Ducks’ faults lie in their stars

Ana­heim’s best couldn’t match Chicago’s best at the end

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Lance Pug­mire

Ryan Get­zlaf painted his Ducks team­mates into a cor­ner by re­fus­ing to ad­mit the Chicago Black­hawks were the bet­ter team af­ter win­ning the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals.

By not ac­cept­ing that the Ducks were beaten by a su­pe­rior fran­chise po­si­tioned to win its third Stan­ley Cup in six sea­sons, Get­zlaf brings at­ten­tion to why his team squan­dered a 3-2 play­off se­ries lead and lost Game 7 at home for an un­prece­dented third con­sec­u­tive sea­son.

If the rea­son wasn’t the Black­hawks’ tal­ent — cen­ter Jonathan Toews scored four goals in the last three games, de­fense­man Dun­can Keith had five as­sists in the fi­nal two and for­ward Pa­trick Kane closed with a goal and four as­sists in Games 6 and 7 — then the fo­cus shifts to why the Ducks shrink in hockey’s most pres­sur­ized games.

“Last year was tough, but this is even worse,” Ducks for­ward Pa­trick Ma­roon told re­porters late Satur­day in

the type of can­did con­ver­sa­tion that should con­tinue in­ter­nally. “We’re mak­ing progress, but you don’t want progress. You want re­sults.”

Ana­heim’s 5-3 loss Satur­day night at Honda Cen­ter came af­ter the Ducks fell be­hind 4-0 just past the mid­way point of the sec­ond pe­riod, a fade to black watched by what NBC re­ported Sun­day was a record au­di­ence both na­tion­ally and in the Los An­ge­les mar­ket for a non-Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal game.

“They showed what kind of team they are,” Ducks for­ward An­drew Cogliano said of the Black­hawks. “Their lead­ers … were mak­ing plays all night re­ally.”

Af­ter say­ing he played “ter­ri­ble” with a mi­nus-three rat­ing in Game 6, Get­zlaf was mi­nus-one with two giveaways in Game 7 and right wing Corey Perry was also mi­nus-one de­spite a third-pe­riod goal that was an­swered less than two min­utes later by the Black­hawks’ dag­ger.

Perry de­clined to speak to re­porters af­ter the loss.

Get­zlaf ad­mit­ted of Game 6, “We weren’t re­ally men­tally pre­pared to play that game,” and lamented af­ter Game 7, “They started stronger than us.”

The ques­tion to both state­ments is why.

Fin­gers will be pointed at Coach Bruce Boudreau’s 1-6 record in Game 7s — are his teams sens­ing some edgi­ness and ner­vous­ness from him that they play with? — but more of the blame should go to the ath­letes.

Rather than find­ing a higher level, the Ducks were wit­ness to Toews, Kane, Keith and Co. el­e­vat­ing their play in the mo­ments of truth.

The Black­hawks move on to play the Tampa Bay Light­ning in Florida on Wed­nes­day in Game 1 of the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal.

Ana­heim’s re­sponse to its 2-0 hole wasn’t an im­pres­sive coun­ter­punch. In­stead, there was un­co­or­di­nated, un­char­ac­ter­is­tic play that al­lowed odd-man rushes and re­sulted in a greater deficit.

“I don’t know if we went in the other di­rec­tion,” Boudreau said, “but I do be­lieve the Black­hawks got bet­ter.”

Black­hawks Coach Joel Quen­neville called Toews “an amaz­ing per­son, amaz­ing hockey player. The big­ger the stage, the big­ger the setup, he just seems to excel.”

Ducks cen­ter Ryan Kesler, with a goal, five shots and eight hits in Game 7, could only do so much.

“It’s the start of sum­mer now and we’re go­ing to have to get over this and get ready for next year be­cause I’ll tell you right now, this group is not done,” Kesler said. “We have un­fin­ished busi­ness.”

That mind-set was sup­posed to have shaped this sea­son too, but it was Chicago that proved more re­silient by re­spond­ing to last sea­son’s Game 7 over­time loss in the con­fer­ence fi­nals to the Kings.

“The team could re­ally bear down and get back to play­ing the way we wanted to,” said Black­hawks for­ward Brad Richards, who’s now 7-0 in Game 7s. “That’s vet­eran lead­er­ship and a been-there, done-that type of thing. This se­ries was no dif­fer­ent. ... There was no panic.”

Where was the Ducks’ at­ten­tion to keep­ing the puck down by Chicago goalie Corey Craw­ford in Games 6 and 7, im­pos­ing their phys­i­cal­ity and at­ten­tion to de­fen­sive de­tail?

In­stead, the Ducks — who gave up 19 goals in the fi­nal four games — are left to take con­so­la­tion in the fact they’ve moved from a firstround exit in 2013 to a con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal loss to the Kings last sea­son to this con­fer­ence fi­nal de­feat.

The Ducks will pos­si­bly be able to say they’ve taken the past two Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­ons to a Game 7.

“We can be proud of our­selves for what we ac­com­plished this year,” goalie Fred­erik An­der­sen said. “But ob­vi­ously no one’s sat­is­fied not … win­ning the Cup.

“Tough tro­phy to win. [We gained] more ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­one to see how tough it is. … Long ride, but I feel like it’s over way be­fore it’s sup­posed to.”

Cer­tainly, Ducks Gen­eral Manager Bob Mur­ray will not take kindly to ac­cep­tance of any­thing short of the Cup from this cast.

Make no mis­take, Mur­ray knows his cur­rent ros­ter is made up of play­ers who are a com­bined 7-48 in Game 7s, and he will re­spond ac­cord­ingly.

More ex­pe­ri­enced de­fense­men could be pur­sued.

The Ducks, who have suf­fi­cient salary-cap room, will have to spend dearly to keep un­re­stricted free-agent for­ward Matt Be­leskey from pur­su­ing a likely bid­ding war for his ser­vices af­ter his break­out sea­son. Loy­alty could al­low for vet­eran de­fense­man Fran­cois Beau­chemin to stay in Or­ange County at age 35.

Young for­wards Jakob Sil­fver­berg and Emer­son Etem are re­stricted free agents.

Mur­ray has a his­tory of mov­ing boldly to re­place those he be­lieves fall short, so it’ll be in­trigu­ing to see what’s determined from a thor­ough re­ex­am­i­na­tion of the post­sea­son — par­tic­u­larly Games 6 and 7.

“We let the fans down and let the peo­ple around us down,” said de­fense­man Cam Fowler, who was on the ice for both of Chicago’s sec­ond-pe­riod goals. lance.pug­mire@la­times.com Twit­ter: @la­time­spug­mire

Robert Gau­thier Los An­ge­les Times

RYAN GET­ZLAF skates out the fi­nal sec­onds of Game 7 against Chicago. The Ducks cap­tain had no goals in the last 11 play­off games.

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