Worst: Slow Start
Every time there is an extended break for any team, there is always talk about whether or not said team will start slow in their first game back. With Anaheim having five days since their last game against the Oilers, the rust showed big-time early in the first period. Missed passes, lack of awareness, and just some generally poor play hurt Anaheim early in the game. A better team probably takes a 1-2 goal lead off of that kind of play starting a game.
Best: Penalty Kill
While I know some of the calls against Anaheim could be argued against, the Ducks stood up to the task. 4/4 on the penalty kill is a good night, not to mention the handful of shorthanded chances that the Ducks had. This team is really proving to be one of the more dangerous shorthanded teams in the NHL. And if they can keep up the kind of defensive play we saw tonight, Anaheim’s PK unit could really help round out this team as they approach the playoffs.
Best: #44 Returns
Nate Thompson’s first game of the season looked quite good. The veteran center came back from on offseason Achilles injury and turned in a solid performance against the Avs. Thompson seemed to bring some good energy to the fourth line and had a couple of great shifts in the back half of the game. While we don’t expect anything spectacular from Nate in the points column, if he can have more nights like tonight and be a positive presence on the penalty kill, he will be a welcome addition to Anaheim’s bottom six.
Best: Silfverberg Is No Worse For Wear
After a 12-day hiatus due to an upper-body injury suffered in the last Colorado game, Jakub Silfverberg returned to the Anaheim lineup after missing the last three games. Silf’s speed was sorely missed in games against Minnesota and Edmonton, but the Swede made up for lost time against the Avs. His 14th and 15th goals of the season plus an assist showed that Jakub was feeling right back at home on the Kesler line after his absence. Hopefully the young winger can continue this stellar play through the rest of the year.
2. Nick Ritchie
Ritchie found himself in a somewhat unfamiliar place tonight, the assist column. With two A’s on the night, a young guy who tends to shoot the puck more often than not, instead made two great decisions to pass the puck that both resulted in goals.
1b. John Gibson
Gibby had a great night. The “Golden Boy” really seems to have hit his stride since the Christmas break and he showed no rust coming out of the All-Star break. The only goal he allowed was on a breakaway where he got hung out to dry, so I’d say a pretty stellar performance from Gibby all around.
1a. Jakub Silfverberg
Some of you will probably say that Silf should be the outright #1 star, and I think you all have an argument there (I just loved what I saw from Gibby). Returning from an upper-body injury to score 2 beautiful goals and add an assist is quite the way to get things rolling. Silfverberg looks poised to set another career high in goals this year.