About those defensive improvements. . . .
The Ducks turned in a road stinker Thursday, illustrating defense is a dedicated effort never to be taken for granted.
Especially on the road. Especially against a team that has its number.
Backup goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was the victim, beaten for six goals on 25 shots. It was so bad that Bryzgalov, in a postgame discussion with reporters, lost track of the variety of ways pucks were sent scooting under, soaring over and deflected past him.
“What can you do? Just go out there and practice and wait until they give me next chance,” Bryzgalov said. “I know I can do the job. Just a matter of when I get the next chance.”
That chance will come, right?
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said he did not foresee any move to retreat from the pro-rated $2-million-plus free-agent investment in Bryzgalov during the season.
The Ducks need Bryzgalov to be steadier than that. He’s now 1-3 as a starter, with two six-goals-allowed showings and last season’s playoff starter John Gibson in minor-league Norfolk.
Anaheim’s schedule goes from January light to February heavy, with 16 games in 29 days beginning Tuesday, including three sets of back-to-backs.
“We played ‘Bryz’ against a tough team instead of just guiding him through … obviously, it didn’t work,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got so many games … ‘Bryz’ is going to get an opportunity again.”
The sloppiness included penalties
The Ducks committed six, giving up a first-period power-play goal and expending so much energy killing the others that the two-on-one rushes that followed were nasty residue.
After entering the game with a six-game winning streak that included 19 of 21 successful penalty kills, two shutouts and just six goals allowed in five games, “the wheels fell off,” forward Andrew Cogliano said.
“They create a lot of momentum, and when you don’t clear pucks out, they make you pay.”
This is not a team the Ducks want to see in the spring
Boudreau was leery heading in about how San Jose plays at its best against the Ducks, calling the Sharks an “elite” team.
Now that they’ve closed the season series with wins in four of five games, the die is cast that despite San Jose’s dubious playoff history, they will have confidence should the postseason matchup be with Anaheim.
“I think the playoffs will be a different story if it comes to that, but you can’t take credit from them,” Cogliano said. “They played their system to a ‘T,’ and we didn’t have strong games against them.”
Forward Patrick Maroon scored a goal for the fourth time in five games, Matt Beleskey is one goal from No. 20 after an early third-period goal and forward Devante Smith-Pelly returned to the lineup after being scratched twice to deliver six hits.