Anaheim's Brandon McMillan celebrates with Maxime Macenauer after… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
They applauded long and hard during the glitzy pregame introductions for reigning league most valuable player Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and, of course, the age-defying Teemu Selanne.
One of them would surely score, right? Or failing that, serve as a skillful playmaker during the Ducks' opener at Honda Center.
None of that happened, and it didn't matter. Not with Jonas Hiller tending goal for the Ducks on Friday night. Hiller recorded his 12th career shutout, facing 31 shots in the Ducks' 1-0 win against the San Jose Sharks. Rookie center Maxime Macenauer got the game-winner, his first NHL goal, at 13:59 of the first period.
Welcome to old-school hockey.
Hiller, who was plagued by vertigo symptoms for most of the second half of last season, felt he was back even before this memorable showing. But any shutout, his first since Feb. 13 at Edmonton, makes a statement.
And shutting out the Sharks turns the statement into an emphatic one.
"You don't have a chance in the NHL without solid goaltending, and Jonas tonight provided a little bit more than solid," Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said. "Again, we've talked about his injury and his ailments are something of the past. And now we've got to maintain keeping him fresh and giving him the opportunity to play game in, game out."
Said the Sharks' Joe Thornton: "We know what he's all about. He's a great goaltender. A world-class goalie. But we have some world-class players here that can score, so it's disappointing we couldn't score on him tonight."
Hiller was typically understated.
"I already felt good those two games in Europe," said Hiller, who was especially sharp in the shootout against the New York Rangers last Saturday at Stockholm. "It was another good day tonight. I felt comfortable out there.
"I want to make a statement every night, no matter what happened last year. Goaltending is a lot about confidence, and it's easier to play well if you start the season with these kind of games."
One of the first players to reach Hiller to celebrate after the final buzzer was defenseman Toni Lydman, who played his first game after off-season shoulder surgery. Lydman played well after showing signs of rust, which were not surprising after he did not play in any of the Ducks' exhibitions.
One of Hiller's best saves came in the first period when the Sharks' Joe Pavelski went around Lydman, making him look helpless. But Hiller, and his glove, happened to be there for the rescue effort.
"I saw him walking in there," Hiller said. "He kind of got by Toni and I just wanted to challenge him for the shot because I thought he had room to move. I was still in good position and was able to make the save. But I definitely think it was an important one at that time."
Who would have thought the Ducks would so far be getting their offense from their secondary lines? Perry, Getzlaf, Selanne and Co. are looking for their first points of the season.
On Friday, the offense came from the kid center, and a player generously known by that favored euphemism "enforcer" delivered the sharp centering pass.
Meet Macenauer and his sidekick George Parros — a playmaker and not a fighter on this night.
"Looks like we're pushing him into a different role," Hiller said of Parros. "I always thought he was he's a good hockey player. … He probably was never allowed to use it."
Eventually, the top two lines will start scoring.
"We haven't had a whole lot of changes, but I think those changes we made, especially up front, the third and fourth line can make a big difference for us," Hiller said.
"These days, you can't just play with two good lines in this league."
The celebratory mood was dampened in the Ducks' dressing room when veteran forward Jason Blake was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange after the game, having suffered a severe cut on his left forearm. It happed about midway through the final period during a scramble after a faceoff. Blake fell to the ice, San Jose defenseman Brent Burns' skate cut him.