The Ducks managed their first win in their fourth try last night. It was far from a perfect effort, and a pair of two-man advantages kept them in the game until the players, especially the top line, woke up. However, it was by far the team's most inspiring effort of the season, even if it only came in short spurts.
Arthur, of the players that found their stride last night, who do you think absolutely needs to stay hot for this team to turn tonight's uneven effort into something resembling consistent hockey?
I would say Bobby Ryan. In the gameday, I criticized his decision-making on the rush, but he went on to basically create those last two goals. He made heads-up plays, and he found his playmaker, Getzlaf. Bobby didn't try to create either goal by himself, he didn't even worry about being in position to one-time a return pass home. He got the puck to Getzlaf or the trailer, and he trusted the system to get him the puck if he was in the best position to score the goal.
I do like the idea of Beleskey on the top line, but that's only because Beleskey would do what Ryan did on those plays: fight to get the puck back, then fight to get the puck to Getzlaf and ultimately trust that he'll get the rock back if he's the best shooter. If Bobby can do that, of course we stop talking about Beleskey on the top line.
The top line needs to trust each other again, and that starts with Bobby. If everything is going to start clicking again, I think Bobby has to be physical. He has to be taking away pucks like he did tonight. On the rush, he has to be looking for Getzlaf. He has to be willing to give the puck up even when he has a seemingly clear path to the net. He has to be willing to shoot low to create rebounds for Perry. So much of the offense can flow from his stick. He proved that tonight. If he embraces that role, and stops trying to get every goal done by himself, then I think this line and this team will find its consistency
I'd say Dan Sexton. He maybe didn't find his stride on the score sheet, but I thought he played a great overall game. We've spent a lot of time harping on Carlyle for not rolling three scoring lines, but the lines Wednesday night were the closest I've seen to him doing exactly that. Big Sexy is currently the key to that strategy being effective. He's fast, he has a wicked shot, and he's not afraid to stick his nose into a scrum. Sexton is the finisher on that line. His ability to get separation and charge up ice is going to keep defenses honest for at least 12 minutes a night. Granted, he's going to have to start finishing some of those opportunities and not stop shooting prematurely. But, he almost caught Luongo leaning tonight, and he clearly demonstrated a no fear attitude by charging into the Vancouver netminder to try and jar the puck loose.
I'm not saying that the Ducks fate ultimately hinges on Sexton's performance, but if he continues to play at a high level and generate scoring chances for the third line, then Carlyle's ability to roll lines will vastly increase. Big Sexy has the talent to keep defenses honest . If he starts putting a few in the net and keeps the pressure on, the Ducks will be able to wear down opposing defenses and continue to post 4 goal nights.