It’s called “fire,” and if you play with it, you’re likely to get burned. But that’s a lesson the Anaheim Ducks have not learned.
That’s why they could roar out to exactly no goals over their first two periods against the Dallas Stars at Honda Center Saturday night. That’s why they could spot the Stars a goal on a Trevor Daly shot at even strength while recording just 14 shots through two periods. (The Stars had 21 through two.) That’s why they could blithely take four minor penalties over two frames (including one at the 20 minute mark of period two that was matched by one for Dallas’s Roussel).
In fact, the Ducks opened strong against Dallas. Their top line, on this night Perry and Getzlaf with Patrick Maroon, played almost the entire first two minutes. Teemu Selanne was on fire, standing in front of the net to try a redirect on a slapshot and stealing a puck from Kevin Connauton. He and his early linemate Mathieu Perreault went in on net along with Hampus Lindholm in a passing play three-way that took them right to the net.
And Getzlaf was good on the penalty kill, taking the puck all the way down the left wall against two guys to kill half a minute.
But then they got foolish. Cam Fowler had perhaps his worst period of the year in frame two. His pinch at the Stars’ blueline cost the Ducks the lone goal of the period. The Stars took the puck down ice immediately, got off a shot, a weak one, and Hiller made a leg save. The rebound was pounded past him by Daley. It was Dallas’s 11th shot.
The Ducks did not respond with vigor, but rather laxity. This allowed the Stars to open it up. At this moment, Tyler Seguin woke up. He broke between Fowler and another Dman on the power play and deked to put a backhand wide. He later took advantage of another Fowler mistake to go in two-on-one with Kevin Connauton.
Perhaps in an attempt to invest some energy in his troops, Boudreau of Anaheim switched up his first line at that point, putting Beleskey with Perry and Getzlaf and moving Maroon down. That produced a burst of Ducks’ feistiness for the last part of the period which saw Perry mixing it up with Roussel and he and Sbisa ending up with penalties called at the end of the period. But this did not create any different mood, or a better result, in the third.
The diagnosis on the team’s play by their coach went like this after the contest: “The Stars skated better. In their own zone, they really blocked out well. They didn’t give us any second shots. We couldn’t get in on the forecheck. They moved the puck really quick. We weren’t putting the pucks in areas where we could get them back on the forecheck.”
Losing goalie Jonas Hiller said, “I don’t think we played very well, especially the first two periods. We’re used to being able to put pressure on and sustain sometime, but it didn’t seem to be able to work out.”
The third started out four-on-four, perhaps to the Ducks’ advantage. Boudreau put Cogliano and Koivu out for the first minute. He then followed with Perry and Getzlaf. The home team was behind Dallas in shots at that point, but slowly drew close.
As the third wound down, the line mixing was on. The third person to play with Getzlaf and Perry was Silfverberg, following Maroon and Beleskey. With that change to the top line came a new second trio, this Selanne with Perreault and Maroon. Nothing worked, and the Ducks let the Stars have an empty-netter to make it 2-0 and match the score of the crosstown Kings earlier in the afternoon.
It wasn’t a totally flat effort, and Hiller cited the team’s better play in the third, but said, “It seems like one game we play good, and the next game, we’ve lost everything again. We, right now, it doesn’t feel like we have that consistency so we can go out every day and give 100 percent. We wait and see what’s going to happen, and then we kind of like start getting into the game. It has worked for us earlier, but at some point you can’t think that you can just always come back in the third and win the game.”
To go back to the coach of Anaheim, he said, “We didn’t have any sustained pressure.” He was then asked about consistency, and he said, “It’s time of the year issues more than anything,” and then reminded the gathered scribes, “If we would have won tonight, we would have won four of five . . . . You guys are thinking that’s inconsistent winning three out of five, but there are a lot of teams that would take that right now. . . . But we demand success, and in that vein, they’re getting frustrated when good things don’t happen.” “They” there is his team.
But that’s not going to continue for Monday, when Columbus turns up. Hiller said, “You lose one or two games, and you don’t have the confidence anymore that you can come back every game. . . . We’ve talked about it, that we want to change things and get back winning, to get that streak going again.”
What will they do to make that a reality? Play a consistent game. Avoid frustration. Not resort to simply throwing the puck around and hoping it bounces back to them where they want it to.
And yet all of that ignores the fact that this was a one-goal game until the empty net maker with 29 seconds left, and that just before that, two chances were lost. On one, Getzlaf passed to Perry, who spun around and shot the puck wide. Silfverberg was with them on the line at that time. Nearer the end, the puck came off the goalie’s leg to Perry, who couldn’t get a quick handle on it, but still pushed a shot that went off the goalie’s leg and hit the side of the net. It was essentially an open side, but with Perry jammed as he tried to reach the puck. That would have made all the difference, though, and that’s the kind of goals they’ve been scoring more than not this year.
So like Boudreau said–see the glass half full, or see it half empty. No retooling is needed. Maybe just a little more attention to details and a little less cavalier attitude. Not cavalier in the sense of make no effort, but cavalier in the sense that Hiller cited, because after all, when you do whatever and win anyway night after night, it’s got to be easy to assume you’re always going to do that.
Columbus finds its way here sitting just out of the East Coast playoff picture. The Ducks, meanwhile, are continuing to hold a log lead, and this year, unlike last, they haven’t played a lot more games than everybody else. Psychologically, that has to feel good.
Fistric went out with a lower body injury. Boudreau after the game said, “We’ll know better tomorrow.” They always say that. He knows.
Jonas Hiller had a new Swiss logo goalie mask and some matching gloves in his stall, getting ready for the Olympics, I’m assuming.
Dustin Penner was a scratch, probably because he’s not fast. The strategy seems to be to put whoever’s going on the top line as a reward. That was Maroon on this night.