The refrain was the same from the defenseman to the captain to the coach of the Ducks Friday night: We got off to a good start. We had a bad five minutes (actually four), and we never got it back on track. They ended up losing 4-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who got a pair of goals from Brandon Saad and another couple from Sam Gagner. Those speakers, by the way, were Bieksa, Getzlaf, and Carlyle.
What a disappointment after the grand triumph of Wednesday night, when the Ducks had mashed Smashville, or smashed Nashville if you like that better, 6-1 on the strength of two shorthanded goals.
Randy Carlyle, creating a mini-narrative of how the season has gone thus far after Friday’s game, sounded like he was feeling that his team was on track before this debacle. “We thought that this group had developed a work ethic that come from the Philadelphia game on the road, then come back and go into San Jose and find a way to get a point, then come back and have a good game against Nashville. But that all went out the window tonight. For sure.”
“The first goal was just the start of the snowball. If you look at it, the effect of it was we got outworked in all three zones, we got outplayed by a hungrier hockey club tonight. We were nowhere near NHL caliber play in our performance tonight.” Yikes.
He later said, “They outworked us. They wanted it more than we did . . . . You can’t defend that effort. Simple as that.” And then, “If we don’t have a work ethic and don’t have a competitive spirit in a game, then you don’t have a starting point.”
He finished by saying that this game is not a measuring stick of anything, no matter how many ways you slice it. That was so much his message that he repeated it more than once.
The Columbus coach, Tortorella, was quite pleased that his guys had scored. He said afterwards, “We were fortunate that the puck went in for us, on our chances.” He thought that his scorers had deserved better in prior games, he indicated. Speaking of Saad, he commented, “Those offensive guys, it seems that once they score a couple, they loosen up and allow themselves to play. I thought he was good in all areas tonight. He was skating. He battled for pucks, and so it was good. Sam the same way. . . . He gets rewarded.”
Funny that the Columbus team needed only one to win, with the Ducks managing no goals on the night, when all year to this point they had only scored 14 times. At least now they’re plus-one in goal differential, having potted 18 and given up 17 to this minute.
The Ducks, meanwhile, dropped to 3-4-2 and have scored 21 and given up 19 goals. Their netminder on this night was John Gibson, at least for approximately the first 50 minutes. The goals were not down to him, Carlyle said.
It must be noted, however, that while Gibson played well, he might have been slightly out of position on the Blue Jackets’ second goal, a wrister from way out near the blueline. That was only partway through the four-goal avalanche.
Other times during the game, he looked to be fighting off the puck. In the second period, he took a shot from Matt Calvert in a splits position with his hands up and out in front of him as if he had to push off to get the puck to go away.
And anyway, Carlyle rested Gibson in the last half of the third, putting in Dustin Tokarski for his season’s debut (he has played in 34 NHL games to date). He saw a puck or two, especially early, and made saves on five Columbus shots. The rationale was that it would give Tokarski a little bit of action. “I just felt that the score, and Tokarski, you might as well put him in for ten minutes. You never know when you’ll need him to go in there.”
That, and Gibson had been run a couple of times. One was not the opposing player’s fault. Kevin Bieksa drove Nick Foligno into the Ducks’ netminder, upending him, and then having the nerve to grab Foligno as if he had been at fault.
This may have had something to do with how the Blue Jackets like to treat opposing keepers. Getzlaf said afterwards, “Our goalies played really good tonight, but we didn’t give them any help . . . ,” which one would take to mean by of keeping the Blue Jackets out of their way, aside from defensively in front of the netminders.
The captain said, “We kind of fell flat for ten, fifteen minutes, and after that we were just trying to claw back and get something out of the game.” No luck though. “We didn’t accomplish anything tonight, from start to finish.”
Tortorella wasn’t admitting that crashing goalies is his team’s plan, but he did comment extensively on how his team’s identity is built on protecting their “blue” while getting into the opponent’s “blue.” Nice formula. Easy to remember. Goalies hate this. “It defines who you are as a team, as far as how you defend your blue, and how you get into the opposing team’s blue. We’re not trying to hit the goalie. He got hit a couple of times, but it was through momentum. One he was shoved in” (this was by Bieksa).
Carlyle did some line mixing in the late going, switching up Jared Boll and Antoine Vermette on lines three and four, and then creating a new combo of one guy from each of lines two-three-four (Silfverberg, Vermette, and Sgarbossa) but that didn’t do anything to get the team moving.
They were trying to chip away, get back in, rather than think “comeback,” according to Getzlaf, but nothing doing. The Blue Jackets might have seen their shutout broken with about thirty seconds left when Josh Manson threw a puck to the net from the right side. It was redirected by Cogliano but saved with the body armor of Bobrovsky. A little flash of excitement, too late.
The Ducks now play in LA on Tuesday and then turn right around and face Pittsburgh at home on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see what the state of their legs is for that second game. They have Arizona next Friday evening.
Columbus, meanwhile, will travel Saturday, have Sunday off, and get back to “all business,” according to their coach, on Monday. He said it was good that they had a couple of days to enjoy their victory. Perhaps this is just Torts on a good day, but it seemed, at least, like he was happier and of a more cheerful disposition than he is generally credited for being.
The Ducks have assigned Emerson Etem to San Diego. Shea Theodore was down and up in the same 24-hour period this week, a cap move. He played on Friday, while Korbinian Holzer sat.
Also out but spotted in a natty blue suit after the game Bernier, whom the club has labeled as being day-to-day.
Getzlaf was asked how he feels after having taken a shot off the left arm this week and missing Wednesday’s shellacking of Nashville. He said he felt fine.
And if you’ve been out of touch, you might not know that Hampus Lindholm has been signed and is now awaiting his working papers (literally) so that he can return to the US without climbing the giant wall they’re building down South. What? They’re not? That’s why I’m not paying attention to the news these days.