Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell was one of several Game 3 heroes for the team, wowing with a between-the-legs deflection goal.
So, that Rickard Rakell…pretty sure he has better than average hand-eye co-ordination. Maybe better than better than average.
Rakell, 22, has enjoyed a breakout 2015-16 season with the Anaheim Ducks. He hit the 20-goal mark for the first time and showed a knack for spectacular goals. He wowed us with a one-handed deflection against the L.A. Kings a few months back. The overtime winner against the Edmonton Oilers in February was just nasty.
For his next trick, Rakell opted for a between-the-legs deflection goal in Game 3 of the Ducks’ Round 1 matchup versus the Nashville Predators. Check it out:
Most impressive is how deliberate the play seems to be, right from the setup. Ducks blueliner Sami Vatanen stares Rakell down and appears to shoot for his stick. It’s a set play, and Rakell, ready for the slap pass, deftly tips the puck through his legs and past Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.
Not only was the goal gorgeous, it extended Anaheim’s lead to 2-0 midway through the second period and took the air out of Bridgestone Arena, helping the Ducks pull away in a Game 2 victory. Rakell has a knack for picturesque goals. Who knows what he’ll pull off next?
Anaheim, meanwhile, is back in the series after dropping two straight games at home. It came out with true urgency on the road in Nashville for Game 3, knowing a defeat meant certain doom. Jamie McGinn set the tone with a first-period goal, Rakell widened the lead in the second, and some great forechecking and playmaking by top-line center Ryan Getzlaf helped set up Chris Stewart for the third goal less than six minutes later.
Most notably, Frederik Andersen picked up a shutout, stopping 27 Nashville shots. Andersen hadn’t played since April 10th, the Ducks’ regular season finale, when he also posted a donut. That gives him two in a row. Coach Bruce Boudreau opted to start Andersen for Game 3 after young John Gibson lost Games 1 and 2. For now, the move seems like the right one. But, as I’ve said in this space before, the 1A/1B setup is a dangerous game. Each netminder has the mental baggage of knowing one bad game could get him benched, and there’s no telling how it might affect his play. Gibson had to play Games 1 and 2 knowing Andersen could replace him at any moment. The same could never be said for a stalwart like Jonathan Quick in L.A. or Henrik Lundqvist in New York.
Andersen excelled in relief for Game 3. If and when he gets the nod in Game 4, he’ll face increased pressure. And it’ll be his turn to look over his shoulder. It’s understandable Boudreau switched to Andersen, but Boudreau would be wise to stick with one goaltender and run with him. The numbers tell us teams who don’t flip flop goalies have a stronger chance to win the Cup.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin