Benched and (Almost) Redeemed

by | Jan 14, 2016

The Ducks have five fewer points that the Ottawa Senators, but they sit one spot in their division higher than the Sens sit in theirs. Ottawa was 6th in the Atlantic with 46 coming into Wednesday. The Ducks were fifth in the Pacific with 41. They were just three points out of third. What that means is that, despite appearances, they actually have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.

Honestly, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. The team has just one streak of winning four games. They have lost as many (17) as they have won. They have scored only 76 goals and sit at minus-21 in their goal differential, though Wednesday would make some upward adjustments to these numbers.

So do the math. If it takes 96 points to make the playoffs, then they have to get 55 in their last half-season of 41 games. That doesn’t sound like much, but figure it this way: they have produced a point a game precisely. They have to get 1.34 points per game, where they’ve been getting one. One!

Say it like this: they have to do 34 percent better than they have done thus far. They have to get 14 more points than they would should they keep to their average. That means one of a lot of things, like turning seven losses into wins. No getting any ties, plus winning three other games that they might have lost, and even then being a point shy. (Here’s that: they get 24 wins if they win the same number of games as the first half as well as converting their seven ties to wins. That gives them seven extra points. They then have to win three more games for six points.

In short, they have to go something like 27-13-1 to get to the magic number. Of course, all of that is off if the Pacific stays as bad as it has. If the three teams (Ducks, Canucks, and San Jose) who are vying for the “I can’t believe we squeaked in” title keep more or less losing, and so do the two also-rans of the division (Calgary and Edmonton), then heck, this could be like the unlikely year that the Kings had in forcing their way into the post-season ranked eighth and then winning it all.

The OC Register, in fact, reported that his method is simple: break the season down into 10-game segments. They obviously have four of those left, and he figures that they have to go 6-3-1 in those, plus win the one game that adds the number up to 41.

The players this week do say they’ve got things turned around, and the 5-2-1 record that they have recorded (coming in to Wednesday, now 6-2-1) since the Christmas break would suggest that that is true. But the problem is scoring. The Ducks are alone in the NHL in not averaging two goals per game. And half the time, they score once or not at all.

I’ve said it before: this is the LA Kings’ dream strategy. Score one goal a game and let Jonathan Quick get a shutout. Not a useful long-term approach. And if that were the Anaheim plan, then it’s odd that the big story, reported early in the day Wednesday by Eric Stephens, was that Andersen would be starting in net for Anaheim. This after the crowning of John Gibson as the number one man in the cage, at least by press and fans, in recent days.

The numbers don’t really support this decision. Andersen is 5-8-5 with a 2.50 GAA and .913 save percentage. Gibson is 9-6-2 with a 1.84 and .926. What gives?

After the Ottawa game, which the Ducks won 4-1 after exploding with a power play goal and then two others in the last five minutes, the numbers are slightly better in Andersen’s favor. When I asked Boudreau when he would decide who would play in net Friday against Dallas, though, his answer was, “Thursday afternoon.”

The Sens-Ducks game figured to be a low-scoring contest. In the six prior, the Senators scored just eight goals. The Ducks had 11, but that was bolstered by two, four-goal outbursts, against Winnipeg and St. Louis.

The first period was true to form, with no scoring. The shots in that period, 12-9 in favor of Anaheim, looked to represent a good game, but in truth, few were from in close. A few were little more than dump-ins. Neither Andergoalie (Andersen for the Ducks, Anderson for the Sens) had to make a good stop.

The second saw each team score once. The Senators shouldn’t have. The Ducks took the lead with just over seven minutes gone in the period on a play where Cogliano broke up the ice, stopped short at the right dot, and fired a knuckle wrister past the keeper.

Ottawa tied it when Getzlaf, at center, threw a blind cross-ice pass along the redline which was wide open for anyone. And who took it? Curtis Lazar, who streaked right in on goal and shot into the open side over Andersen’s catching glove. Looking at the replay, which showed the goal from his point of view going straight up the gut, one wonders why more guys don’t just blast down the center on the shootout and do that same thing. Maybe the split second extra that goalies have with players starting with the puck at a dead stop on the center dot makes the difference.

What resulted from that goal? Mr. Getzlaf found himself on the bench watching as his spot on the first line, at least temporarily, was filled by one Mike Santorelli. His prior job? Fourth-line duties with Chris Stewart and Patrick Maroon.

As period three rolled on, Getzlaf sat. He wasn’t seen until the fifth minute, when he played with Stewart and Santorelli. Maroon was now on line one with Perry and Rakell.

Getzlaf had been out but twice when the Senators took a penalty. What to do? The coach put him on the first unit. What happened? Of course, he set up a goal. It was through a nifty pass to Shea Theodore, who potted a nice one with a shot that went through the goalie’s arm as the defenseman zipped to the net. This was his first NHL goal, and his first point ever in the league as well.

He was all smiles after, with his assessment sounding like this: “It was a couple of games to get it, and the guys were on me, but it’s good to get the first one out of the way. I kind of just panicked after. It felt good. I kind of saw that coming.”

Did the Getzlaf pass create redemption for the captain? No. He was right back to fourth-line duty. Actually, he was on the bench, not seen again in the game. His minutes total for period three was about two and a half. Minutes total in the game, 13 and a bit.

When Boudreau was asked about this after the game, he had two reactions. First, he talked about Getzlaf responding with the pass to set up the eventual game-winner. “I think it meant a lot to him, but he’s a really proud man, and you know, the team picked him up, and it was good to see that he vindicated himself, so that was good.”

Then he was closed-mouthed, commenting that what happened . . . .”Certainly you don’t want to do it too often. But what happens there is between me and Getzy and we’ll talk about it again tomorrow.” Who’ll say what is what most fans wish they could know. Not likely that any more comment will be made, though.

That problem aside, the team, and the town, rejoiced. Finally some offense! Carl Hagelin talked about that in the dressing room, saying, “It was great to see him [Theodore] score. It was great to see [Cogliano] score. We need some other guys than our top guys to contribute offensively. It was great to see some other guys get some goals today. Let’s be honest. It’s a big part of why you want to play the game. You want to be contributing offensively and scoring goals.”

This might have been a make-or-break game, especially as the Getzlaf situation played out. It still might seem that way, if it starts the Ducks on the upward trajectory they desperately need. But for now, all’s well in Duckland.

For those whose hopes are renewed, something to consider is that the schedule does the Ducks no favors as late January turns into late February. Check this out—they have 14 games between January 22nd and February 21st. Three of those are at home, and no two of those are consecutive, though one stretch has them with San Jose in town, then going to LA, then back at home for Arizona. If they survive that road stretch, they’ll be home for five, then away again. Then home briefly before going out once more for five games.

By the last two of the season, both away, they’ll be hopelessly buried or furiously scrambling for the post-season. There is no comfort margin of any kind in their near- or long-term future. At least not until next fall.

For now it’s Dallas on Friday and the Kings Sunday for an oddball 6pm start. This week is still going to tell an important tale of what Anaheim can do. Boudreau said about Dallas, “It’s a huge challenge. Best team in the Western Conference with the highest octane offense going, and, to make it, you know, they’ve had five days off and they’ve been in a bit of a slump, so I’m sure that those five days weren’t the easiest days, and I’m sure that they’re going to be ready to vindicate their selves. Themselves.”


Ducks Notes

The interesting phonological fact of the game, then, was that Andersen was playing Anderson, in the opposite nets. I doubt that made much difference to either coach.

Shea Theodore had the puck he scored with, taped with the indication of its importance written on the front. He gave it back, not sure after when we asked what would become of it. My understanding is that the NHL takes the puck and makes a display plaque for the player to keep.

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