In the NHL, the idea of "sending a message" isn't new. If you look at any sport, it's littered with examples of players stating that they'll stand their ground in numerous ways. It could be a hard foul in basketball, a big hit in football, a pitcher throwing at someone, or a few extra shoves in hockey.
With that being said, in the Anaheim Ducks' 8-1 loss against the San Jose Sharks on Monday night, they completely skipped over the idea of sending a message. What the Ducks did Monday was embarrassing, dangerous, and they should be universally crushed for the way that their third period against the Sharks was played in a well-earned loss that put them down 3-0 in the first round series and on the brink of elimination.
It's safe to say no one outside of Ducks fans is hoping for a comeback -- and even some of them may be done by now. After a tightly contested first period in which we saw a nice goal from Rickard Rakell, it looked like we were finally getting the Battle of California we wanted from Game 1. Then, the Sharks put up a four-goal second period, and there was a minor scuffle in front of the net at the three-quarters mark. Finally, in the third period, all hell broke loose.
Melker Karlsson is no stranger to Corey Perry cheap shots. In Game 2, Karlsson wasn't controlling the puck and Perry blindsided him with a shoulder check, sending his helmet flying. It wasn't the worst hit in the world, just a particularly violent interference, but Perry's reputation precedes him.
Well here comes Corey Perry pic.twitter.com/9Zsiti0Gby— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 15, 2018
Down 6-1 in the third in Game 3, Perry hit Kevin Labanc, this time with a crosscheck to the back, deciding to eschew any guise of subtlety in his approach to putting the Sharks in as much pain as possible.
The Corey Perry dirty play of the game pic.twitter.com/MAGBULsXgy— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) April 17, 2018
After Perry was sent to the box, Ryan Getzlaf got a misconduct call for choice words to an official and was sent to the showers early after taking a double minor earlier in the period. After Perry's hit, things proceeded business as usual for a while, albeit a bit more tense, with the only "incident" being a slightly late run-in with Sharks goalie Martin Jones by Rakell that looked like it could well have been incidental.
At the 16:38 mark, however, Ryan Kesler was called for slashing, and after Evander Kane scored his third goal of the series, things got even worse. The Ducks essentially stopped playing hockey, and if they were sending a message, it was "if we can't beat you, we're going to injure you instead." The final minute and a half of the game was just Sharks players trying to keep their head on a swivel to see which Duck was going to crosscheck them, and the referees tried to let the clock bleed. Then Brandon Montour had an egregious slash that needed to be called. Chris Tierney scored to make it 8-1, and that was the final score after a six-penalty third for the Ducks and a game that had eight Sharks power plays and saw four Sharks goals with a man advantage. The final minute looked a little something like this:
The bottom line is this: Randy Carlyle needs to get his guys in check. I have no doubt someone is going to come in saying "that's just playoff hockey, if you can't handle the physicality don't watch." That's tired. It was cheap, and it was stupid, and it makes the idea of a Game 4 dreadful because honestly, how cheap will the Ducks play in that game if they fall behind? Perry definitely shouldn't play, because you can't look at his incidents in a vacuum anymore, but who knows how that will play out?
It isn't all bad, however, because we learned another thing that I don't want to detract from: The Sharks are really good, and they're absurdly poised. Amid all of the chaos, they just kept scoring, burying that Ducks casket deeper and deeper. Jones was a question mark coming into this postseason, but he had 45 saves Monday in a stellar performance, continuing what already has been a strong series. Kane is doing what he was signed to do, the Sharks have four legitimately threatening lines, and their power play looked unstoppable Monday. We'll see what happens when they play a team that's actually playing hockey again, but they've answered a lot of the questions surrounding them in spades this series.
Until they do play that next team, however, we have to suffer through at least one more game of this. With the Sharks now up 3-0 on the Ducks, a comeback is all but impossible. Four teams in NHL history have come back from 3-0, although two have done it since 2010 (including in 2014 when the Sharks collapsed against the Kings). However, the Ducks have quit, plain and simple. At this point, all their fans can hope for is that they go out with some dignity, or at least put up a fight that doesn't involve crosschecking a defenseless player.
To catch up on the action from Monday night, check out our updates here.