The Anaheim Ducks looked to improve on their impressive 4-1-1 start to the season as they hosted the New York Islanders in a Wednesday night showdown at Honda Center. The Ducks started a bit slow, with both teams trading chances early in the game.
However, it would be the Ducks that would break the ice first and get on the board just before the 1st intermission, with Ryan Kesler potting a power play goal, his 2nd goal of the season, with just six seconds remaining in the opening 20 minutes. He would add another in the 2nd period (and a third if you count scoring twice before the whistle), extending the Ducks lead to 2-0 after 40 minutes.
Adam Henrique would add a baseball-style goal early in the 3rd period, and after some shenanigans in the last 30 seconds involving John Gibson losing his shutout and Hampus Lindholm adding an empty net tally five seconds later, the Ducks improve to 5-1-1 with a 4-1 victory over the Isles.
It was without a doubt one of the Ducks’ better performances of the season, and it should provide a nice confidence boost to a team that has been hearing plenty about the doubts of their future and ability to sustain the pace they are on. Of course, no team can expect to win 4 out of 6 games throughout the entire course of the season, but if the Ducks can begin turning those underlying numbers and shot metrics into their favor, the wins may come easier and feel more deserved in the eyes of the advanced stats enthusiasts.
Best & Worst
Ryan Kesler - Ryan Kesler is back, scoring goals, and looks like the prime Ryan Kesler of years past. Mike Coppinger interviewed Kesler after the game and tweeted: ‘Ryan Kesler said tonight’s two-goal game was a “big middle finger” to those who doubted he would return to form following hip surgery. When asked how much he enjoys proving doubters wrong, Kesler replied “I love it. It’s my favorite thing in the world.” ’ Eat it, haters. (@ you Ryan Johansen)
Defense - The defensive structure actually looked...well....structured for one of the first times this season. The Ducks were forcing players to the outside, protecting the front of the net, and allowing John Gibson to see most of the shots that were coming from the outside. The lone Islanders goal came on a fantastic deflection that no goaltender would have been able to do anything about. More defense like that will absolutely lead to more wins.
John Gibson - Feels like I probably shouldn’t even have to say it anymore, but the man deserves his credit. The Islanders had a couple good looks and Gibby was there to slam the door and keep the Ducks comfortably ahead. The man is just an absolute monster.
Discipline - The Ducks took a total of six penalties in the game, totaling 15 PIM (exclude Max Comtois’ first NHL fight that did not really go well for him, and the total becomes five penalties for 10 PIM). Either way, it was not the most disciplined effort, and the Ducks need to be careful about allowing numerous power play opportunities, especially against teams with higher-powered offenses.
Being Outshot Again - Naysayers of the clearly best-team-in-the-NHL Anaheim Ducks will say that the Ducks are still getting lucky with their wins and that they can’t out-shoot their opponents, but while that might hold a hint of truth, our very own CJ explains the shot deficit in this instance.
Ducks were outshot again but this was a classic score effects tilt. Game was more even than shots indicated.— CJ Woodling (@CJWoodling) October 18, 2018
Kesler Missing the Hat Trick by Inches - Really not a lot of worsts to think of in this game, but this made me sad. He played a hell of a game and a hat trick would have been a nice feather in the cap for his grand re-entrance into the NHL.
3 Stars of the Game
3. Sam Steel - Steel assisted on the opening goal from Ryan Kesler on the power play and all around looked pretty confident moving the puck around on the power play. Continue building that confidence and momentum and he could become exactly the kind of power play force the Ducks need.
2. John Gibson - His shutout bid was spoiled with 30 seconds left in the game, but it was another phenomenal night for the best goaltender in the NHL. Feels kind of crazy to say that 34 saves on 35 shots is just an average night for Gibson, but the bar is set high now and he knows that the team needs him to continue being that good for them to succeed.
1. Ryan Kesler - A multi-goal game in just his 4th game back after returning from surgery and an entire season of injured hockey last year is good enough to earn the #1 star in my books. Here’s to hoping this is just the beginning of one of the best seasons of his career.
The Ducks are back in action on Saturday night when they travel to Sin City to take on the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena (I will be in attendance, so pray that they keep up with the speed of the top line in Vegas).