Have you ever watched a game and found yourself yelling, "It's right there!"?
The puck, sitting so lonely in the crease, just behind the goaltender's butt, and if that winger could just get his stick to it...
Ah, but the defenseman quickly clears it away, or the goalie falls back onto the puck, and the whistle blows.
That’s what Tuesday night’s matchup against the crosstown rival Los Angeles Kings felt like.
The puck was always just out of reach, inches from sticks, feet, or the back of the net.
In the final moments of the game with Jonas Hiller on the bench and the Ducks on the power play, the puck fluttered through the crease, clanked off of the crossbar, and rimmed the boards...often.
Unfortunately, it never crossed the goal line.
As frustrating as it was to see the puck bounce around, there was also the urge to yell things like "Move your feet!" or "Get it out of there!" as the Ducks spent a good amount of time standing around waiting for the puck to find them.
All too often this season the Ducks have done a great job at standing around and waiting for the puck to find their sticks. When they do finally remember to move their feet, make big hits, or fight for the puck, they're rewarded. Unfortunately, they usually wait until the third period to remember how to do that.
The most disappointing thing about the 4-3 loss was the inconsistency shown by Anaheim. The game started sluggishly, and a plethora of trips to the penalty box for "Mr. Incredible" Evgeny Artyukhin didn't help. While it was great to see the Ducks' efforts in the final moments of the game, it turned out to be too little too late, as the Kings' winning goal came with only two minutes left in the third period.
But the biggest question everyone is asking is "Why was Jonas Hiller in the net last night?" I'll admit, before this season started, I thought it was Hiller's time. JS Giguere had a difficult season last year (for many reasons), and Hiller's postseason performance was incredible. However, recently the Ducks have seen a great improvement from Giguere, and with his recent string of wins, many would have expected to see him in net against the Kings on Tuesday night.
While I can't say that Hiller was the reason the Ducks lost on Tuesday night, it brings me to this discussion.
The Ducks had been showing a vast improvement in previous games. Taking down red-hot Calgary and a win-streaking Chicago, many, myself included, felt it was a sign of better things to come for the Ducks.
I, for one, give a lot of that credit to Giguere. I feel that the confidence and stability he's showing is radiating from the net out. He looked strong in his previous wins, and his remarkably improved play was allowing the members of his defensive corps to play with their heads up. The team was showing unity and reliance in one another for the first time this season.
Having faith in the man between the pipes allows for players to take bigger chances and potentially gain bigger rewards because of it. Players begin taking those chances because they know the last line of defense is available to make big saves if need be. This Ducks team has that confidence in Giguere right now. I personally don't feel the Ducks have that same level of confidence in Hiller at this time.
Is it simple enough to say that a confident goaltender brings out the best in his team?
The Ducks are now embarking on a difficult December schedule. They will see four sets of back-to-back games this month, the first of which begins Thursday night in Dallas, followed by a trip to Minnesota on Friday. It's likely Giguere will start one game and Hiller the other.
Also, the Ducks have traded their fourth round pick in the 2011 draft for Kyle Chipchura (oh the nicknames are already flying through my head on this one). This is just one minor addition for the Ducks this season, but you never know what could spark a fire.
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