Last night was the first game in an Anaheim uniform for Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman, the second highest paid blueliner in the team's corps and a player signed to play important even strength and PK time. After missing the opening of the season with an episode of double vision, the value of Lydman's addition to the roster was punctuated by the loss of defensive-defenseman Andy Sutton and an atrocious defensive performance in the team's first few games of the year.
So how did Lydman do? In 27 shifts, including 18:36 of even strength time played primarily with Lubomir Visnovsky and 2:54 shorthanded time, Lydman had a goal, five shots, three missed shots, four hits, one giveaway and one penalty for Hooking. The Finn ended the evening a +1, but it was a special teams affair where the penalty killer and his teammates far from stifled Atlanta's power play efforts.
Daniel, there are a few positive stats and a few negative stats there, but what did you think of Lydman's debut as a Duck?
Lydman didn't really surprise me last night, and I think that's a good thing. He's a stay at home guy, and for the most part, he did exactly that. He was calm in his own zone. He made good outlet passes. He backed up so that Lubo could attack. This is what I envisioned when the Ducks signed him back on July 1st. Now, jumping in on the play to score a goal was a decidedly nice bonus, and Lydman demonstrated a good nose for when he should and should not be involved in the offense. He spent most of his time playing with the top line, and he pinched effectively to keep their cycle going. His 5 shots on goal were tops on the defensive corps tonight. I'd describe him as very extraordinary in his ordinary-ness.
Of course, he was also supposed to be a solid penalty killer, but he managed to be on the ice for a couple of power play goals against. I think he could have done a little more to tie up Thorburn on the first Thrasher's PP tally, but it's also true that the Ducks got some bad bounces on the last two power play goals that Atlanta scored. It's possible that my eye isn't as developed, but I loved how much I didn't notice Lydman tonight. I thought he turned in the calming type of performance that we really needed from the back end. A lot of people are going to look at this game and have flashbacks of blown leads last year, but I believe as Lydman plays more, he will settle down, and so will the rest of the defense.
I think the key to his performance is in the last thing you said: "as Lydman plays more." This is a guy who hasn't seen the ice in six months and had been shelved in no-contact practice since the opening of training camp this year. Were this Lydman's performance in his first preseason game for the Ducks, I think last night's game would have been more than encouraging. And when I consider how rusty he should have been and how game ready everyone else should have been at this point in the season, I struggle to find disappointment in anything he did. In fact, I start to question how valuable training camp and the preseason were for most of our players.
As a jumping off point, I believe last night was a good game for Lydman. This is a simple system for a stay at home defenseman; Sheldon Brookbank was a +10 in this system last year. There's no need for Lydman to force anything here, and so I don't believe there's any chance that he becomes Toni Turnover here. If he can be a strong, quiet player who separates his man from the puck and moves it quickly to the forwards (or even just Visnovsky) then he'll be huge on this swiss cheese defense.
As far as finding his stride for the 2010-11 campaign, Toni Lydman got closer in one night than the rest of our players have in a month of contact hockey. Maybe that says more about them than him, but I would expect to see Carlyle leaning on the veteran pretty heavily moving forward. Hopefully, he can justify that as he shakes off the rink rust.