The Ducks come-from-behind victory against the Stars could be the most important game of the season, and there’s still 52 games left to play.
Not only did they score four unanswered goals after trailing 3-0 in the second period, but there were some important events in tonight’s game that could light a fire under the Ducks and get them playing on a more consistent basis.
The first was the emergence of a second line. It’s easy to see that Dan Sexton provided more than a boost to a struggling Ducks team in desperate need of scoring from someone other than the first line. The loss of Teemu Selanne was devastating and everyone wrote the Ducks off immediately, but with a couple of line changes and a couple of AHL call-ups, suddenly the Ducks are playing a high-paced, entertaining brand of hockey.
But don’t think that this is the undoubted turning point of the season for the team. Don’t forget that after the Ducks had a difficult start to the season they had a similar comeback game against the Flyers, winning in a shootout, but then they fell back into the same bad habits. Then after a few more losses and terrible play the Ducks unloaded on the Canucks, scoring a season high seven goals and winning handily. But again the team fell into the same downward spiral, losing six of the next eight games.
Losing Selanne is not going to turn into a positive – there’s just no way losing your leading goal scorer can be a good thing. But maybe a little injection of youth is what the Ducks were looking for. The 39-year old Selanne goes down, and in comes the 22-year old Sexton to take his place. Then insert Brett Festerling onto the top pairing with Scott Niedermayer and maybe you have some chemsitry brewing throughout the lineup. And let’s not forget about the play of 21-year old Matt Beleskey – he’s been anything but flashy, but he’s played solid in place of the injured veteran Kyle Calder.
Again, don’t be too quick to call this the game that turns around the season for the Ducks. There are still serious flaws in the Ducks’ game, all of which are on the defensive side of the puck. Coach Randy Carlyle continues to mix defensive pairings, trying to find the right combinations that will actually stop the opposition. But he doesn’t have much to work with as the Ducks are still missing an elite shut-down defender. Niedermayer can only do so much for the team, and playing 31 minutes per night, like he did against Dallas, is just too much to ask of the aging defender.
J.S. Giguere looks like he’s turned his game around, but he needs to put in this kind of effort for about eight games in a row before we can make that decision. Jonas Hiller seems like a lost cause at this point, but at least GM Bob Murray will be able to get a good contract for the struggling goalie.
All I’m saying is this is only one game. Call me a pessimist, but I wont believe the Ducks have turned it around until we’re in the playoff picture. But hey, if you want me to be an optimist, then how about this: The Ducks might be last in the Western Conference but they’re still only seven points out of a playoff spot.