With the NFL playoffs in full swing Sunday it was fitting Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau
used a gridiron analogy to explain the Ducks improving defense.
Anaheim didn't give up a goal in regulation the last two games – the only goal was in overtime of a 1-0 loss in Calgary – and just nine during a 4-0-1 streak, more than a goal-a-game less than a season average of 3.07 that ranks near the bottom of the NHL.
Boudreau, who took over as head coach Nov. 29 and immediately noticed giveaways through the middle of the ice were a problem, said it starts with the Anaheim forwards coming back. That allows the Ducks' defensemen to make shorter breakout passes, thus reducing risk of interception.
"We call them shares," Boudreau said. "We're bringing everybody back so you don't need to make the long passes anymore. Teams are too good now. They see it and they're all like free safeties back there, they can step up and intercept them and when you intercept them in the middle of the ice it's already a scoring position. The shorter the pass, the easier the pass, and the easier the play, the less chance of a mistake."
Boudreau said it's not surprising the buy-in from forwards improved when No.1 goalie Jonas Hiller
was hurt four games ago. With backup Dan Ellis
already out, Iiro Tarkki
won in relief and call-up Jeff Deslauriers
won his start before Hiller returned to backstop the last two games on back-to-back nights.
"It's a coincidence but it is a fact," Boudreau said. "When you're bringing up goalies you know you have to tighten up because your No.1 goalie isn't in there."
, who had four assists in a 5-0 win in Edmonton on Friday, said it helps at both ends.
"When you start doing the right things defensively, things start clicking offensively," he said.