Like so many of you, I have been waiting and waiting months for this.
Waiting for the red carpet celebration, to see our boys arrive, to see our team pumped up, and ready to head into battle.
I've been waiting for the chance to see what an offensive powerhouse the Ducks possess. Waiting to hopefully reject my suspicions about the defense.
I've been waiting for Ducks hockey.
However, I was definitely not waiting for that!
I don't know what that was, but it's not at all what we were hoping or expecting from this team.
I hate that the Ducks got started on this note. I hate that it resembles, all too much, the Ducks of last season (worse, if that's even possible).
I hate that we're all wondering where the heck our defense is.
I hate that we have one of the top lines in all of the NHL, and they were completely invisible tonight.
So what's worse?
The fact that the Ducks opened the season with a loss, or that the Ducks lost ANY game like THAT?
Only getting two shots on goal in the second period, or that the fans were actually CELEBRATING those two shots?!
Lack of confidence on offense, or defense?
Giving up short-handed goals, or being COMPLETELY unable to set up on power plays?
Wondering if we should be prepared for a really long season, or being grateful that there are still 81 opportunities to forget the monstrosity that was this opening night?
There were 18 guys on the ice for the Ducks, all with an overwhelming desire to be unselfish. Eventually, this leads to an overwhelming desire to do too much, individually. On the same note, no one wanted to be responsible for handling the puck, leading the play, or attacking the net. The blue line was more like a blue wall for the Ducks, as they consistently played dump and chase, which was more like dump and prepare to defend.
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan were not only COMPLETELY shut down, they managed to shut themselves down as well. No one had the energy or the desire to do more than fight. Bobby Ryan looked awkward and uncomfortable, as if he was wearing someone else's skates or using someone else's stick. That pesky, goalie-crashing Corey Perry was replaced with a guy who needs a navigation system to find the goal crease.
The defense. Oh boy. My fears have definitely been confirmed. I'll be honest, Ryan Whitney was embarrassing. Much thanks to the guy for getting the ONLY goal (and sadly the Ducks first goal of the season), but shame on him for the three goals he allowed.
I'll put some of that on Jonas Hiller, who's still giving up rebounds at an alarming rate, but Whitney's wonderful ability to get caught on the wrong end of his job to defend was pitiful. He is definitely not a replacement for Chris Pronger.
So, here is my DESPERATE attempt to find some positive (after all, we do have another 81 games...we can't allow ourselves to wallow in pity so soon!).
While defensively there were many catastrophes, I did warm to Luca Sbisa. I will admit that I would have voted to allow him more time to develop with his junior team. However, he did impress me (more so than others, anyway).
He started a bit rocky and turned over the puck almost immediately, but for the rest of the night, I felt confident with his ability to skate with the puck and give the Ducks a slim chance at an attack. (I'm really pushing to find a positive here, people.)
In addition, I'm going to give a lot of credit to the guys on the fourth line. It seemed the only time the Ducks had any control of the puck was when George Parros, Ryan Carter and Mike Brown were on the ice. Ideally, I'd much rather the guys controlling the play to have names like Getzlaf or Perry, but if anyone was actually WATCHING the game, you'll understand that these "positives" are really all the Ducks fans have from Game One.
Which brings me to this. Game One. Not Game 21, 61, or even 81. The first-game nerves are gone (not that these professionals should be using that as ANY type of excuse). The excitement of opening night and the pressure not to fall while skating out of the tunnel during the player introductions is over.
Likewise, there are enough guys on this roster who know what it's like to have to battle for the postseason. There are plenty of guys who know that games one through five are just as important as games 75-80. The Ducks don't want to be another "paper team." At least, I hope they don't.