Adjustments Made, Ducks Strike Back

The Ducks were supposed to be the team that was fast, hit hard, and took dumb penalties.  In game one of their first-round playoff series, Nashville was the team with the former two characteristics.  In game two, they rounded it out by adopting the latter.  The Ducks made them pay.

In fact, game two was much more what was expected from these two teams.  Anaheim had speed and worked the puck all over the ice in crisp fashion.  Nashville plodded and counted on their outstanding goaltender to keep them in the game.  Their plan was hindered by the fact that they went to the box far more than they should have.

After taking just twelve minutes in minors (plus one penalty that was a trade-off for one the Ducks took) in game one, they had twelve by the end of the second period in game two.  The Ducks made them pay twice, plus added another two at regular strength, to lead the game 4-1.  They also were in the process of killing Rinne’s save percentage figure, as they had done that on just 22 shots.

The only person who didn’t seem surprised after game one when considering how the Preds had come out was coach Barry Trotz.  He didn’t exactly predict a walkover, of course.  “There are so many things that are going to happen yet in the series,” he commented, “but obviously this is a very good start for us.”

When asked how his team maintained their lead as the game went on, he said simply, “We kept doing what we were doing; that was the key.  We don’t need to change anything, just stay on detail, stay on focus, and be sure we’re doing the right things.”

But in no way did that mean that the team wouldn’t be making adjustments for game two.  “Game one’s done now, and, short-term memory, we’ll look forward to game two.”

The trouble was, his club didn’t adjust, unless by that one means to change their game back to a familiar, slowdown style, and then add the propensity to take dumb penalties.  As a result, they came out flat in game two, and were down early.

Randy Carlyle was more forthright about needing to adjust things on his squad’s side after game one, and his team came out like the home team should, hard and fast, with the crowd behind them from the start.  They hadn’t been so noticeable in the first contest.

The only change he made to his lineup for game two was to drop Ruutu from the lineup in favor of Nick Bonino.  This meant that his third line shifted out its third member.  Odd, really, since Ruutu had played a good game, and taken his share on penalty killing.  He got just six minutes, but was hindered by a ten-minute misconduct.

But Carlyle was happy with what he got, commenting after the game, about a particularly good shift the trio had given.  “It was an emotional shift, and it gave our bench a big lift, and Bobby [Ryan] was able to score on the next shift.  But those three kids put together a good effort.  We didn’t play them a tremendous amount, but we played them enough that they got a taste of playoff hockey, and I thought they did a heck of a job for us tonight.”

Better might have been to let Parros sit.  He’s probably not needed against Nashville, though he didn’t play a bad game in game one.  He got some offensive minutes on the way to five and a half total, but his line was conspicuous early in holding the puck in the Nashville zone.  In game two, they were more or less invisible, though they logged some shifts which kept the skill players for Anaheim resting rather than being overplayed.  Parros ended the game with less than three and a half minutes, though.

The question was, was it Anaheim’s adjustments, or Nashville’s reversion to a more familiar game, or even Nashville’s feeling like they had an edge somehow, that made things go the way they did from the outset of game two?

Make no mistake—even without the power play chances, the Ducks would likely have beaten the Predators on this night, if their play in periods one and two was any indication.

One thing several of their players said Wednesday night was that they hadn’t gotten the puck sufficiently in on Rinne—they got close to the net, but not really in on the net.  That was something they were going to change.  Carlyle commented on this after game two.  “We had more pressure and offensive zone time, because we got inside more often.  If you look at the goals that were scored, they were all scored from directly in front of the net.  Two of them were scored off rebounds with the middle lane driven, and we didn’t do any of that in the first game.  We didn’t support the puck very well.”

This night, goal one came early, on a five-on-three.  Remarkable?  No, except when you note that the power play had started out weak, Nashville not allowing them a shot in 37 seconds.  Coach Carlyle called what might have been the earliest timeout on record, with less than five minutes played.

After the game, he said that his message had been, “I asked the players, when we first got the five-on-three, I asked them if they needed it, if they were tired, and they said no.  Then I watched them move the puck for the first 35 [actually 37] seconds, and I figured we needed to settle things down, because we weren’t doing anything that we normally do.  We were rushing, and they had a different coverage than the last time that we played them, so we just made an adjustment, we just moved some people up, and we were fortunate to get a goal.”

It worked, as the puck came from Koivu on the right side to Perry on the left.  He had the open side, but he didn’t just shoot it—he buried it in the net.  Get close.  Shoot hard.  It was the mantra.

Less than a minute later, Selanne got goal number two, on the five-on-four power play.  Nashville seemed to get one back late in the period, but it was waved off as the referee thought that David Legwand was too close to the goalie.  He also awarded the Nashville player with a goalie interference penalty.

In the Anaheim net, Ray Emery, who had been inserted early in the third period after Ellis let in goal number four, played his game.  That game, as was noted a few weeks ago in IH, is to chop away with little steps side-to-side in the crease, going down on his knees anytime the puck seems like it’s about to head his way.  It’s not spectacular.  Heck, it’s not even pretty, but it’s done him pretty well in his comeback and now, in the playoffs.

He didn’t have to make too many great saves, but he did what Carlyle always calls “give us a chance to win the hockey game.”  He got a little bit of help, too, such as when Mike Fisher saw him make a great leg save but then Kevin Klein shot the puck right back into Emery on the rebound from the left of the net.

After, Carlyle said, “Ray Emery is finally healthy, which is the first issue.  And then the decision was, is Ray Emery going to give us the quality goaltending that gives us the chance to win, and in the situation that we were presented with, I thought that he was the logical choice once he declared himself healthy two days ago.  He had earned that opportunity, he had earned that right with our hockey club.”

Rinne was good too, but not game-stealing good.  His size seemed to be in the heads of the Ducks after game one, according to what several of them said.  (Not, “his size is in our head,” but something to the effect of “he’s a big goalie in there.  He takes up a lot of space.”)

However, despite eventually prevailing 5-3 with the last goal an empty netter, the Ducks did not look great late.  They let down in the first half of the third period, allowing two goals.  The first came on a power play, Patric Hornqvist standing all alone at the left crease to bang in a puck.  The second was one that nobody on the ice had an excuse for from the Nashville side.  The puck came from behind the net to the slot where Joel Ward shot it in.  It wasn’t Emery’s fault.  Rather, the rest of the guys, who were standing there watching.  Ward was right between Perry and Belesky at the time, either of whom might have checked him.

The Predators were good in the third.  They mostly had the Ducks in their end, moving the puck.  And at the other end, when the Ducks got there, they didn’t get the puck close to the net.

That’s the same complaint they made at the end of the game the other night, and it makes one wonder—is this win the start of something big for the Ducks, as seemed to be promised in the first period or so, or the start of a Nashville romp which will only be hindered by a game two bump in the road?

Up the road in LA, Coach Murray always says that you never critique a win, but the Ducks need to do just that, because Nashville is a lot closer to taking control of this series than it might seem like they are.

The last goal in the 5-3 Anaheim win was Bobby Ryan, into an empty net.

Coach Barry Trotz of Nashville pointed to one thing in explaining the loss: allowing Anaheim to get power plays.  When he was asked if the loss was the result of “letting the big line of Anaheim get loose,” he replied, “Well, we let them get loose on the power play.  That’s where we really let them get loose.  The goals on the power play, [the] five-on-three. . . . I thought we did a pretty good job on that line for the most part.  You put those guys five-on-three, and I don’t think there’s any three guys in the league who can have success [on them].  For the most part, five-on-five, we did a good job.”

Reinforcing the point, when asked what he’ll do differently to get ready for game three, he said, “What kind of adjustments?  We’ll have to make a few, a few things that we picked up.  We kept shooting ourselves in the  . . .  the biggest thing I want to correct is let’s don’t take penalties.  We don’t take the penalties we did tonight, we’re talking a whole different story here.”

He then pointed to the fact that during the regular season, his team was quite disciplined taking the second fewest penalties in the league.  “That’s the major adjustment.  We do that, stick to our game plan, we won’t have to make that many adjustments.”

Ducks Notes

Hey, you three goofballs with the orange jumpsuits.  If you’re going to copy the Vancouver numbskulls, at least buy tickets on the correct (visitor’s) side of the penalty box.  Or just have some class and stay home.

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