Three weeks have passed since the Anaheim Ducks traded winger Dustin Penner to the Washington Capitals. Seven games, five losses and two wins later, the fans aren’t just missing him these days — the team is too.
Penner made his return to Anaheim Tuesday night for the first time in the red, white and blue uniform as the Capitals took home a 3-2 win over the Ducks at Honda Center. Despite little physical presence on the ice, the game (and crowd) was fueled with redemption for the former top-liner as one mistake after another led to the home team’s demise.
And while some agree with the trade and others don’t, the Ducks have not been the same team since Penner’s exit in early March. At the time, Anaheim was on an seemingly unstoppable train to the President’s Trophy and a predictably deep run in the playoffs. Everything the Ducks and Penner did clicked; now is a different story.
The St. Louis Blues have since reigned over the NHL standings, while the Ducks have dropped to a tie for third place with the San Jose Sharks. In the long scheme of things, rankings certainly aren’t the focal point, but where Anaheim ends up in relation to San Jose will determine who the team faces in the first round of the playoffs, and that is a focal point.
Penner might not have been the player putting up the points every night while with the Ducks, but it certainly is no fluke that linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry suddenly have career-best seasons the year Penner starts feeding them the puck again. The chemistry was near instant at the onset of the season and has been sorely lacking in Anaheim’s game the past three weeks.
All the talent and skill in the world doesn’t compare to chemistry. You either have it or you don’t — and that line had it.
Directly speaking, with little ice time and zero points in the evening, Penner was not the reason for the Ducks’ loss; Anaheim’s special teams can be thanked for that. However, the chemistry sans Penner is the missing piece to a lot of Anaheim’s more recent problems, and as Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau pointed out after the game, if the team doesn’t figure something out soon — they are in trouble.