They didn’t make a big deal about clinching a playoff berth, and players claimed they hadn’t known that the two points secured the team’s third straight postseason appearance. Taking it as merely the first step in what they hope will be a long journey might have been the right approach for a team that has made a habit of following fine regular seasons with subpar playoff performances.
“I didn’t mention anything to the players at all,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I just want to keep going and progressing, and if we do that, then all the other stuff just falls into place. It always seems panicky if you say, ‘You win this game, you win the division. You win this game, you’re in a playoff spot.’ I’m glad it’s happened though.”
Forward Kyle Palmieri agreed, saying the Ducks were already looking forward to Sunday’s game at New Jersey in order to continue refining their game.
“We’re just happy to kind of get the ball rolling,” Palmieri said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle to get going on this road trip, but two wins in a row and we’ve got a back to back tomorrow. Get some momentum and hopefully carry it over.”
To goaltender Frederik Andersen, there was no real reason to celebrate. “We know we’re going to be in it. What we focus on is playing the right way coming into it, and I think we came out flying today,” he said Saturday. “We talked about how much they come out in the first and we’ve had pretty good stats in the first, and we came out, I think, stronger and took it to them instead. Even the second period, we kept going and got some opportunistic goals.”
Pulling a switch, again
Although Boudreau said last week he planned to set his lineup for the rest of the way and would play the six defensemen and 12 forwards he will use in the playoffs, he can’t resist switching things around.
On Saturday, he scratched defenseman Hampus Lindholm and put James Wisniewski back in after a one-game break. Boudreau was hoping for a repeat of Cam Fowler’s strong rebound after being scratched at Columbus, and he got it.
“Sometimes I really believe it’s a good time to watch a game, to get hungry to get back in,” Boudreau said. “Every time we’ve done that, the guy that’s come back in… I thought Wiz was very good today. It’s had the positive effect that we think it’s supposed to have.”
Winger Tomas Fleischmann, one of the Ducks’ late-season acquisitions, was scratched Saturday for the second straight game. Winger Emerson Etem sat for the third straight game.
Trip down memory lane
Palmieri, who was born in Smithtown, Long Island, but raised in New Jersey, lamented the Islanders’ departure.
“It’s sad,” he said. “I was too young to ever go to a game here, but my dad grew up on Long Island, and he grew up going to the Islanders games. It’s a rink that has a lot of history, but I’m sure they’ll try their best to make some history at the new one.”
Boudreau recalled being a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs and sitting upstairs to chart statistics when they upset the Islanders in the 1978 playoffs. In his joy, he leaped over a wall to reach the locker room quickly, thinking the drop was four or five feet. It was more like 15 or 20 feet.
Though he conceded the arena needs updating, he said he enjoyed visiting over the years. “It’s a great old building. It’s loud. You can hear it,” he said. “It’s going to be sad when it’s gone, when they’re not playing here.”