By another team’s standards, this might not be a slump. But this is Anaheim and not Edmonton, so five losses in six games is, in fact, a slump.
There are a lot of adjectives that could be used to describe the Ducks’ performance in Wednesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning: Stale, flat, disjointed. It’s been a trend as of late, and a concerning one for the team the had the most points in the NHL as few as two weeks ago.
"I don’t think anybody is very happy or very used to what’s going," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But it’s up to us, we can’t hang our heads. Every friggin’ other team wants to win, too, so we’ve got to pull ourselves out of this. And when we do, we’ll be a better team for it. But certainly everyone wants to see it happen sooner rather than later."
Yes, the Ducks are banged up right now. They’re without No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen, defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen and scorer Matt Beleskey. But the Ducks are one of the deepest clubs you’ll find, and they aren’t rushing to make excuses for anything other than the poor play of those who are on the ice.
It wasn’t a track meet, and it wasn’t a shootout. It wasn’t a battle on the boards or on the forecheck. Really, it wasn’t characteristic Anaheim hockey, which typically features aspects from all of those elements. Not only have the Ducks let the games on the schedule get away from them, they’ve let their own game get away from them.
"We know what’s going on and what know what we have to do to get better," Ducks winger Corey Perry said. "We’re trying to figure that out as a group in here. Everybody has got to do the little things and the bigger things are going to happen."
But the Ducks aren’t even doing the big things right now. Francois Beauchemin and Josh Manson were the only two Anaheim defensemen with hits, and they must not have been big enough for their coach to notice.
"We couldn’t catch them in our zone," Boudreau said. "I don’t think any of our defensemen had a hit in our zone all night long, statistically, so that means you’re not catching them, you’re just chasing them all over the ice. And when that happens, they’re going to get free looks and they got free looks."
Tampa Bay had quite a few free looks in the second period. Yet again, the Ducks collapsed in the second; a problematic theme that has plagued the team all season. Their goal differential in the second period is only at seven, but it to them it might as well feel like 70. The Lightning turned on the jets and scored four goals in the second and the Ducks sat back on their heels.
Opportunities haven’t been capitalized on by the Ducks. Both Patrick Maroon and Rene Bourque had breakaways in the first period, but Maroon shot his so far wide it nearly went into the seats across the street at the Big A and Bourque stuck his in the netting.
"I was going back and forth and just trying to get a shot off," Maroon said. "I was trying to go low blocker, obviously it went high over the net. I just missed my shot."
Maroon scored the lone goal for the Ducks and attempted to bring much-needed energy on new-look second line with Rickard Rakell and Kyle Palmieri, but the line still ended the game in the minus column.
In the midst of the dog days of the season, the Ducks are in their worst stretch of 2014-15. With 77 points, no one in the Pacific Division is even close to catching up, which may be why the team is finding it difficult to do the little things and play the game of which they know they are capable. A shakeup in some form is needed, and they may get one as the trade deadline looms.
But whatever the case may be, the Ducks need to figure out how to get back to playing their own brand of hockey.
"There are always concerns, but for us, we know we’re a good hockey team," Maroon said. "When we play at our best level, no one can beat us in this league. We play very strong hockey. We’re big and physical, but we’re getting away from that right now. We just need to focus on one game at a time."