Search Party Needed for Third Line
What was once the Mighty Ducks’ most dangerous line has been the meekest in the Stanley Cup finals.
The Ducks’ third line of Stanislav Chistov, Samuel Pahlsson and Steve Thomas devastated opponents in the first three rounds but has no goals against the New Jersey Devils. Thomas has been on the ice for three even-strength Devil goals. Chistov and Pahlsson have been on the ice for two.
The Devils’ third line of Grant Marshall, Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez has scored three goals in the first two games.
“Well, that’s the matchup,” Duck Coach Mike Babcock said. “That is the question right there. Gomez, Elias and Marshall have scored what basically was the clinching goal in both games against that unit. That’s a situation that didn’t work very good for us.”
The Chistov-Pahlsson-Thomas unit scored seven goals in the first three series.
“It’s frustrating,” Chistov said. “We have to get back to skating and passing like we were.”
The trio was broken up some Thursday in a 3-0 loss. Jason Krog, the Ducks’ fourth-line center, was used with Chistov and Thomas at times. Thomas was also moved to other lines.
Said Babcock: “These guys helped us get here. We’re not giving up on them.”
Babcock was at a loss why his team has yet to assert itself.
“I would have solved that problem already and we wouldn’t be talking about it,” Babcock said. " ... We have been resilient. But as soon as they’ve scored it has been like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ You can’t be like that. It’s a 60-minute plan.”
The Ducks, down, 2-0, in the series, have not lost three consecutive games since losing five in a row Dec. 26-Jan. 3 this season.
The Ducks have allowed only nine goals in winning six of seven games at the Arrowhead Pond this postseason. Their only home loss was to Dallas, 2-1, in Game 3 of their second-round series.
“Definitely at home you can do some things with line matchups and the last change, especially in the offensive zone,” team captain Paul Kariya said. “Hopefully, we can get some better opportunities and mix things up.”
The Ducks have known the sting of Devil goaltender Martin Brodeur over the years. His first shutout came against the Ducks on Oct. 20, 1993. Still, Brodeur had only two career shutouts against Anaheim before these finals, which he has now doubled.
“He’s what everyone expects from him,” Kariya said. “He moves the puck well and makes big saves.”
A year ago, Kurt Sauer, the Ducks’ 22-year old defenseman, had a different view of the Stanley Cup finals.
“I was sitting on the couch in my parents’ house,” said Sauer, whose family lives in Sartell, Minn. “This has been unreal. There is way more hype and hoopla than I have ever experienced. It’s crazy.”