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What we learned from the Ducks’ 6-4 loss in Pittsburgh

Bruce Boudreau
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau has some choice words for his players during their season-opening game in Pittsburgh.
(Justin K. Aller / Getty Images)

The Ducks’ 6-4 season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins was a continued routine of events in which players appeared uncomfortable, uncertain and unsteady.

Part of that is the breaking-in stage for the team. There’s talent, for sure, but chemistry can’t be switched on.

So it was Thursday night, when Penguins’ returning NHL MVP Sidney Crosby struck for two goals and an assist, Pascal Dupuis returned from a blown-out knee in December to provide a goal and three assists and defenseman Olli Maatta had three assists as Pittsburgh fired 39 shots at 21-year-old Ducks goalie John Gibson.

Keep heart out of it

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It was a thoughtful, warm gesture of goodwill by Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau to give Gibson the start in goal as he returned to his hometown, but as the Penguins’ three goals in the first 13 minutes, 14 seconds showed, it was the wrong move.

Frederik Andersen not only won 20 regular-season games to Gibson’s three last season, he outplayed Gibson in the preseason, and should have been given the stiff opening-night test no matter where it was played.

Despite some complaints by Teemu Selanne and Jonas Hiller about Boudreau’s insensitive playing-time decisions, that hair-trigger formula of relying on who’s best for a given game is sound. Deviating from that and losing in a fashion one Duck called “embarrassing” should reinforce that.

Youth was not served

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The Ducks’ so-called “kids line” of center Rickard Rakell and forwards Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly were a combined minus-five with just three shots while Rakell won five of 13 faceoffs.

Although they played together in minor-league Norfolk, they lacked ease on the grander stage, and with rookie center William Karlsson on the roster and injured forwards Dany Heatley and Kyle Palmieri on the mend, replacements are in wait.

Facing talented Penguins on road is no easy task

Yes, the Ducks knew this night was coming, but the energy inside a sold-out Consol Energy Center and the Penguins’ drive to shake off their own playoff disappointment ruled the night.

Certainly, the Ducks’ top defensemen Ben Lovejoy and Cam Fowler are better than their combined minus-six with just three hits and two giveaways, but tough NHL assignments overwhelm.

At this point, it looks like this was that.

Corey Perry is positioned for big numbers

The forward had a hat trick, and his membership both on the first line with Ryan Getzlaf and on the top power-play unit with Ryan Kesler has great potential, as his two goals Thursday with a man advantage attest.

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He’s scored 50 goals before. In his 10th NHL season, 60 is conceivable.


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