This was it. Playoffs. This regular season felt much longer than most, probably due to the injuries and struggles that Anaheim faced over the course of the last 82 games. Nevertheless, the team persevered, and here they were ready to play an in-state rival to kick off the postseason.
Just about everybody expected this series to be very closely played, with the teams being among the most evenly matched in the entire playoff bracket. This game did not appear to be that way, with the Sharks taking full advantage of the far-too-many penalties that the Ducks ended up taking.
Here’s a period-by-period breakdown of the first of what is hopefully many, playoff games for the Anaheim Ducks (that don’t look like this one).
The first period started with a cautious but quick pace, with the Ducks pushing the pace for the first couple minutes of the game. Just four minutes into the game, the Sharks would get the first dangerous chance with a Brent Burns shot finding its way through the crowd and slamming off the right post behind John Gibson.
Marcus Pettersson would take the first penalty of the series with a holding call with 15:03 remaining in the opening period, sending the Sharks to their first power play.
The penalty kill would be tested early but would find a groove and get consistent clears without any real danger for John Gibson, with J.T. Brown capping off the penalty kill with a shorthanded chance as the penalty clock expired, and Pettersson stepped back onto the ice.
The Ducks would nearly open the scoring roughly halfway through the period after a crazy bounce off the end boards gave Hampus Lindholm a wide open chance in front of Martin Jones. However, the puck was hopping, and he was unable to get a solid shot towards the net.
Timo Meier would crash the net a couple minutes later with Brandon Montour on his hip and run into John Gibson (shocking!). The Ducks would get a power play out of it and get their first opportunity of the series on the man advantage.
The power play would struggle to establish any kind of forward momentum, and the Ducks would find themselves back at even strength against the Sharks without anything to show for it.
With 6:17 left on the clock in the opening frame, Ryan Kesler would be the next to head to the sin bin for interference, giving the Sharks their second opportunity of the opening 20 minutes.
John Gibson would proceed to John Gibson the ever-living hell out of the first minute of the power play, shutting down multiple dangerous chances after a few failed clears from the Anaheim penalty kill. The penalty kill would find a groove once again and bail Gibson out with a few clears to kill of the remainder of the Kesler minor.
The first period ended where it began, with a score of 0-0, but not for a lack of opportunities or chances. Both teams had their shots, and color me surprised, but I would say it was a pretty evenly matched first period.
The 2nd period featured John Gibson early, with Gibby making a huge save just about a minute and a half into the period to keep the game scoreless for the time being. Just a minute later, the Ducks would get another power play opportunity as Brendan Dillon would get called for a slash against Jakob Silfverberg.
The power play would once again be uneventful and fruitless, with the Ducks failing to get anything dangerous outside of another dangerous bounce off the end boards that ended up behind Martin Jones, but not in the back of the net.
Ryan Kesler would get the next golden chance of the period, but he would be stoned by the post as well. The Sharks would turn quickly and storm into the offensive zone, drawing a slashing penalty against Andrew Cogliano, forcing the Ducks to be shorthanded once again.
Right off the faceoff, the Sharks would get a glorious, uncontested opportunity in front of Gibson, forcing Ryan Getzlaf to take a slashing penalty, giving the Sharks 1:45 of 5-on-3. Oh dear.
The Sharks would not take long to capitalize on the 2-man advantage, with Evander Kane being left wide open in front of the net, and he rifled a shot past Gibson to give the Sharks the first lead of the series. 1-0 San Jose.
The Sharks would continue on the power play, getting another near chance as a shot deflected off the crossbar from Logan Couture, keeping the Ducks within one.
The Sharks would fail to make anything of the remainder of the power play, and the Ducks would return to even strength down only one after two penalties 15 seconds apart.
The Sharks would double their lead on a 3-on-1 rush, once again through the stick of Evander Kane. He would drag a backhander past Gibson and put it home, putting the Ducks down a pair just over halfway through the hockey game. 2-0 San Jose.
Brent Burns would add another just a minute or so later, with a screen in front of John Gibson, giving Gibby virtually no chance to see the puck before it was between his legs. 3-0 San Jose.
Corey Perry would take a roughing call after a scrum in front of Martin Jones, putting the Sharks back on the power play. Needless to say at this stage, the Ducks needed a kill desperately.
They would succeed in the very least at doing that much, allowing the Ducks to return to even strength, down three with just over two minutes remaining in the middle frame.
The 2nd period would mercifully come to an end for Anaheim, with the Sharks jumping out to a 3-0 lead after dominating possession and shot attempts in the middle twenty minutes. The Ducks had a lot of work to do to claw back into this one.
For the quick recap of this period, enjoy.
The 3rd period began with the Ducks really pushing offensively to try to get the breakthrough early in the period against Martin Jones, something they desperately needed if they wanted to have a chance to claw back into this game.
The next few minutes would feature the Ducks getting shots blocked, deflected, or knocked away by Martin Jones, with the Sharks countering with shots on goal every so often. The Sharks were doing a good job of killing clock and locking the game down defensively for the first seven minutes of the third.
The Ducks continued to struggle to generate anything of dangerous quality, and pretty quickly, there was only 9:05 remaining in regulation. The Ducks looked shaken, scared, abused, and tired. The simplest of passes were getting by the Ducks players and turning into turnovers.
Ryan Kesler would vent some frustrations with just over eight minutes to go in regulation, taking an interference call after taking an unnecessary run at a San Jose defenseman next to Martin Jones. Sharks to the power play.
The Ducks killed off the penalty, but the momentum offensively just wasn’t where it needed to be in order to stage any sort of comeback. The clock continued to wind, and the Ducks continued to struggle to even begin to test Martin Jones.
The Ducks would get a power play with 49.9 seconds left on the clock with the Ducks down 3-0. Woohoo.
The Ducks very, very surprisingly failed to score on this power play opportunity, and they got the shutout they rightfully deserved. The Ducks took far too many penalties in this game, and they paid the price for it. 3-0 San Jose FINAL.
Game 2 is on Saturday night. Here’s to hoping the Ducks learned a thing or two tonight.