Since Ryan Getzlaf took a puck to the head on December 28th against Phoenix, Anaheim has played 7 3/4 periods without their captain. The team has managed three wins in that time. Some of it related to improved play. Some of it related to Jonas Hiller.
Getzlaf hasn't always made his presence known or relevant on the ice this season, but the three game winning streak in his absence is a far cry from a Ducks team that rang in 2010 with a three game losing skid while Getzlaf was shelved with a leg laceration. Daniel, are you surprised that this squad, which has struggled when completely healthy, has found success without Getzlaf, and do you think they can hold on without the captain?
I'm not that surprised. We've known for a while that Hiller can be a phenomenal goaltender. He's tied for the league lead in games played. He leads the league in shots against, by over 100. His 2.54 GAA is 13th among goalies that have played in more than 20 games, and his .925 save percentage has him tied for 6th. Hiller CAN win games, almost entirely by himself. If he played for a slightly better team, or in the Eastern Conference, he'd be considered a guy who could get into Vezina talks with the help of a great second half.
Furthermore, the Ducks' team defense has been steadily improving. Lilja is starting to solidify his role as Fowler's partner. Sbisa has been more physical and making better plays clearing and skating out the puck. Visnovsky and Lydman have gelled in order to form a very serviceable top pairing. Forwards are backchecking. Ok, maybe not Selanne so much, but overall, the forward corps is applying more pressure.
With circumstances like that, a little bit of timely scoring is the only thing needed to get a couple of victories. If Hiller and the D can hold up, then the Ducks can keep on getting some wins. However, if Getzlaf has a prolonged absence, the offense will inevitably suffer. That will eventually lead to the Ducks being on the wrong end of some 3-2 and 2-1 scores, which will mean another early set of tee times. I think the Ducks can hold out for the next 2 weeks without Getzlaf. That's six games. Any longer and it will be a serious threat to playoff hopes.
Well, I think you have to be a little surprised. You're talking about losing a guy who was fifth on the team in time on ice per game, who had a 25-plus minute night and two goals against Carolina, who had an overtime winner against Washington.
It's easy to say that the largest hole he leaves is on the power play or that he was AWOL for enough games this season that this team has made allowances for the "absence" of Ryan Getzlaf before, especially in terms of a Corsi barrage on net. But at the end of the day, you're losing a player who has been a big and effective body down the middle for about 20 minutes per game, who delivered on a tough road trip, and who leads the team in hits (the only triple digit checker on the team and about 24 ahead of second place Sbisa) for whatever that loosely tracked statistic is worth.
On any given night, any given player can be a hero, but things start to average out over the season and favor the star performers. And I think, eventually, maybe even on the six-plus game time table you pointed to, this team will run into a game they could have won with the help of Ryan Getzlaf. Maybe it will be the particulars of the matchups, the performance(s) of his replacement(s), the redistribution of ice time, or just someone NOT doing what Getzlaf would have done when the game was on the line, but it's going to happen if he misses enough time.
Will there be a game where he might have been a credible goat as well? Maybe. But as unhappy as fans have been with Getzlaf this season, I doubt any of them really believe his absence is addition by subtraction.