he may no longer have to do that with Beleskey and Silfverberg, two players who complement his tremendous skillset. Beleskey and Kesler use their grit and toughness in the corners to win pucks defensively and create chances on offense. With Silfverberg, Kesler can feed the puck to a player who has a lethal wrist shot, while being able to comfortably match up against the opponent’s top forward groups since both are terrific two-way players who broke into the league with strong defensive play.

The Ducks have had their top line of Getzlaf, Perry, and their own revolving door at left wing. Getzlaf and Perry make whoever plays with them a better player, but the Ducks now have something they lacked last year: a second line that can ease pressure off the two superstars. With Kesler, this is a line that can contribute a healthy amount of goals, instead of depending on Getzlaf and Perry each and every night. This is also a line that can take the toughest defensive assignments away from Getzlaf and Perry, allowing them to focus more on the scoring aspect of the game. Beleskey, Kesler, and Silfverberg do not have the same tremendous skillset that Getzlaf, Perry, and whomever bring, but this line has tremendous skill and could become a terrific secondary unit in time. The Ducks lacked a formidable four-line game last season, and it contributed to their undoing in the playoffs. Now, they may have the makings of a wonderful second line, and it could be the first step towards bringing the Cup back to Orange County.