It would be completely understandable for the Ducks to have had some nerves heading into last night’s game. Having returned home to their coach being fired from a disastrous five-game road trip and the guy who signs their contacts behind the bench instead, there was certainly plenty of changes to get used to.
Unlike previous games, however, Anaheim fought out of the gate to have the start they wanted. Jakob Silfverberg finally added onto his team-leading goal total when he put a quick pass from Derek Grant behind the net at 13:30 in the first period.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, that would be all the offense they would get as Vancouver proceeded to take over the game and control play for most of the remaining 53 minutes.
What the Canucks didn’t plan on was running into the wall known as Kevin Boyle. Called up from San Diego on February 9th and appearing in relief of Chad Johnson in the game against the Flyers, the 26-year-old undrafted collegiate free agent signing from UMass-Lowell made his first career NHL start with Ryan Miller being activated off LTIR to back him up.
Boyle proceeded to spin a 35 save shutout. And while he certainly got the benefit of a favorable bounce here and there given he had to backstop a porous Ducks defense, this was a classic case of “you have to be good to be lucky”.
And good he was, showing everyone just how key he has been to the San Diego Gulls fantastic run after a rough start to the season.
Kevin Boyle became the second Ducks goaltender ever to record a shutout in his first career start, after John Gibson who got a shutout against – checks notes – the Vancouver Canucks.
Meanwhile, the victory brought GMVPIHCBM (General Manager Vice President Interim Head Coach Bob Murray) his first ever win as a head coach in the NHL.
While the Ducks didn’t look particularly different as far as on-ice play goes with Murray behind the bench, it’s clear that they looked more energetic than at most points during the recent losing streak.
Wins like these will go a long way as far as the players confidence is concerned. Even though losing might be the best path for this franchise long-term, a win like this at least keeps things relatively positive.
We could all use a little positivity this season.
Best and Worst
Best: Kevin Boyle first career start, first career shutout
Going from undrafted college free agent, to playing in the ECHL, to being relied upon for several wins during your team’s AHL success (including an All-Star appearance), to spinning a shutout in your first career NHL start, Kevin Boyle’s rise has been an inspiring ride. With Gibson and Johnson out until further notice, Boyle will be auditioning for the privilege of potentially winning the backup netminder spot on next year’s roster. Tonight was a good first tryout.
Worst: Outplayed heavily – again
I’m starting to question whether or not I should put performances like these under the worst category, seeing as how many of us have accepted that losing is the best path forward for the franchise. I’ll keep it here for now because, well, let’s face it. The Ducks played badly. That deserves a “worst” designation. Kevin Boyle is the main reason they won this game.
And let’s not pull this whole “see Carlyle wasn’t the problem!” crap. Every indication from the organization has hinted towards the Ducks gunning for a lottery pick. Murray behind the bench was never intended to change up the play to make the playoffs. This is about talent evaluation as the trade deadline approaches and the season ends, pure and simple.
Best: Jakob Silfverberg’s trade value
Yes, yes, I know all about the reports that Jakob Silfverberg and the Ducks are supposedly moving towards a contract extension. Regardless of those rumors, Silfverberg should be able to fetch some nice future assets should Murray decide to trade the Swedish winger. Adding another goal onto his season total can only help the potential return.
3. Max Jones
2. Jakob Silfverberg
1. Kevin Boyle