Ducks may lose Cup hold, if penalty barrage continues
Posted: Tuesday May 29, 2007 12:14AM; Updated: Tuesday May 29, 2007 1:33PM
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Mensa Committee met in emergency session in Southern California on Monday night and, after some studious deliberation, decided to withdraw its membership application from Anaheim Ducks second-year center Ryan Getzlaf, who apparently checked his brains at the door at the exact moment he was cross-checking Ottawa Senators right winger Mike Comrie to the ice in the second period.
Nor is the estimable Scott Niedermayer likely to be allowed at the next I.Q. clambake after he high-sticked Chris Neil, among the least dangerous of the Senators forwards, in the first minute of the game.
Two senseless Duck penalties. Two Ottawa power play goals, really the only time the suddenly feckless Senators had a whiff.
The Ducks, a physically dominant team that captured Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, 3-2, on Travis Moen's late goal, are not a team as much as a five-act drama: Hamlet on ice, fabulous but flawed.
These Ducks dither far too much for their own good.
OK, Anaheim plays a certifiably rugged style, which is going to result in a fair number of penalties. But 19.2 minutes per game in the playoffs through the first three rounds, basically a period a game, is not a fair number. It is a formula for failure. Even with stalwart penalty killers such as center Sami Pahlsson and defensemen like Niedermayer and Chris Pronger -- who, in a rare 5-on-5 occurrence, joined forces midway through the first period to handle the Senators' top line of Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson -- the recklessness put the team in hockey peril. The Ducks are always searching for balance between tough and disciplined, but too often they cross the line and fall into the abyss. The Ducks are going to earn their power plays because a relentless forecheck will force the Senators to take the odd penalty -- so many Ottawa bodies were sent flying Monday, it look like they started the Stanley Cup final and a game of Duck-pin bowling broke out -- but their own penalties seemed mostly to be the result of a lack of discipline. In a more genteel sport, they might be called unforced errors.
Prior to the series, Anaheim general manager Brian Burke told SI.com that while the number of power plays that his team allowed in the playoffs -- in one more game through the first three rounds, it had yielded 17 more power plays than the Senators -- was not a cause of "concern." But, he added, it would be a point of emphasis for the coaching staff. Clearly, coach Randy Carlyle's message is being filtered through some tough-guy ethos, testosterone occasionally topping common sense.
The Niedermayer penalty was one of those soft calls early in game that are now so prevalent in the NHL, where referees want to establish a strict standard right from the opening faceoff. If this weren't the Cup final, in which every move is magnified, he should have been given the benefit of the doubt. But Getzlaf has no excuse, and no, his game-tying goal about six minutes into the third period -- a neat backhander that appeared to beat goalie Ray Emery through his legs --doesn't get him off the hook. Getzlaf cross-checked Comrie behind the Ducks net repeatedly, getting away with at least one, and possibly two, that merited a penalty. When no call was forthcoming, apparently he figured what-the-heck and drilled Comrie again, this time making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"Obviously I was a little too aggressive," Getzlaf said after the game. "I gave him one whack too many, and they are looking for it at this time of year."
As Senators coach Bryan Murray succinctly noted, Anaheim's checking line went head-to-head with Ottawa's top guns and wound up scoring the winning goal, which "was the game in a nutshell." Indeed Pahlsson's line badly outplayed that of Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson. Shockingly, Spezza played with absolutely no conviction, while Alfredsson had less available ice than at any time in the playoffs. Ottawa had played a few bad periods in the playoffs -- the third period of Game 2 against Pittsburgh in the first round, the first period of Game 4 in the third round against Buffalo -- but it had never been steamrollered like this, which ultimately is a tribute to the Ducks' earnestness. This is the first time the Senators have trailed in a series.
Anaheim thrived despite its own tomfoolery, proving that it can be resourceful enough to win despite its penchant for penalties. But if some of the Ducks insist on being little more than a silly goose, this could be a long series.