When it comes to playoff hockey, even one star performing at a mediocre level can spell disaster. This is the piece of the season that has no take-backs, no do-overs, and if you flub up at the wrong moment, it could mean your season has met an unexpectedly early conclusion.
Tonight was the first meeting between the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars in the first round of the NHL post-season, so who were the standouts, both good and bad? Scaling from the worst to the best, here are eleven performances that have been ranked in a traditional NHL method: using a +/- rating.
-5: The NHL Officials: Tonight's officiating was far and away the worst piece of the game tonight. The post-season is supposedly notorious for less strict enforcement of the penalties allowing players more freedom to play an aggressive and cutthroat style of playoff hockey. Tonight's demonstration of the referees was anything except playoff worthy, and because of that, the NHL officiating merits the worst ranking with a -5 rating.
-4: Duck's Bench: I'm not sure when a team ever got not one, but two too many men on the ice penalties in a post-season game, but this is definitely an embarrassment. Bench minors are such a stupid penalty to take and so when it comes down to it, the Duck's bench is absolutely deserving of such a lousy minus ranking on this very simplified scale rating.
-3: Ducks Collective Defense: When you are facing the Dallas squad, one of the main focuses of the Anaheim blue liners has to be shutting down both Benn and Seguin. Both of these Stars scored goals and avoided any time in the penalty box, and seemed to just outplay the Ducks individually. You simply cannot allow Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin to disrupt any buildup of Anaheim momentum, and they did that tonight so for that, I list the Ducks entire blue line roster in our -3 spot.
-2: Bryan Allen: While watching the game tonight I couldn't help but watch Bryan Allen every time he was on the ice, and not for good reasons. I seriously feel like in game one he was more of a liability than an asset in the Ducks' defensive zone. On top of all that, Tyler Seguin managed to slip away from Allen's cover leading to the final score being just a one goal difference. Bryan Allen is absolutely deserving of this -2 spot to accompany tonight's -1 rating on the ice.
-1: Saku Koivu: Sometimes players have off nights, tonight seemed to be just that for Saku Koivu. Despite fighting for pucks, he just seemed to be skating with a little extra weight on his back, slowing him down and making the fights less energetic than normal. There were also multiple passes that completely eluded him in front of the net. There were so many opportunities for Anaheim to extend their lead, however Koivu squandered many of them in front of the net earning him our last position in the negatives.
Even: Jakob Silfverberg: Despite having a few solid plays and some good possessions of the puck, Silfverberg's decent play was counteracted by a really unnecessary penalty taken in the first period. Silfverberg was given two minutes for holding on Cody Eakin, a penalty that was dealt when Anaheim was attacking in the Dallas zone. Anytime a team takes a penalty in the offensive zone there is rarely an excuse that pardons the offense. For that reason, and the fact that Jakob was mostly overlooked or unnoticeable tonight, he earned our breaking even spot.
+1: Patrick Maroon: Even though he only tallied one point in the 60 minutes of play, Pat Maroon is well deserving of a positive rating on this list. Maroon had more ice time than half of the other forwards, and really succeeded in using his size and abilities to control the speed and style of play tonight. On top of simply playing a great game, Maroon got the primary assist on Mathieu Perreault's powerplay goal that put the Ducks ahead 3-0 over the Dallas Stars before the first intermission. Maroon was definitely one of the better performers tonight. [Ed. Note: ... but there was that one completely wiiiiiiiiiiide open net that he missed which could have made it 5-2. -CK]
+2: Kyle Palmieri: To sum up Palmieri's night, there's arguably no better quote than from Coach Boudreau himself: "He's a playoff guy. He's done it before in other leagues. It doesn't surprise me." Palmieri's performance tonight was absolutely one for the books, and probably shocked some viewers, but the talented winger just lived up to what I can say I expected from him. Despite being chosen to sit for the two minute bench minor penalties twice, Palmieri still managed a goal off two shots on goal. All in all, he was a strong possession player and a true offensive threat toward Kari Lehtonen and the Stars.
+3: Daniel Winnik: I will admit I did not have Winnik with this high of a ranking until the last two minutes of the game, when Anaheim's number 34 was a huge factor in running out the clock until the final horn sounded signaling the Ducks prevailing in game one. Daniel Winnik played a key role in the play leading up to Anaheim's opening goal, including a very nice outlet pass from the Anaheim defensive zone that would eventually lead the puck to Palmieri's stick and then the net behind Lehtonen. The active stick and strong play by Daniel Winnik propelled him to our +3 spot in this ranking scale.
+4: Matt Beleskey: When a team struggles on the powerplay, any sort of spark seems to go a long way. Anaheim has admittedly been floundering with the extra attacker, however tonight they scored on two of five powerplay chances, which is a step in the right direction. Beleskey tallied one of the powerplay goals tonight for the Ducks, a goal that ended up being the game-winning goal of the night. Matt Beleskey seemed to be all over the ice tonight, pressing offensively on the forecheck and later on the same shift shutting down chances for the Stars on the backcheck. There can never be enough praise for players who know how to step up in key situations, and Beleskey seems to have found the right energy and determination tonight.
+5: Ryan Getzlaf: Our top performer tonight is the captain himself who tallied two points (one goal, one assist), with an even 50% in the faceoff circle and five blocked shots, including a couple scary ones off ankles and one off his face. From the initial puck drop to the final horn, every time that Getzlaf stepped onto the ice you could rely on him giving everything he had to make sure the Ducks came out with a victory in game one. In the closing minute of the game, a point shot by Tyler Seguin caught Getzlaf in the face, sending him to the locker room early, however Boudreau later announced that the top line center would be stitched up and ready to play soon. Between his fantastic energy, his offensive production, and his determination in puck battles, Ryan Getzlaf absolutely merited this top spot.
Anaheim managed to outlast the Dallas Stars tonight with a 4-3 victory at home, however the Stars did almost manage to rally from the initial four-goal deficit, which is absolutely a point of concern for the Ducks locker room. Getzlaf really led by example, and brought the calibre of game to a new level with the help of Beleskey, Winnik, Palmieri, and Maroon, even with the less than ideal officiating, and the blue line unable to shutdown the big hotshots of the Dallas roster.
Even with one win under their belt the Ducks absolutely have some problematic areas to focus on before Friday's game two.