On Thursday night, the Anaheim Ducks organization rolled out the red carpets and welcomed in the new hockey season with some fantastic opening ceremonies. In doing so, they were hoping to put last season in the rear-view mirror to focus on winning now. The results were pleasant, to say the least.
The Anaheim Ducks ended up outlasting the Arizona Coyotes in a close 2-1 victory, but was it as close as the final score made it seem? Well, yes and no. Although they couldn’t hit the empty net at the end, the Ducks had multiple great scoring chances to make the game less close. Let’s look at what really stood out besides a much more potent offense than the previous season.
John Gibson’s Performance
It’s pretty obvious to all Anaheim Ducks fans by this point that John Gibson will always steal the show in the games that he plays, and opening night was no different. He faced fourteen shots in the first period alone and found creative ways to stop all of them, so it’s easy to see why he was the first star of the game. Besides that, he was handling the puck extremely well when he came out of the net, and it was great to see him factoring into some fantastic passes.
In total, Gibson faced thirty-three shots by the end of the game, and he only allowed a single goal in the second period on eight SOG. That single goal wasn’t necessarily all on him either, as the defense couldn’t stop the three skaters passing to each-other in front of the net. In general though, Gibson stood incredibly tall, especially when the defense wasn’t playing at the level they needed to.
Evaluating the Defense
In terms of how the defense correlated with Gibson, it was better than last season, but they still need some work. No matter how you look at it, letting up fourteen SOG in the first period isn’t really a good way to start the new season. But, they did pick themselves up for the rest of the game.
Besides their improvements, two defensemen factored into the score-sheet thanks to Cam Fowler’s goal and Hampus Lindholm’s assist. Brendan Guhle had some decent shots and he had a few blocks as well, so he’s off to a good start in replacing former Duck Brandon Montour. Korbinian Holzer had five blocks and three great hits, so the vets and youth were grooving on defense together. Simply put, the defense was playing just good enough for the offense to succeed, and for the most part, they did.
A Look at the New Offense
The offense was creating quality scoring chances all night, and they were staying on track instead of totally combusting. Derek Grant was surprisingly the hero of the night with both a goal and an assist, and he was also the third star of the game. Besides him, Max Jones and Devin Shore started off strong by assisting Grant on his goal.
In general, the offense didn’t seem as lost on the ice as they did last season, and aside from the occasional misplacement or missed rebound, they looked good. If they can capitalize on a few more of those chances in the future, they could return to their 2016-2017 form. The only thing unknown for the offense is which younger players will be switching in and out between the AHL and NHL, so expect some messier games when that happens.
Power Plays and Penalty Kills
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In a gigantic improvement from the preseason, the Anaheim Ducks only ended up taking one penalty through three periods. Carter Rowney got caught hooking, but other than his one penalty, the team played smart and didn’t get too frustrated. Their new head coach in Dallas Eakins is keeping the team pretty calm, and that’s already doing wonders for them.
On their power play, the team still struggled to catch any sort of break in setting up for a scoring chance. It ended with a massive thud yet again like in the preseason, and the penalty kill out-shined the power play unit for the first time in a while. In the end, that’s the more important side of the game, so the sloppy power play unit won’t be a total death-blow.
In conclusion, the Anaheim Ducks played better than what the final score reflected. The offense was giving themselves better chances, the defense started sloppy and corrected themselves just in time, and John Gibson was the glue that kept the two together. The main improvement needed is in the power play, but with such a solid penalty kill, it’s nothing too pressing just yet. The Ducks will look to keep on rolling in game two of the season against the 0-2 Sharks tonight. They’ll need to stay calm, collected, and most of all, they’ll need to get San Jose to take the penalties that they always do.
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