Ducks Off to a Nice Start
Monday, 10.17.2011 / 8:09 AM PT
|You've gotta feel good about Ducks hockey right now.
(Yes, I know it's cheesy to post a picture of my own nephew, but I'm doing it anyway.)
You know what? This team looks pretty good.
It's still early yet -- very early, in fact -- but let's not let that ruin our joy. The Ducks win when they score, and they win when they don't score. The win when the RPG line gets shut down, and they win when they explode for a typically big night. They win with the power play, and they win without the power play.
Last night, in a convincing 4-2 victory over the Blues at Honda Center, the Ducks had all of those things. And here's something else they have: a 3-1-0 record that marks the best four-game start since the Cup season. It's also the fewest goals (7) they've ever allowed in their first four games.
Friday night, in a 1-0 shutout of the Sharks in the electric home opener the Ducks reached another milestone. That win combined with the 2-1 shootout victory in Stockholm marked the first time in franchise history that Anaheim had won two straight games while only scoring one goal in each (thanks to OCR's Randy Youngman for providing that stat). It's a tribute to a stingy defense, but it's not exactly what you'd expect of a team with Perry, Ryan, Getzlaf, Selanne, Visnovsky and a power play that tied for second in the NHL last year.
You knew it was only a matter of time before the goals -- as Selanne might say -- came splatting out like ketchup from a stubborn bottle after a few beats on the bottom. And what better night than Corey Perry Night for Perry and his top-line playmates to come alive? Perry had a goal, Ryan had two and Getzlaf had two assists and they all contributed to a power play that had come into the night 0 for 13 on the season.
The Ducks technically had only one power play goal, but two others came just as the power play had expired or shortly after. Ryan's goal just 2:20 into the game came at the exact second that the Nikita Nikitin (now that's a name) holding minor died, as he punched in a hard rebound off a Francois Beauchemin slapper. And another rocket by "Boom Boom" earned the Ducks a second goal early in the third, just seconds after Jason Arnott's high-sticking penalty ran out. It was the first time this season the Ducks had scored two in a game.
After that, the Ducks completely drowned their order of fries (it's a metaphor; go with it) and kept pouring it on. They got their first official power play goal of the season when Perry and those magical hands tipped in a floating puck off a Selanne one-timer that he didn't strike squarely. Then Ryan getting his second goal on a beautiful pickup of a pinballing puck and wristing a shot that just trickled behind the previously sharp Jaroslav Halak.
And the way Jonas Hiller has been playing (how's 1.71 GAA and .931 SV% work for you?) behind that very solid Ducks D, you had to feel like this one was pretty much over. And it was, despite a Steen goal halfway through the third that hardly made the crowd of 14,555 squirm in their seats.
So, a solid weekend for the Ducks, aside from one glaring incident on Friday night against San Jose. Winger Jason Blake got accidentally cut by a skate blade by Brent Burns in the third period, suffering a severe laceration above the left wrist and will miss three months.
The Ducks, who have moved Brandon McMillan into that second-line winger spot for now, move on without him. That continues tonight in a rematch with the Sharks (a mildly surprising 1-2-0 to start the year) under the roof of what promises to be a loud HP Pavilion. That's about as intriguing a road game for the Ducks as you're going to get as early as October 17, and we should savor this one, since the Ducks and Sharks won't face each other again until December 26.
Yeah, I know it's early, but for a team that's had notoriously bad Octobers, a 3-1-0 start to the season feels a bit like Christmas already.