The Anaheim Ducks held off a pesky Dallas Stars comeback to open their Stanley Cup march with a 4-3 win.
Some thoughts from last night’s game:
By the end of the first, it was clear how the Ducks finished first in the Western Conference: their depth and counter-attack. Two goals were generated through their quick counter-play against a Stars defence that look overwhelmed for most of the night. Their depth was noticeable, too; after the headliners, they can still throw out Mathieu Perreault, Patrick Maroon, Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino, and some guy named Teemu.
The Stars will have to move the puck crisply and safely if they want to get anything going in the offensive zone. Not sure they have the personnel to do it. The Ducks are smothering in the neutral zone, so safe, quick play will be the key.
The Ducks power play clicked at 40% efficiency; if the special teams stay strong, the Ducks will have a huge edge. The Stars PK finished a mediocre 21st in the regular season and don’t have an answer for the big bodies down low.
The longer the series goes on, the more super pests Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel will have an effect. Garbutt made his presence known to surprise starter Frederik Andersen with a thoughtful snow shower in the second period. They’ll be in the Ducks’ heads by the end of this series.
Kari Lehtonen wasn’t particularly sharp, stopping 31 of 35 shots. The Ducks come in waves, and Lehtonen will have to play exceptionally if the Stars have any chance of an upset.
The aforementioned Bonino had a great game for the Ducks, highlighted by his sweet saucer feed to Kyle Palmieri for the first goal of the series. He plays responsible in his own zone and is a mainstay on the power play (not last night, however). One of those glue guys whose value becomes paramount the deeper they get into the playoffs.
At least the Stars are getting production from their version of Getzlaf-Perry, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, who potted a goal apiece. They’ll need more scoring from other lines, but as long as they find a way to produce, the Stars have a shot.
Andersen wasn’t bad, but was far from good. Certainly made things interesting allowing the Stars to come within a goal after building a commanding 4-0 lead. Having said that, it would be surprising if they didn’t turn to Andersen for game two.
Matt Beleskey, the latest plus-one slotted with Getzlaf and Perry, had a nice game chipping in a pair of points. He adds a nice gritty element and can play the simple, down low game the big Ducks are famous for.
Trevor Daley is arguably the Stars most important player and their best two-way defender. He saw three minutes on the power play and four minutes on the penalty kill, finishing second on the team in total ice time behind Alex Gologoski. He was an important contributor down the stretch and will be leaned on heavily on a thin Stars backend.
Besides the point production – a goal and a helper – Ryan Getzlaf just does it all. His peripherals are just as impressive: four shots, two hits, and four blocked shots (one with his face).
Game 2 is Friday at the Honda Center.
Freelance sports writer. Ex-intern at The Hockey News and 680 News.