When it came to scoring goals last season, there were few teams worse than the Anaheim Ducks. They averaged just 2.45 goals per game, which was worth 23rd place in the NHL.
Part of the problem was the struggles of the trio of Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, and Ryan Getzlaf. All three should rebound in 2012-13 — although it remains to be seen if Ryan will be traded.
However, the Ducks need more than just a star-studded top line and, of course, Teemu Selanne to be an elite team. They need at least some degree of secondary scoring.
That’s what they really lacked last season. Selanne, Perry, and Ryan were the only players that breached the 15-goal mark and only three other players finished with between 10-14 goals. One of them was Saku Koivu, who will turn 38 in November and, unlike Selanne, is starting to show his age.
Unfortunately, this is one area of their game that they really didn’t address over the summer, so if the team is going to progress in 2012-13, they really need someone other than their big four to step up.
One potential candidate is Kyle Palmieri, who has been a star in the AHL for two seasons now and might get a full-time job with Anaheim next season. Another prospect that might be part of the solution is Peter Holland, who will be competing for a roster spot after getting his first taste of life in the NHL last season. He netted his first NHL goal last November and went on to record 60 points in 71 games as an AHL rookie.
If youngsters like them can emerge as at least complimentary players in 2012-13, then the Anaheim Ducks might be a serious playoff contender. If they don’t, then Anaheim is probably in for another long season.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.