By Pete Zarustica/Garden Grove Journal/With wire service reports
Sometimes, late arrivals are the life of the party.
For the second straight season, the Anaheim Ducks stumbled out of the starting gate, fumbled along and then finally caught fire. Last year it was good enough to earn a Stanley Cup berth.
Will history repeat itself, or is it a matter of too little, too late?
Hard to say, but for right now, anything seems possible. Through Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche, the Ducks had won eight out of nine games (with one overtime loss in there). Over the past week they beat the Phoenix Coyotes 6-2, then the Ottawa Senators 2-1 before edging the Avalanche.
“You go through peaks throughout the season,” said left wing Jason Blake. “It wasn’t the start we were looking for. We dug ourselves a pretty big hole. But when you win a couple of games, you start feeling good about yourself and you
get some confidence.
“The whole team is buying into what we’re trying to do in here, and it seems to be working,” he added.
That’s got to be good news for Bruce Boudreau, who replaced Randy Carlyle on Nov. 30 when the Ducks were in a free-fall. At first, the Ducks played more poorly under their new coach, but the red-hot streak put his mark at 10-9-3 since taking over.
But, yes, it is a big hole. Sunday’s win put the Ducks at 18-22-7, still in last place in the NHL Pacific Division. They’re seven points out of fourth place. More to the point, they are 11 points out of eighth place (the equivalent of 5 ½ games). The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.
A big factor in the Ducks’ streak is the play of goalie Jonas Hiller. He made 43 saves in the Colorado win, and has gone 6-0-1 during the streak and a 1.50 goals-against average.
“The whole team is playing its best lately, so that makes it easier on me,” he said.
On Tuesday night, the Ducks took on the Stars in Dallas and lost 1-0, snapping their winning streak at five games.
Hiller stopped 15 shots in the game. The lone goal was scored by Alex Goligoski on a deflection in the first period.
The NHL All-Star game will be played on Sunday afternoon in Ottawa. Right wing Corey Perry, the NHL’s most valuable player last season, will represent the Ducks in the game.
Anaheim will resume action after the All-Star break next Tuesday (Jan. 31) visiting the Phoenix Coyotes. They’re home the following day, starting off a four-game homestand against the Stars.