The Anaheim Ducks were on the wrong end of a controversial call last night, and the result was a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.
Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle was none too impressed with the officials, telling reporters afterwards, “I was under the understanding that you cannot score a goal in the NHL today by pushing the goaltender’s pad with the puck underneath it over the line, but I guess I was proved wrong again tonight.”
He might have had a point.
But the fact remains, it was another disappointing result for the Ducks, who allowed the Islanders — with just one win in their last eight — to come into Honda Center, play them close and get the game to a shootout.
With the shootout loss, Anaheim’s record fell to 9-7-4 — good enough for second place in the Pacific Division, but not the kind of record a team with Stanley Cup aspirations can brag about.
Based on their possession stats, the Ducks’ record is about what they deserve. Under Carlyle, their scored-adjusted Corsi has fallen to 48.9, 19th best in the NHL. Last season under Bruce Boudreau, it finished at 53.2, second to only Los Angeles.
While stats like Corsi can never tell the whole story, this was the concern when the Ducks brought their old coach back. Carlyle’s effect on the Maple Leafs’ possession stats was well-documented during his days in Toronto.
But this past June, Anaheim GM Bob Murray — calling Carlyle a “proven winner and motivator” — believed he’d hired “the coach who can lead us to playoff success and our ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup.”
Carlyle and Murray, of course, won a Cup together in 2007, when Carlyle was Anaheim’s head coach and Murray was working under then-GM Brian Burke. So describing Carlyle as a “proven winner” was not inaccurate.
So far this season, however, the Ducks have not looked like strong Cup contenders. The best one could say is they’ve looked okay. Not great. Not even good. Just okay.
The Ducks have three big tests coming up, starting Friday when they host the Blackhawks. Saturday they’re in San Jose, then it’s back home to face the Canadiens on Tuesday.
It’s only been 20 games, so there’s still plenty of time for Anaheim to round into form. The Ducks got off to a horrible start last season, before finding their identity and finishing strong.
But make no mistake, this is a very important year for Murray’s group. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are 31 now, Ryan Kesler is 32. When Murray got Hampus Lindholm signed, he said he “wanted to give this group another shot, and I’m going to do everything in my power to keep it that way.”
The way he put it, another early exit this spring and it’s not hard to imagine significant changes.