The Fourth Period has all the fun trade speculation I love. Phaneuf on the move? Kariya is most assuredly out of St. Louis. But I know how much you hate trade speculation.
Instead, let's focus on what has been an interesting trend for the Ducks this season. The OC Register has recently reported that Anaheim has been living and dying in the 3rd period this year. The team is tied for most victories when trailing after 2 periods: 6. They've also scored more goals in the 3rd than in either of the first two periods. Numbers like these might be used to point to resiliency, but they might also be indicative of slow starts. Arthur, winning a lot of comeback games is exciting, but also draining for a team. Are the Ducks going to be able to keep this up down the stretch, or do they need to find a way to put teams away early and keep them down?
Well, first I should note that I don't dislike trade speculation-- after all, I'm the one who introduced you to TFP --but I don't think there's a way for us to say anything meaningful when speculating on speculation, beyond debating the voracity of the rumor. I just think it's one of those things you talk about in hushed "what if" tones. But it's certainly a conversation starter, and it keeps me entertained twice a year.
I don't know if the Ducks can keep coming back in games, but I think it's important that they do. Last year's team couldn't win without a lead, and you can't be that kind of team in this league. You never know when the opposition will find a strong start or just blind luck, and you can't be the kind of team that needs to win games in the 1st period-- that just means you lose games in the 1st period.
That being said, any good team has to shut the door once it finds a lead, but 'holding' a lead and 'getting' a lead are not the same skillset. Every team wants to score first and stop the other team from scoring-- that's the point of any game where you keep score --but at the professional level, there are no guarantees. There's no way to be consistently better at scoring first; there is just the reaction your team has after it falls behind. Yes, this team digs its own grave from time to time, but at least they're digging their way out this year. And I don't know if they have the defensive skill to keep every game close going into the final frame.
There are phrases in boxing that denote matches worth watching despite uneven competition, phrases like "puncher's chance" and "live body." That's what this year's team is. Maybe they don't have the skill or focus to ever be ahead on points, but they come at you confidently and they make you keep your hands up until the final bell.
Personally, I think the Ducks have gotten too comfortable playing from behind. The team has surrendered every lead they've held over the past 6 games, and in only two of those games did they score the first goal. And after surrendering the lead in the games against San Jose and L.A., there was no coming back.
Maybe there isn't a way to get better at scoring first, not one that every NHL team isn't already exploring, but the Ducks have to learn to play with the lead and they can't give away goals early. As you said, the good teams in this league know how to shut that door. The mediocre ones at least know how to trap to squeeze out two points. Anaheim has to do that, and they can't spot the opposition a couple of goals and expect to always close the gap. The teams that are ahead of them in the standings are not going to allow comebacks with any sort of regularity.
Being able to come from behind is a great skill. I appreciate rooting for a team that doesn't roll over and die. But having to expend that much energy has to be draining, no matter how good your conditioning is. Between Wisniewski giving away scoring chances and Marchant and Artyukhin wasting them, opportunities are frequently falling to the wayside. It begs the question: How many comebacks can the Ducks actually make? We're winning games, and that's a wonderful thing. But, if the Ducks don't start carrying the play, rather than reacting to the play of others, their playoff drive will fall short.