Anaheim Ducks Choke Again! (Originally posted May 31st, 2015)
I hate the word “choke” when people in sports use it. A lot of times it is used unfairly, and a lot of times uneducated fans use it. Usually, those who know nothing about the game spout it off. However, there are appropriate times to use the word. I believe in the rule of threes. When a team is in contention, they have to make strides in those three seasons. If a team does not get to the final of their sport within those three years, questions arise. Here, the Anaheim Ducks were in year three of the Bruce Boudreau reign as contenders for the Stanley Cup. In all three seasons, they finished either at the top of the Western
Conference or second. All three seasons, the Ducks had a 3-2 Series lead and could not put out a series. The Ducks are officially playoff chokers.
Now you probably will point out to me that the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007. You also may point out to me that the Ducks have improved every single season since Boudreau has been here. That is true on both accounts. However, the 2007 Stanley Cup was eight years ago, and Boudreau’s teams could have all been greater. They could have put away the Red Wings two years ago and failed on two chances, including a Game 7 loss at home. They had a chance to put finish off the Kings last season and failed on both chances, including a blowout loss at home in Game 7. Finally; they were not only leading three games to two but also went up three games to one as they led Game 4 yet could not put the Blackhawks away. In Game 5 they blew a 3-0 lead yet still won in Overtime. They could have put the Blackhawks away twice and failed gloriously as Chicago blew them out twice in each effort, including giving up early goals. The Ducks are a great team, but they do not have the killer instinct to put elite teams away. So is there hope for the Ducks?
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Ducks. They have a young group, a lot of salary cap room, and a great minor league system. Even though I am not a fan of the proverbial term “window” I would say the Ducks is wide open. They need to sign Ryan Kesler for life because Anaheim will always need him because of his toughness. Matt Beleskey is another guy the Ducks need to lock up for the foreseeable future. The Ducks do not have a talent issue; they have a killer instinct issue. I truly believe that the Ducks have all the talent in the world to get to the Stanley Cup and win it. There are issues, and they cannot blame everything on Boudreau either.
Let’s review some tape without looking at the tape. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are amazing players, and probably two of the best players the Ducks have ever had. But every star has a flaw. For Perry and Getzlaf, it’s not taking the shot when they have an opportunity. Hockey is not a game just enabled with skill. You need to have skill, toughness, and a little luck. Those shots that the two Ducks stars are not taking end up in the sticks of the other team, and it usually leads to the other side scoring. I could count several occasions in the series where Getzlaf and Perry were both in the attacking zone with probably one defender across from them, and they elected to pass it to a teammate. They got too cute with their opportunities, and it usually costs them.
Entering the series with the Blackhawks, they were a hot Power Play team taking advantage of almost all their opportunities against the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames. The Blackhawks were a better defending team, and that made it much more difficult of a task to get through to. Getzlaf and Perry were not that great on special teams, and their hesitation cost them plenty of opportunities. An old line from the movie Point Break sums up Getzlaf and Perry perfectly “Fear causes hesitation and hesitation causes your worst fears to come true”. The Ducks played with fear and were playing not to lose instead of to win, and it cost them another chance at the cup.
Is this a chance for growth? Growth only depends on if the players on the Ducks will take the next step. Every single year since Boudreau has arrived, fans have heard the same thing at the end of every single series “unfinished business” which has become like a painful reminder that there is a lot to do. The players on this team need to step up and take responsibility and play with the heart and passion that it will take to get to the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks will most likely win the Stanley Cup this season, as I do not feel the Tampa Bay Lightning has the talent to beat them, but I have been wrong before. The Blackhawks will have to get rid of some talent due to the cap next season, but the Los Angeles Kings might be back in the playoffs. The road is not and will never be easy, but if the Ducks want to be champions, they have to get over the hump and not blow these series leads. Eight years ago, hockey experts considered the Ducks elite. These days, the Ducks are a great team that chokes in the playoffs. Is it fair? No, but they can eradicate the label with a trip to the Stanley Cup. Ducks fans are waiting for October for that new season and new opportunity to do it all over again.