Last night at Consol Energy Center, the Ducks certainly flew right over the flightless birds. While the Penguins controlled the first period, they returned for the second and third periods looking slightly jarred and fatigued, ultimately losing 2-1, with future hall of famer Teemu Selanne pounding the nail in the coffin following an earlier goal by all star Corey Perry.
The Ducks put up an amazing fight to stay in the game. Despite Marc-Andre Fleury’s best efforts and some show-stopping saves and some solid hits and plays by Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Deryk Engelland, the Pens came up short with only one great top shelf goal by Jordan Staal. The biggest disappointment of the game was that Evgeni Malkin’s home goal scoring streak was halted at 8 games, tying James Neal for second in Pens history, to Mario Lemieux’s record of 11 games.
The Ducks started the season poorly, after ending last season as the fourth seeded team in the West for the post season and then exiting the playoffs in the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the Predators. On December 1st, the Ducks decided to make a change and fired Head Coach Randy Carlyle, replacing him with the recently dismissed Capitals Head Coach, Bruce Boudreau.
They are 17-11-5 under Boudreau and the wins are starting to come. They have won 7 of their last 9 contests. Production of Captain, Ryan Getzlaf has been shaky this season, even though he is only 10 points shy of tying last year’s 67. He hasn’t registered a goal in 11 games. He has averaged 21 goals per season in his first 6 with Anaheim, but his year is held to just 8 goals in 57 games with a rating of -14, after ending last season at 14.
It also has been an average season for Corey Perry compared with last. Perry scored 50 goals and 48 assists last season, running away with both the Rocket Richard and Hart Trophies.
Selanne, nearing the end of an incredible career, is the team’s points leader and at 41 years old, you’d never know the age of the veteran star by the way he plays.
The wins are starting to come though for the Ducks as Boudreau works with the team to improve offense to create more scoring opportunities and the overall confidence of a squad riddled with top level athletes who are not used to being at the bottom of the barrel in the standings the past 6 seasons.
I don’t think that Boudreau is as bad a coach as I once perceived him. When you evaluate the situation he was in with the Capitals, he was up against an uncoachable team, plain and simple. Not because of the players per say, but because of the mentality and strategy implemented by General Manager George McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis to give Ovechkin free reign over a team and over the coaching staff to do as he pleased. He is a players coach and if you go back and look at his locker room speeches in Washington from 24/7 and think about the state of the team today, his message is lost among the profanity to fans.
He said all the right things regarding the situation, just not in a way that fans would respond. He is not as direct and short with words as Dan Bylsma and not quite as dominating as John Tortorella, but he lands somewhere in between the two with understanding and respect for the players and a knack for venting his frustration in a colorful manner.
Boudreau can hopefully continue to help the Ducks turn their season around or at least help put them into a position for success in 2012-2013. With players like Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan on your top lines, you are not at a lack of elite goal scorers, they just need to right team strategy to help the pucks into the net. Boudreau may be the perfect coach to inspire a comeback.