If the Ducks were looking to respond to a three-game winless streak and an admission from their Captain, Ryan Getzlaf, that his team had quit on the game when playing the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Saturday, they didn’t do much to show it starting out their game with the New York Islanders on Monday at Honda Center.
The Ducks posted only five shots in P1, none dangerous, and they took two minor penalties to none for the Isles. They were saved in part by New York’s anemic power play, which came in fifteenth in the league but didn’t do anything, especially on their second opportunity. It looked like this: muff on shot attempt off faceoff; dead giveaway of the puck by Ryan Pulock; Ducks clear all the way down; they backhand clear all the way down; they clear it off the glass. New York barely got the puck over the blueline.
The Ducks, though, didn’t have a response. I’m convinced that their lack of offense, and even of seeming urgency, is down to the lineup mixing that Eakins continually tries to do. The only change in lineup was a fourth-line swap of Devin Shore out and Nick DesLauriers in. But the lines themselves were once more a mishmash. How about Ritchie moving down to line three, Rakell moving up, and the first trio being Rakell, Getzlaf, and Troy Terry?
Try the second line, which Rakell had vacated, with Henrique at center and Silfverberg at right, normal so far, but with Max Jones on the left? Then there was Ritchie with Steel and Kase—in other words, the two customary wings from line one centered by the kid, Sam steel? That isn’t even a question but I put a ? at the end of the sentence. How must the players be feeling?
The one line that looked good was that second, with Henrique and Silfverberg in particular controlling the puck for long stretches in the Islanders’ end. They have been linemates for a while, so no big surprise.
Keeping the Ducks honest, their captain had a few things to say in the media over the weekend. Getzlaf is the leader for a reason, and he typically has a blowout reaction sometime during a season. This year, he has reason at the quarter mark, and he went off, politely but firmly, on how his team let up after getting into a discouraging spot against the Lightning. This led to the eventual 6-2 loss and made their record just four wins in the prior 16 games coming into Monday.
Getzlaf said that the team has guys who can play at this level, that it’s got promise in its young guys, but that those same young guys aren’t always consistent, and they’re definitely not producing. He said something to the effect that they are on the ice more to compete to be on the ice than to contribute to the larger, and only, picture—winning. “If you accept losing or being close, then . . . it’s hard to play in this league.”
He indicated also that the problem was lack of toughness in the hard areas in close to the goal—at both ends of the ice.
Monday, they were better. The Ducks survived period one with a scoreless tie. They exited period two with a 1-0 win after Getzlaf himself went right to the net, grabbing a puck in the slot and getting a shot. It came back out and appeared to go off the stick of Troy Terry, but in fact floated in after hitting Eberle of the Isles and was credited to Getzlaf unassisted.
This result was in part due to the Isles stopping to play after a strong start. They outshot the Ducks 16-5 in the first period, but shortly after the goal, a check of the scoreboard showed that the shots were 20-16 for the Isles, or 11-4 in favor of the Ducks since the end of the first. The second period would end 15-7 for the Ducks in shots, or 23-20 total for the Isles. There was just the one goal to that point.
One interesting early note: Grant of the Ducks hit Clutterbuck of the Isles. So Scott Mayfield came in a apparently challenged Grant. He skated away, but DesLauriers took his spot, so Mayfield and DesLauriers, two people who had nothing to do with the play, ended up fighting. This was period one. The Ducks got an extra two minutes out of it, to DesLauriers, for roughing.
The Ducks, not always capable of holding leads, in fact increased theirs late in the third, and within a minute a bit, they had it to 3-0. The second goal was Getzlaf to Fowler pinching into the slot. The final one was Kase getting one at the boards inside the blueline and lasering a wrister to the top corner. Thomas Greiss had no chance.
The Captain was pleased with his team’s response to his words. “That’s definitely the response we wanted. We talked a little bit as a group, and some things were said. We had to respond as a group. I thought we did a good job of that and played sixty minutes.” He would later add, “I felt like we didn’t let up, throughout the game. We sustained what we wanted to do. A lot less turnovers at their blueline. We kept the puck moving forward and got rewarded for it.”
The coach was measured in his praise. Eakins said that the goaltending helped the Ducks get through the first period, and then that his guys had stuck with the game. He was complimentary at how his team had neutralized Barzal, even knowing that he had neither shots nor shot attempts, thanks to team defense.
He summed up like this: “I could go right through the lineup” in saying who had a good night. Right from Gibby [Gibson] and right out, I can’t think of a guy who had an off night.”
Will this build to something? Captain and Coach both hope so, and the young Ducks players surely see how matching actions to words can make for success.
The Ducks play on Friday, their traditional 1pm game on the day after American Thanksgiving. Before that, they go to Arizona for a one-day road trip.