If I may mangle a hockey truism for a second, the Stanley Cup can't be won in Carolina on a Thursday, but it can be lost there.
The Anaheim Ducks had given up 13 goals in their past three games, all of which were losses. So stopping the skid in Raleigh was important for a number of reasons. The fact sophomore goaltender John Gibson played such a big role in the 2-1 victory was also a great sign for a team that holds down first place in the Pacific Division and yet has gone a little under the radar.
Just look at the All-Star Game in Columbus: Despite their lofty record at the break, the Ducks had just one representative in Ohio, that being captain Ryan Getzlaf. Perhaps Corey Perry would have made it, had he not missed a bunch of games due to the mumps and perhaps Anaheim's collective excellence doesn't lend itself to popularity contests, but Getzlaf acknowledged his solo journey at the All-Star Game.
“It’s a tough thing, when you’re talking about being in a room with that many guys that have battled that hard and been able to get off to the start we’ve had," he said. "I thought there would be a few more guys here.”
But as always, I'm sure the Ducks would be more than happy to shake off the slight in exchange for another crack at the Cup, which Anaheim hasn't won since 2007 when Getzlaf and Perry were mere pups in the NHL.
The trade deadline will provide a good gauge of where the Ducks are at. The team does not have a traditional No. 1 defenseman, though the overall cast features a good mixture of size, experience, offense and puck-moving ability. But is another body needed?
Up front, the dynamic duo of Getzlaf and Perry are buttressed by second-line center Ryan Kesler and left winger Matt Beleskey, who is having a great year for The Flock. Which leads us to the goaltenders.
Gibson and Frederik Andersen are both young netminders that don't have a ton of NHL experience, but they do have the confidence of their dressing room peers.
“Our goaltending, it was never a question for us," Getzlaf said. "We saw what these kids did last year. Gibby played great in the playoffs and Freddy did as well. As long as they can stay healthy, our goaltending is not a question for our group.”
Staying healthy has been an issue, with both netminders sitting out time this season, prompting the use of Ilya Bryzgalov as a back-up. Right now Gibson is the healthy one and his 35-save effort against the Hurricanes was a great omen.
Because looking at the stats, the Ducks are a fascinating team. Anaheim ranks in the middle of the league in offense, defense, special teams and Corsi. The only place the team seems to excel is in one-goal games, where they are second only to the Islanders in success with a record of 24-0-7.
How you parse that stat will also reveal your feelings about this Anaheim team as a whole. Are they due to regress, because winning that many one-goal games is kinda flukey? Or, is this a team that knows how to handle its business and succeeding in so many tight contest bodes well for the post-season?
None of it will matter if the goaltending leaks, but the Ducks aren't sweating that right now: They have confidence in Gibson and Andersen, no matter which one is in the crease. Now it's just a matter of making that very grueling journey to the Cup again.