Ryan Getzlaf deserves points for honesty, though not for much else he did Wednesday.
With a chance to lead the Ducks to the victory they needed to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, their captain instead set a jittery example, communicating his nervousness to a team that needed composure and reassurance in the madness of the United Center. Their 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks meant that instead of flying back to California with the Clarence Campbell bowl and a date in the Cup Final, the Ducks returned to prepare for Game 7 on Saturday at Honda Center, site of their Game 7 losses to Detroit in the first round in 2013 and to the Kings in the second round last season.
"Tonight I thought the tension was there a little bit. It started with me. I was terrible tonight. That's on me," Getzlaf said. "I've got to be better and calm our group down as we go."
Getzlaf wasn't the only player to turn in a tentative performance, but as the Ducks' captain he should be their steadiest and most steadfast player. He was neither Wednesday. Now, he and the Ducks have two days to think about those last two Game 7 playoff losses, each coming after the Ducks had taken a 3-2 series lead, as they had before Wednesday.
The way to write a happier ending to this series, he said, is simple: not get outworked, not sit back, not be set back on their heels by the Blackhawks as they were in Game 6.
"We get ready to play," Getzlaf said. "We've just got to continue our preparation, the same way we have the whole playoffs this year. Any time we've had a break we've used it wisely. A couple days now we get a good practice in and get ready for the next one."
That next one will define Getzlaf as a leader and the Ducks as a team.
He's better than the player who compiled a minus-three defensive rating Wednesday, a number capped by his inability to stop Andrew Shaw from taking a pass from Andrew Desjardins and slipping a shot past Frederik Andersen at 16 minutes 28 seconds of the third period, a goal that quashed the Ducks' comeback efforts after they'd fallen behind, 3-0. In addition, Getzlaf won only four of 15 faceoffs and was blanked on the score sheet. His linemates, Patrick Maroon and Corey Perry, also were minus-three.
"All the changing and stuff going on at the start of the game, I got a little carried away trying to make plays every time I was on the ice instead of just making the right play," Getzlaf said. "It carried over to our group somewhat."
Asked whether he needed to be better on the ice or in the locker room, Getzlaf raised his voice, but only a bit.
"I've got to be better on the ice. It doesn't matter what I say if I go out there and play like that," he said. "That's on me, to be ready to play and make better plays with the puck."
Predictably, his teammates said Getzlaf was taking on too much of the burden they must all share.
"He plays so emotional and he's obviously one of our best players and he's our leader. He's going to try and take the blame for that but it was everybody in the room, myself included," winger Kyle Palmieri said. "I think we know we need to be better and we're going to take a look at ourselves and go into Saturday night with the confidence that we can finish this off."
To have any chance of doing that, they'll need Getzlaf to be forceful and effective Saturday. Another Game 7 loss would brand the Ducks as a good regular-season team that can't win big games.
"I think if you want to prove people wrong you've just to go out and do it," Palmieri said. "Yeah, we blew 3-2 series leads the last two years but no one's going to remember that if you go out there Saturday night and beat these guys and go play in the Stanley Cup finals."
Ryan Kesler, acquired by the Ducks last summer to combine with Getzlaf and provide an imposing 1-2 punch up the middle, expects the team to rebound Saturday.
"Resilient group in here. It's the reason why I came to this team; I think they can win," he said. "I believe in this team and we're going to give it everything for this Game 7."
That includes Getzlaf and every other player in uniform.
"If we're going to play Game 7 it's nice to have it in our building," Getzlaf said. "We've got to regroup."
And he has to lead them in that.