Ducks Tempt Fate, Win Anyway

The Anaheim Ducks played an exciting and ultimately effective game in winning against Colorado 3-2 Sunday, but boy, were there stumbles along the way. The team got out to a 1-0 goal on a breakaway by Bobby Ryan off a turnover. He put the puck five-hole on the Avs Giguere on Anaheim’s first shot of the game.

They liked the goal so well, they barely tried to get another all period. In fact, the first frame ended with the shots at 15-2, Avs.

The Ducks continued the same way in the second, getting just eight shots to Colorado’s 13, with neither team scoring. Anaheim then came out in the third and scored at 20 seconds on the power play.

The Ducks have won 16 of 18 games this year when scoring first, so it’s a good thing that they had the early lead. It was all Colorado after that, and the only reason the Avs didn’t win was that they ran out of time. They got the score to 3-2 with about four and a half minutes to go, and kept coming right to the last, their goalie out for the last minute and a half or so.

Excitement came in the form of three Bobby Ryan breakaways during the game. On the first and second, he zinged the puck past Giguere, the first time, five-hole, the second, up over the shoulder into the tiniest top corner space possible. These were bookend goals, the team’s first and third on the night.

On the third breakaway, he tried a deke with everyone in the place thinking that a three-breakaway hat trick was going to be theirs to talk about forever. The puck was saved by Giguere with a nice flash of the left pad.

After, Ryan was understandably happy with his night. “I don’t think I’ve had three breakaways in a season at all,” he enthused, then added, “I’m not exactly built for speed on breakaways.”

And then he explained that the strategy on goal number two came from knowing Giggy. “I know he drops his glove when the shot comes,” Ryan said. But that the third one, he had no choice on. “I never got the puck to sit down. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do going in, and it just kind of rolled the whole way. I thought about flicking it or trying to put it somewhere, I just tried to get it on net, to be honest with you.” The two goals he did score were his 18th and 19th of the year.

Mistakes also abounded on the night, ones that were noticeable and costly. Cam Fowler tried a spin move at his own blueline in period one and was stripped of the puck with seven minutes left. The result won’t show on the scoreboard, but the shot the Avs got off the chance was number 14. At the time, Anaheim had just the one, Ryan’s goal.

Fowler goofed again to give the Avs life in period three. Right off the faceoff at the right dot in Anaheim’s end, he went around the net to the other side and then put the puck behind him. Problem was, that was right on the stick of an Avs player, Landeskog, who squibbed it into the net to make the game 3-1 with about five minutes to go.

This isn’t the first time or last he’s made a mistake, but the “trying to do too much” syndrome seems to have set in this weekend at least one similar mistake yesterday against the Senators. Time for someone to sit the kid down and tell him to think about his fundamentals.

Another potentially key miscue was made by Ryan Getzlaf, who cleared the puck all the way down the ice from behind his own net with about four seconds to play. That made for icing, and gave the Avs a last gasp, which they didn’t grasp, and so while they had scored again to make it 3-2, that’s how it ended.

As for strategy, Coach Boudreau made an important shift for period two when he dropped Hagman back to the line with Cogliano and Bonino and moved Jason Blake up with Selanne and Koivu. After, IH asked him about the change.

“I didn’t like the way both lines were going, so I thought a switch might be in order, to see if you could jumpstart it, and I don’t know if it worked, but when something isn’t working, you’ve got to change it a little bit.”

The Ducks also had a lucky break. Getzlaf’s goal, the one to begin period three, was not called a goal on the ice. The referee instead made a “safe” sign (something they tell you in clinics not to do—just call what you call). The replay showed that the puck went over the goal line on its side, just barely enough to be across. It was then pushed back out by Giguere’s stick. There’s no physical way it could have been any less in the net, but in it was, and so after review, it was counted.

Curiously, nobody asked the captain about this after the game. Perhaps that’s because while he was answering other questions, his 11-month old son was stealing the show, sitting in daddy’s arms and reaching out to push buttons on reporters’ tape machines. He also would look right at the person asking each question, almost like he was the interview subject. Maybe someday he will be.

Jonas Hiller, who got the win, said that he actually likes it better when the game is on the line the way it was Sunday night in the late going. “Sometimes I even like those kind of situation[s] where it feels like uh, yeah, you know they[‘re] going to be in your zone. You know you have work to do, and yeah, I mean, I wasn’t thinking too much. I just didn’t want to get scored on again, and I think everybody suddenly realized there that we had to step it up again.”

The coach put it best when he said, “We were doing our best impression of Muhammed Ali tonight.” And it worked. The team’s goal was to win out until the All-Star break, as Bobby Ryan said. Then, they feel, things will start to turn around. The reality is that the team is still mired well behind a playoff spot in 13th and seven points shy of the nearest two teams.

Ducks Notes

The team will travel to Dallas to play Tuesday evening. Both Beleskey (hand) and Lydman (flu-cold) will go on the trip. Mark Bell played again in place of the former, and he got eight and a half minutes.

Follow me on twitter @growinguphockey. I report what I see and hear about the Ducks and Kings.

Please come to my reading (the new book, My Country Is Hockey) at Vroman’s Pasadena on Feb. 9th at 7pm. Contact me here at IH for further info.

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