Up until the third period of Thursday night’s battle between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, for many Ducks fans the highlight moment of the game was heavy hitter Matt Belesky shoving unsuspecting Kings defenseman Drew Doughty head over skates onto the Ducks’ bench.
Considering every time Doughty touches the puck on the ice in Honda Center he is booed down by fans — the moment was pretty grand.
Pretty grand until Ben Lovejoy, one half of Anaheim’s top defensive pairing, decided it was time to one up Belesky’s karma granting hit and score what would become the game winning goal for Anaheim late in the third period. Unlike the gritty goals most teams in the league have to resort to in order to beat Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, Lovejoy’s shot from just past the blue line fired so fast, even Quick had no idea it had gone in.
One Ducks fan mentioned on Twitter that it was as if Lovejoy had finally solved the highest level of Tetris, considering all the ways the team hasn’t been able to beat the Los Angeles goalie thus far in the series.
But Lovejoy’s shooting success is nothing new to those who have been following the blue liner all season. In fact, this goal was simply another positive performance to add in a long string of improvements for the Anaheim blue-liner throughout the year — especially in the playoffs.
Lovejoy’s personal success aside, the man who played seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins before being traded to Anaheim has clearly influenced the ever budding game of his defensive partner, the Ducks’ power youngster Cam Fowler. It’s no surprise Fowler has had what is without doubt his best season ever alongside Lovejoy.
The even more impressive look to Lovejoy’s game is that beyond all the shots he has stopped are the shots he has put in at the other end of the ice. The goals may come few and far between, but they come at the most needed of times; this is not a coincidence.
Thursday night’s crunch time blast through Quick’s pads was highlight reel proof of Lovejoy’s advanced ability to correctly read the ice and react before thinking. Because it has been the delayed reactions that have hindered the Ducks’ performance at times in this series.
The two goals Lovejoy has driven home in these playoffs, including this one, have both come in absolutely key games for the Ducks as the importance of Game 3 was certainly not lost on anyone in Anaheim.
So as Ducks fans fall asleep with chants of “Beat L.A.” roaring through their orange minded brains, the Ducks’ work on this series against the uptown rivaled Kings is certainly far from over. But with Lovejoy’s game consistently improving, Anaheim’s blue line is, thankfully, in quicker than Quick hands.