Anaheim let yet another victory slide out of their hands last night as, for the second time in as many efforts at Xcel, they let the Wild climb back into the game and claim the victory in overtime.
Daniel, there's a tendency to talk bounces and the nonsense of 'living right' when you have to listen to John Ahlers all year, but there is a fundamental problem with this team. Even in games where the 'effort' was supposedly there for 60 minutes, the Ducks are giving away wins on so-called flukes. Where is the real problem? Is it coaching, offense, defense or goaltending?
Hmmm . . . all of the above.
This is a difficult thing to nail down. The fact is, as soon as the Ducks fix one thing, something else goes wrong. Against the Stars, we fail to convert multiple scoring chances, and as a result a couple of bad goals lead to a loss. If our offense had shown up, we probably wouldn't have been as deterred by the one bad goal. Tonight, we have a two goal lead and give it up in the final five minutes, clearly a defensive problem. The inability to be consistent and keep everyone focused is a coaching problem.
The only problem I don't think we've had recently is between the pipes. Giguere was on a tear at home, and I'm not sure Carlyle should have interrupted that streak. I know Jiggy lost, but he put together the most impressive string of wins we've had all year. Let the guy hold onto the job for a while, and see if he can keep it at one loss.
In the interest of making a selection, I will begrudgingly say coaching is the problem. It seems to me that the Ducks are incapable of finishing, and that comes from a lack of focus. I know that's a tough thing to hang on a coach, as he can't necessarily control his players' focus, but he should be able to appropriately motivate them. I have been a strong advocate that Bob Murray made multiple mistakes with his player acquisitions, and that this has affected Carlyle's ability to execute his system. I still believe this. However, at some point, you have to make do with what you've got, and Carlyle has proven to be as hesitant as his GM. He engages in constant line shuffling, a lack of confidence in his young players and an inability to let players work through their adversity, choosing instead to simply scratch or otherwise move a player around the lineup. His lack of confidence in other players has led to an overuse of both the top line and Scott Niedermayer.
The Ducks are disorganized, and that is a symptom of an organization in disarray, not the ineptitude of the players. Although, there is plenty of that as well.
I'm going to completely disagree and say goaltending is the problem and the only problem in the games where we blow a lead late. The team is making a better effort to closeout 3rd periods, probably their best effort of the season last game, and it still wasn't enough. If this were baseball, and a team was giving away games in the 9th, games where they had run support, why wouldn't you blame the bullpen? Why wouldn't this be a closing issue?
I'm willing to concede that Hiller does not look like the guy who frustrated the Sharks 7 months ago, But Jiggy hasn't looked this good in almost a year and a half. Can you honestly say, after his astronomical save percentage over his past 5 starts, that he's been what's wrong with our team?
Both guys have been great early, but too many of these 3rd period goals are suspect. Against Dallas, Jiggy got caught cheating off the pipe. That's not the kind of goal you give up in the 3rd period of a one-goal game. Granted, the game-winner came off a nearsighted play by Wisniewski, but Jiggy wasn't exactly working damage control afterward. And I would say the problem with Hiller is he looks EXACTLY like the goaltender that frustrated the Sharks 7 months ago. This is who Hiller is, moving too much, guessing too much. On a team of consistent top shelf snipers, it's impressive. Against the rest of the NHL, teams willing to just get the puck on net, Hiller can look silly. Last night, I think he had the loudest feet that have ever played at Xcel, and that includes high school tournaments. He was sliding laterally with his thighs akimbo, taking shots off the inside of his pads. He wasn't tracking the puck at all. He's lucky he didn't give up ten goals.
At the end of the day, our goaltenders aren't giving us their best stuff in the ninth inning. Yes, this is a leaky defense, and yes we're going to give up shots. But that's the job. Neither goaltender is applying for a position in a Lemaire system, here. If you have four goals and a two-goal lead in the third, you need to close. I need to see your best stuff. I need to see you using your positioning, shutting down the angles and moving with feet so quiet you could sneak up on a bat. If we blow a save, so to speak, it should be because a team put together a Herculean effort, an unstoppable play. It should be because they had to, because we had all the high percentage shots and angles covered. It shouldn't be a one-timer off the draw, a shot from the goal line or any of the other shenanigans that have worked on us at the end of these games.
You're right that the answer to this problem is to get rid of the "you win, you're in" system. As long as we have two quarterbacks, we really have none. We need to choose a goaltender, even if it's the wrong choice. We need to put our confidence in one guy and give him the lion's share of playing time. Until then, it's just a parade of performances where the netminder is so desperate to get the next start that he tightens his grip on the game, and it inevitably slips right out of his hands.
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