In the aftermath of the Ducks’ 2-0 victory over the Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, there was one thing both teams agreed on:
They both can be better.
Anaheim got the victory despite managing only 17 shots on goal and taking a discouraging six penalties, something that has plagued them for much of the year.
“I don’t think you can say it was a perfect hockey game on our part by any stretch of the imagination,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We took far too many penalties. We’ve talked and talked and talked – and talked and talked – about taking penalties. We’re slow learners, I guess.”
At this morning's practice, Carlyle reflected even more on what the Ducks got away with. “In a lot of ways, in reviewing, we were very, very fortunate to get the shutout and get the hockey game,” Carlyle said. “A lot of things went our way – favorable bounces, posts, a crossbar, some of those things. At the end, we have to expect to play to a much higher level to have success.”
Among Anaheim's six penalties, winger Rob Niedermayer took three – for high-sticking, holding and hooking – in the second period alone. In the third, with the Sharks looking to tie the game, both Corey Perry (slashing) and Ryan Getzlaf (elbowing) took ill-timed penalties. The Ducks leaned heavily on their penalty kill units, which came through each time.
|“Jonas (Hiller) is more than just a raw rookie,” Carlyle said. “He played in some World Championships and the Swiss League, and won championships. Those are not easy situations to play in. There is a lot of pressure that goes with that. He is a very calm guy; he doesn’t get too high or too low.” |
“We took a few too many penalties, but we managed to get the job done on the PK,” Scott Niedermayer said. “We knew it was going to be important. Looking at their power play, they have a lot of dangerous personnel. We had to be at our best.”
When the Getzlaf penalty expired late in the third, he raced out of the box to pick up the puck after Mike Brown forced a Marc-Edouard Vlasic turnover and fire a wrist shot inside the post to give the Ducks a huge insurance goal and a 2-0 lead that would stand up to the final horn.
That shot was the only one of the game for Getzlaf, about whom Carlyle said, “We would like to see him shoot the puck like he did on a regular basis. When you see him shoot the puck like that, you wonder why he always wants to pass it. We are always after him to shoot the puck. He has to play extremely well for us to have any chance in this series.”
The Ducks are also going to need solid goaltending and they got it last night from Jonas Hiller in his playoff debut. Hiller saved 35 shots, including 11 on the power play, to hand the Sharks just their third shutout of the season (also Oct. 17 vs. Anaheim and Dec. 18 vs. Detroit).
|“The storyline was probably that their power play was better than ours,” said Thornton. “That’s what it comes down to.” |
“Hillsy stepped up and made some big saves,” Scott Niedermayer said.
The last goaltender to record a shutout in his playoff debut was Andrew Raycroft with Boston on April 7, 2004 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. Montreal. Carlyle wasn’t surprised to see his goalie perform, despite not having been on this stage before.
“Jonas (Hiller) is more than just a raw rookie,” Carlyle said. “He played in some World Championships and the Swiss League, and won championships. Those are not easy situations to play in. There is a lot of pressure that goes with that. He is a very calm guy; he doesn’t get too high or too low.”
San Jose may have made things a little easier on Hiller by not forcing much traffic in front of the net.
“Offensively we’ve got to be better,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “We’ve got to get to the net more. We didn’t create many second opportunities. They did a great job around their net and [we did] a poor job. Their goaltender swallowed a lot of pucks. We obviously have to better in that area.”
Center Joe Thornton was disappointed his team’s power play – ranked third in the NHL in the regular season – couldn’t convert all night. “The storyline was probably that their power play was better than ours,” said Thornton. “That’s what it comes down to.”
|“We still played a pretty good game, but we know they’re going to step it up next game,” said Pronger. “You have to continue to elevate your game and kind of get better, which has kind of been our edict all year long, especially the last month of the season here, leading up to the playoffs.” |
Anaheim had four power play opportunities in the game, and converted on Scott Niedermayer’s one-timer 5:18 into the third period, the game’s first goal.
It was Niedermayer's seventh career postseason game-winning goal (fourth with Anaheim). Since the 2005-06 season, Niedermayer ranks tied for first among defensemen (with Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom) with four playoff game-winning goals. All time, he ranks tied for fourth among NHL defensmen in game-winning goals.
"Nothing surprises me about what Scotty does," Getzlaf said. "He's a leader and he's a guy we're going to look to for those big goals and big defensive plays as well."
The Ducks know they have to step things up if they want to grab another victory at HP Pavilion in Game 2, against a Sharks team that only lost there five times in regulation during the regular season. One of those losses came via the Ducks during a stretch in which they have gone 8-0-2 over their last 10 road games. Including last night’s game, the Ducks are 10-5-0 in the last 15 games played in San Jose dating back to Jan. 26, 2006.
“We still played a pretty good game, but we know they’re going to step it up next game,” said Chris Pronger. “You have to continue to elevate your game and kind of get better, which has kind of been our edict all year long, especially the last month of the season here, leading up to the playoffs.”
Added Getzlaf, "We came here and did what we set out to accomplish in Game 1," Getzlaf said. "But that's all it is. We're going to prepare over the next two days here and use our practice time wisely and get ready for Sunday."