The fact that the Anaheim Ducks 2013 season has finally started is the biggest positive of all. No matter who your team is, it's nice to be able to sit down and watch some hockey after a lockout that felt like it would never end.
With a new collective bargaining agreement in place, that's all history now and business is once again being settled on the ice.
Ducks fans have had plenty to cheer about in the early going, as their team has been surprisingly competitive (3-1-1) in the five games that they've played. It bears mentioning, however, that Anaheim compiled an even more impressive start at 4-1-0 in their first five games last year. We all know how that turned out.
An objective look at this teams show that they have some great pieces to build on, along with some areas where they need to improve moving forward. We'll take a look at the negatives first, and then end on a positive note.
The Ducks have been able to generate a lot of offense in their first five games, which has perhaps taken some of the consequence out of what has been terrible penalty killing. Before their last game against San Jose, the Ducks had killed off less than half of the penalties they had taken. They now sit at 66.7 percent, landing them the third worst spot in the league.
While early season stats aren't necessarily reliable, penalty killing has been Anaheim's Achilles heel in the past, and early indicators suggest that trend could continue. Moving forward, they'll need to get that percentage much higher if they expect to continue their success.
Poor penalty killing has definitely played a role here, as the Ducks are giving up 3.2 goals per game. Anything above three is going to require a lot of offense to overcome, and you can bet that Bruce Boudreau will be spending some time in practice working on getting that number down.
It's a bit of a puzzling stat, as Anaheim is second in the league in shots against per game, giving up just a shade over 25. Since this was a huge problem area for the Ducks in recent years, it's strange to see that an obvious improvement there hasn't led to less goals.
Again, a huge part of this issue is penalty killing, so if Anaheim can improve in that area, and keep holding opposing team's shot totals down, they'll start to see the benefit of that on the score sheet.
Slow Start for Bobby Ryan
In all the offense the Ducks have been able to create, Bobby Ryan has managed only one goal and one assist to this point in the season. Since Ryan has been their go-to 30 goal scorer for the past four years, the lack of production early on is certainly disappointing.
Though the effects of low production from Ryan wouldn't be realized unless Daniel Winnik, Saku Koivu and Ryan Getzlaf were to slow down, it's still an area to keep an eye on moving forward.
Anaheim's start to the season would have to be considered a success by most standards. The Ducks came into the new year as a team that had struggled last season and had a relatively unchanged roster since then.
It's starting to look like General Manage Bob Murray and Coach Boudreau are both smarter than we've given them credit for. Anaheim has looked like a fairly complete and competitive team to this point in the season, as they are getting solid play and offensive production from all over their line up.
While there have been no shortage of bright spots for the Ducks, we can thank their third line in particular for a lot of their success early on.
I don't think anyone expected Winnik to score five goals in five games and lead the Ducks in points. In fact, it wasn't a stretch to have Winnik pegged as a healthy scratch to start the year.
Thus far he's been the most productive member of Anaheim's offense, spending most of the first five games on the third line. The most goals Winnik has ever scored in a season is 11, and he's on pace to easily exceed that mark, even in a shortened season.
If Winnik can continue to produce at this high of a level, he'll take a lot of pressure off of Anaheim's top line and give the Ducks an offensive weapon that they didn't expect to have.
Not know for his fast starts, Getzlaf has looked great early on and has been able to make a nearly immediate impact, going for two goals and five points in the first five games.
Historically, Getzlaf has struggled to produce on the stat sheet during the beginning of the season, which has undoubtedly contributed to Anaheim's slow starts in recent years.
This year he's looked quick, strong on his skates and has been able to make plays for Anaheim when they've needed them.
The Ducks offensive success around him suggests, that with less pressure to score and confidence moving forward, Getzlaf will be able to stay on pace for a 40-50 point season.
In addition to Winnik, Teemu Selanne, Koivu and Andrew Cogliano have all been regulars on the score sheet for Anaheim. Any worries of issues with secondary scoring have certainly been put to rest, at least for the meantime.
At this point in the season it's the most encouraging sign for a Ducks team that was thought to have little in the way of secondary scoring on their roster.
The only real identifiable downside for Anaheim thus far has been their penalty killing. If the Ducks can clean up that aspect of their game and continue to provide Getzlaf and Corey Perry with substantial backup offense, they'll have a legitimate shot at proving almost all of the Pacific Division prediction models completely wrong.