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Home Not So Sweet in Series

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
By Matt Vevoda

AnaheimDucks.com


"That theory can go out the door with a win tomorrow night at home here," said Marchant on the road team's knack for success in the series. "We didn't play a bad game in Game 3, but we didn't play the way we can play. We know we have to be better in Game 4."
In a battle between two of the best road teams in the Western Conference, it’s no surprise home-ice has not been an advantage in the first round playoff series between the Ducks and Sharks.

After Anaheim wrestled away the first two games of the best-of-seven set in San Jose, the Ducks fell just short of continuing that momentum in their first game at Honda Center and were defeated by the Sharks 4-3 Tuesday night. A crucial Game 4 for both teams is on tap for Thursday in Orange County and the boys in black and orange are eager to reverse the trend of the road team taking the first three games.

“That theory can go out the door with a win tomorrow night at home here,” Ducks forward Todd Marchant said. “We didn’t play a bad game in Game 3, but we didn’t play the way can play. We didn’t play with the same sort of hunger and urgency that we did in Games 1 and 2. Against a great team like San Jose you can’t afford to do that. We know we have to be better in Game 4.”

Coming out of the gate strong on Thursday will be imperative for both teams, but even more so for the Ducks. Not only would that immediately re-establish momentum in Anaheim’s favor, but it would also play to their strength.

Ducks in 2008-09 Regular Season

Winning % when scoring first
(.791, third in the NHL)

Winning % when scored on first
(.205, 27th in the NHL).

During the regular season, the Ducks had a far better winning percentage (.791, third in the league) when scoring the first goal of the game than when they surrendered the first tally (.205, 27th). It’s continued in the postseason, as Anaheim scored first in Games 1 and 2, but not in Game 3. The Ducks did come back to tie the game on three separate occasions last night, but could never take the lead.

“It’s been something that has been happening a lot during the whole year,” Marchant said. “We’d obviously like to get that first goal. As we showed last night, we didn’t quit or give up. We came back every time. It would have been nice to get that next one and go up and see how they reacted to being down.”
"You obviously have to be aware of Boyle (bottom) when he is out there," Scott NIedermayer (top) said. "He skates and is up the ice. If we can catch him up there, maybe slow him up and prevent him from getting back right away, we'll try."
Another subplot that continues to rear its head in each game is the special teams battle between the two California rivals. Anaheim’s power play has been fairly consistent, scoring one goal in each game (3-for-10 overall, two from Bobby Ryan). Going 12-for-12 on the penalty kill, the Ducks had also managed to thoroughly silence San Jose’s potent power play in the first two games of the series. But last night, the Sharks came through on two of three man-advantage opportunities (including the game-winner in the third by Patrick Marleau).

“That power play is not a power play you want to give too many opportunities to,” said Bobby Ryan, who was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy (league’s top rookie) on Wednesday. “In Games 1 and 2, they were close a lot of times. We knew it was a matter of time before they started to find the back of the net on it. We saw that last night. Today is a day to put it in the past and move forward. Certainly, we have to bring a little more discipline to Game 4.”

While center Joe Thornton deservedly gets a lot of attention on the Sharks power play, defensemen Dan Boyle and Rob Blake were dominating the talk in the Ducks locker room after an optional practice at Honda Center on Wednesday. The two first-year San Jose d-men each had a hand in both power play goals (Boyle scored the first, and assisted with Blake on the second). Overall, the two blueliners combined for three goals and five points on the night.

“We know they are dynamic players and they play a huge part of their backend,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle of the San Jose defensive pair. “We didn’t do a very good job defending early and we got back on our heels. We turned the puck over early in the hockey game. It seemed that we were playing catch-up all night.”

"With a 2-1 lead and Game 4 being in your building, it certainly puts us in the driver's seat," Ryan (right) said. "It's a game we have to have tomorrow night."
Two of Anaheim’s superb defensemen were already strategizing ways to limit their two counterparts from having such a big impact on the outcome of the game. “We have to close Blake out and not give him as much time as he had last night,” Chris Pronger said. “He was able to walk down and take his pick of shooting or trying to make a pass cross-crease. Closing him out is going to be pretty important for us moving forward.”

Said Scott Niedermayer, “You obviously have to be aware of Boyle when he is out there. He skates and is up the ice. If we can catch him down there, maybe slow him up and prevent him from getting back right away, we’ll try. We need to do a better job of finding where he is at.”

While a win by the Sharks has given them some life in this series, the Ducks still feel in control of their fate being up 2 games to 1. Game 4 will be critical for both teams and if it’s anything like last night, there should be no shortage of thrills.

“With a 2-1 lead and Game 4 being in your building, it certainly puts us in the driver’s seat,” Ryan said. “It’s a game we have to have tomorrow night.”
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