ANAHEIM, Calif. — Now, this is the time we’ll see what the Ducks are made of.
Once the favorites to win the Stanley Cup when they held the best record in the league throughout much of the season, the top-seeded Western Conference team is on the ropes in the conference semifinals following a second-straight loss to the Kings. But the day after a 3-1 loss, the mood was not yet dire.
Is Anaheim out of it? Despite an 0-2 hole, the Ducks can bounce back. But Game 3, regarded as the toughest to win in a seven-game series, becomes critical.
"I know from playing Dallas and we were up 2-0 and we lose that third game and it puts a lot of doubt in your mind," said Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy. "We need to do that against L.A in two nights. As soon as we win one, they remember that we’re a good team. We remember that we’re a good team and puts doubt in their mind.
"But it all starts with us."
Where exactly do they start? With Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Kings on a roll, in control of Freeway Faceoff after Game 2 win
The recipient of the Jennings Trophy and the anchor to one of the top defensive clubs the league has seen in recent years, Quick played brilliantly in Monday night’s game, allowing only a Patrick Maroon power-play goal despite facing 37 shots. He didn’t give them any second chances, which are key to one of the top offenses in the league.
"You look at a lot of the goals we scored this year, they’re not pretty goals — they’re going to the net and banging in rebounds," said right winger Corey Perry. "That’s how we’re effective, we create our cycle game and go to the net and use that to our advantage."
As Perry said, the Ducks’ offense creates chances through its cycle game. Quick didn’t necessarily take that away from Anaheim in the first two games, the Ducks were too content to take home-run swings from the outside instead of skating into traffic and battling with the Kings big defensemen, most notably Drew Doughty.
"Quick is a world-class goalie," Perry said. "Those types of goalies, they see a puck and they’re going to stop it. You’ve got to have those second opportunities, you’ve got to be able to go to the net and you’ve got to be willing to do that."
By Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau’s estimation, the Kings had only 12 strong scoring opportunities. The Ducks, meanwhile, had a only few more. And while adjustments to the Ducks’ offensive game need to be made, with such evenly matched games it’s the intangibles that the team feels will ultimately pull them through.
"In the playoffs, you’ve got to be a better than the guy across from you. If he’s playing great, you’ve got to be better than that," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "That’s how you find a way to win."
"Just trying to get under peoples’ skin," he said. "I don’t know if it’s something. You just try to get people off their game. I don’t know, something where his glove was sitting there while I was drinking water."
Boudreau isn’t about to pretend that things are working out perfectly. The Ducks’ coaching staff will meet early Wednesday morning to discuss personnel changes. Roster moves sounded somewhat imminent Tuesday morning, although it’s difficult to tell as he vehemently defended his decision to scratch Kyle Palmieri and Daniel Winnik in favor of rookies Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem following Monday night’s loss.
"He got six goals. He went 55 games without a goal," Boudreau said. "I love Dan Winnik but those are not good reasons."