That's how the weekend went for your Anaheim Ducks, who played well to get that point at Joe Louis Arena (though it was still agonizing that they didn't get two) and followed up with a relatively convincing victory in Columbus last night.
Corey Perry notched his second hat trick against the Blue Jackets this year (the last one coming last month) in a 5-3 victory that somewhat took the sting out of the missed opportunity in Detroit. Yes, the Ducks got a point in a place where few opponents do, but they oh-so-narrowly missed a chance to snap an 18-game home win streak by the Red Wings at JLA. (That streak, incidentally, started way back on November 20, a 5-0 victory against ... you guessed it ... Anaheim.)
Never was that close call more stomach-churning than during a rare 3-on-3 in the middle of overtime, when Cam Fowler looked poised to win the game on a breakaway, but his backhand clanged off the right post (2:10 mark of this video). That was just one of a number of missed opportunities for the Ducks, who went scoreless on seven power play opportunities. They also, it should be noted, killed off a death-defying Red Wings 5-on-3 in the final half-minute of OT. Detroit's 24 shots on the night were the fewest they've had at home all season.
But Anaheim's only goal was George Parros' in the first period, his first since scoring two against Florida in December of 2010. Another apparent goal by Niklas Hagman was waved off when officials determined Parros interfered with goalie Joey MacDonald.
And it was MacDonald who came up big in the all-important shootout, denying Perry and then Bobby Ryan, just minutes after Todd Bertuzzi gave Detroit the lead with a painfully slow approach to Jonas Hiller and a successful backhand.
"It was tough to watch that," said Parros. "We had a lot of opportunities. We certainly played hard. Just couldn't capitalize on some of them."You let a good team like that hang around, it'll burn you eventually. That's what happened tonight."But two nights later the Ducks left no doubt, despite the fact that a snowstorm delayed them to the point where they didn't arrive to their hotel in Columbus until a little after 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Perry's play was a big reason for the win, as his hat trick came on 11 shots, one short of the team record set three times by a guy named Kariya. Meanwhile, after that disappointing night in Detroit, the Ducks cashed in three times on the power play.
Yet Bruce Boudreau was more pleased with how the Ducks played in Detroit than how they did in Columbus. "It was a sloppy game," he said. "I told them to never complain about winning a game. If we want to continue to win on this trip we have to get more like we played in Detroit rather than [how] we played here."
Perry's triple gave him 26 goals on the season through 55 games. Last season he had 28 goals at that point -- on his way to 50.
Perry scoring goals in bunches in nothing new, but Lubomir Visnovsky getting into a fight certainly is. And Ducks fans had to be in disbelief at what they were seeing on their flatscreens when they saw Lubo get into it with Derick Brassard in the second period last night. Visnovsky and Brassard began throwing down in the middle of a pileup behind the Anaheim net, with Brassard getting the better of Visnovsky after his jersey went over his head. Here's some video, in which that young Jackets fan looks just as shocked as anybody that Lubo's fighting:
"Show the team something a little bit, you know," Visnovsky told the OC Register afterward. "It doesn't matter. We win the game. We needed two points. It's perfect for us. The team was a little bit laughing about me because they never seen me fight."Indeed, there is no record of Visnovsky ever fighting before on hockeyfights.com, but he said he's had five in his 11-year career, the last coming against Dustin Byfuglien while Lubo was with the Kings.
This time Visnovsky got five for fighting and another two for roughing, and was actually given a game misconduct for not having his jersey properly fastened to his pants. That left the Ducks a defenseman short for the rest of the game.
"I don't tie up the jersey because I never think I'm going to fight," Visnovsky said. "Maybe I start to tie it up."
It's doubtful he'll need to anytime soon, but Lubo still said he gave George Parros a little warning. "I told George, be careful for next season," he said. "I maybe take your job."
Retorted Parros to the OCR, "He can have it. I'll take his job. No problem with that switch."
The Ducks were able to get in some rare road practice time this morning in St. Paul, to get ready for the Wild tomorrow night. Here's more on that from Dan Wood.
Ducks prospect Emerson Etem is continuing to light it up in juniors, scoring his 50th and 51st goals yesterday (in just his 50th game) for Medicine Hat of the WHL. You can check out the 50th and 51st in this video, starting at around the 2:20 mark.
Etem is the first Medicine Hat Tigers player to score 50 games in a season since a guy named Joffrey Lupul had 56 in the 2001-02 campaign. Etem's also the first WHL player to score 50 goals in 50 or fewer appearances in a season since 2000-01.
The 19-year-old Etem, the Long Beach native who was taken 29th overall by the Ducks in the 2010 draft, was one of the last players to be left off the opening night roster for the Ducks out of training camp back in September. He was sent to to his junior team and is not eligible to be brought up by the Ducks this season. But he would again appear to again have a strong shot to make the team out of next season's camp.
"I got cut the last two years and it was disappointing," Etem told Yahoo! Sports. "It makes me want to make the team next year that much more. I think I'm ready for the NHL. It will be their decision, but I'm going to go to camp in great shape and be motivated to make the team."
This just in: Here's video of all 51 goals from this season so far, which today was tweeted by Etem himself.
|That's pretty much a star-studded faceoff.
Let's just hope when it's all over, we're calling it successful.
Your Anaheim Ducks are launching an eight-game, 15-day voyage that covers just over 7,700 miles and equals the longest uninterrupted road trip in team history (here's more on that). And if you can imagine running the first mile of a marathon up the stairs of the Rose Bowl, that's pretty much how the Ducks are starting this roadie.
Tonight (or this early evening if you're in Cali) they face the Detroit Red Wings, who are not only the typical Red Wings again (first in the West) but have put together a modest little EIGHTEEN-GAME WINNING STREAK at Joe Louis Arena. And it's not like that building isn't tough enough for the Ducks, who haven't won there since the 2009 playoffs (when Todd Marchant won it from the left wing in triple OT).
"Somebody's going to break it. Why not us? " Saku Koivu told the OC Register about that home streak. "A game like that and a challenge like that, it's going to be great for us starting the long road trip. "If we can get two points in that one, that's a heck of a start for our team. And I think if you want to make the playoffs, you're going to have to beat some teams that maybe you're not expected to win against."
Detroit is expected to go with Joey MacDonald in net, as Jimmy Howard recovers from a broken finger suffered in a shootout win over Vancouver on February 2. Ty Conklin was supposed to provide relief, but he was pulled for MacDonald the very next game, an overtime loss in Edmonton. MacDonald has started the last two and gone 1-1-0.
But no matter who is in net, Detroit continues to be Detroit. "You're talking about the elite of the elite," Boudreau said. "When you measure yourself, you measure yourself against the Detroit Red Wings. They're the best in the league and whether they won last year's Cup or didn't win last year's Cup, they're the measuring stick."
The Wings took down Anaheim 5-0 the last time these two teams played there, back on November 5. But as we all know, this is a much different Ducks team.
Anaheim is on an 11-2-2 run that absolutely has to maintain on this trip for the Ducks to have any hopes of postseason contention. Last night Phoenix edged Calgary to leap into the eighth spot with 60 points, 10 better than the Ducks. For the Ducks to stay afloat, they need to do some significant damage on a journey that, after tonight, takes them to Columbus, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina.
But while the road ahead is a long one, the focus for the Ducks is strictly on a tall task tonight. "We want to approach it as one day at a time," Boudreau said. "If you look at it as, Man, by the time we get to Carolina, we're going to be exhausted, then you'll probably be be exhausted tonight. If you look at it as, It's fun to play on the road and play in a great hockey city, then it will be good."
It's somewhat of a new experience for Boudreau after spending most of his NHL coaching career in the Eastern Conference, where road trips like these aren't common.
"I don't how I'm going to feel come the end of it because when you're in the East, you don't get trips like this," said Boudreau, who then flashed his vast knowledge of the rest of the NHL. "But looking around the league, Los Angeles is on a trip like this right now, Detroit just came back from a trip like this, San Jose is on a trip like this next week, Chicago is in the middle of a trip like this. What are we gonna do, cry about it? Let's just go do it."
(Heck, I know I'm pumped now.)
|It's not quite Tebowing, but it works just fine.
On a night when goals were at a premium -- with both Jonas Hiller and Carolina's Cam Ward doing what they do -- the Ducks could have been discouraged by a fluky Eric Staal goal that gave the Canes a 2-1 lead in the third. Instead, they came right back with a Saku Koivu rebound goal a minute and a half later, and a long overdue Perry goal in OT gave Anaheim a long overdue overtime victory.
A couple minutes into the extra session, Perry knocked down Jussi Jokinen behind the Carolina net, hopped on the loose puck and sent it across the ice to Sheldon Brookbank. He gave it right back to Perry, who pierced the net with a drilled one-timer that set the Honda Center crowd into pandemonium.
When Perry was asked about it later, he simply said. "They didn’t blow the whistle, so you keep playing. I found (Brookbank) coming late. He made a great play back to me."
It was the first goal in seven games for Perry and the first overtime victory in five tries for the Ducks this season.
"Right now we have the confidence that we can win those kind of games," said Hiller, who was solid with 31 saves. "To be twice a goal down and we come back, score and win in overtime. That's the difference right now. Two months ago we would have just lost the game.
"Now we just keep going, push even a little harder. You have to believe in being able to win those games. And right now everyone's believing. We found a way and that's what counts."
The win moved the Ducks to within eight points of MInnesota for the eighth spot in the West, thanks to an 11-2-2 run that's better than all but two teams in the NHL.
"It's a telltale sign of a team that won't quit," Bruce Boudreau said of getting that equalizing Koivu goal in the third. "And it's a telltale sign of a team that wants to win. This team has gone from five weeks ago when we were 20 points out of a playoff spot now to eight points."It's a team that's never stopped believing in themselves."
That belief will be tested on a critical eight-game, 15-day road trip the Ducks left for this morning. First stop is Detroit and Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings have won 18 in a row (more on that tomorrow).
"Until that last bell rings, whether they're eliminated or whether they're in," Boudreau said, "they're going to keep going."
- - -
In the wake of Ryan Getzlaf winning the Hardest Shot competition at last Saturday's Skills Showdown at 99.3 mph, and then reaching 102 at Tuesday's First Flight Field Trip, Bruce Boudreau was approached about a longtime topic -- trying to get Getzlaf to shoot the puck more.
"We've been telling him to shoot," Boudreau said. "Coaches long before me have been telling him to shoot. And we wish he'd shoot the puck more. But he is what he is. He's a pass-first guy. He's got a great touch when it comes to passing. He's going to do what he does."
Getzlaf has eight goals this season on 107 shots.
“He knows,” Boudreau continued. “You know what, it’s tough to argue when you’ve been a passer your whole life. And I know the feeling. You’re first option is to pass the puck and you’re looking for somebody to pass the puck to. You’re option to shoot is your last option.
“Whereas a shooter’s option is … Brett Hull would get it and he wouldn’t be looking to pass. He’s looking to shoot the puck. And then at the last moment, if somebody was open, he’d be passing. Ovechkin is the same way. He wants to shoot the puck and then if somebody’s open, he’ll pass it. But his first thing is to shoot it. Ryan’s first option is to pass. And it’s not a bad thing because he’s so good at it.”
|Had to dig through the black and white archives to find a photo from the last time the 'Canes played in Anaheim.
It's true: Thanks in part to a 10-2-2 run -- and the fact that Minnesota has gone 4-7-2 since the new year -- the Ducks can get within eight points of the eighth spot with a win against the Hurricanes tonight at Honda Center.
Carolina is 6-2-2 in its last 10, but still remains in last place in the Eastern Conference. “For the last five weeks, they’ve been playing real good hockey against anybody that they play,” said Bruce Boudreau. “In their division, nobody seems to want it. I think they’re like us that they believe. Everybody keeps losing and we keep winning, there’s a good shot that something good can happen.”
The Hurricanes haven't been to Honda Center since November 25, 2009, a date so long ago, in fact, that there are 10 Ducks in the lineup tonight who have never played Carolina at Honda Center. So long ago that Anaheim's defenseman on that night were Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, James Wisniewski, Nick Boynton, Steve Eminger and Brendan Mikkelson.
Meanwhile, the 'Canes are one of the few teams from the East the Ducks face twice this year, as Anaheim heads to Carolina later this month at the end of a daunting eight-game, 16-day road trip that starts Friday.
A big reason for Carolina's strong play as of late is veteran goalie Cam Ward. The 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is 6-3-2 with a 1.45 goals-against average in his last 11 starts. Ward will be in there again tonight.
"Cam Ward has given up eight goals in his last seven games or something ridiculous like that," said Boudreau, who faced Ward plenty as coach of the Capitals. "I've seen him like that when he gets on a roll and he's impossible to score against. It's like he has an invisible sheild behind him. So, it's going to be a tough game."
And it's the last chance to see the Ducks at home until February 26, so get your tickets. The first 10,000 fans in attendance receive a package of Ducks trading cards and if you have a Ducks sticker on your car in the parking lot, you could win an oversized autographed Teemu Selanne Topps card.
- - -
Boudreau was asked yesterday by Randy Youngman of the OC Register why he didn't use George Parros at some point during the eight-round shootout Anaheim ultimately won on Monday night vs. Calgary. It's not an outlandish question, considering that Parros won the Accuracy Shooting portion of the Skills Showdown on Saturday, by hitting all four corner targets on four shots. It's the second straight year he's done that.
Boudreau actually did call on Parros in the eighth rounds -- and he was promptly turned down.
"I told him (Parros) he was up next, and he said, 'No way!' " Boudreau said with a laugh. "He didn't wanna go."
Boudreau turned to Niklas Hagman instead, and we all know how well that turned out.
(P.S. I'm convinced that if I had a sweet playroom like that when I was a kid, my life would have gone in an entirely different direction.)
|"It was about time," Hiller said, "we finally win a shootout."
Hate it or love it, the shootout can be the ultimate in enjoyable agony, and last night was the epitome of that. It took eight excruciating rounds for the Ducks to earn an amazing 14th straight home victory against the Calgary Flames, dating way back to January 19, 2004. More importantly, it was a win Anaheim desperately had to have.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's an extra point to move up on teams," said Bobby Ryan, who had the first goal in the Ducks' 3-2 decision. "But I think that's the most critical shootout we've ever been in. You could feel it down the bench, that's for sure."
Not only that, it was Anaheim's first shootout win since Ryan won it for them way back on October 8 against the Rangers in Helsinki. Since then, the Ducks had gone 0-4 in the shootout and another 0-4 in overtime (including Calgary last month).
"Yeah, it was about time we finally win a shootout," said Jonas Hiller, who was a major reason they finally did. He stopped six of eight Calgary attempts, including a few that would have clinched it for the Flames. The Ducks couldn't breathe easy until he made a stop on Mikael Backlund, but had to reach behind his own body to shoo the trickling puck away from goal line. That more than made up for the fact the Ducks lost a 2-1 lead in the third period and dodged a couple of close calls in overtime. (They actually almost won it themselves in the extra period when a quick Teemu Selanne shot got under goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and hit the very inside of the far post.)
"We really needed those two points," Hiller said. "We really wanted it. It wasn't an easy game. I think both teams played really hard. You could see it out there. Both teams really wanted those points.One point more or less, especially in the situation we’re in, can be between having a chance to make the playoffs and being out of the playoffs. I knew it was really important. I really wanted it."
The Ducks only got in position to win on Hiller's save because of Niklas Hagman, Anaheim's eighth shooter on the night after only Ryan and Corey Perry had successful shootout bids. Hagman sprinted in on countryman and former Calgary teammate Kiprusoff, and waited just long enough to get the goaltender sprawling before lifting a wicked wrist shot past him.
"It's a goalie that I've practiced a lot against quite a bit," said Hagman, who played in Calgary from 2010 until he was acquired by the Ducks last fall. "I don't have that many moves. He knows my go-to moves. I tried to switch it up a little bit.
"I wanted to come with good speed and I wanted to shoot it. Luckily for me, he probably thought that I'm going to go with my backhand."
(Kiprusoff was going for his 300th career win and his first in Anaheim as a member of the Flames. He actually earned his second NHL win in what was then known as the Pond as a member Sharks on April 8, 2001. Since then he is 0-6-3 lifetime at Honda Center in the regular season.)
"We needed that one pretty bad," said Bruce Boudreau, whose Ducks pulled to within 10 points of a playoff spot. "I’m sure in the last 30 games there are going to be a lot of games like that around the league, which is what makes hockey so great."
And even if that gut-twisting overtime and shootout took a year off all of our lives, or at least made us lose a little bit of hair, maybe in the end it was all worth it. That, as well, is what makes hockey so great.
|This overtime win last March made it 13 in a row at home vs. Calgary.
Cam Fowler was just 12 years old and Teemu Selanne had less than 450 goals when the Flames last won in Anaheim a 5-1 victory on January 19, 2004. No one could have predicted it would be their last win here for the next eight years, although, that Calgary win ended a nine-game winless stretch that had dated back to January 13, 1999. (It's important to point out, also, that the Flames did take Game 3 of the first round series at the former Pond in 2006, a series the Ducks ultimately won in seven.)
To presume that lengthy streak has much to do with what will go on tonight is silly. After all, the only guy who played in that game who will also suit up tonight is Toni Lydman (and he was playing for Calgary at the time). Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, who will be in there for the Flames tonight, were actually both out with injuries in that '04 game.
So, as Jerry Seinfeld might say, it's really the Ducks' clothes that have dominated the Flames' laundry all these years.
"None of that stuff matters when it comes down to it," Ryan Getzlaf told the OC Register. "Every time you step on the ice (against them), it's usually a new team from year to year. We've got to make sure that we continue it."
Said Iginla to the Calgary Herald, "We go in with the mindset that we're due to win in there, right? As far as guys thinking, ‘Oh, we haven’t won there in forever.’ That’s not (true, except) for a few of us, you know what I mean? Other guys have only played three, two games in there (as Flames).”
So history means very little tonight, as both the Ducks and Flames could desperately use a win -- though Anaheim is a bit more desperate than Calgary. The Ducks know their margin for error is dwindling by the day, after losing last Wednesday to the Stars and getting only a point against the Blue Jackets last Friday. Anaheim is 12 points back of Minnesota in the eighth spot, with five teams between them and that plateau. That includes these Flames, who are four points back.
"We're in that position," Bruce Boudreau said yesterday. "We've just got to play one game at a time. You can't look at the big things because it'll be overwhelming if you look at the whole picture."
This morning, for the second straight day, Matt Beleskey skated with the second line while Niklas Hagman was moved to the fourth unit. The combos looked like this:
| MORE PHOTOS
This year’s version of the Anaheim Ducks Skills Showdown had an even bigger crowd, even more fun moments and even more laughs, as more than 7,000 fans enjoyed the event Saturday afternoon at Honda Center.
Season ticket holders were let into the building early, where they were treated to a Q&A with Ducks boss Bob Murray and coach Bruce Boudreau. Questions were taken from a collection that attendees had submitted in advance online, and among the quips from Boudreau was this one on what he thinks it will take to make the playoffs: "I do this math every single day. Unfortunately, I count on all the other teams to lose.
“We have to go on a pretty good run. We've broken it down into segments. It's feasible, we just have to beat teams ahead of us."
He added, “This is why coaches and GMs lose their hair..." then turned and looked at Murray to the delight of the crowd.
There was one question asking Boudreau about his experience doing the HBO 24/7 show last season when he was Washington’s coach. "It was fun,” he said, “until I watched it...I didn't realize I swore that much until my mom phoned me and chewed me out."
After the 30-minute chat, the general public poured into Honda Center as the players warmed up, split into Team Black (captained by Teemu Selanne) and Team White (Corey Perry). The earliest indication it would be a fun day came when tiny little Samuel Beauchemin (Francois' 5-year-old son) skated with the Ducks, and at one point went in and scored on Jonas Hiller one-on-one. (You'd be hard-pressed to find something more adorable than this in a hockey rink.)
Some bigger kids were among the youth players that led off some of the skills events, which included: King of the Breakaway, Fastest Skater, Nothing But Net, Accuracy Shooting, Hardest Shot and Obstacle Relay.
When all was said and done, Selanne’s Team Black won for the second straight year and retained the ugly ceramic pig trophy that was picked out last year for the event.
“We tried to keep the competition even and close, but my team had more passion and skills,” Selanne said tongue-in-cheek afterwards. "In the end, it paid off.”
POST-SKILLS COMMENTS | EVENT HIGHLIGHTS
There were some accusations of cheating during the Accuracy Shooting, to which Selanne said, “We have a little thing going here: If you don’t cheat, you’re not trying hard enough. But it was a fun day.”
Some of that fun came from Boudreau, who joined hosts Steve Carroll and Kent French as an in-arena analyst. He didn’t hesitate to rip his own guys, taking a shot at Matt Beleskey’s long hair and saying of Sheldon Brookbank during the breakaway event, “I can see why Sheldon hasn’t scored a goal this season.”
As several Ducks looked impressive during the Accuracy Shooting, Boudreau had last night’s 3-2 loss to Columbus on his mind when he cracked, “Where were these guys last night?”
That accuracy event was seized for the second straight year by, of all people, George Parros. Georgie nailed all four corner targets in a row, the second straight year he’s done that. “I’ve won three years in a row,” said Parros, including the skills competition at the First Flight Field Trip event for kids. “That’s no coincidence … Not everyone is cut out for this event though.”
Perry immediately matched Parros by hitting the targets with his first four shots, but there was some controversy because he didn’t actually break the first one. “Corey Perry shoots muffins,” Selanne said, “and he can’t even break the coin.” (I like that Teemu calls the foam target a "coin." It's a little bigger than that.)
Of Parros' victory, Boudreau said, "It just goes to show that anybody can win at anything."
Some other highlights:
- Perry pulling out the mini-stick (just like at last weekend’s skills competition at the All-Star Game) to score during the King of the Breakaway event. Remarked Boudreau, "It's great he could score with Jason Blake's stick."
- Cam Fowler winning the Fastest Skater at 14.06, edging Lubomir Visnovsky (14.07). Said Fowler, "He'll probably just tell you he was tired or that he didn’t have his legs." (By the reaction of his teammates, that’s a common Lubo line.)
- The new Nothing But Net event, which required one player to flip pucks from the crease to a teammate trying to catch them in a basket attached to a stick. Both the Perry-Nick Bonino and Beleskey-Parros duos got four out of five.
- During the Hardest Shot, Selanne challenging Saku Koivu, then edging him 92.5 to 91.6 Ryan Getzlaf won the event with a 99.3 mph shot, leading commentator Brian Hayward to ask him if that might convince him to shoot more. That brought a huge roar from the crowd.
- Team Black capturing the Obstacle Relay (players zig-zagging with the puck through cones) and hanging on for the 12-10 victory, with Selanne holding up the ceramic pig and the team posing for a rather Stanley Cup-like group photo with it.
“It was similar to when I hoisted the Stanley Cup,” said Selanne with only a hint of sarcasm. “It’s pretty heavy too, but again, you have to earn this. This little pig came home.”
For Boudreau, it was his first time being involved in an event like this, as they hadn’t adopted it in Washington. “That was pretty cool,” he said. “Especially in Southern California, where we’re trying to grow the sport, it’s great to have events like this. With my personality, I wanted to be involved and make it as interesting as possible for these fans. The guys had smiles on their faces and showed how much they love doing it, even after a tough game last night. They came out here and did a great job. That’s what hockey players are all about.”
Said Selanne, “It was a fun day. It was great that so many people showed up again. It’s nice to have fun and give a little extra for the fans.”
|Let it snow...
Wednesday night, as the Ducks were losing to the Stars 6-2 in Anaheim, the Jackets suffered a 3-2 defeat at Los Angeles. The game ended in controversial fashion when a last-second Drew Doughty goal appeared to come after the clock stopped for a full second in the final moments.
It was yet another blow in a rough season for the Blue Jackets, who come into Anaheim having lost six in a row. Part of the reason for their demise is a ton of injuries, but they did activate major offseason acquisition Jeff Carter yesterday after he missed 10 games with a separated shoulder suffered in the last Ducks-Jackets game, on Jan. 8.
That game was one of the catalysts for a nice 9-1-1 run for the Ducks, and a six-game home winning streak that was halted Wednesday night vs. Dallas. Bruce Boudreau spoke a bit about that off night with the media after yesterday's optional practice.
"We alluded to that this morning in the meeting," he said. "You can see it creeping it and we have made mention of it. We played so, so good until the Ottawa game. Then, I thought we played average at best in the Colorado game, but won. Then, we lost in Dallas. We played okay, but didn’t play at the level we had. We had the break and then played against Phoenix. I thought our first period was substandard. We won, but we played okay. Then, we had last night. We have to rectify that. We haven’t let it slide without noticing. It’s time to get back up to the top."
The Ducks have improved their position since that January 8 vs. Columbus, which they entered just one point in front of last-place Blue Jackets. In that game, Jonas Hiller left in the first period with an injury, Iiro Tarkki came in and earned his first NHL win and Corey Perry threw in a hat trick as the Ducks won a second straight game for the first time since mid-October.
A fully healthy Hiller will be back in there tonight and the Jackets will have to decide between Wednesday night's starter Curtis Sanford (three straight wins vs. Anaheim and a 2.34 GAA) or Steve Mason (3-1-0 with a 3.64 GAA in five career starts at Honda Center, despite being pulled in the last game there).
For the Ducks, Perry and his linemates need to get things going, as none of the RPG line has registered a point in the last three contests. In typical (and likeable) Boudreau fashion, he made a timely other-sport reference in talking about getting those guys going.
"You’re not going to win unless your best players are your best players," he said. "That is the simple fact on any team in any organization. If Eli Manning stinks the place up this week, I don’t care how good the Giants defense is, they’re not going to win. The same with Tom Brady. It’s the same in any sport. You look at the NBA Finals. LeBron wasn’t exactly very good and how did they do? We need our best player to be our best players."
So what do you do?
"I have to believe you challenge them a little bit," he said. "I brought a few of them in today and said 'We need you to better.' We aren’t going to win unless they are better. It’s great to have a lot of our role players playing great, but the great players have to be the great players. Everybody sees it. It’s not just out there that we’re winning and getting by. No matter who you are, if you’re best players aren’t your best players, you’re not successful. They can work really hard and do all the right things, but they have to start producing."
Boudreau confirmed this morning that Jason Blake will be in the lineup after recovering from his foot injury and that Devante Smith-Pelly (broken foot suffered at the World Juniors) could return next week.
Minnesota beat Colorado 1-0 last night, so the Ducks enter tonight's game 12 points behind the Wild for the eighth spot.
Sometimes you need nothing more than the coach's words to describe things, in this case a discouraging 6-2 loss at home to the Dallas Stars.
"We played bad tonight," Bruce Boudreau said bluntly. "It wasn’t fun to watch."
Indeed, the momentum the Ducks had generated from a run of 9 wins in 11 games, from an emphatic 4-1 win on the road out of the All-Star break, was restrained by last night's defeat. And it didn't help that it once again came at the hands of the Stars, who edged the Ducks 1-0 before the break and now represent the only two regulation losses the Ducks have suffered in the last 12 games.
"I thought we played 12 really good games in a row," Boudreau said. "Tonight, we didn’t. We stunk."
Actually, things did begin promisingly for Anaheim last night, as they went on top early when Matt Beleskey's shot from the point caromed off Stephane Robidas' boot and got past Kari Lehtonen. (At first glance, it appeared Andrew Cogliano got his blade on it, which would have been a nice follow-up to his hat trick the night before.)
But things went south from there, in large part because of some carelesness with the puck. Dallas scored three unanswered -- two coming off Luca Sbisa turnovers -- and never looked back. Yes, the Ducks went into the third down two goals, but their hopes were quickly dashed by a Sheldon Souray goal just 36 seconds in that made it 5-2 and many any comeback doubtful.
"We battled back, had a lot of energy in the second period and thought we could turn this game around," said Sbisa, who took responsbility for those two Dallas goals in the first. "In the first shift of the third period they got a goal and that kind of knocked the wind out of us. At the end of the day, we can’t be happy with ourselves."
Last night's loss meant the Ducks remained 10 points behind the Wild in the eighth spot with 32 games to go. A big hill to climb? Certainly. Impossible? Well, the Ducks themselves are trying to show they still have faith any way they can.
Yesterday each player was given this t-shirt, which reads I BELIEVE on the front and MIRACLES DO HAPPEN on the back.