Stars Deserve Their Beat-Down

Stories. So many stories. Will Ryan Getzlaf start the game Friday, and what’s the nature of his complaint, anyway? He said in the press that he is not the type not to play, that the decision was in the hands of the doctors exclusively. People have speculated that the issue was he stitches he’s got lacing his mouth after getting hit by a puck. But one can’t help but wonder if it’s concussion.

Another one—who would occupy the crease? Hiller came in and finished up in the game four loss to Dallas, and Boudreau said something to the effect that it’s good to have him ready, but then again, Frederik Andersen has been good. Not perfect—he’s let in a soft goal most games in the playoffs, if not more than one.

Would Selanne be effective after having been benched late in game three and scratched for game four? He was announced early in the day as playing. Good thing—his son had tweeted out against Coach Boudreau and the old man (Selanne) had had to tell him to knock it off.

Would the Ducks be able to toughen up their lineup with all of their bruisers—Robidas, Jackman, and Beleskey out? The only one returning is Beleskey, and that not until game six on Sunday.

On the Dallas side, there were also questions, the primary one being whether the team would have the services of two of its injured defensemen, Brendan Dillon and Patrik Nemeth. In part, they were needed to relieve the minute-gobbling Alex Goligoski, who had played a high of nearly 33 minutes in game four. He’s no old man at twenty-eight, but those kind of minutes are starting to take a toll, apparently.

And while we’re on age, the Dallas team was also wondering whether Shawn Horcoff and Vern Fiddler would produce as veterans sometimes do. Horcoff has answered well thus far in the series, notching four assists coming into Friday. Fiddler had a goal and an assist. Each would add a point on the evening.

Oh, and one more matter for the Ducks, the strategic question of whether they would be able to drive the puck back in far enough to get ahead of the Stars on the forecheck. Boudreau said late in the week that that was one thing he felt the opponents were doing quite strongly—turning the puck back up-ice before his team could get them pinned in their own zone.

For both teams, perhaps, was the query how nasty this series would turn out to be. There have been a fair number of penalties handed out already, including over eighty combined on Wednesday night in Texas. These came in the form of fighting and misconducts as well as the usual assortment of minors. And if the cross-town game on Thursday night was any indication, then things tend only to go downhill as a series wears on. As Justin Williams said after their game, that when you play the same team night after night, you’re going to build up some hate. That one went right to sixty minutes with pushing and fighting, with penalty minutes being handed out at the 60:00 mark.

All of this was on the line for a 7:30 start—time enough to get the OC crowd to the game for puckdrop, since they’re used to their home games starting at 7pm. Orange towels were at the ready on the back of each seat. The music was blaring. The parking lots filled, and the people with signs at the ready to declare their love for Teemu Selanne were pressing up against the glass in warmup. In short, except for the fact that the Ducks had taken two worrying losses in Dallas after storming out of the gate at home, things were pretty much as they always are in Honda Center.

The game’s beginning answered a couple of these questions. First, Getzlaf was in the lineup, starting with familiar linemate Perry. With them was Nick Bonino. Dillon was also playing, though not starting. Nemeth was not, this being essentially a game-time decision, but his absence relieved Coach Ruff of figuring out who to sit to make room for Dillon. The Stars’ other utility defenseman, it appears, is Kevin Connauton, who trades time this playoffs with Aaron Rome. Just in case you’re doing the math, Rome was out Friday, Connauton in.

In game two, Getzlaf had stormed out and scored an early goal, the face cage he’s wearing no hindrance to his courage. The Stars, in turn, had targeted him, punching him in the jaw (or the protector) repeatedly. Who knows what effect this might have had? He certainly hadn’t been scratched because of fear, and you can be certain it was not pain. But no matter on this night. What everyone in the arena was watching for was another spectacular individual play like the goal he’d potted earlier in the series, storming down the right side, fighting to the net, doing a stick fake, and burying the puck.

It didn’t take him long to get involved. He set up Nick Bonino on the power play with five minutes gone. The Stars got a shorthanded goal at ten minutes, and that’s remarkable in itself. More remarkable is the situation. At 9:11, Garbutt, a name of Dickensian perfection if ever there was one, speared Corey Perry right in the unmentionables in front of the Anaheim bench. Perry went down and stayed there, and Garbutt got a five-minute major. Of that play, Coach Boudreau would eventually comment, “I think it was deliberate. It was not an accident. It was pretty dirty, but we know that’s how he plays. I really thought the refs did a great job [to catch it]. They acted appropriately I thought.”

Lindy Ruff also weighed in on the matter. First, he thought that the play wasn’t that bad. “I was obviously something you don’t want to see, but I didn’t think it was as bad as it was made out to be. I don’t it was as bad as the spearing on Jamie Benn.” But he admitted, “It was still definitely a penalty.”

But he also said that it was not the way he wants his guys to play. “It’s something that I don’t want to see as a coach. It tells me that I have not done a good enough job with Ryan Garbutt, that’s all. We’re a young team, and sometimes we act like a young team.”

The violence of the game only increased from there, but what was amazing was how inept the refereeing was. Right off the faceoff to start the penalty, Perrault of the Ducks was slashed on the knee hard enough to put him down. No call. But shortly after that, the Ducks got a questionable cross-checking penalty. Then the Stars got goalie interference. It was like the refs had dug themselves a hole and had to keep shoveling to make everything seem alright. Despite Boudreau saying that he thought the call on the Perry thing went OK, he wasn’t entirely happy with the officiating, if the huddle IH saw him in with a referee consultant from the league office after the game is any indication.

What was surprising was the lack of physical response from the Ducks. Sure, the game was 1-1, very briefly, and then 2-1 26 seconds later when the Ducks Rakell got his first-ever NHL goal to make it so. So they couldn’t exactly abide a lot of cheap stuff that would get them a penalty.

But you can’t let your best player get knocked down at center ice and do nothing about it.

In period two, things headed up again. The home team got a goal to make it 3-1, and finally the Ducks seemed to push back. Alex Chiasson was poking at a puck under Andersen and Bryan Allen came in full-force and shoved him back. Then Dallas’s Eakin and Roussel were jawing and shoving, and finally Beauchemin skated toward them and told them, it was apparent from the body language, that it was time to knock it the hell off.

Funny that on a play a few minutes later, Beauchemin knocked Eakin down. The latter skated by for a look at who had hit him, and when he saw the number, he retreated.

In fact, watching all of this made it infuriating to see Daniel Winnik standing in the press box in the period break. He’s fast, he’s tough, and he’s brave. What does Selanne or whoever is in there in Winnik’s space contributing to a team that can’t afford to get pushed around? And it’s not like there wasn’t any warning. As was said, the players in green were punching Getzlaf in the cage the other night. They’re not going to have reformed for no reason in the four days following that exhibition.

When asked if the Dallas team might have learned that this can’t work because the Ducks were so good on the power play, Boudreau said, “I don’t think they’re going to change their game at home. Those two guys will still come at us and try to get under the skin of our better players.” So if you know this, why not act to nip it in the bud?

The Stars proved their lack of mettle again as the period went on, with Goligoski giving Getzlaf a shot in the back after a whistle. Getzlaf chased him across the center line, jawing.

But the violent energy dissipated as the Stars tried to get back to hockey. Neither team played any sort of structure as the period wound down, but the Stars were all over Andersen. They got 16 shots in the frame, but every single one of them was dangerous, right on. Andersen used every part of his body in keeping them to one further goal—arms, legs, chest, face. He flung his glove at one shot, a high one from Goligoski, grabbing it literally out of thin air. The save had flourish, but how dangerous it was. Had he missed, it’s a 3-3 game. As it was, he was up 3-2 after 40 minutes.

By the way, since we’re on Goligoski—he slashed Getzlaf behind the play when the latter finished a check on him. That just seems to be the character of the Dallas team.

The third period saw the Ducks open a can of whoop a$$, at least in terms of their scoring. In fact, by the time they had chased Lehtonen and the black-masked Tim Thomas was in net, it was 5-2. And then Corey Perry took a puck across the crease and put it into the net while Thomas tried a poke check. It ended that way, and Getzlaf, who had already had almost twenty minutes of icetime midway through P3, rested, playing just one twenty-second shift the remainder of the way.

But the violence continued nonetheless. There were roughing penalties, misconducts, and fighting majors. In the end, the totals were well over 100 minutes combined, but in large part to the tendency for refs in this playoffs (the same thing happened last night in LA) to simply give two and ten anytime anything looks like it’s about to start.

If you want a code to file this one under, put it next to “Anaheim won the special teams battle,” because the Ducks scored four power play goals. This was a franchise record for a playoff game, and their total goal output tied a team record as well. The last time they did that was in 2011 against Nashville. Boudreau said after that his power play vexes him. “Sometimes we do exactly the same thing, and we can go 0-15. And sometimes it finds its way in the net. I thought we were shooting the puck harder from the point if anything. That usually causes rebounds. They were hungry after the loose pucks.”

Getzlaf, who by the way was sporting a perfect set of teeth, much different than he looked the other night, said after, “I thought my game got much better as the game went on.” He credited the crowd, but said that in Dallas, “We got a little bit revved up [in there] last time. We got into some things that weren’t part of our game, but tonight we did a better job focusing on what we need to do. We need to do that again next time.” He did say he was glad that he got to rest his body in the last half of period three.

Of the chippy stuff that Dallas did, he said, “When you’re scoring on your power play, they aren’t going to do as many things,” of a violent or dirty nature. “As long as our power play is getting chances, we’ve got to build momentum, no matter whether we score of not.”

He tied a personal best with three points (1-2-3) and leads the Ducks in playoff points with seven on three goals. The points he has all-time in the playoffs, 66, puts him two ahead of Selanne, but as he said, “He’ll probably catch me tomorrow. I don’t think I’m ever going to have a lead in this organization until he steps away.”

Boudreau said after about having him back, “It’s like your big brother is back. The guys feel better, and he came out and played a great game.”

The teams now head back to Texas for a Sunday night game six. Dallas has the crowd, which both Boudreau and Getzlaf said makes a difference. The Ducks could find themselves right where they were last year, facing a home game seven, if they don’t get things in hand and control the Stars early.

Last year, the devoted will recall, the Ducks came home against Detroit in that seventh game and stunk it up, losing and ending their season earlier than their regular-season record would have indicated that they would.

Notes
Follow me @growinguphockey if you want firsthand accounts mixed with jokes and silliness. Most people seem to like it a lot. Why not you?

Boudreau was complimentary of Selanne’s role, being a leader on the bench. To me, that sounds like nonsense. They would be a lot better off with Winnik in the lineup to smash some heads when they need smashing.

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