ANAHEIM – Five goals in four games. Five goals in one game. It has been that way for the Ducks and it will continue to be, apparently.
For a team that has won 32 of 62 games and yet seems to be playoff-protected, it’s difficult to let molehills become mountains.
On Wednesday they leaned on the spontaneous acrobatics of Jonathan Bernier in net, and they got four goals from their top two lines before the empty-netter from Andrew Cogliano. They overcame two Boston leads and got most of their scoring when they ganged up on goaltender Tuukka Rask. This followed a shabby loss in Arizona, which followed a 1-0 win over the Kings, which followed a decisive loss to Florida, which followed a 1-0 win at powerful Minnesota.
The state of the Ducks? California. Any other answer is too easily contradicted.
The win gave Anaheim 74 points, same as Edmonton, three points behind San Jose in the Pacific Division. The top three teams make the playoffs automatically. The Ducks are eight points ahead of fourth-place Calgary, which has its own problems. So it’s very likely that the Ducks and Edmonton are locked into a first-round playoff series, and history indicates the Ducks don’t particularly care who has home ice.
Once the trade deadline passes next week in the midst of the Ducks’ mandated vacation, they will know how to reset their drive-time goals. Maybe they’ll find an identity by then.
Bernier didn’t seem traumatized after the game, but he was under siege throughout. Few teams are as crafty offensively as the Bruins, especially when Brad Marchand is clamping down on the puck and pivoting on such sharp angles. Marchand was hypnotizing the Ducks in one sequence when he suddenly flicked the puck to Patrice Bergeron, and Bernier had to scramble back to get a skate on his shot. He did, and he kept doing such things throughout the second and third periods.
Two of the Boston goals were nearly impossible for Bernier to see, and the other was a breakaway by Frank Vatrano, off a nice advancement pass from David Krejci.
It was significant because Bernier had been run from the net Monday night in Arizona. But when John Gibson’s lower-body injury began acting up again, Bernier got another shot.
“After a game like the last one, you want to get back in there as soon as possible. I found out I was playing at the morning skate.”
Bernier is 9-5-2 this season and came into the game with a .901 save percentage. Wednesday night was an example of quality saves outstripping quantity. “What he did was game-changing right there,” Josh Manson said. “It’s tied and he makes saves like that, and then we come down and score, and it changes everything. It was a huge rebound game for our whole team.”
Manson joined a fray in front of Rask’s net after the Bruins goalie had blocked a wraparound try by Nick Ritchie, who was playing on Ryan Getzlaf’s line along with Ondrej Kase. His follow-up shot got through Rask and gave Manson his second goal in three games.
That raises Manson’s total to three, which serves to highlight the rest of his game. As a sixth-round pick, he has made himself into the kind of commodity that might prompt some phone calls next week. He also has made it tougher for the Ducks to protect all their valuable defensemen in the expansion draft this summer.
“I dont’ think we’ve panicked too much,” Manson said. “If anything it’s made us try to get better defensively, because that’s what will lead to the goals eventually. When the offense does come, now you’re dangerous. I’ve been looking for those opportunities in previous games, but they’re not going in. When they do, it looks like you’re doing something.
“Once they (the Bruins) start cycling the puck the way they do, it’s a matter of sorting everything out. When they’re putting you in the spin cycle, that’s when things get bad. So you have to make sure you’re boxing guys out and staying on the inside, staying with your guys. If you’re on the same page, it doesn’t matter how much they circle in the zone. Nothing’s really affected. We did that well tonight.”
The Ducks are a night-to-night entity right now. At some point they’ll have to start trending.
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