Preseason is always the time for shaking off the off-season’s rust as well as trying out new prospects and different line combinations, but putting those factors aside, how did the Ducks do?
After a long wait, the 2019 NHL preseason kicked off last Sunday, and the Anaheim Ducks stepped on the ice for their first game back against San Jose on Tuesday night. Facing off against the Sharks always seems like a monumental task for the Anaheim Ducks these days, and they were already 0-0-1 against the Sharks for this new season after a tough overtime loss during the Rookie Faceoff. Even worse was that the Sharks were playing a lot of their regulars, while the Ducks only really had five players that had seen significant time with the team. Still, anything is possible in the preseason, and the Ducks ended up showing that after a rough start.
Getting Off On the Wrong Webbed-Foot
Right off the bat, the Anaheim Ducks gave up a goal early in the first period thanks to Jani Hakanpaa losing the puck in his own zone. We’ll come back to Hakanpaa a lot over this article. Anyways, as the period went by, the Ducks looked very lethargic, and there was absolutely no offense. Lots of unsuccessful dump ins and the dump-and-chase methods employed by former head coach Randy Carlyle. Towards the end of the period, the Ducks finally drew a penalty from San Jose, which is one of the main keys to beating their penalty heavy team, and it worked out in their favor by taking off some pressure heading into the next period.
Most of the reason they were down 2-0 was their horrible lack of shots on goal, and even the ones they did take were right at the goalie. The Anaheim Ducks really struggled with goal scoring last year, coming in dead last in goals for, and it showed coming into the game. Nobody in particular looked that impressive, and the offense was just noneffective. The defense collapsed a few times, but not nearly as badly and as often as they did last season. Ryan Miller stood tall enough to keep the puck mostly out of the net when the defense wasn’t doing so hot, so it was all up to the offense to turn things around.
Heading the Comeback
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The first power play of the game was just disgusting, and they even gave up shots on net during their five-on-four advantage. The puck handling was still atrocious, as they passed it off to the Sharks more often than they did to their teammates, and the defense seemed at times to beat itself with bad breakdowns and players getting in each other’s way.
But, the Anaheim Ducks finally broke through when one of last season’s biggest trade pieces in Devin Shore banged one home after a bad rebound let up by the Sharks defense. It was a nice glimmer of hope for the Ducks after being down two goals, but in typical Ducks fashion, they immediately struggled on defense afterwards, and they let up a two-on-one that was almost a goal.
Luckily, both Anaheim and San Jose swapped goalies at the same time with about nine minutes left in the second, and Anthony Stolarz came in for the Anaheim Ducks. With Aaron Dell out for the Sharks, in came Josef Korenar, and that would be all the Ducks needed. The newest trade piece in Nicolas Deslauriers came through with an enormous goal that tied the game up. His back-hander was incredibly pretty, and he really knows how to get to great feeds. It’s a promising sight for a player that most Ducks fans were unhappy to see on the roster.
Finishing Off Strong
In the waning moments of the second period, another former trade piece in Adam Henrique took the lead for the Anaheim Ducks after a nice feed from Max Comtois found its way into the back of the net. Unfortunately, things got tied up in the third after a bad goal given up by Stolarz, but the Ducks fought back with a very pretty goal by Max Jones that went right into the top shelf. He absolutely beat Korenar with his shot, and it gave the Ducks a lead that they’d hold for the rest of the game.
Although the Ducks won, there was a five-on-three power play for the Sharks at the end of the game that deserves a closer look. Before that penalty, Hakanpaa took another bad penalty that costed the Ducks a power play, which was the cherry on top of an already sloppy game for him. But then, after that penalty kill, both Andrew Poturalski and Josh Manson took penalties that gave San Jose a golden opportunity to change their luck. The three penalty killers on the ice were amazing against a spirited Sharks charge, and they hung on, but those timely penalties that hurt the Anaheim Ducks in seasons passed needs more fixing.
Overall, this incomplete Anaheim Ducks team beat an almost complete Sharks team, and that speaks volumes for how special this group might be. They struggled at first, but their comeback effort showed some true heart. None of the players stood out as hopeless besides maybe Hakanpaa, but only time will tell considering that it’s his first preseason game in the NHL. We’ll get to see more of all these prospects and players this Saturday, when the Anaheim Ducks travel to Glendale to take on the Arizona Coyotes at 6:00pm.
The power play got better as the game went on, the offense did just enough, and the defense stuck with it until the bitter end, so the team really provided what the fans wanted to see. With a little fixing up on the line combinations, as well as working out a better offensive scheme, the Ducks might actually make fans more optimistic that they originally were.
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