There are a lot of different ways to look at the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on opening night. From the Shark’s perspective, they did look dangerous offensively. For most of the night, they dominated Anaheim in shot attempts, scoring chances and high-danger chances. Statistically, San Jose bested Anaheim in just about every measurable category, particularly in the neutral zone and being able to create chances from the point.
But from Anaheim’s perspective, they won that game exactly how most teams are going to need to beat the Sharks:
Take the barrage
Be offensively opportunistic
Lean on great goaltending
And I think it’s clear that goaltending decided this game. John Gibson was out-of-his-mind fantastic like he was for much of last season. Martin Jones was simply, quite bad.
So yes, adding Erik Karlsson to Brent Burns is somewhat similar to the 2007 Ducks adding Chris Pronger to Scott Niedermayer, but the Sharks still need their J.S. Giguere. They don’t have a lights-out goaltender in Jones, and it was glaringly obvious on opening night.
For anyone who watched this game closely, Gibson vs. Jones tells the story.
Here are five other takeaways, for what they’re worth from a one-game sample size.
1. Randy Carlyle is playing four lines and it’s helping his offensive stars
Carlyle did not play a single player less than 11 minutes during last night’s game. Carter Rowney, the team’s token fourth line center totaled over 15 minutes by the end of the game. Contrast this to the end of last season where players on Anaheim’s fourth line were barely seeing five minutes per contest.
Not only does this give the Ducks’ young players a chance to see the ice, but it I would argue it showed up on the scoresheet in the form of more rested and productive play from the team’s de facto offensive stars.
Getzlaf: 2 pts
Henrique: 2 pts
Rakell: 3 pts
Silfverberg: 3 pts
I think this is partly the result of a balanced offensive lineup who can play without the pressure of lopsided minutes. It’s easier for these guys to produce when Anaheim’s coaching staff is evening out the playing time.
2. Nick Ritchie, take all the time you need (because, Max Comtois)
Yes, Max Comtois scored a huge goal for Anaheim, but he should have also had an assist on the missed breakaway chance from Silfverberg. In addition to scoring, he was involved with the play and seemed comfortable making moves in the offensive zone. That’s not to say Sam Steel and Troy Terry didn’t also have decent debut performances, but Comtois stood out a guy who was either on the score sheet or close to it on more than a couple of occasions.
3. Anaheim will have an edge in net almost every game
I’ve touched on this already, but having Gibson in net is going to make it possible for the Ducks to play poorly and be outpaced statistically, yet still come out on the right side of the goals column. There simply aren’t many goaltenders in the NHL that can steal games the way Gibson can, which means Anaheim will continue to at least have an opportunity to win games despite dealing with injuries and being out-shot.
4. Get healthy and keep the kids playing
My hope is that the powers that be in Anaheim view Ben Street, Pontus Aberg, and Brian Gibbons as the roster’s most replaceable names. As much as I want to see Perry, Kesler, Eaves, and Kase (especially Eaves and Kase) back in the lineup, I think the rookies should stay. Make room for everybody.
It’s one game, but if you’re a Ducks fan I think there are a lot of reasons to be really happy with what we’ve seen. As Anaheim gets healthy, they’re going to have four full lines of offense, all of which are capable of playing 15 minutes or more per game.
Like I said, if Carlyle is willing to ignore the tradition of each line and just ice skill, I think he’ll have a lot of different weapons to work with as the team gets healthy.