It’s been a frustrating couple of games for the Anaheim Ducks. They’ve come into a hostile building and have been pestered and aggravated to the tune of two straight losses.
These kinds of tactics don’t always work against NHL teams, but it’s an Achilles heel for the Ducks.
Rewind a little bit to about a week before the playoffs. The Ducks went into Edmonton to face off against one of the worst teams in the league. After one period it’s a tie game, but the Ducks go into the second with a lot of momentum.
So, what does Edmonton do?
Everybody starts getting physical, everyone wants to take a shot at one another. More than that, the Ducks stop focusing on playing the game and instead become focused on getting even.
Anaheim would lose that game 4-2.
Now, the Ducks have given up two games to the Dallas Stars in the exact same fashion.
The line of Ryan Garbutt – Cody Eakin - Antoine Roussel is head coach Lindy Ruff‘s favorite match-up for the Ducks’ top line and they’ve been effective. They’ve skirted that line between vicious and illegal perfectly to the point where everyone in a Ducks sweater would rather beat the crap out of them then sit back and play Ducks style hockey.
Just like the game in Edmonton, the Ducks stopped playing hockey and instead just looked to get even.
There are ways to get even that would be more effective than the jumbled mess of a response they’ve come back with, some more effective than others.
On the surface, the Ducks want to stick to their game plan, but underneath all they seem to want is revenge. This contradiction has caused them to lose their focus and, as a result, have only scored two goals in two games.
So, what can they do to combat this?
The most obvious answer is fighting. The Ducks get somebody to take on Roussel or Garbutt or Daley early in the game to get those emotions out of the way, and the rest of the team can concentrate on the game at hand.
The problem with that strategy is the Ducks don’t have an enforcer type player that could take care of things. Tim Jackman is hurt. Patrick Maroon is too valuable to the balance of those top lines. We’re already down one valuable D-man in Stephane Robidas, no sense in another risking injury.
Ultimately, the Ducks are not built for that kind of rough housing. It’s not really the culture of the team and it’s not the team Bruce Boudreau has created, so what other options are there.
Strong physical play. Physical defensemen and a strong forecheck are definitely within the realm of a Boudreau type team.
The Ducks did a fine job of this in the first period of Game 4, where they scored both of their goals. They were in hard on the forecheck, they won one-on-one battles, and they were able to get some good hard hits in against the likes of Garbutt and Roussel.
Sometimes a good, clean, hard hit, especially on home ice, can jump start your team and really get them into the game.
If the Ducks want to keep their focus while still finding a way to get even, they’re going to need to up the physical play between the whistles.
There’s one piece of the puzzle that is essential to the Ducks’ game that simply hasn’t been there for the majority of the series, and it’s playing right into the Stars’ hands.
Scoring goals, sustained pressure, four dangerous lines. However you want to put it, when the Stars effectively get the Ducks off their game, the Ducks stop producing offense.
That’s exactly what the Stars are looking for. If the Ducks want to get even, the best possible way to do that is to score goals.
One of the best goals of this series has come in-game two when Corey Perry scored in the second period.
Earlier in the game Trevor Daley pounced on Perry in front of his own net in an effort to get under Perry’s skin. Fast-forward to the second period, Perry is in alone on a breakaway and scores a goal. Who’s the defenseman in front of Perry who lets the puck go cleanly to the net? Trevor Daley.
This is the mentality the Ducks need to have going into these next few games. They need to be thinking of sticking to their game and scoring goals no matter how much the other team is pestering them.
Maybe the way some of the Stars’ players are playing is pretty underhanded, but, you know what? It’s working.
They’re winning games, and so long as they continue to win they’ll keep doing it.
The Ducks need to keep their heads down and focus on playing their game.
If they do that they can win, and that’s the only satisfying way for them to get even with the Dallas Stars.
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