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Hockey

Column: NHL Observations: Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf makes goals a priority just before 1,000th game

Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf moves the puck around a sliding Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom for the overtime game-winning goal.
Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf moves the puck around a sliding Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom for the overtime game-winning goal.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has always tuned out suggestions he should ignore his pass-first instincts and unleash his lethal shot more often.

“I’ve heard that since I was 4 years old,” said Getzlaf, who ranks 31st in NHL history with an average of .666 assists per game. “It’s just who I am as a person. I take a lot of pride in the playmaking aspect of the game.”

But the Ducks have changed, transformed by an infusion of youth and the up-tempo style installed by new coach Dallas Eakins. The departure of Corey Perry, once a premier scorer and the beneficiary of many Getzlaf setups, emphasized the team’s need for goals from everyone — including Getzlaf.

At 34 and poised to play his 1,000th NHL game Sunday, he has made a smooth adjustment to the new demands placed on him. His overtime winner against Vancouver on Friday gave him seven goals in 15 games, half of his goal total in 67 games last season. At a stage when many players fade, Getzlaf has embraced a new challenge.

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“It was almost a blessing in disguise in the fact that it’s a new goal for me, a new outlook, to come in and try and really buy into what everybody’s doing and understand where I have to change as well,” he said.

“I knew this was going to be a year where I had to do some things differently. And I think given the situations I’ve been in, I’ve tried to simplify my game a little bit because of personnel, getting to know different guys, playing with different guys. I know that I haven’t played with a scorer like Corey at all this year. Those are decisions that have to be made when it comes to fitting into the organization where I need to be and what I need to do.”

Getzlaf’s first full season was 2006-07, when he centered Perry and Dustin Penner on the dynamic Kid Line on the Ducks’ stacked Stanley Cup championship team. He was 22, and he thought that would be the first of many titles. That hasn’t happened, though they’ve since reached the Western Conference final twice.

“I don’t think it was easy to do, but the way our organization was headed, the players we had around us, I expected and definitely wanted to have another one by now,” said Getzlaf, who earned Olympic gold medals with Team Canada in 2010 and 2014. “That’s life. That’s hockey. There’s 30 other teams that all have the same belief. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot as an organization over the time I’ve been here, and I’ve been honored to be part of all of that.”

Before embarking on a career in mixed martial arts, Henry Briones played hockey. He’ll use that experience during his Kings broadcast debut Saturday.

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The time from his 2005 debut to his 1,000th game has flown, he said, and he’s happy to have made the journey with one team. Southern California is home for the Saskatchewan native; it’s where he and his wife Paige, an Orange County native, are raising their four kids. “I’ve always taken a lot of pride in the fact that I’ve been able to commit to an organization this long and they’ve been able to commit to me. It’s fairly rare in this game,” he said.

He’s also hopeful of winning the Cup again. The Ducks are struggling to score and lack depth on defense, but they’ve got many good assets. “I’m pretty impressed with the way our group has been able to spin things and jump on board with what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “Our young players are good hockey players that are coming up together now and hopefully I can still be part of it.”

Blues hit a sour note

A Stanley Cup hangover and heightened expectations make it tough enough to win back-to-back championships, but the Blues now have another huge obstacle. Winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who led them in goals each of the last five seasons and contributed 11 goals and 17 points to their title run, injured his left shoulder and underwent surgery that will keep him out about five months.

General manager Doug Armstrong told reporters last week that while Tarasenko is an elite player, “our team is built as a sum of all the parts. It’s going to be a great opportunity for some of our younger players.” Credit the Blues for responding well and winning three of their first four games without him, but to stay afloat, they’ll need more than they’ve been getting from kids like Robert Thomas (two goals), Robby Fabbri (one goal) and Sammy Blais (five goals).

Ovechkin walks the walk

Because Alexander Ovechkin is so prolific and charismatic and because Toronto is the Center of the Hockey Universe, the Washington Capitals winger caused a stir last Tuesday when he called out the struggling Maple Leafs. “They’re still a young group of guys, hopefully they’re going to learn,” he said. “But it’s up to them how they want to do it. If they want to play for themselves, or if they want to win the Stanley Cup, they have to play differently.”

Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) checks Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci (83) into the boards during a game at Scotiabank Arena.
Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) checks Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci (83) into the boards during the third period of a game Oct. 29 at Scotiabank Arena.
(Hans Deryk / The Canadian Press)

He spoke from experience, having fallen short for years before the Capitals came together to win the Cup in 2018. Best of all, he backed up his statement by collecting four points — including the winning goal — in Washington’s 4-3 victory over Toronto. The Capitals have won three straight and eight of 10 and lead the NHL in wins (10) and points (23). At this rate, Ovechkin will get another chance in June to show the Maple Leafs how it’s done.

Storm surge returns, with a flourish

The Carolina Hurricanes, labeled a “bunch of jerks” last season by bombastic Canadian commentator Don Cherry because they stage exuberant post-victory celebrations known as storm surges, are at it again. After their 7-3 rout of Detroit on Friday they invited Jessica McDonald of the NWSL champion North Carolina Courage to lead the crowd in a Skol clap and had McDonald take a penalty kick against wanna-be goalkeeper Brock McGinn. McDonald scored, to the crowd’s delight. Good on the Hurricanes for respecting McDonald and her team’s success. They’re not doing so bad themselves: They have won nine of their first 13 games.


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