The Ducks find themselves at a crossroads with 12 games remaining in the regular season.
Their hot streak, with points earned in eight of nine games? Extinguished in a matter of days.
They suffered defeats on consecutive nights on the road against the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars. Then they turned in a lethargic performance Monday at home against the St. Louis Blues.
What once seemed to be a formality now looms as one giant question mark: Will the Ducks qualify for the playoffs?
The Kings and San Jose Sharks each won Monday to boot the Ducks out of their standing as the No. 3 seed in the Pacific Division. When the Ducks play Vancouver on Wednesday at Honda Center, they’ll start the game on the outside of the playoff picture.
The Ducks and Colorado Avalanche have 80 points, but the Avalanche are in the second wild-card spot because they have played two fewer games.
Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks’ longtime captain, explained that every time the team has battled back over the last three losses, it has killed its momentum with a mental mistake that led to a goal.
“We gotta find a way to just play consistent throughout a game and do what [the Blues] did,” said Getzlaf, who has 13 points over a six-game scoring streak.
“You watch their game plan all night long, it didn’t change. They chipped the puck, they skated onto it and then they forechecked and they worked. We do it at times and we do it through periods and it seems to work but then it kind of goes to the side and we have to find a way to do that consistently.”
Certainly, that’s the brand of hockey coach Randy Carlyle wants the team to play. The Ducks aren’t built to outskate opponents.
It’s a veteran roster that excels at a grinding game, and when the Ducks’ forecheck is firing on all cylinders, they’re a tough team with which to deal.
They proved that with a 4-0 victory over the Washington Capitals last week, the last time they won a game, when their swarming attack stymied the offensive powerhouse from the East.
“Everything we’re doing right now is all mental mistakes, it’s not anything to do with physical fatigue,” Getzlaf said. “We’re working and we’re doing the things; we’re skating.
“But it’s the mental errors that are not allowing us to continue with success. [It’s frustrating] to say the least. It’s not a frustration with our effort, it’s a frustration with the fact we’re having trouble understanding what it takes to do shift in, shift out every period at this time of year.”
When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Update: A game with the Canucks should present an opportunity for the Ducks to get back on track. With only 25 victories this season, the Canucks are one of the worst clubs in the NHL, and they arrive at Honda Center having lost four games in a row. They’re also without their best player, Brock Boeser. The Calder Trophy candidate suffered a back injury last week and is unlikely to return this season. He recorded 55 points in 62 games during his rookie campaign.