Best: Grit/60 is off the charts
I know how allergic everyone seems to be to the notion that grit and compete level have a significant effect on games. While it’s true that it takes much more to win in the NHL, having a team that shows a certain competitiveness and edge when things aren’t exactly going right for them can be invaluable to a team’s chemistry and establishment of momentum. The Ducks are not built on grit alone. They have the skills necessary to be successful. But games like Tuesday’s are going to happen when the offense just isn’t there. The only thing a team can do at that point is to up the intensity level and play a full 60 minutes of hockey to give themselves even the slightest chance at winning. Tonight’s game showcased that, and it’s a far cry from last season when everyone was questioning this team’s level of effort.
Worst: Does someone have to put copies of the NHL rule book in the hands of these players?
I’m starting to wonder if the Ducks know they’re not supposed to do things like hold the other skater or trip them up during a game. The Ducks are 2nd in the league behind the Calgary Flames with over 57 minutes of PK time so far this season; a full 15 minutes more than the 3rd place St. Louis Blues. Anaheim can only seem to keep their hands to themselves for one or two periods before all hell breaks loose on the discipline side of things. While the Ducks are playing with fire, their PK unit stands at a respectable 84.4% kill rate, good for 12th in the league. At least they’re not Chicago (looks at stats page/sees Chicago’s PK rate of 46.1%/bribes NHL scheduler to let the Ducks play the Hawks 3 times in the next 2 weeks).
Best: I’m calling it way too early: the Ducks traded the right goaltender.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Frederik Andersen. He was a fantastic goalie for Anaheim and I still hope he can figure things out in Toronto and lead them to success. But John Gibson’s performance of late combined with Freddie’s, ahem, less than cutthroat performance in net to start the season is working out in Bob Murray’s favor. Gibson has always been considered the future franchise goaltender, and his relief appearance against the Sharks on Tuesday showed the kind of top-tier performance the team is expecting. As for Bernier, despite his early removal from the game, the former Toronto netminder has proven himself to be a more than reliable backup; perhaps the best one the Ducks have had in several years.
Best: Defense finally showed up.
With the Sharks controlling play for the vast majority of the game, the Ducks needed their defense to step up. They did. Defensive zone play has been noticeably worse to start this season compared to last year. Anaheim has one of the most talented young defenses in the league (Bieksa and Stoner notwithstanding) and proved it last year by allowing the fewest goals scored against in the NHL. This season has been plagued by defensive end miscues until Tuesday. The Ducks, for the most part, played a tight and controlled game in their own zone giving up a relatively high 36 shots on goal but few from dangerous areas.
3) Joe Pavelski
2) John Gibson
1) Marc-Eduord Vlasic