If a team allows only seven shots through the final 40 minutes of hockey, it’s a safe bet that team is on its way to a win. Not the case for the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
They were up against the Calgary Flames, kings of the third-period comeback — that wasn’t necessary on this occasion — and owners of the third worst Corsi For percentage at five-on-five in the NHL, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. Yet somehow, despite giving up only seven shots on goal in the final 40 minutes of play, the Ducks and goalie John Gibson gave up four goals and lost by a final score of 6-3.
The Flames also scored on two second-period power plays. Both times, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was in the box.
Anaheim still maintains top spot in the Pacific Division, although its dropped three straight games.
“I think they’re all critical [games] right now,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, as per NHL.com. “Everybody thinks that, ‘Oh yeah, we’re in first place’ and that, but I mean it’s within 10 points of the wild card and we’ve played more games than everybody else, so we’ve got to get our act in gear right now.”
“They got a lot of goals on our mistakes,” added Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm, as per the club’s website. “We were sloppy with the puck and didn’t get it deep. Our game plan is to get the puck deep and work them down low. We didn’t do that tonight. That’s why we weren’t successful.”
The good news is that the Anaheim Ducks still have a nine-point lead in the Pacific Division. It almost seems like the bad news is “everything else.”
If you’ve been following along on PHT, you’re probably aware that the Ducks have been in a slump that might just be a sign of a team that isn’t as good as its record indicates. That much has been explored here and here.
Still, with injuries mounting, the Ducks were thumped by the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-1 last night, exacerbating worries that the team is waddling badly into the playoffs. Head coach Bruce Boudreau seemingly took a “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” perspective according to this OC Register report.
“I don’t think anybody’s very happy or used to what’s going on,” Boudreau said. “But it’s up to us. We can’t hang our heads. Friggin’ every other team wants to win to. We got to pull ourselves of this.
“When we do, we’ll be a better team for it. We’d certainly like to see it happen sooner than later.”
There’s at least some recognition of the struggles. Ben Lovejoy said “it’s not head-scratching” and that the Ducks are aware that the played poorly. So there’s that.
As with many slumps – particularly ones by teams that were seemingly getting a lot of puck luck until they hit a wall of regression – the question becomes “How much power does this team actually have to turn things around?”
It’s plausible that Frederik Andersen’s excellent work camouflaged a lot of issues for Anaheim before he was injured. Really, Boudreau might have a point that it’s a blessing in disguise to struggle now instead of in April, May or June.
That said, what this slump really might say is that the Ducks need to sacrifice some of their healthy cap space to get better via moves between today and the March 2 trade deadline.
Determining if it’s a matter of will or personnel is where the head-scratching really might take place.
That’s certainly a relief for the Ducks as they’ve leaned on the 25-year-old goalie more than just about anyone expected after coming into 2014-15 expecting a timeshare between Andersen and John Gibson.
Andersen is tied with Carey Price for second in the NHL for wins with 29 this season as he helps the Ducks continue their strong success in regular season play.
Here’s video of the moment that left the Ducks worried:
Considering how much Ilya Bryzgalov has struggled, Anaheim really dodged a bullet here (assuming there isn’t a setback).
One almost gets the sense that Bruce Boudreau needed a longer holiday break from the media. Either that, or he’s just really tired of not knowing when his star Corey Perry will return from a knee injury.
“We’ve been talking about realistic for him coming back for two-and-a-half weeks … I don’t even know anymore,” Boudreau said. “There’s no set timeline. He’ll be back at least for April 1st. I’m giving him a little bit of leeway.”