Reporters crowding the Anaheim Ducks locker room after their 6-3 win versus the Rangers Sunday night wanted to read things this way: The team is clicking; Bob Murray is a genius for bringing in Patrick Eaves, who is knocking it out of the park on a line with Rakell and Getzlaf; and their goaltending is OK even with John Gibson hurt. All of this means that the Ducks are headed towards a quite hopeful playoff season.
The players agree with some of this, but not all of it, and they are careful to temper the enthusiasm by pointing out that New York had played a tough game in Los Angeles less than 24 hours before and was, thus, likely out of gas, especially near the end of the game.
Though on the latter point, it must also be noted that the Rangers had scored two speedy, beautiful goals of their three, including the second and third, each of which featured three-way passing that totally imploded the Ducks’ defense, and left the goalie with no hope or prayer of stopping the puck. These goals did the following after the Rangers had jumped out to an early first-period lead: the second one put the Rangers up for the second time, 2-1. The third tied the game at threes. But that was all the New York team could do—they answered nothing to two more from the Ducks, plus one into the empty net.
But that’s all game time detail, and what you want to know is what the players thought, right?
On the matter of strategy, Getzlaf said, “The fact is when you play the Eastern teams, they do it a little bit different, that flip up the puck thing and skate under it. It took us a little while to get used to that, but we did a better job as the game went on of keeping everyone in front of us and controlling the game.”
Kesler said, “Obviously we want to be playing our best hockey going into the playoffs and we’ve got to keep getting better here. consistency is what we were missing, and really, we had a month and a half [earlier in the year] to figure it out, but now we’re playing consistent hockey.”
Then the main topic: the first line (Getzlaf with Rakell and Eaves) and how it’s working. Getzlaf said that he wasn’t surprised at how his new line was working. “I’m not overly surprised. We’ve done it in the past. Murph’s [GM Bob Murray] not silly upstairs. He’s doing more than just bring players in because he wants a certain guy here. He does a good job at searching that piece that we need, and this year that happened to be on my line so that we could start contributing right away.”
He described what Eaves does by saying, “Patty does a great job at being near the net and being around the puck, and he works. That’s the biggest thing.” He said that Eaves complements his game, “One-hundred percent. My game is to get the guys the puck, and having a guy over there that knows where to be, and gets there, and can finish, that’s a complement to what I need to do.”
Eaves himself was complimentary of his new linemates and happy with his situation. “I was hoping for this. Getzy’s playing out of his mind right now. The way he possesses the puck, it makes it easy to play on his line. We’ve got Rickie [Rakell] flying and making some plays. I feel like we’re getting some chemistry, and that’s what I was hoping.” He added, “I think every day we’re together, we understand each others’ tendencies even more, and can help each other in certain situations. If we can support each other and work as a group, we can have success.” He said that you never know what will happen when you get traded, but finding chemistry has been good so far.
Eaves also stoked the playoff fires. “Hopefully we can get better and better and ramp things up as we start the playoffs.”
Kesler, asked to observe the first line from a distance, said, “[Getzlaf] is our leader, and he’s the guy that should be driving the bus. It’s great to see him playing like that.” It was clear he wasn’t interested in this line of questioning. Not about him, after all. He commented that they were glad to beat Lundqvist in his comeback game, but then he quickly clammed up when asked, again, about the Getzlaf line. He described how they’re playing, and then went to cliché: “They’re all smart players. They figured each other out, and that’s good for us.”
He did say that getting Eaves was a good jolt for the team, and was more chatty when asked about his own goal, which was the team’s second and his 21st, scored on the power play (which has been abysmal of late). “The way my luck’s been going, I thought sure it was going to be called back.” This because it looked, at first, like Eaves had touched it with his high stick. But he wasn’t waving at the puck—just trying to get the heck out of the way of the shot. It blooped up over his head and in.
Getzlaf had four assists on the night, and that was on four of the first five goals—not the empty netter, in other words.
But even that had a nice little story to it: Corey Perry could have taken a long chance at it, but instead, he passed to Ritchie. He was far more open, and he buried it. That’s his 13th goal of the year, and the generous, make-sure pass of Perry was a sign that this team is, in fact, working as a team. Just in time.
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