The last time Colorado came to town, it wasn’t pretty. Sure, Jean-Sebastien Giguere was warmly welcomed back to the Honda Center, but was it necessary to give the Avalanche a 4-2 win as well?
Three weeks later, and much has changed. Like the Ducks record of late – 8-0-1 in their last nine games, a vast reversal of how they were doing prior to the new year.
Maybe those New Year resolutions work after all, because every single person is playing better on the Ducks and the results are wins, not losses.
“It’s a team that everybody considers a contender,” Giguere said after the 3-2 to Anaheim. “They have so much talent there and a world-class goalie. Nobody knows how they ended up where they were. We knew that they were going to start playing better. It was a matter of time.”
Where they ended up was nearly the bottom of the entire NHL. Were it not for Columbus, the Ducks would have been there. As it was, they were languishing at 29th. Now, after an amazing run that no one would have thought possible a month ago, the Ducks have scooched up to 26th.
While that might not seem significant, the Ducks were 20 points out of a playoff spot at the beginning of January. Now? 11 points out. Gaining nine points in such a short time in a league this good is clearly a positive sign of progress.
That the Ducks could win the game against Colorado, after being outshot 45 – 18, proves how far this team has come.
Bobby Ryan got not one, not two, but three breakaways and scored on two of them.
“I don’t think I’ve had three breakaways in a season in a long time,” Ryan said. “I’m not exactly built for speed on breakaways.”
He capitalized nonetheless. His first opportunity came at 2:49 of the first period while short handed. Taking advantage of a turnover at the blue line, Ryan put the puck between Giguere’s legs and things started off well.
The problem was that shot on goal was the only one for more than half the period. One shot, one goal.
Despite throwing everything at Jonas Hiller, who more than earned his paycheck in the victory, the Avs could not get anything past him.
In the third period, Ryan Getzlaf made it 2-0 just :20 seconds in while on the power play. The referee ruled no goal on the ice, but the puck had trickled over the line. Fortunate for the Ducks, the review showed clear and overwhelming evidence that the puck crossed the line, without any ambiguity.
A few minutes later the Ducks caught Colorado on a bad change and Getzlaf got the puck from behind the net at one end to Ryan in the middle of the ice. Ryan said “thank you very much” and successful breakaway number two made it 3-0 at 3:59.
Colorado could not be faulted for wondering what it would take to get anything past Hiller. They finally found out late in the period. A bad turnover by Cam Fowler behind the net led to a goal by Ryan O’Reilly at 14:51.
Bobby Ryan nearly took the three goal lead back with his third breakaway of the game, but Giguere held fast on this attempt. It gave Colorado life.
Milan Hejduk, who cannot seem to score unless it is against Anaheim, brought Colorado within one goal at 16:28 on the power play.
Can you say nerve-wracking final three and a half minutes?
Hiller stayed strong and the Ducks did their job to prevent the game from being tied up at the last moment.
“I wish it wouldn’t have been that tight of a game,” said Hiller. “You never want to get scored on. I wasn’t thinking too much. I just didn’t want to get scored on again. Everybody suddenly realized that we had to step it up again. I was really impressed how we did. I thought we had one of our best shifts the whole game right after they scored their second goal.”
Regulation win against the 8th placed Colorado team that they are somehow chasing.
The Ducks now have one final game before the All Star break, a Tuesday venture in Dallas against the Stars. There is no question they want to go into the break with the same momentum they have had up to now. After the break? Chances are still slim for playoffs, but nothing is impossible.