Defense keying Ducks' resurgence

Defense keying Ducks' resurgence

Published Jan. 21, 2012 4:06 p.m. ET

Less than 24 hours after his three-year contract extension was announced, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin picked up exactly where he had left off in this productive January that just keeps getting better in Orange County.

Except this time, it wasn't the offense "Beauch" – as he is known to his teammates – provided. The versatile defenseman, who entered Saturday with two goals, seven points and a plus-nine effort in eight January games, blocked six shots in the first period en route to a game-high nine in Anaheim's 2-1 victory over the streaking Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon at Honda Center.

In a game they were outshot 32-29, the Ducks outblocked the Senators 22-10.

"He blocked so many shots, boy," Bruce Boudreau said about Beauchemin's defensive effort. "You just look at him, and sometimes guys have a tendency – they sign a new deal and just sort of are happy and they just take it easy. You can tell why Bob signed him: it's the character. That man, he comes in, signs a new deal and he goes out and he just lays his life on the line on so many of those occasions. Played big minutes and carried us. He was a complete rock out there."

Beauchemin's effort is part of a team-wide attention to defensive detail encouraged during one of Boudreau's pregame meetings around the turn of the New Year in which the coach was able to push through his defensive message, as articulated by Luca Sbisa.

"For me, it was Bruce brought up a stat before one game – it was something like all those 10 wins we had at the time came when we allowed two or fewer goals, and every other game we lost because we allowed more than two goals. It kind of showed us that we've got to play defense," Sbisa said. "On the other hand, he showed that when we allowed only two or fewer goals, we score a bunch of goals because when you play defense, offense is going to take care of itself. That was kind of the changing point in my mind, and a lot of guys' minds as well."

The earlier wide-open efforts that saw the team commit copious amounts of turnovers while looking fragile and defeated in their own building when allowing go-ahead goals is just so 2011.

"We just realized that defense wins games," Sbisa said. "We were kind of a run and gun type of a team, and we kind of realized that it didn't work after 20 losses or whatever. Jonas [Hiller], he's been playing really well, which gives the defense a lot of confidence. But if you look at a game like [today], guys like Beauch, he blocked about 10 shots himself. Guys are just paying the price right now and trying to help everyone out, and I think our forwards are doing a really good job backchecking so they don't have too much off the rush as well. It's just a team effort, I think.

The Senators arrived in Southern California early Friday morning bolstered by a 13-2-2 stretch and carrying the momentum of a 4-1 win in San Jose on Thursday night. Their high-scoring defensive unit, led by Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson, was able to find the back of the net, albeit the wrong one. Attempting to bat a puck out of mid air in his own goal crease, Karlsson got enough of the puck to deflect it off goaltender Craig Anderson and into the net for an own goal. Karlsson did record an assist on Chris Neil's third-period goal, but it was part of a minus-one effort, courtesy of Anaheim's defensive efforts.

During their 7-0-1 stretch, the Ducks have outscored the red hot Canucks and Senators 6-3.

"Quite frankly, I couldn't care less if we were picking on the Mickey Mouse Club," Boudreau said.

"Two points is two points, but it's nice that when you look at the schedule, and you're going 'Oh my goodness, oh my goodness', and then you win and you start to beat them, it makes your guys more believing that what you're preaching is true."

NOTES: Jonas Hiller, on the team's effort: "Everybody was sacrificing and guys were blocking shots. I don't know how many blocked shots Beauch had, but it was definitely a lot. That is the way you win. It's a lot of fun to play like that." … With points in eight consecutive games, the Ducks marked their longest point streak since a nine-game run from October 21 to November 5 in 2008. The club has outscored their opponents 33-14 during the streak and 17-5 over its four-game winning stretch. … In Hiller's last five appearances (4-0-1), he's stopped 128 of 134 shots for a .955 save percentage and 1.19 GAA. He shut out the Edmonton Oilers in a 5-0 win on January 13 at Rexall Place. … The Ducks waste little time in returning to action as they host the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday afternoon at 5:00 p.m., a game televised by Prime Ticket.