Ducks don't want passengers undermining fast start

Friday, 03.29.2013 / 3:40 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau bluntly used the term "passengers" after a 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, his team's fourth defeat in a row.

The time for being gentle was over.

"I think I was just telling the truth, more than anything else," Boudreau said Friday morning from United Center, where his Ducks will try to snap their season-high losing streak against the Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-U.S.).

If the Ducks continue to have passengers against the Blackhawks, odds are their losing streak will balloon to five and their deficit in the Western Conference standings will widen to seven points.

"Of course I'm worried about it, and you guard against it," Boudreau said. "I'm worried about it all the time because coaches are worried about every loss, but I've gotta believe the first 29 games were not a fluke."

The Ducks were 22-3-4 in those first 29 games. Keeping that pace for the duration of the season, even a truncated 48-game season, is about as close to impossible as it gets.

"I can take it as far back as when I was in Manchester (American Hockey League)," Boudreau said. "We were 21-1-1 and then we went .500 for the rest of the way and we were still 20 games over .500. It's hard to stay at that level all the time. It wouldn't surprise me, if Pittsburgh ever loses a game, that it loses two out of three."

The issue facing the Ducks, though, is the one problem they've had all season is finally starting to hurt them.

They have struggled in the first period since Day One; it has just gotten worse in these past four games, as the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks have combined to outscore the Ducks, 9-1, in the first 20 minutes.

"I don't want to say we took teams lightly, but we just weren't ready to play," Corey Perry told NHL.com.

Inexcusable and costly, but not all that surprising when you consider the Ducks have been outscored 36-27 in the first period this season.

The good news for the Ducks is they still lead the NHL with 11 wins in games when they give up the first goal and eight wins when they trail after the first period.

Boudreau, though, said he believes his team got used to thinking it could come back all the time. Now it's finding out that it can't and that, more than anything else, was a blow the Ducks weren't ready for.

"You don't think about it, but that's probably the mindset that guys have, that we can come back," Perry said. "But games are tightening up. It's crunch time. Teams are playing for playoff spots. They're not going to allow those comebacks anymore. They're going to tighten up on defense. We saw it the other night in San Jose. They blocked 30 shots. That's the way those teams are playing us now."

The Blackhawks aren't one of those teams fighting for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot, but they'd love to put the Ducks down and run away with first place in the Western Conference. They'd also love to finally beat the Ducks, who have pulled off two of their comeback wins against Chicago, both in the third period.

"Obviously, we want to prove ourselves," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said.

The Ducks just want to prove that they can get out of the first period without suffering any major damage.

Passengers aren't invited.

"When they won the Cup here in 2007, the starts of the season for the next six years were mediocre or bad because they said, 'We're going to catch up,'" Boudreau said. "Our season has been the same way and we've had all these comeback wins, but the first period, 'Oh, we'll catch up,' that's what we're trying to change here.

"You just can't rely on doing that all the time."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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