You know that late game in your beer hockey league against that team you just can’t stand? Where everyone is a little drunk so the stick handling isn’t great and the puck keeps bouncing between everyone’s legs so you just slam into each other? That’s kind of how the first game in the Ducks’ season started against the Dallas Stars.
Although a few of the Ducks played in the World Cup, there was a bit of rust for both sides. The Ducks and Stars came out with some speed and hitting, but play was a bit sloppy and neither team was able to corral the puck for many clean opportunities right away.
Nick Ritchie would get the first chance for the Ducks. He showed off the bit of quickness he gained in the off-season on a 2 on 1 with Josh Manson. Choosing to snap a quick, low wrister, he may have been better off sliding it over to Manson, but it was good to see the young winger get engaged early.
The Ducks would go on the power play and sent out the top unit of Jakob Silfverberg, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen. They were able to move the puck decently and it was nice for Silf to get some time on the top unit as he looks to top his 20 goals from last year.
Unfortunately, the Ducks weren’t able to capitalize and the second unit of Nick Sorenson, Ryan Kesler, Antoine Vermette, Simon Despres and Kevin Bieksa struggled to set up in the zone. The absence of Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell was felt as they would have added great firepower to the second unit.
Dallas then struck with their first of four goals. The Stars had success crashing the net and getting into the dirty areas for their goals, and Patrick Eaves would throw a cross-ice pass and found Stephen Johns behind Fowler at the far post for the tap in.
Fowler had an opportunity with Ritchie on a 2 on 1 when he put the puck into Antti Niemi, but Ritchie drove hard to the net and cause some disruptions. Announcers called Ritchie’s name again as he caught a stick in his “Iowa Chops” drawing a 4-minute Anaheim powerplay.
Dallas was able to kill off the full four minutes and although the Ducks’ powerplay wasn’t as potent as last year, the penalty kill remained in top form with the quickness of Andrew Cogliano on display. While on the penalty kill, Cogs broke up a pass at the blue line and raced down on a breakaway firing a low shot and collected his own rebound into the top shelf, tying the game 1-1.
The Ducks did a great job limiting the high-powered Dallas offense to only one shot to their 17 on net.
The second period started off positively for the boys from Dallas as a poor line change from the Ducks let Lauri Korpikoski sneak a wrist shot past Gibson.
But the first line of Ritchie, Getzlaf and Perry were noticeably dangerous all game. Ritchie caused some ruckus by throwing the body, going hard to the net and fighting for loose pucks in front. Hopefully the trio can keep gelling, and Ritchie can be an effective addition to the line and a left winger for the Twins that they have been desperately missing.
Tyler Seguin’s foot injury seems to have healed as he sped past Kesler into the zone and Gibson made a great, patient save with his left leg to keep things 2-1.
Kesler’s line created some nice opportunities with their hard fore-checking. Their quickness helped knock the puck loose in the Dallas zone. Kesler took the stolen pass back into the zone before sliding a backhanded area pass to a streaking Cogs who one-timed it past Niemi for his second goal and to tie the game at two.
Cogliano’s hard work and excitement would be wiped out :22 seconds later after another puck thrown into the front of the net left the dreaded Antoine Roussel alone to tap in another dirty goal.
Dallas got their fourth and final goal of the night from Adam Cracknell as he too was left alone at the front of the crease.
Carlyle would pull Gibson with three minutes left, but a flurry of Anaheim chances would be for naught as they failed to score a third goal to make things interesting.
- Injury-prone Depres would leave in the second period with an upper-body injury. Not a great sign for a guy that struggled through concussions and other ailments last year.
- Jacob Larsson and Sorenson made their pro debuts. Both players had decent games with Sorenson playing on a line with Vermette and Raymond and Larsson playing a solid defensive game.
- Dallas was able to get to the net and the smaller Ducks defensemen couldn’t clear them out. We miss you, Lindholm. Please come back soon.
- It was weird seeing old Randy behind the bench again. Nostalgic thoughts of Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Teemu Selanne kept racing through my mind.
- Speaking of old Ducks, Josh Manson reminds me more and more of a young, Francois Beauchemin. He had some solid checks and did great work along the boards.
- Carlyle must have motivated Getzlaf to fire the puck more as he ended the game with an uncharacteristic 10 shots on goal.
- Mason Raymond racing around with number 39 was also odd. I kept thinking it was Matt Beleskey (wishful thinking, I know).
- Jared Boll was fairly invisible (in an okay way) besides a 2-minute “contact with the head” penalty. It will be interesting to see if he keeps his spot on the roster or if another young player like Stefan Noesen will get an opportunity with the big club.
Overall, the Ducks kept the 2015-2016 Central Division champs in check all while missing their number one defender and a top-6 winger. Besides some fairly bad defensive miscues, the Ducks played a solid game. Is that hope I’m feeling? Maybe a little.