- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Typically, Bruce Boudreau focuses on the opposing goalie during pregame warmups, eyeing him the whole time and trying to get a feel for what's coming.
The Anaheim Ducks' coach swallowed pretty hard before Game 2, seeing a star goalie whose body language said it all. His team having launched 72 shots in two games at Jonathan Quick but only beating him three times, Boudreau sees a version of Quick that's reminiscent of the one from 2012, one who won the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP.
So with that in mind, it was apparent that whatever Boudreau communicated to his dressing room was received loud and clear, because every single player Tuesday was on message.
"We have to be a little bit more determined to get to the front of the net," star winger Corey Perry said. "We talked about it last night, it's those second opportunities. Quick is a world-class goalie, those are the type of goalies that if they see the puck, they will stop it. You got to have those second opportunities, you got to be able to get to the front of the net and you have to be willing to get there.''
From veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin: "Not enough second chances, and the first shots we haven't often had screens in front of him. We want to have a better net presence to prevent him from seeing shots. At the same time, to also have guys there for rebounds.''
And, finally, from Ducks winger Matt Beleskey: "Getting more to the net and getting more quality chances on him, you can't let him see the puck. A goalie like that, if he sees it, he's probably going to stop it."
You get the picture. The Ducks understand that if they're going to dig out of this 2-0 Western Conference semifinal series hole heading into Game 3 Thursday night at Staples Center that Quick 's life has to become more miserable. Thing is, it's also what the San Jose Sharks were saying in the final few games of their first-round collapse against the Kings. Seeing it, understanding it, and saying it, are all different than actually going out and doing something about it.
"We can talk about certain things, but their defense is good," Boudreau said. "They didn't win the Jennings Trophy just by luck. They're a good defensive team, and they block shots, so we've got to find ways to get around their big bodies and not let Quick see the puck. It's easy to say, not that easy to do."
The first step, however, is realizing that there's a problem. Credit the Ducks because there are many a team that after a pair of very closely played games with the Kings would have made themselves believe they're just unlucky and that they just have to keep at it the same way. After all, the Ducks were 7 seconds away from a 2-1 win in Game 1, and in Game 2 were a shot away from tying a 2-1 game with a minute left.
So the gap between these two teams is definitely not that wide.
"We had 36, 37 shots [Monday] night, but all those shots were kind of from the outside," said Perry. "Guys weren't in the front getting those opportunities. You look at a lot of goals we scored this year. They're not pretty goals. They're going to the net and banging in rebounds. And that's how we're effective. We create our cycle game and go to the net and use that to our advantage."
There's nothing fancy about what the Kings are doing here. There are no secrets to their system. They are just a veteran, playoff-savvy team that has players who accept their role and understand what it takes to win at this time of year.
"They're big, physical, play very well defensively, they don't give up many outnumbered situations, they always have a third guy high," said Beauchemin, breaking down the Kings. "Often as a defenseman at the point, we don't have lanes to shoot at, they've always got guys ready to block those shots. We have to find ways to get pucks through but also with traffic in front."
There's really nothing that Boudreau and his coaching staff can draw up that's going to dramatically alter the course of this series. Right now, it's about will and determination, winning your one-on-one battles to get body positioning in front of the Kings' net, winning those 50-50 puck battles to keep the forecheck/cycle game going, and being willing to take a licking in front of the net in order to be in position to capitalize on rebounds.
It hurts. It's not fun. It leaves you black and blue and dog-tired at the end of the night. But it's why the Kings are the Kings.
And if the Ducks are going to make this a series, they have to match that will. It starts with a former Hart Trophy winner in Perry, and a current Hart Trophy finalist in Getzlaf.
It's unfair, perhaps, but that dynamic duo is in charge of lifting this squad. Anze Kopitar's unit has eaten their lunch in two games, to the point where Boudreau took Getzlaf's line away from the top Kings line. He won't have that option at Staples Center, with L.A. having the last line change.
So Getzlaf and Perry, one of the most lethal 1-2 punches in the NHL, have to deliver the goods come Thursday night. Then the rest of the squad will follow.
No disagreement from either Ducks star, by the way. They know that to be true.
"Him and I put a lot of pressure on each other and on ourselves," said Perry. "It's our responsibility to get the team going and to produce, and we haven't done that in the first two games. We as a team have to find a way to solve [Quick]. Yeah, he's played well, but we haven't played our game and haven't been doing the things that got us here.''
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