The locker room felt different after the Anaheim Ducks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Friday night and it wasn’t just because the team won.
First, there were kids everywhere. Two of Ryan Getzlaf’s sons, wearing their dad’s jersey, chased each other through the room. Kevin Bieksa grabbed Jonathan Bernier’s blocker and catching glove out of his stall to play an impromptu pickup game with his kids next to the media scrum. Behind the doors of the players’ lounge were more giggles from other kids (or Corey Perry, you pick).
Anaheim was the last team in the NHL to take their bye week. The odds weren’t in their favor for the first game back. The rest of the league amassed a 9-16-4 when they returned to action after the mini vacation.
Yet Ducks appeared recharged, and according to them, they have the five day bye-week to thank for that.
“I think it came at a perfect time right before this stretch with 19 games [remaining],” said Rickard Rakell. The 23-year-old forward scored two goals against Toronto to give him a team-leading 26 on the year.
‘Perfect time’ might be an understatement.
Prior to the game against Toronto, the Ducks were 4-6-1 in their last ten. Their final game before the bye-week saw them give up four goals in the third period against the Los Angeles Kings. The team looked exhausted.
“As much of [hockey] is a physical aspect, I think it’s mental, too,” said Jakob Silfverberg. “To just kind of get away from the normal stuff you do and recharge the batteries. I think that’s been the biggest part for me at least. Kind of get away from here and think of different stuff and coming back with that hunger. I felt that today. I was real excited being back.
“Even in practice yesterday I thought the whole team had a good jump and that’s because we’ve been away from here for a couple days.”
Silfverberg had not scored a goal in seven games before Friday night. His second period tally helped kick off a two-goals-in-seventeen-seconds rally for the team.
Out of curiosity, how did a few of the players spend their break? You’ll notice a theme.
“[I] went to Mexico,” said Jonathan Bernier who earned the victory in net against his former team. “Nice and easy. Some relaxing time with the family. It was great.”
“I went to Mexico,” Silverberg said laughing. “We almost had the whole team there. It was really good, relaxing, good weather.”
Hampus Lindholm’s Instagram account showed the younger guys took off for Mexico, too.
Nice legs, boys.
As for Rakell, he stayed in Orange County.
“I stayed here and take it easy for a couple days,” said Rakell. “I played some golf. It was really good until it started raining on the last three holes, but I was pretty happy anyways.
“I beat Sami [Vatanen].”
That Sweden-Finland rivalry knows no end even while relaxing on the golf course.