The Ducks continued their torrid start to the season with a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday at Honda Center. Ryan Kesler was the star, with two goals scored, and John Gibson delivered another stellar performance. Here’s what we learned:
The Ducks look every bit like Stanley Cup contenders. Yes, it’s awfully early in the season, but the Ducks are a well-balanced squad that is performing well without a cadre of top-six forwards.
Ryan Getzlaf, the team’s best forward, is likely to return from a groin injury Saturday. Jakob Silfverberg, who leads the club in both points and goals, is dealing with a fractured finger but he could be back in short order. Ondrej Kase, who broke out with 20 goals last season, is finally free from concussion symptoms and could be cleared later this week.
“We have a lot of guys that are banged up,” Kesler said, “and a lot of guys that are just coming back so it’s impressive that we can scrape out wins and points.”
Speaking of, general manager Bob Murray and coach Randy Carlyle will soon have a good problem to deal with. There’s only so many coveted roster spots, of course, and to this point they’ve filled the gaps created by so many injuries with five rookie forwards in the lineup.
There will be a numbers crunch on the wings once Kase, Patrick Eaves (shoulder) and Silfverberg return. Max Comtois, the rookie who was drafted in the second round in 2017, figures to stay put. He’s tallied a point in all but one game and has provided a much-needed physical presence.
Nick Ritchie, the team’s third-line winger, is another power-forward, and he finally signed a deal with the club Wednesday (he was a restricted free agent).
The other rookie forwards — Sam Steel, Troy Terry, Kiefer Sherwood and Isac Lundestrom — could be squeezed out.
There will be some tough decisions to make, and the fourth line will be aided by the glut of impact players in the lineup.
The Ducks’ best player is in net, and that was the case again vs. the Isles. Gibson played mistake-free hockey for 59:65 (34 saves) until his would-be second shutout of the season was broken up.
The numbers on the season? Remarkable. A .948 save percentage along with a 1.89 goals-against-average.
“We’re getting more calm,” Gibson said. “We know we can’t get running around. We have to hold our positions when it gets a little crazy. We’re getting better each and every game.”