Ducks’ Ryan Kesler says, ‘This team’s too good not to be in the playoffs’
Perhaps trying to inspire his underachieving teammates, Ducks center Ryan Kesler made a bold prediction.
“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get in the playoffs. It’s only a matter of time,” he said Monday after the Ducks’ morning skate. “This team’s too good not to be in the playoffs.”
When have we heard this before?
Oh, yeah, last season. From the Kings, then the defending Stanley Cup champions, who thought they were too good to miss the playoffs. But they did.
Kesler gets points for trying, but it’s time for the Ducks to turn potential into consistent success.
They’ve been reduced to seizing shreds of hope from a victory over the downtrodden Calgary Flames and a fine 58-minute performance against the Chicago Blackhawks in a game that went 62 minutes.
Their 4-0 victory over the surprisingly meek Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center on Monday left them 4-4-3 since the four-game winning streak that was supposed to get them soaring after a 1-7-2 start.
“The good news is the Pacific Division in itself hasn’t done very well so it’s allowed us to not play very well and still be in the hunt,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You have a good week and you’re right back in the hunt, so that’s what we’re looking for.”
Ducks General Manager Bob Murray, believing the players needed time to mesh after his many roster changes last summer, has been patient with Boudreau and hasn’t made any trades.
Boudreau said he hasn’t gotten or asked for a vote of confidence and doesn’t need one, but he’s aware that Murray’s patience has a limit.
“I’ve got to believe if we don’t start winning on a regular basis. ... Bob, he’s got to do something,” Boudreau said.
Some of the changes last summer, such as letting Francois Beauchemin and Matt Beleskey go as free agents, were driven by salary-cap constraints. But there have been consequences — including defenseman Hampus Lindholm’s wobbling without Beauchemin to lean on — and Murray’s responses haven’t worked.
Defenseman Kevin Bieksa, acquired from the Canucks last summer, has been painfully ineffective. He’s signed through 2017-18 and has a no-trade clause this season and a no-movement clause with a $4-million salary the last two seasons, big obstacles to trading him.
Speedy winger Carl Hagelin has been disappointing but is only 27 and should rebound.
It’s no help that veterans Ryan Getzlaf (one goal in his first 21 games, key defensive mistakes) and Kesler (three goals in 24 games) haven’t stepped up. Kesler’s woes have hurt winger Jakob Silfverberg (two goals in 25 games).
“We had a bad start,” Kesler said. “We played deep into the year last year and to be honest maybe some guys weren’t ready to start the season. We’ve found our game and it’s coming. ... We’re going to have fun, we’re going to enjoy this challenge and we’re going to make the playoffs.”
But it’s time now to do more than talk.
Sedin twins still double trouble
Age hasn’t overtaken Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who turned 35 in September. In the nine games before the Canucks were shut out Monday, the twins combined for 30 points, with Daniel collecting seven goals and 16 points to Henrik’s five and 14. Daniel ranked fourth in NHL scoring with 27 points and Henrik 16th with 23.
“For us, age is a number,” Henrik said Monday morning. “It’s all in your head. If you think you’re old you’re going to play like you’re old. We prepare the same way we always have, and if you do that, you’re going to have success.”
That they’ve flourished since Jannik Hansen joined them on the right wing is good news for the Canucks. The bad news is that no one else is making big offensive contributions. As a result, Coach Willie Desjardins has given the twins more ice time than he considers ideal, but Henrik said they’re fine with that.
“We like to be those guys and we like to be there when you have a big power play, or late in the games,” Henrik said. “I think that’s why we’ve been successful for a lot of years.”
Each brother has two years left on his contract. With the Canucks rebuilding and infusing younger players into the lineup, the Sedins could end up among the many outstanding players who never won the Cup. Henrik is hopeful their window remains open.
“In today’s NHL you need your young guys to come in and be productive, and if they can, you have a chance,” he said. “I think we have a lot of those young guys that are in their first year and if they can take those necessary steps in the next couple of years, I think we have a chance.”
Edmonton Oilers rookie sensation Connor McDavid isn’t only a fast starter, he’s a fast healer. General Manager Peter Chiarelli told Canada’s Sportsnet that McDavid, who had 12 points in 13 games before suffering a broken collarbone Nov. 3, is progressing more quickly than anticipated after surgery and might return in mid-January.
Fan voting for four All-Star captains was to begin Tuesday at nhl.com/vote. The Jan. 31 event at Nashville will consist of a three-game three-on-three tournament instead of one meaningless game. The remaining 40 players will be chosen by the NHL’s Hockey Operations Dept….Congratulations to Dave Tippett of the Arizona Coyotes on becoming the 22nd coach in NHL history to record 500 wins. He has done a lot with very little and now has young talent to work with in forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. ... New York Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault said center Derek Stepan would be sidelined for at least four weeks because of two broken ribs.
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