With our trip to Europe in the books, and the Ducks on their way home to further their attempt to make the playoffs, it's time to look back on what the Ducks did well and what needs to be improved upon heading into the rest of the regular season. I know there were only two games, but there's still time to look at and evaluate a few trends that need to be rectified. I'll focus on some key things that we spent the summer worrying about.Andrew Cogliano: There's no telling if it'll keep up, but Cogliano was effective in the circle these first two games, posting a 50% success rate. He also managed to pot the Ducks lone regulation time goal in their shootout win over the Rangers. So far, so good for Cogs. The third line is creating enough scoring chances to keep Carlyle rolling them over the boards. His line, with Devante Smith-Pelly and Andrew Gordon, is an acceptable -1. He's used his speed effectively, and the scoring chances will look crisper as the season moves on. Cogs doesn't need to be a great player for him to be useful to the Ducks, he just needs to be himself and be a good role player. I think he understands that, and that's promising for the Ducks. So far the third line looks like it can hold up, and provide some much needed depth.
Jonas Hiller: Hiller looked great. I think it was a good move by Carlyle to play him on consecutive days. It gave us a chance to test Hiller's endurance early in the season, and it gave the Ducks a shot to make sure they didn't go home empty-handed in the point column. Getting 2 points was huge for us today and Hiller was the biggest reason that it happened. He looks a lot like he did before he got hurt. Ducks fans can't ask for much more. Hiller has played well, and we'll need him going forward.
RPG: Well, top line didn't do a whole lot this weekend. Of course, they didn't do a lot of bad either. They're even in 2 games. They generated a couple of scoring chances, but they certainly never dominated a game. Bobby Ryan accidentally won the shootout, so that's a plus. Overall, the top line has been neutralized fairly well, which is not encouraging. They might also be the chief contributors to the problem that really hampered the Ducks in these two games...
Power Play: The Ducks went 0 for everything with the man advantage to start the season, including a 5-on-3 advantage against Buffalo. It's not that they couldn't get anything going, so much as nothing they did seemed to work the way they wanted. There were a lot of blocked shots, and some poor bounces, for both units. Even with improved depth from an improved third line, the Ducks will still need to be effective on the PP. They aren't going to get a ton of chances; they can't play the Rangers every game. So, it makes capitalizing on the chances they get, that much more important. The power play needs to correct itself for the Ducks to have a successful season. I want to see how long it takes for them to finally put one up with the man advantage.
Penalty Kill: As long as we are covering special teams, let's talk a little about the PK. It was brilliant against the Rangers and terrible against Buffalo. It's feeling a little Jekyll and Hyde right now. I'm prone to think that New York's ineptitude contributed to our success on the kill, but a kill is a kill. The Ducks are still showing their love of taking 8 penalties too many, so the PK needs to be strong this year. Personally, I'm saddened I didn't see more Brandon McMillan and Corey Perry on the kill. Those two were great last year. I think the PK can be better. We were a little too passive at times.
The Old Guys: Jason Blake really needs to go. He was so ineffective this weekend. I think it has literally reached the point where he is detrimental to the overall effectiveness of the line. Teemu Selanne had a few chances. There was some good effort, but the second line wasn't anything to be afraid of. That has to be a concern going forward. These guys need to do a better job of creating and converting chances.
The D: What do you say about a team that is missing its top (only) shut down defender? How about: they played pretty well. There were definitely things to dislike. Not clearing the crease, or holding the zone well, for example. However, i thought Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler looked great and that Francois Beauchemin played well. Lubomir Visnovsky didn't have a huge impact, but I don't think he was a hindrance. Once Toni Lydman is back, the D will settle down. Hopefully Kurtis Foster meshes well with whoever he ends up getting as a partner. Team D was still a problem for the Ducks, but that's the fault of the forwards who aren't supporting the blueliners. The defensive corps, showed that it can at least hold its own.