The Anaheim Ducks were one victory away from their third Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Ryan Getzlaf appeared to be a man on a mission, sitting among the league leaders in scoring during the playoffs.
Then all of a sudden, something went terribly wrong for the captain, and he and his teammates found themselves on the wrong side of the traditional post-series handshake line with the Chicago Blackhawks.
While not the main reason for his club’s meltdown, Getzlaf put forth two consecutive disappointing performances that contributed to the Ducks’ demise. Anaheim went from having a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Final to an early tee time on the golf course.
Getzlaf helped the Ducks finish as the top seed in the West, leading the team during the regular season with 70 points. He followed a personal-best 31-goal output in 2013-14 with 25 tallies this campaign, matching the second-highest total of his career.
The 19th overall pick of the 2003 draft, Getzlaf continued his strong play in the playoffs, registering two goals and 10 assists against the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames in the first two rounds. He was kept off the scoresheet in the final two games against Calgary in the conference semifinals but began the series versus Chicago with a five-game point streak during which he collected seven assists.
Things took a turn for the worse, however, as Getzlaf struggled mightily in the 5-2 loss at United Center in Game 6. The 30-year-old finished with a minus-3 rating and lost 11-of-15 faceoffs while committing several turnovers.
“It started with me,” Getzlaf told reporters afterward. “I was terrible tonight, and that’s on me.”
The native of Saskatchewan was not nearly as bad in the deciding game, but still did not put forth the type of effort expected of him. He recorded an assist but was minus-1, as the Ducks allowed the first four goals en route to a 5-3 defeat, their third Game 7 loss at home in three years.
“I’m not going to say I played great,” Getzlaf said. “I didn’t play good enough to win. … But I felt better as a whole. I felt more prepared for the game.”
That comment was a disturbing one, as a person has to wonder why a team captain who already has a championship under his belt was not prepared to help provide the knockout punch in Game 6. And that question has become a familiar one of late.
In 2013, Getzlaf had little success against the Detroit Red Wings in Games 6 and 7 of their first-round series, posting a minus-1 rating while winning only 15 of his 39 faceoffs. The following postseason saw him produce even worse results in Games 6 and 7 of the conference semifinals versus the Los Angeles Kings — a minus-3 mark and 14 wins on 45 draws.
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, whose status is in question partially as a result of his captain’s performance, refused to lay blame on Getzlaf for the series loss. Even though some certainly is deserving.
“All I know is Ryan Getzlaf played for us very hard, and he is a great captain,” Boudreau said. “He’s the first one that’s going to be wishing that things had turned out a little bit different because he was ready to play, and he played his (butt) off or his heart out, whatever you want to call it.”
Most would call it coming up small in a big spot. That stigma is something Getzlaf will need to rid himself of if the Ducks are to get their names engraved on the Stanley Cup again.