The mantle of the No. 1 team in the NHL comes with a few guarantees: bandwagon fans (although in California where sand is more synonymous with winter than snow no one can complain), media popularity and a target on the back of your sweater being shot at by every night. A target that only grows when facing teams trying to claw their way safely into playoff position. Last night the Dallas Stars were such the team as they handed the Anaheim Ducks a 2-0 loss in goalie Dan Ellis‘ 14th career shutout.
Some may argue Ellis had the advantage as a former backup goalie in Anaheim from 2011-12. And in an interview with ESPN he admitted, with a smile, that having practiced with them meant he knew a few of their tricks. “Them” being Anaheim sharp shooters Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and the legendary Teemu Selanne. But the Stars’ win had little to do with who their goalie used to practice with and everything to do with their urgency of play matched against inconsistency from the Ducks.
Lacking any sort of pressure on the Stars, a team known for playing a hard and gritty game, the Ducks fell victim to the only flaw of their game this season — relying solely on their ability to make a 3rd period comeback, and then failing to do so.
With last night’s loss, the Ducks remain the No. 1 seed in the league and the gap between the No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks is still separated by three games.
But in the end, standings mean very little. However, where points in the regular season might not carry over to the playoffs, bad habits and insecure play certainly do. Now, Anaheim is far from the point of panic, but with the toughest part of their season still ahead, it might finally be time to figure out how to finally put those game crippling bad habits to rest.