The questions most might have asked between Saturday night, when the Jets lost a lackluster game in LA, and Monday, were several.
First, could they possibly right their defensive ship in the two intervening days? Second, who would be their goalie, as the twitterverse was predicting after Pavelec got pulled on the weekend that he was done like dinner as far as the ‘Peg was concerned. And third, would the Jets simply do the right thing, act like a winning team, as the coach had said was his formula for them—a tacit yet clear criticism of his predecessor, who apparently hadn’t instilled in them the habits of pros.
Well, here are your answers: not possible, Pavelec, and who knows? If they were doing what a professional team is supposed to be doing off the ice, that didn’t necessarily translate into any success on it.
But that’s not how things looked early. In fact, for the longest time, it looked like this team was the antithesis of the one which dumped a brick on Saturday night in Los Angeles in a 4-2 loss.
They did play a heavy game against Anaheim, moreso than what they had had to do against what is often described as a heavy team in the LA Kings. The hits on Saturday night had been 40-28 in the LA team’s favor. Now, granted, that stat can be influenced by homer off-icers, but still, the numbers Monday were 29 for the home team, 20 for the Jets, a near impossibility given the number of punishing bodychecks leveled, especially in the first two periods.
On the goalie situation, in fact, it wasn’t even Montoya, who had replaced Pavelec on Saturday, who was backing up on this night, but rather someone called Michael Hutchinson. He has no NHL record as of yet, and he never took the ice against the Ducks. That was Pavelec.
And as for habits, well, the Coach, Paul Maurice, didn’t refer to them after the game, but he might as well have: “The overriding sentiment is that when you get into those games and you have that lead, it’s not a matter of sitting down. We stopped making plays.”
His other comments all surrounded the idea of making plays for two periods rather than three. “You cannot kick pucks back into the neutral zone,” he said. “You shouldn’t give up what we gave up in the third period.” That was 24 shots and three goals. By Anaheim getting four in total and tieing the game at that same number, they had the greatest comeback in the history of the franchise. What happened next? Wait for that.
In the meantime, what’s Maurice talking about? The Jets having gotten out to a 4-0 lead by dominating on the ice and in the chances. But then, “We moved the puck through two periods as well as we have, but then we stopped making those plays, making those passes. We threw a lot of pucks back and away, and you can’t give that team the chance to come back at you like that.” But they did come back, those resilient Ducks, after being outshot miserably in the early going. It looked like this—the shots 19-4 for the Jets in period one, and the goals 2-0. The shots by the midway point of P2 were 25-6 and the score 4-0.
The home team was playing loose, and this allowed the Jets to play aggressively. This is a kind of matchup that would never be possible against the Kings, and at the 10:54 mark of period two, when Tangradi potted the team’s fourth goal, it looked to be over. The excitement felt by the large Winnipeg-jersey-wearing contingent was paid off in slumping Anaheim shoulders, both of fans and players.
But then the Jets got complacent. They had been throwing the puck at Freddie Andersen, low shots almost exclusively. Often, the shots were at three-fourths speed, and the idea was for redirections, or havoc in front. It was, obviously, working. But Anaheim scored a late goal, 17:44 into period two, on their tenth shot. Bonino got it, his 20th of the year, on a backhand that went, Gretzky-like, up over the netminder’s far shoulder. The home team went into the dressing room with hope.
They were saying what you’d think they were, according to Corey Perry. “Being down 4-0 is tough to overcome, but we said in here that if we keep pressuring them, keep playing that style that we established in the second half of the second period, no team can play with us. That’s the way we’ve got to keep playing. Get the puck in, get on their D, and we started hitting, and we started getting the puck back.”
In fact, that was simply to take a page out of the Jets’ playbook—they had been doing all the work, all the hitting, all the turning up of loose pucks up to that point.
So the Ducks got moving, coming out in P3 to score on the power play with three minutes gone. Just before that, though, it could have been 4-2 when Koivu stopped a puck with his skate and put it to Palmieri in front. Jets’ goalie Pavelec made a brilliant glove save.
The Ducks got that second goal on the PP, and then put in the next one a minute later with the fans still buzzing about it being 4-2. It remained 4-3 for a long while, though the team kept hammering away, and the Jets kept sagging back.
With 12:30 to go, the shots were Jets 31, Ducks 23, and the play was all in Winnipeg’s end. Winnick sent a puck to Koivu; no luck. The Ducks flung rubber over and again, and there were some handsome saves. Perhaps this is why no mention of the goaltending was featured in any comments after the game, and I heard from Frolik, Maurice, Getzlaf, Perry, and Robidas.
The Ducks pulled their netminder in the last 1:25 and pounded away until Corey Perry scored his 39th. It was a typical Perry goal, and he went keister-over-teakettle over the goalie as the puck slid in. As he said after, “That’s the kind of goal I’m going to score. I’m not going to score a lot of goals from the top of the circles. That’s not my game.”
Just before he got his goal with 22.7 seconds to go, Cogliano had a chance and got smashed into the left post for his troubles. He was trying to capitalize on the fact that the goalie’s stick was lying behind the net.
The OT brought a swift ending, at sixteen seconds. Stephan Robidas, playing in his seventh game for the team, settled a puck down in the low slot and pounded it in. He said after, “The puck started bouncing on me. I didn’t catch it directly. I was just trying to put it on net. I wasn’t picking any corners. There was a lot of traffic in front, but I got lucky and it went in.”
So the Ducks won to extend their point total to 106. This puts them three ahead of the Sharks and a bit further into the safety zone that means they will not play the Kings in round one. Meanwhile the Jets settled for a point and the knowledge that they’re not yet where they need to be in the game. They’ve got talent, if not much defense. What they don’t have is 60 minutes of talent, on both ends of the ice.
The Ducks ended up with a 5-4 score, and if there seems like there’s not a lot of incentive for the Ducks to win having clinched their post-season spot, that’s wrong. It might not seem like a big deal to you East Coasters who don’t get to follow the hockey goings-on out on the left side of the country, but in my opinion, the Ducks don’t want to play LA in the first round. The Anaheim style of play is exciting, and obviously effective, but LA is their nemesis in more ways that just via the imaginary rivalry that the marketers have cooked up in naming their games the “Freeway Faceoff.” While the Ducks have won all but one this year thus far, the Kings are finding their stride and readying for the playoffs with a string of wins, albeit one interrupted Monday evening with the Wild in town.
Fans of the game, let alone the teams, would rather there be more playoff contests than less in the region come April and May. Thus if the Ducks hold on and the Kings remain where the are, it’s likely that a more meaningful matchup, a second-round one, or perhaps even third, will be had. Both teams, if you look at things like this, did their part in assuring that could happen. The Ducks saw Robidas put them up for good early in OT. The Kings blew a game to Minnesota, 3-2.
Bet Sutter wishes he’d never said, “It’s a 3-2 league.”
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