I mentioned it a few weeks ago, it dribbled into the GDT the other day... so let's just put it in one place and figure out what's going on.
Personally, I believe it's a system problem.
Not sure exactly what they are doing so I would have to go watch a bit more tape, but at first glance the style of play of the ducks, sharks, and kings is our kryptonite. But it's not just those teams... we haven't been stellar against Vancouver or Phoenix either.
What is it about the Pacific division that undermines our dominance over the entire rest of the NHL?
We are 33-10-5 overall, but 6-8-3 versus the Pacific with 5 wins against teams not from California.
Is Ryan Miller the answer? Is it all heart and want-to?
The bar isn't being raised high enough.
The skill and talent is there but the bar isn't being raised. It's at a low level and the team isn't being pushed to win. You can see it when we play teams that we steamroll and see it when we play teams in California and get rolled over. The bar should be at beating the best teams or at least staying up toe-to-toe with them, and half of those teams are on the West Coast. We own Chicago, but that's not saying much as Chicago is having as much trouble with those same teams as well.
After thinking about it rationally, the real problem is that Hitch isn't demanding enough of the team. His system works and is what is making us effective but his coaching style isn't enforcing it consistently. You can see this when you look at players that need to be pushed, like Stewart, Elliott, etc. You can just push them and leave them alone, you have to keep your foot in their back and demand the best and not be afraid to go to Army and say this person isn't going to work. There is no example being set. Winning a game is no excuse for playing sloppy and we've won one too many sloppy games. Sloppy games are won by a mix of luck and skill and are a lazy way to play. If Hitch is tolerating that, and it seems he is, then that's not coaching. That's something else.
I'd love to lamblast players like Halak and Elliott but the team in front of them is simply not playing for them and if I played goal, I'd be like a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs if I had to be in goal and dealing with my own team suddenly forgetting how to play hockey.
The last time we had this issue, Jake Allen was brought up and it seemed to help fix things. I don't think the real solution was Jake Allen insomuch as it was the fact that we made a change. It got peoples attention and they played right. I think Hitch needs to be more effective and change things up, not be afraid to call up players and not be afraid to enforce Bag Skates and hold players accountable. I simply don't see it happening here.
Trading for Miller is our way of saying Miller is going to save us. He's not. He's going to end up in the same boat as Halak and Elliott and be hung out to dry until this is solved and even then, if the team is rolling, Halak and Elliott are more than enough to hold the pipes. Our D is so deep they have no excuse for not being able to do something as simple as close the lanes and play a physical game and leave offense to the forwards, unless they can chip a shot in.
That's my two bits.