Teemu, the facilitator?
Teemu Selanne, with so many skills at his disposal, turned playmaker Friday night with a deft and dazzling performance at Honda Center.
Selanne's three assists sparked the Ducks to a 3-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild. The newly formed combination — which had Bobby Ryan centering Kyle Palmieri and Selanne — was responsible for eight points. Ryan Getzlaf had the other, an assist on Ryan's power-play goal late in the third period. It was Selanne's first three-assist game in nearly two years.
Palmieri, who turned 22 on Friday, had two goals and Ryan added his goal and two assists. Ducks rookie goalie Viktor Fasth survived giving up a soft goal in the opening 10 minutes, via light-scoring defenseman Marco Scandella, and went on to record his second win in as many starts.
Just as impressively, the Ducks smothered the Wild's top line of Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley. They combined for a mere four shots on goal and had no points.
But Selanne's playmaking was the lasting impression. His backhander through the crease on Ryan's goal may have been the best move, but it's so hard to say with Selanne.
That passing ability often gets overlooked because of the goal-scoring that will land him in the Hall of Fame.
"You saw the two assists tonight," said Palmieri, who tied it with his second-period goal at 6:49 and had the game-winner at 4:21 of the third.
"Me and Bobby both had basically tap-ins and they were all caused from Teemu's passing. Like you said, it gets a little overlooked because of how many goals he has scored. And the crazy amount, the ways to find the back of the net. That vision definitely doesn't stop at goal-scoring."
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said age doesn't affect everything.
"But it doesn't affect your head. He's as smart as they come," he said of Selanne.
Said Selanne: "Sometimes the little things make a big difference. We had some good chances. Bobby and Kyle can do everything. They can see the game, they can shoot, they can make good passes. It's fun to play with them."
The Ducks are 4-1-1 and it is their best start to a season since 2006-07. Boudreau said he thought Fasth was "fighting the puck a little bit" but made the big saves when it counted. He also tinkered with the lineup, inserting defenseman Sami Vatanen in the lineup and rewarding him with time on the first power-play unit in his NHL debut.
Still, the big move was putting Ryan at center. That had been an experiment earlier in Ryan's career. He was told Friday morning they were going to try it again.
"I think there's a lot for me to work on at the position," Ryan said. "And some reads. There were a couple of times out there I was uncomfortable…. It might be something good. We'll see. I think I'm a little more mature as a player than I was even last year when we tried it."
Palmieri and Ryan have worked well together in the past. "I don't know the exact stat, but I feel like every NHL goal I've scored Bobby Ryan has been either the first or second assist," Palmieri said. "It's definitely great to be playing with him again, and I have a lot of confidence in him and him as a playmaker and a player in general."