-- We learned the Ducks are not trying to sugarcoat the fact that they’re not playing well. Their slump has mushroomed to seven losses in their last 10 games, a stretch that includes some moments of utter defensive confusion. One of those occurred Wednesday, during the Tampa Bay Lightning's four-goal second period.
“We’re trying to figure it out. We’re not making excuses for ourselves. We know what’s going on,” said right wing Corey Perry, who had no shots in Wednesday’s loss to the Lightning and was -2 defensively.
“We know we have to be better. We’re trying to figure that out in here. Everybody’s got to do the little things, and the bigger things are going to happen.”
-- But they don’t know why this is happening.
Are they having an emotional letdown after building a big lead atop the Pacific division? Is it because they’re physically depleted, with recent injuries to left wing Matt Beleskey and defenseman Sami Vatanen taking away one of their top scorers and one of their most mobile defensemen? Is it mental?
“I wish I had an answer,” Perry said. “I don’t know.”
Whatever the cause, Coach Bruce Boudreau said this is the time to clean things up, not for self-pity.
“It’s up to us. We can’t hang our heads,” he said. “Every other team wants to win, too. We’ve got to pull ourselves out of this and when we do, we’ll be a better team for it. But we’d certainly like to see it sooner than later.”
“We’re going through a difficult time,” Boudreau said, “and I know the guys in there don’t feel very good about the way their game is and they’ll pull themselves out of it.
-- The Ducks still have a nine-point lead in the Pacific division, and they’ll probably hang on to first place. But the trade deadline is coming soon — March 2 — and General Manager Bob Murray might have to find an experienced defenseman who can be a calming and stabilizing influence in the Ducks' defensive zone. A rental player makes little sense if the asking price is the cream of the young talent the Ducks have stockpiled.
Every team goes through a slump over the course of an 82-game season — just ask the Kings, who have snapped out of their doldrums and have won six straight games. The key is to have solid fundamentals that players can fall back on, and to have leaders who can step up and set an example that others will follow. The Ducks can’t have another good regular season followed by an early playoff exit if they want to maintain their credibility and their fan base.