You may have noticed some different formats to our game day as well as post game coverage here at Anaheim Calling this season. This is another part of that and will become a regular 'morning after' feature following games. Instead of putting opinion and analysis in to a massive game story, you'll be able to find it here to further discuss the previous night's action as well as our take on the game. Presenting the Best and Worst of the Anaheim Ducks home opener loss to the Vancouver Canucks:
Worst: Brother, Can You Spare A Goal?
Two games in to the season is far too early to hit the panic button, yet seeing a team that finished eleventh in the league in scoring last season with only one goal to show for through 125 minutes of action is an eyebrow raiser. It's important to note that the Ducks added four new forwards to their lineup over the offseason, a changeover of 25% that is bound to cause some growing pains as the team and coaching staff try to find the right chemistry.
The underlying numbers from the game are good: out-attempting the Canucks 67-53 at all strengths, 55-37 at even strength, 49-37 in unblocked attempts at all strengths, and 39-28 at even strength. None of the players were on the negative side of the even strength shot attempts ledger. Still, there's been a concerning lack of finish with the chances that've been created thus far, especially considering scoring chances were 33-19 in Anaheim's favor and high-danger scoring chances were 13-9 for all strengths.
Best: Fourth Line Grinding
At first blush one wouldn't necessarily expect the combination of Shawn Horcoff centering Patrick Maroon and Chris Stewart to create multiple scoring chances, yet that's exactly what they ended up doing over the course of the game. Arguably two of Anaheim's best shifts as far as keeping the puck in the zone and generating sustained pressure with shots came from the trio, with Stewart looking as good as he has in the Ducks uniform. Perhaps there's something to putting Stewart in a grinding role, where offense isn't the expectation but production is a bonus. After all, he had his best success in Minnesota last season in the both six.
While Maroon's lack of consistent finish around the net front is a frustration for some, you have to appreciate his ability to get to the corners, win puck battles, and help keep things going offensively no matter who he's paired with. The pass in the third period that sprung Horcoff for a semi-break from the Canuck blue line was the kind of touch we don't normally see from him but was very nice.
Worst: Help Us Based Walrus 'Stache, You're Our Only Hope
Boy, how often have Ducks fans seen a power play that tries to be too fine and overworks setting up chances? After biffing the regulation opportunity without so much as a sniff, the misfire on the overtime four-on-three is the most immediately identifiable thing that people can point to and say "that's why they didn't win tonight." What was that Wayne Gretzky quote that Michael Scott quoted?
Best: And TWIIIIINS
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry together are like a safety blanket for the Ducks fan base at this point. Whenever there are concerns with trying to shake up the lineup (which is not a bad idea, trying to spread the scoring around to as many lines as possible) like putting Perry with Rickard Rakell, the immediate reflexive answer is to reunite the Twins. Getzlaf, Perry and Jiri Sekac were all +5 in shot attempt differential at even strength or better, and there were a couple instances where passes just missed or Canuck defense intervened at the last moment that snuffed out dangerous chances.
Worst: Who's The Kes-Boss?
In theory the idea of putting Carl Hagelin with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg seems like a fit, considering each of the three's two-way pedigree. Yet the line seemed off tonight despite Hagelin and Silfverberg finishing one-two in the team in shots on goal with six and five respectively. Essentially all of Hagelin's were 'throw it at the net and hope something happens, whoops nobody can get to the rebound and the puck's leaving the zone now', while outside of hitting the inside of the post Silfverberg's don't conjure any particular danger as well.
What bears mentioning is that Kesler didn't have a shot, and didn't seem particularly engaged offensively with his linemates. Yes, it's one game and chemistry rarely sparks immediately. It figures to be something to watch moving forward, particularly knowing how Bruce Boudreau loves to whip out his 'Line Blend-O-Matic'. Considering how Rakell's largely struggled at generating much save for the shift that Vatanen scored on, that may be a candidate for further combo testing between the two.
3) Clayton Stoner Protestors
That's right, the bullhorn you heard in the background of Prime Ticket's "Ducks Live" pregame show was in fact repeating "Suspend Clayton Stoner" behind Kent French and Guy Hebert as they tried to talk about Ducks goalies. Add in the signs like "Ryan Getzlaf Uses A Camera To Shoot Animals" and "Corey Perry Shoots To Score Goals 2 Kill Not Animals" that taught us apparently Getzlaf is an avid wildlife photographer, and Perry is, well, Perry, it was the perfect dash of surrealism to add to the evening. Sincerely hope the protesters were fans of the team, and not folks who just looked up players and came up with 'clever' signage.
Speaking of analytics darlings...
2) Sami Vatanen
With Simon Despres locked in for the next five years, Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm are the two remaining defenders that will be up for restricted free agency after this season. This was the kind of performance from Vatanen that he'll be able to refer in negotiations; solid play defensively, puck movement, and scoring the only goal of the game on a blast from the point. It's clear the switch has flipped from 'preseason Sami' to 'playing for contract Sami', and if he can continue to put together performances like this he'll be further justifying whatever it is he's asking for.
1) Ryan Miller
While he's not going to play at this level all season, the start that Miller's had for the Canucks through three games is impressive to see after how he struggled with injuries last season. 28 saves and his characteristic composure despite regularly being under fire earn him top billing.