There’s a new leader behind the bench, but the same anemic offense remains.
For the sixth time this season, the Ducks were shut out, and perhaps it’s the start of another losing streak. They fell to the Boston Bruins 3-0 on Friday at the Honda Center in the second game under the watchful eye of interim coach Bob Murray, who also serves as the Ducks’ general manager.
It’s the first loss of Murray’s coaching career, but that’s irrelevant. This season appears lost anyway, with the Ducks one point ahead of the last-place Kings in the Western Conference. The Ducks, essentially, are battling for a chance at the No. 1 draft pick and the right to select offensive phenom Jack Hughes more than anything.
So in that respect, they’re headed in the right direction with their eighth defeat in their last nine outings.
Hughes, the 17-year-old native of Orlando, Fla., is the kind of electrifying player the Ducks’ last-ranked offense sorely lacks. And now they’re one step closer to the opportunity to select the generational talent.
“They buried their chances and we didn’t bury ours,” Murray said of the loss to the Bruins, though it’s a statement that could be uttered after most of their performances.
“I thought the team played very well ... they stuck with the system so they didn’t give up a lot [of chances]. … We have to create something around their net,” he added.
That’s been the issue that’s plagued the Ducks all campaign. They lack top-notch finishers and don’t take many chances in their old-school offensive system. Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak swatted away all 30 Ducks’ shots. His counterpart, Kevin Boyle, made the second start of his career and Murray thought he was “solid again” with 26 saves on 28 shots (the Bruins’ third goal was into an empty net with 1:31 remaining).
With veteran backup Ryan Miller’s contract set to expire at season’s end and the Ducks in transition, Boyle is giving himself a chance to battle for the No. 2 job next season.
“The biggest surprise? How fast the game is,” Murray said jokingly. “That’s all I know so far.”
The game has appeared to be too fast for this aging Ducks’ team through 57 games. Murray applauded his group for their stout defensive play, but he remains befuddled by the team’s inability to score.
Still, he’s confident the team isn’t looking ahead to the summer.
“I thought they pushed tonight,” Murray said. “I told them, don’t break. … When a good team starts to defend well you gotta get inside on them. You gotta create something. We have to find some way to do that.”
Max Jones is one Ducks player eager to play. Suiting up in just his sixth NHL contest, the 2016 first-round pick is looking to prove he belongs. He tied for a game-high five shots on goal and was a physical presence on the fourth line.