WEDNESDAY: ANAHEIM 4 EDMONTON 3 (OT)
SERIES: ANAHEIM 2 EDMONTON 2 (GAME 5 AT HONDA CENTER FRIDAY)
Randy Carlyle is an old school kind of coach. He wants a deep commitment from each player, quick shots and a hard forecheck that goes directly to the slot in the offensive zone. Star players should be leaned on when the chips are down, and the big-money guys have to carry the load.
It all sounds like a cliché, but those clichés exist for a reason.
Carlye’s captain and top-line center Ryan Getzlaf played a whopping 25:56 Wednesday night in one of the most impressive games he’s ever played.
Carlyle acknowledged to the media that he’d thought “a million” times that Getzlaf needed to shoot more. Getzlaf evidently reads the papers, too, because he’s been firing it like never before this postseason, to great effect, with seven goals, five assists for 12 points in eight games.
Down 2-0 after one period to the Oilers Wednesday, the captain put his club on his shoulders.
Brandon Montour corralled a puck at the blue line and slid it to Getzlaf, whose quick shot eluded Cam Talbot thanks to a screen from buddy Corey Perry. Perry made contact, his skate bumping Talbot’s just outside the crease. Despite a close call on video review, the Ducks had a goal to cut the Oilers’ first-period lead to 2-1.
That was only the beginning, as the soon-to-turn 32 Getzlaf would author an epic turnaround for his club.
At 14:25 of the second, he’d give his club a 3-2 lead, overpowering Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to swat a puck past Talbot from in close. You can see why Getzlaf has an older brother who played in the CFL. The play reminded you of a rushing lineman pushing the opposition back.
It wasn’t enough, as the tough Oilers tied the game at 3-3 at 18:18 of the third. But there was Getzlaf again, after Rickard Rakell won a puck battle, sliding it to Jakob Silfverberg who rifled it home just 45 seconds into overtime, just the way Randy wants it: A one-timer, no dusting it off, thank you, good night.
This virtuoso performance, two goals and two assists in a 4-3 OT victory, is another of a growing pile of elite performances that could not come at a better time.
“I’ve always said that I can say anything I want in the dressing room but I’ve got to go out and live it,” Getzlaf told Helene Elliott of the LA Times afterward. “I tried to do that in the second period and the group just went along with it and kept playing.”
After Drake Caggiula would lay a hard hit on him at the half-wall of the Ducks’ defensive zone, he’d laugh it off, and even the partisan crowd could sense that a certain respect was due.
The Ducks have ghosts of playoffs past, with a famous string of four seasons leading 3-2 in a seven game series then losing Games 6 and 7. Getzlaf, and his newly-reunited partner Perry, have these memories stuck in their craws, and to the delight of their fan base, are playing like it.
The national US broadcast went with the wind on this night, celebrating Connor McDavid repeatedly during the Oilers’ two-goal outburst, during which the Ducks were flatfooted compared to the agile and very physical Oilers. Then, after declaring the series over, our bud Keith Jones had to admit (he’s a class act all around) later in the broadcast, as Getzlaf powered the Ducks back, he’d jumped the gun.
Getzlaf has said repeatedly this postseason that the club would not get “too high or too low” emotionally, which too is a cliché. But again, these things exist for a reason and the veteran Ducks captain’s ability to sew confidence in his troops at the toughest of moments makes him a front-runner for the Conn Smythe. There’s no one close. The team’s sweep of a very game Calgary club was hard-earned, and one has to wonder whether some of those games would have been lost in seasons past.
For his part, old school Carlyle has done what all the great coaches have proven able to do: Adjust. Who knows what’s said in the dressing room, but Carlyle’s choices have paid dividends. As noted, Perry was reunited with Getzlaf and Rakell. Earlier in the Calgary series, he played with Nate Thompson and Rakell. Whatever the situation has called for this playoff season, Carlyle has had an answer.
It’s been a decade since Getzlaf and Perry hoisted the Stanley Cup with Carlyle as his second-line players (with Dustin Penner) on a veteran-led team that was brilliant wire-to-wire. The evening of the series with the fast, tough Oilers foretells a mental toughness in the postseason the pair hoped to exhibit. Thus far, Anaheim’s ability to respond to adversity is as impessive a storyline as any.
“It’s just another exclamation point on the type of player Getzy’s been for our hockey club, he’s our captain, he’s our leader,” said Carlyle. “He’s done a lot of things that go unnoticed. Now in these situations in the playoffs, he’s been a guy that’s stepped to the forefront and taken the bull by the horns.”
A great individual story is brewing, that of Ryan Getzlaf answering the bell, and his critics, on the ice, where it counts.
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES (GETZLAF SCORES IN GAME 4 AT EDM)
NOTES COURTESY DUCKS PR:
With two goals tonight, Ryan Getzlaf recorded his first career multi-goal playoff game and surpassed Teemu Selanne (35) for the all-time franchise lead in goals (36). Getzlaf recorded 2-2=4 points in the game, matching his postseason career high in points (1-3=4 points on Apr. 30, 2015 vs. CGY in Game 1 of the Second Round). Jakob Silfverberg and Getzlaf each scored their seventh goal of the postseason, becoming the first players in franchise history to score seven goals through the first eight playoff games in any season. Getzlaf (7-6=13) also becomes the first player since Claude Giroux in 2011 (7-8=15) to score seven goals while also recording 12 or more points through the first eight playoff games in any season.
Getzlaf now ranks second in the NHL in playoff scoring and tied for second in goals, while Silfverberg ranks tied for ninth in scoring (7-2=9) and tied for second in goals. Brandon Montour, Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell all rank tied for second in the NHL in postseason plus/minus (+10).