Several pieces went out the door through free agency and were not replaced because of salary-cap restrictions. This is not the run-and-gun team that led the NHL in scoring three seasons ago.
But the Ducks followed Carlyle’s blueprint Wednesday in a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues, grinding it out through defense, goaltending and special teams.
“It’s easy to understand,” Carlyle said. “We’re not going to win the 5-4 game. We haven’t been able to generate enough offense. We knew that five on five, if we could be stout defensively and improve our penalty killing, then we would give ourselves the best chance. That’s what we set out to do, and try to convince our players that it’s the 2-1 game, the 3-2 game, the 1-0 game that’s going to be the model which we’re going to have to adopt.”
The lack of offensive threat last season steered the Ducks to use defense as a base, and it has carried over. But it’s been a longer-term metamorphosis from the Bruce Boudreau-coached team that averaged 3.21 goals a game three years ago.
The Ducks have steadily declined to 2.78 goals a game in 2014-15 to 2.62 last season and 2.57 going into Friday’s home-stand finale against the Buffalo Sabres.
Although they’ve had five-goal outbursts three times in nine games, their recent 1-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks and the win against St. Louis are more their speed. Ryan Getzlaf saw the bigger picture in the Ducks’ winning four of their past five games.
“Whether you win or lose, it’s kind of irrelevant to us,” Getzlaf said. “We want to build something. We want to play well. If we lose the game, then everyone’s going to say the wheels are off. It’s not about the streaks, it’s more about the way we’re playing and the consistency we can play with.”
It helps to close the doors late. The Ducks are 26-2-1 when leading after two periods and have allowed an NHL-low 48 third-period goals. That confidence showed Wednesday.
“We’re doing a really good job to try to dump the puck deep and kill some time in their zone,” goalie Jonathan Bernier said. “Sometimes we just throw the puck to the net to get a faceoff. We’re doing all the right things right now.”
Jhonas Enroth has yet to make his Ducks debut and the team could turn to him if it wants to rest Bernier in the first of back-to-back games, unless injured John Gibson becomes available.
Enroth spent the first five seasons of his career with Buffalo. The Ducks traded for him in January and he's gone 10-2 with a 1.42 goals-against average with minor league San Diego.
The Ducks were off Thursday.
When: 7 p.m.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 830
Update: Buffalo center Jack Eichel, 20, recently became the third-youngest player in franchise history to reach 100 points, after then-19-year-olds Pierre Turgeon and Phil Housley. The Sabres had the NHL’s best power-play unit at 23.6% through Wednesday while their penalty-killing unit was 29th. Corey Perry scored two goals in a 5-2 win at Buffalo on Feb.9.