For the majority of their careers, Anaheim Ducks top line forwards Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have played together on the same line. Through training camp though head coach Bruce Boudreau has split up the star forwards citing the need to spread out the offense. While normally spreading out top scorers is a move I would agree with, Getzlaf and Perry have been such a tandem for so long, I don’t expect this to last.
Anaheim has improved their forward depth in recent years bringing in and developing players like Rickard Rakell, Mike Santorelli, Chris Stewart, Carl Hagelin and of course Ryan Kesler. They aren’t necessarily hurting for depth scoring, so splitting up Getzlaf and Perry given their roster makeup seems a bit odd.
Game 2 and Game 1?
In a bizarre schedule quirk the San Jose Sharks will host the Ducks in the second game of their season but it will be the first for Anaheim. Despite Saturday being the fourth day of the NHL regular season calendar, the Ducks will have been idle for the first three days. Fortunately for the Sharks, coming off a 5-1 thrashing of Los Angeles on Wednesday in their opener means they will have the confidence of a game already under their belts. Furthermore, they have the defense makeup more than capable of handling a spread out Anaheim attack.
San Jose’s Increased Defense Depth
As noted after San Jose’s opening win over LA, the team defense was the underrated portion of the game that really stood out. In particular the play of newcomer Paul Martin and his effectiveness as a pair with offensive juggernaut Brent Burns. Martin is playing as the second-best shut-down defenseman for the Sharks despite being the No. 1 player in that role for the Penguins last season. With the Ducks splitting up their top two forwards on different lines, the Sharks should be perfectly equipped to handle both of Anaheim’s top-six scoring lines.
The most likely matchup we will see with first year Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer is to send out Burns and Martin against the bigger line of Getzlaf with Chris Stewart on his wing. These two big bodies play a heavy game, and having Burns to play the physical defense role and Martin clean up the garbage and clear the crease makes the most sense. Conversely, Marc-Edouard Vlasic has given Corey Perry fits for years and the combination of Vlasic and Braun against the smaller Ducks scoring line should be the way to go at least to start the game. Perry has been skating at practice with two smaller players in Jiri Sekac and Rickard Rakell.
If the Ducks aren’t getting much going offensively, I fully expect Boudreau to waste no time reverting back to playing Getzlaf and Perry together, perhaps as soon as the second period come Saturday night. Perry and Getzlaf with say Chris Stewart would likely mean Vlasic and Braun matching up and perhaps in that case the Ducks could get the advantage of out-muscling the top San Jose defense pair with a bulkier top line.