In a battle of field goals, the Ducks got their rear ends kicked.
The final scoresheet tells the story: The Blues wasted through Curtis McElhinney (11 shots, 7 saves) and Timo Pielmeier (12 shots, 7 saves) — who closed out the final two periods in his NHL debut — with equal fervor.
Goals by Jarkko Ruutu and Teemu Selanne in the game’s first 6:41 gave Anaheim an unmemorable 2-0 lead. The Blues scored four more before the first period was over, interrupted only by a Ryan Getzlaf wrist shot that ended Ty Conklin’s evening. The bleeding continued as Chris Stewart, T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald all wrapped up two-goal efforts. Alex Steen, Carlo Colaiacovo and David Backes scored one apiece, and backup backstop Ben Bishop (20 shots, 20 saves) was perfect in relief of Conklin (5 shots, 3 goals).
The question now for the Ducks is, who can stop the bleeding?
A backup throughout his four-year NHL career, McElhinney clearly has hit the ceiling in his short time as a starter. In losing three consecutive starts, he’s allowed 16 goals on 68 shots — a miserable .765 save percentage and 6.90 goals-against average. Pielmeier wasn’t much better, though the 21-year-old was probably only viewed as an emergency option when he was recalled earlier in the week from AHL affiliate Syracuse.
Consider this an emergency.
A team spokesperson said earlier in the day that Jonas Hiller isn’t dealing with a concussion, but rather a treatable “balance issue.” That’s the good news. The bad news is that his return isn’t neccessarily imminent. He’s still listed as day-to-day, and has been assigned to a physical therapist for treatment. Hiller saw the therapist today and will again on Monday.
To find a ray of hope in the Ducks’ goaltending picture, one must turn to Syracuse, N.Y.
Making his second start for the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, Ray Emery stopped 37 of 38 shots in a 7-1 win by the Crunch over the Rochester Americans. If health was the only question mark standing between Emery and his next NHL appearance, he seems to have answered it by playing 120 minutes in the span of two days. Emery stopped 27 of 31 in a Crunch loss Friday.
The goalies aren’t the only problem in Anaheim; too often the Ducks allowed the Blues to get below their defensemen and make life tough on McElhinney and Pielmeier. Even a healthy Hiller at his peak would have been challenged to pull out a win on Saturday.
The Ducks get four days off before hosting the Kings on Wednesday. Probably Pielmeier, and maybe McElhinney, should be feeling the warmth under their seats in the meantime.