Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Can the Ducks rectify recent poor play?
By Pierre LeBrun
We last checked in on the Ducks in a video blog last month, when they were reveling in a 4-1-0 start.
Since then, they’ve gone a mystifying 1-4-2, a slide punctuated by a gut-wrenching overtime loss in Washington on Tuesday night after they wasted a 3-0 lead.
“It’s unacceptable for us to allow what happened last night,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
“We got to take responsibility. And that’s been our message here, ‘We’re going to take responsibility for our actions.’ We can’t change last night. We’ll be judging our group on our performance tomorrow night.’’
The Ducks will face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, one of those early-season matchups that feels like more than just one game out of 82. The Ducks are in a foul mood.
“We’re definitely not playing to the level that we’re capable of,” Carlyle said. “Our penalty killing has been decent to give us a chance. Our power play has gone dry. And in reality, there’s probably three or four situations where our goaltending has got to deliver to a higher level than what it is.’’
Well, Carlyle was being polite, but the fact is, Jonas Hiller was horrendous against Washington and overall has struggled of late. His .899 save percentage is the worst of any goalie in the Pacific Division, and that’s certainly not going to cut it.
Hiller was dynamite last season. He was a well-deserved All-Star Game participant en route to a 26-16-3 record and terrific .924 save percentage. We wonder whether there are any residual effects of the vertigolike symptoms that ended his campaign last season, but the coach says that’s not the case.
“He says he’s 100 percent; he has not indicated anything different,” Carlyle said. “From a personal standpoint, I would like to see him more active and more aggressive in the net. We’ve talked about that, and it’s one thing we’re going to stress.’’
Carlyle feels that when Hiller is at the top of his game, he’s challenging more, tracking down loose pucks, etc. But the Ducks' coach also stressed that he’s not dumping the recent slump all on Hiller. Far from it.
“He’s a tremendous talent,” Carlyle said. “He’s won a lot of hockey games for us. He’s saved our butts more than once.’’
For one thing, the Ducks have gone a bit younger this season, and that can’t be discounted.
“We’ve got six kids that are under 22 years old playing in our lineup. That’s a big change,” Carlyle said. “Nobody looks at that.’’
There’s also the matter of their schedule.
“I’m not making excuses, but there have been challenges with being in Europe and back and now being on a 14-day, seven-game road trip,” Carlyle said.
The Ducks began with two regular-season games in Helsinki and Stockholm, then went back to California for the next five games (four at home, one in San Jose). Now they are five games into a seven-game road trip that features stops in Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, Columbus, Washington, New York and Detroit.
That’s a lot of miles from Europe to California to the East Coast.
Thing is, the Ducks have started slow every season but once since the lockout (2006-07, their Cup-winning campaign).
So once again, the Ducks have a hole to dig themselves out of.