After the Anaheim Ducks grabbed a 2-0 lead in their series against the Dallas Stars, there may have been some fans who thought that the series was well in hand for the favored Ducks. The Stars had other ideas however, winning both Games 3 and 4 to tie things up at 2-2 in the best-of-seven series.
The losses in Dallas weren’t the only things that have Ducks fans concerned. Team captain Ryan Getzlaf missed Game 4, and his status for Game 5 is uncertain. Matt Beleskey, who was injured in Game 1, is unlikely to return for the pivotal game in the series on Friday night. Teemu Selanne was also scratched from the lineup in both games in Dallas, so there’s worries that he is dissatisfied with head coach Bruce Boudreau after the benching.
As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, the Ducks also have questions facing them in goal. Frederik Andersen, who looked rock solid in net for the team in the first two games at the Honda Center, was yanked from Game 4 by Boudreau, and despite getting the start in Game 5, the leash may be really short with Jonas Hiller waiting on the bench and a couple of bad games under the youngster’s belt.
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Complicating matters is the fact that the Stars are growing more confident with each victory they put under their belts. With youngsters like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin leading the way, this group is realizing that they have the potential to pull off a massive upset in the postseason, and they certainly have the goaltending to do it too. Kari Lehtonen has looked better with each passing game in the series, and currently has a 2.27 GAA and a .921 save percentage so far this postseason.
Despite all of the things working against the Ducks right now, there are still a few things that are going in their favor. For starters, having home ice advantage still in hand does provide them with a measure of comfort, since they can more effectively determine matchups to try to slow down Seguin and Benn. The Ducks also won 29 games at home this season, which was tied for the most in the Western Conference, so skating of the friendly environs of Honda Center should give them a mental boost as well.
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Perhaps most importantly of all, the Ducks have plenty of veteran talent that knows how to deal with adversity, and they should be well-equipped to handle this challenge. The insertion of Selanne back in the lineup should help settle down some of the offensive struggles that the team has been experiencing in recent games, and potentially getting Getzlaf back should help matters too. Guys like Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin also are going to need to step up, but adding pieces back into the lineup always helps matters too.
When push comes to shove, the Ducks’ fortunes in Game 5 will be contingent upon bouncing back in all of the areas that they found themselves deficient in during the previous two contests. If they can’t move the puck more effectively, slow down the Dallas transition game, or figure out a way to get more pucks past Lehtonen, then Game 5 could very well be a spoiled homecoming for the Ducks. Going back to Dallas down three games to two is not a position that the team wants to be in, and they are going to have to dig deep to avoid that fate.