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Carlyle and Ducks Choke Against Sharks

(Anaheim Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle has much to answer for after his more-than-questionable personnel moves Sunday night. Photo courtesy of the NHL.)

Once again, as Aerosmith sings, it is the same old story, same old song and dance, as the Anaheim Ducks blew yet another two-goal lead in a third period, and once again gave up a tying goal in the final seconds, and then once again lost in overtime. Sound familiar? It should, as that has been the pattern far too many times during this terrible season. The latest iteration of that happened Sunday night against the San Jose Sharks in front of a crowd of 17,435 at Honda Center in what might have been Anaheim’s most important game so far.

What a horrible time to choke!

The Ducks desperately needed to win in regulation so as to gain two full standings points against the Sharks whom Anaheim is chasing for a playoff berth in the Pacific Division. The Ducks were about 90 seconds away from gaining those two points as they led, 2-1. But then, Head Coach Randy Carlyle made an inexplicable fatal blunder that cost the Ducks dearly. Carlyle for no apparent intelligent reason after a timeout put his worst defenseman, 785-year-old Francois Beauchemin, onto the ice.

Why on earth would anyone in their right mind stick a third pair defenseman onto the ice in a crucial situation such as that with the game and season on the line? Beauchemin should have been kept nowhere near the ice during the final 90 seconds. I screamed during the timeout to get Beauch off the ice. But Carlyle put Beauch out there, and sure enough, with just under a minute remaining and old man Beauchemin still huffing and puffing on the ice, the Sharks tied the ballgame. GRRRRRRR!!!!!

Carlyle made a very similar boneheaded move against the Los Angeles Kings back in November. That night Anaheim led by a goal with just over a minute remaining in the game, when Carlyle put worthless Korbinian Holzer, perhaps the worst defenseman in the NHL, onto the ice, and bang! Dustin Brown immediately tied the game, and then the Kings went on to win in shootouts. Can you say déjà vu?

San Jose’s tying goal gave the Sharks a point in the standings that they should have never received, and that ruined Anaheim’s chances of gaining two points on San Jose. But wait, it gets worse. Much worse.

During 3-on-3s, Carlyle once again demonstrated he has no clue as to which players to use. For some irrational reason, he is addicted to using Hampus Lindholm who is terrible at 3-on-3s. Lindholm should never be on the ice after regulation ends. His work as a big stay-at-home defenseman is done. Lindholm should head to the showers and let the offensively-skilled players take charge.

For that matter, Carlyle keeps using Lindholm on power plays. That should never happen. There are two power-play units, and only one defenseman should play on each unit. Those two D men should be Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour. No ifs, ands, or buts. The other eight players on those PP units should be selected from the top three forward lines. In other words, pick any eight from those nine forwards. But instead, Carlyle continues to use three defensemen, somehow in his brain thinking, Lindholm is a better offensive weapon than are two of his top forwards. Amazing!

News flash: Lindholm is not a quarterback. Instead, he is a liability on power plays. As I wrote in Top 10 Anaheim Defensemen of All-Time:

“On power plays, far too often when the puck is whipped around from player to player, that cycling comes to a screeching halt when the puck reaches Lindholm, as the puck either pops over his stick, or he needs to first settle the puck before he shoots or passes. Lindholm is the only player I have seen on the Ducks’ power plays to whom that consistently happens. When Lindholm brings the puck up ice on power plays, he far too often makes a bad pass that costs Anaheim precious seconds off from the clock, as the Ducks are forced to burn time retrieving the puck out of their own end … Fowler and Montour are the quarterbacks that should skate the puck up ice, join the power plays, be in the 3-on-3s, and even take shootout shots. Lindholm should not be doing any of that stuff. His job needs to be playing defense and killing penalties.”

So, with the wrong personnel on the ice for 3-on-3s, naturally, the Ducks failed to score. That was Carlyle’s second fatal mistake. That sent the most important game of the season into shootouts, not exactly where Anaheim wanted to roll the dice in such a critical game. And sure enough, the Ducks could not convert a single shot during shootouts into a goal while the Sharks could not miss on their attempts. And that was the ballgame as the Ducks shot themselves in the foot, and lost, 3-2, in a game they should have won in regulation.

Instead of gaining two points on San Jose, Anaheim lost a point to the Sharks, and to the Kings, and to everyone else ahead of the Ducks in the conference standings. And all of the blame needs to go onto Carlyle’s lap. If Anaheim fails to reach the playoffs by a point, that would clearly be Sunday night’s lost point, and for that, Carlyle would need to be fired. Heck, I would not mind seeing the front office can Carlyle today to give a new coach time to turn the ship around before there is no chance to do so. Although, with the big loss to San Jose, realistically speaking, the playoff ship might have already set sail out from Anaheim’s reach.

I apologize for repeating myself, but come on, what the heck was Beauchemin doing out there with the season on the line? That is just inexcusable. Carlyle is lucky that Rabbi Rabbs is not the general manager, because if I were, I would have fired the coach with 90 seconds remaining, even before Timo Meier scored San Jose’s tying goal. I am proactive. I do not need to see Meier’s goal first to know that would happen. Hey coach, you want to know when to use Lindholm? Use him during the final 90 seconds when the other team has pulled its goalie. When you need your best defensive defensemen, that is when you tap Lindholm’s shoulder.

The fact that Carlyle has to be told that is reason enough in my book to kick him to the street, and to give a new coach a chance. I cannot describe how furious I am right now at Carlyle. I have sat back and watched all of his personnel choice blunders all season, and I am done keeping my mouth shut. The man needs to hit the road.

This is not the first season in which I screamed for Carlyle to be fired. During 2009-10, the Ducks sent eight players to the Olympics, but failed to reach the playoffs. How the heck does a team with eight world-class players not go to the post-season? Answer: poor coaching. The Ducks should have fired Carlyle the moment that Anaheim was eliminated from the playoffs that season. The front office did its fans a disservice by holding onto Carlyle for another year and a half. It was the same old song and dance during his first tenure with Anaheim, too. The guy had no clue who to use for shootouts. During 2007-08, Carlyle got addicted to sending that awful Todd Bertuzzi to take shootouts. Bertuzzi was so bad that if he had skated all alone down the length of the Huntington Beach Pier, and fired a puck at the ocean, he would have missed.

Okay, rant finished. Let us move onto Sunday night’s individual scoring, goalie stats, and other trivial nonsense.

Ondřej Kaše opened the scoring early in the first period by firing a bad angle shot on the fly from the right wing. Here is the replay:

That was not the first time Kaše has scored the first goal of a game on a shot identical to that. Take a look at what he did against the Kings this season:

Same shot. Same result. Different goalies. Actually, Jonathan Quick gave up a similar goal this season to open the scoring against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as Patric Hörnqvist delivered the honors.
Same shot. Same result. Same goalie. Different shooter:

For Kaše that was his 15th goal of the season. The second-year man from the Czech Republic is well on his way to a 20-goal season, and if he had not missed so many games due to injury and the flu, surely Kaše would reach 30 goals.

Kaše’s goal against San Jose held up for a 1-0 lead that the Ducks took into the third period before Fowler made it 2-0 with only 13 minutes remaining in the game. Kaše picked up an assist on that goal, too. That should have been enough. But, San Jose climbed right back into the game when about four minutes later, Logan Couture put the Sharks onto the scoreboard with a goal. Couture also scored in shootouts, along with his teammate Joe Pavelski.

Martin Jones picked up the win, stopping 25-of-27 shots on goal. John Gibson played great during regulation, making 37-of-39 stops. But, Gibby could not stop anything during shootouts.

The Ducks now head off for a four-game road trip that starts Tuesday in Detroit against Anaheim’s arch-rival Red Wings. Until then, Let’s Go Ducks !!

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