7-2. An it was an all out slaughtering of a score in any sporting front, but especially hockey where sometimes finding a goal is as tough as finding the age old needle in the haystack.
So first indication would have anyone believe that when looking at a score like the one above, the goalie failed the team. But not always so — and definitely not so in terms of the epic 7-2 season ending loss the Anaheim Ducks suffered on Friday night at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.
In fact, Anaheim goalies John Gibson and Jonas Hiller are the last two members of Anaheim’s roster anyone could blame for the team’s meltdown in the land of painted orange over the entire Kings series.
For what at one point seemed genius chess playing by Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau can now be looked back on as a comedy of errors that all comes down to the foolishness of thinking a 20 year-old kid could handle the pressure of a game like that for a team with a history of Game 7 jitters themselves. When the team failed to play in front of Gibson (he was pulled after allowing four goals in the first 25 minutes of play) the only person left was Hiller, the goalie cast aside by Boudreau in the eleventh hour of the season and therefore benched through most of the playoffs. Because such step-child treatment is going to give Hiller motivation to play? Not so fast Boudreau. In fact, one Ducks writer commented that it was a miracle in and of itself the goalie hadn’t already left a “see ya later” post-it on the bench for the team.
But in spite of the goalie dramatics, the season loss came from the exact point most of the Ducks’ losses this season have rested — the shoulders of Anaheim’s shaky blue line.
While the likes of Ben Lovejoy, Francois Beauchemin and Cam Fowler are star game changers in their own right, Anaheim was never able to find solid chemistry in defensive pairings throughout the team’s entire season. The closest the Ducks ever got to it was the first pairing of Lovejoy and Fowler, but a late regular season injury left Fowler out for a few games and in his return he was never quite the same.
What Anaheim needs to fight for in the off-season, along with someone to fill the top offensive line vacancy, is a veteran defensemen with enough experience to neither crumble under pressure nor leave a goalie out to dry. With the hopeful return of Stephane Robidas at the start of next season and the hopeful addition of another defenseman the Ducks can finally start to build those defensive pairings with the kind of depth this team’s offense already possesses.
And then what happens? Well, it’s simply a matter of time before this team finally reaches their rightful potential at the end of the post-season.