The Anaheim Ducks are intent on picking up the pace this season, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that new coach Dallas Eakins was quick to applaud his team after it won the opener.
The Ducks look to ride the momentum of that victory into a tilt with the Golden State rival San Jose Sharks on Saturday in the finale of their brief two-game homestand to begin the season.
Defenseman Cam Fowler scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period on Thursday, and fourth-liner Derek Grant also tallied in Anaheim’s 2-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes.
While an NHL team has yet to hoist the Stanley Cup after the season opener, Eakins wasn’t shy about underscoring the importance of winning the first game of consequence after a 4-1-1 preseason.
“I think it’s massive, just because the one thing we want to build off is the positivity we’ve had here through training camp,” Eakins said. “I think if you come out of the other side of this, on the bad side, it could easily creep into (their heads), like, ‘Oh, no it’s happening again.’
“We certainly don’t want that.”
What happened in 2018-19 was a demoralizing season for the Ducks, who endured a 5-21-4 record during one pivotal stretch and mustered a league-worst 2.39 goals per game over the whole campaign.
“We need to be a team that’s going to score by committee,” said Fowler, 27. “With all the skill we have, with our elite goal-scorers, we’re going to have to rely on goals to come from different people at different times.”
Fowler’s 14th career game-winning goal was also his 59th tally overall to reside one shy of Scott Niedermayer for the team record among defensemen.
John Gibson, who made 32 saves in the opener, turned aside 114 of 124 shots in four starts against San Jose last season. The 26-year-old posted a 2-0-1 mark in those contests to improve to 4-1-4 with one shutout and a 2.54 goals-against average in 10 career appearances (nine starts) vs. the Sharks.
San Jose has stumbled to begin the season, getting outscored 9-2 in a home-and-home series sweep by the Vegas Golden Knights. Marcus Sorensen’s first-period goal in the opener stood up as San Jose’s lone tally in a 4-1 defeat Wednesday, and Barclay Goodrow scored late in the third period of a 5-1 home setback on Friday.
“I don’t think we put too much pressure on ourselves, I just don’t think we were very good,” new captain Logan Couture said. “(It’s) disappointing. The positive thing is we get to play again (Saturday) night, and we have to play a heck out a lot better.
Martin Jones yielded four goals on 23 shots Friday before being relieved prior to the third period in favor of Aaron Dell, who stopped five of the six shots he faced.
San Jose coach Peter DeBoer told reporters after Friday’s game that Dell would get the nod against Anaheim. Dell, 30, has turned aside 50 of 56 shots to post a 1-0-1 mark in two career starts versus the Ducks.
–Field Level Media