Monday, 01.23.2012 / 7:45 AM PT
|"I'm sure a little club soda will get that right out."
Since then it's been a whole new Ducks team, one that is on a ride they don't want to get off anytime soon. Anaheim has gone a staggering 8-0-1 run that has been as good as any team in the NHL. Coming off a fifth straight win last night against Colorado, the Ducks flew to Dallas just 11 points behind the Avalanche, with three games in hand. The Ducks have won seven of the last eight and six straight at home.
Anaheim's 17 points in January is tied for most in the NHL with St. Louis and Ottawa (who the Ducks took down Saturday night). Meanwhile, the team that once ranked near the bottom of the NHL in goals, has averaged an impressive 2.70 this month, second in the league to Boston.
Their standings points streak of nine games equals the longest active one in the NHL (with the Blues) and is the franchise's longest since a nine-game run from Oct. 21 to Nov. 5, 2008. The Ducks have outscored opponents 36-16 during that string.
The wins lately have come in a variety of ways. There was a 5-0 stomping of the Oilers back on January 13, and a 6-2 rout of the Coyotes on the 18th. And then there was this weekend, where the Ducks eked out one-goal victories and leaned heavily on Jonas Hiller, who is as hot as any goalie in the NHL right now with a .955 save percentage and 1.33 goals-against average the last six games. (He actually wasn't given one of the NHL's Three Stars of the Week today.)
Last night was the extreme, as the Ducks were outshot 45-18 and Hiller stood tall with 43 saves as the Ducks got some revenge on their old goalie, J.S. Giguere.
The Ducks' intimate knowledge of Giguere seemed to come in handy when Bobby Ryan scored two (two!) breakaway goals on him to help the Ducks to a 3-0 lead. The first came early in the game, when Ryan picked up a lost puck near the red line, skated in and fired it under Giguere to make it 1-0. The other one came in the second period, as Ryan Getzlaf made a jaw-dropping 150-foot pass out of his own corner to hit Ryan's tape at the Colorado blue line, allowing Ryan to head in alone and beat Giguere high glove.
Ryan actually had a third breakaway in the third period, but this time Giguere came out far enough to force Ryan to move to the forehand, and Giguere stopped it.
"I don't think I've had three breakaways in a season in a long time," Ryan said. "I'm not exactly built for speed on breakaways.
"I scored five-hole on the first one. I think he was just kind of waiting. He realizes that's one of my favorite places to shoot, so I just tried to make a quick move and get it out because I know he drops his glove. I tried to be patient with it."
Colorado scored soon after Ryan was denied on that third breakaway, and scored again on a power play with 3:32 left to make things a bit tense. But the Ducks held on, notably in the final minute and a half when the Avs sent Giguere to the bench for an extra skater.
Bruce Boudreau, he of the frequent non-hockey references, used a boxing term to reflect on how the Ducks escaped. "We were doing our best imitation of Muhammad Ali tonight," he said. In other words, it was a "rope-a-dope" style in which the Ducks allowed themselves to be hit over and over again (45 shots) but waited for mistakes and took advantage.
This month, unlike the previous three, it seems the mistakes are coming from the opponents, rather than the Ducks themselves.
"Anyone who's been here has known that we've started slow in a lot of years and this is the worst," Getzlaf said. "But we've just got to keep playing. Every day is a new day for us and a new day that we can play and try and get back in this thing."
How upbeat are the Ducks these days? First of all, they're spending their day in Dallas not practicing, but having a team bowling outing, for while George Parros reportedly brought his own ball.
And last night, Getzlaf made his postgame remarks while holding his 11-month-old son Ryder (wearing a No. 15 jersey with the C on it) in his left arm. Watch this video as he tries to hand Ryder off to Ducks staffer Ryan Lichtenfels (who actually has a toddler of his own), sees that he's crying and then takes him back for the duration of the interview. While Getzlaf says, "It wasn't the prettiest game we played in awhile," you can tell Ryder agrees.