It’s been a trying couple of weeks for us Ducks fans. As the road trip comes to an end tomorrow in Detroit, the Ducks have gone 1-4-3 in their last eight. Ouch.
We all know that the Ducks aren’t scoring enough goals. Their 2.0 goals per game average puts them above only the Islanders at this early stage of the season. I’m not going to pretend to have the answer. It’s too daunting a task to rehash why they’re not scoring enough. It seems like there are as many reasons for the offensive drought as there are players on the roster.
The most frustrating part of this dismal stretch for me, as a fan, isn’t just the lack of scoring, but that combined with the slow starts. In each of their four regulation losses over this stretch the Ducks have given up a goal in the first five minutes of the game, twice in the first 15 seconds; the Ducks have not been able to win a game this season when giving up the first goal; and they’ve only taken a lead after trailing once all season.
Starting out in a hole like that has been crippling, especially to a team that is struggling to find the back of the net. If they could score earlier, the low volume of goals wouldn’t be as much of an issue. If they’d score more, the slow starts wouldn’t cause as much of a headache. The Ducks are compounding their problems by starting out flat.
A lot of the blame for that is going to be placed on the coaching and leadership, but to me, being ready to start the game is an individual problem at its core. Teemu Selanne said it best in his shouldering rage after the Washington game:
"I think it’s time for everybody to look in the mirror, be honest if you can be better and what you can bring for the team" he said, "This is not enough. We all can play better. You have to push yourself. We have to push each other. It’s not time to be a nice guy anymore. Sometimes it hurts, but you have to do it."
He’s leading by example. He’s clearly been the best Duck on the ice during this road trip, but for some reason a 41-year-old legend putting a team of twenty-somethings on his back isn’t enough to inspire this group to wake up on time.
Part of the problem of trying to come back in those games also has been their opposition. Three of the teams that took advantage of the Ducks’ slow starts – Dallas, Nashville and Phoenix – are teams that play stifling defensive systems. All they need is one or two goals to lock it down and start playing their game and by the first commercial break the Ducks had played right into their respective hands.
That’s why, as strange as it may sound and as shocking as it was, the loss to Washington was a ray of hope. It’s a pretty bad sign when blowing a three goal lead is refreshing, but at least it wasn’t the same thing going wrong. At least they had a shot. The games against the Stars and Preds were over by the end of the first period.
Sure, the Capitals game was heart breaking and they should have won, but at least there was some sort of entertainment value to it. Watching the Ducks dump and chase and pass around the perimeter before turning over the puck or having a shot blocked for 20 or 40 minutes, while we wait for the game to come to its inevitable conclusion was too mind numbingly boring for me not to be encouraged by what happened on Tuesday night.
That feeling of futility must have been what it felt like to be one of the people who knew better during the dead puck era, while I was just learning the game. Luckily for us, I don’t think this will last a decade or take a lost season to correct. It should just be a matter of setting the alarm clock to the right time (and not hitting snooze).