The Anaheim Ducks appeared playoff bound only a month ago, winning five of their seven games going into the Olympic break. Unfortunately, those wins came back in February and now ten days into March they still look for their first win.
Let us review.
Jonas Hiller signed a new contract, giving him the confidence from the front office to carry the team down the stretch. He returned the favor posting a 2.44 GAA and .933 SV% in February and continuing his strong play into the Olympics for his home country. Considering he played every all five games for Switzerland and every game for the Ducks since late January the Swiss netminder appears understandably exhausted.
Last night, Hiller received the hook leaving his team at the will of backup Curtis McElhinney. In 14 career starts, McElhinney proved he simply is not ready for a full time job in the NHL so using him as a second string goaltender seems somewhat dicey.
Besides the goaltending dillema, the Ducks need to boost their offense back to their potential level. However, every difference maker on their team played a vital role for their home country during the Olympics. That last statement means all of Bobby Ryan, Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Lubomir Visnovsky, Saku Koivu and Corey Perry feel fatigued enough to not catch up with a rested team like the Columbus Blue Jackets. By comparison, only two players in the Blue Jackets’ starting lineup played in the Olympics proving how important a rested team helps for the stretch run.
While Getzlaf, Ryan and Perry currently carry the scoring, the secondary lines really disappeared. The rest of the league caught up with rookie Dan Sexton while the efforts of Selanne, Koivu and Jason Blake simply cannot make up for the failed goaltending. Newest acquisition Visnovsky cannot be held at fault for not kick-starting the powerplay as the entire team needs a wake up call or really some rest.
A once promising and strong team now finds themselves sinking back into mediocrity. Tied with the Minnesota Wild and behind the St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars certainly makes for bleak playoff chances.