In praise of Bobby Ryan

In praise of Bobby Ryan
"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable. I played with [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the league. Bobby's hands are right with those guys... He's a superstar in the making, it seems."
---Ryan Whitney, former Ducks defenseman

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ducks vs Dallas Stars

This is the one, folks. I'm actually at this game with my brother, hoping to see our boys officially reach the post season in person. To watch our Ducks clinch the playoffs at the fan appreciation game... the last home game of the regular season? How sweet would that be?

If the Ducks can win this one, they clinch that playoff position. At least, that's how the standings are at the beginning of this game. It isn't impossible. Ducks have trounced the Stars before. But then, the Stars have trounced our Ducks too. It kinda depends on how hard the Stars will try to be a spoiler.

Based on the first half of the first period, it looks like the Stars have decided to put their all into killing the Ducks' playoff hopes. They're hitting hard, playing aggressively, leaving our Ducks reeling on the ice.

It also doesn't help that our boys don't seem to be playing their best tonight. I don't feel like they're fast enough, engaged enough, sharp enough. They seem sluggish, a split-second behind in the forecheck, and failing to connect passes. Maybe they've had one too many days off.

In defensive news, guess who's back on the ice for the first time this year? Francois Beauchemin is playing alongside Sheldon Brookbank. It's good to see Frankie back out there, even more so because I get nervous watching Brendan Mikkelson whiff his shots and miss his passes. But I digress.

Our boys get the first power play of the game when Stars goaltender Marty Turco high-sticks Corey Perry at his goal crease. Hopefully a pp will wake our boys up? Apparently not. But the fourth line springs to life. Right after that penalty expires, Robbie Niedermayer makes an excellent thread-the-needle pass to a charging Todd Marchant. It's snapped up high and into the net before Turco can blink.

First goal of the game goes to our Ducks. The crowd starts up a taunting chant, "Turrrrr-cooooo, Turrrrrr-coooooo..."

And then Chris Pronger gives the Stars their first power play opportunity. Luckily, it proves goal-less. But our boys need to step up their defense. They're losing faceoffs, they're turning over the puck constantly, and there has been very little time spent in the Dallas zone. Jonas Hiller has been sensational in net, thank goodness, because he isn't just the last line of defense so far...

He's the ONLY line of defense!

C'mon guys, we need to get our asses into gear!! You can't rely on Hiller to win this game for you. He keeps getting shots on him, one of them will eventually go in.

Second chance for our Ducks as Ribiero takes a two-minute slashing penalty and a two-minute unsportsmanslike conduct minor. There isn't enough time left in the first to serve both of those, but our Ducks don't capitalize before the horn sounds.

And it's a merciful horn sounding. Ducks go into the first intermission leading, 1-0, but I don't believe they deserve that lead. They're outnumbered for shots on goal 17 to 7, and outnumbered for hits 10 to 4. Our boys better pull it together. I don't know what's wrong with them, but I'm feeling kinda gypped. I paid to see a hockey game, dammit. My Ducks had better show up.

As the second period unfolds, the Ducks can't capitalize on the second half of their double pp, but they do a better job about possessing the puck. They probably got a talking to by coach Carlyle in the locker room during that intermission.

Hooking earns Robbie Niedermayer two minutes in the sinbin during which time the Stars manage a power play goal. Ugh, to add insult to injury, it's scored by "super-pest" Steve Ott. Where's Giguere to put that guy in a headlock when you need him?

Sitting in my upper deck seat, I'm wondering where all of the fan stamina is. Well, probably sucked out, but I'm trying my best to get my boys into this game with cheers of "Let's go, Ducks!" and "C'mon Ducks!"

Another power play opportunity for the Stars when Perry gets two for tripping. Our boys don't manage to give up any goals this time.

Man, I'm still feeling less than enthused about tonight's game. Where are my Ducks? Thank goodness Hiller decided to show up today, and continues to remain sharp between the pipes through the second. I also have to say, the zebras have been kind to our Ducks too. The penalties that did get called against us were valid, and I saw a few questionable moves that could've been called but weren't.

There's a little bit more puck possession by the Ducks this second period, but not a lot of shot opportunities. Again, Ducks outshot 13 to 9. But they close out the period with a hooking penalty against former Duck Brendan Morrison. No goals. And what do you start to hear? Booing from the home crowd here at the Ponda, yours truly included.

The score is 1-1 at the second intermission. Time to start playing some hockey, boys.

Finally, our Ducks are in the building. The top line makes a number of shots on goal. My boy Bobby Ryan gets robbed by Turco a few times, but it's nice to see our boys actually playing now. The energy is contagious, and the third period is looking to be a better one for our Ducks. Hiller is still making those great saves, he's been carrying the team through the first two periods.

Perry wins a battle in the corner, bringing the puck around to the front. Bobby charges the net, drawing the attention of a Stars defenseman and opening a passing lane for Perry directly to the Captain. Perry, patiently waiting for that lane, shoots it quickly to Scott Niedermayer who throws that puck in to retake the lead.

On the next shift by our top line, a beautiful succession of passes might have Bobby with another goal, but again, he's robbed by Turco.

And now, a holding penalty against Getzlaf. It's killed off without any shots on goal by the Stars. Whew! We're officially back in this.

A gasp and then silence from the crowd as Getzlaf, fresh out of the penalty box, collides accidentally with Perry. His shoulder smashes into Perry's head, leaving him flat and still on the ice for a few harrowing seconds. Back on the bench, he's in obvious pain. We'll have to keep an eye on him.

Ugh, a lot of action in front of the Anaheim net yields more saves by Hiller, but finally, a Stars goal. We're tied again, 2-2, with six minutes left.

Less than a minute later, Teemu Selanne charges after a puck behind the Star net. He flicks the pass to the front of the net right as Andrew Ebbett shows up, and Ebbett slams it home. Ducks retake the lead, 3-2.

Now if we can just hold onto this lead...! The veterans lead the game by example now, guarding the puck in the Duck zone, getting it deep in the Stars zone, passing to other forwards and trying to keep from sending it back to the defensive pair where it might possibly be sent out over the blue line.

At a minute thirty, there's electricity in the air. The fans start to rise to their feet, the cheering getting louder. One minute left. Our top line cycles it deep and keeps it there. But somehow, and this is like the steal of the season, the Stars manage to get the puck on a stick and Ott nets the equalizer WITH 13.1 SECONDS LEFT.

It's suddenly very quiet in the Ponda. We go into overtime and, with that extra point, the Ducks clinch the 7th seed in the playoffs. Preds lost bigtime to the Wild an hour or two before, and all our boys needed at that point was one. If they pull off this win, they could possibly take the 6th seed.

How sweet a win that'd be because, after all, these are the Stars we're playing. I'm sure our boys want to send this club packing on their final game of the season with a big fat L. And it looks like it'll be decided in a shootout.

I feel positive about this because Hiller has done so well in the shootout. And he's so hot tonight. The crowd is on their feet.


Perry's up first, as usual. He's turned away by a poke check.

Brunnstrom first up on Hiller. DENIED!

Bobby's up next. He whips out a number of dekes with those sweet hands, but he can't get it up over the top of Turco's glove.

Neal for the Stars. He speeds in on Hiller and gets it up with a left-handed shot over Hiller's glove.

Pressure's on Getzlaf, who must win to keep things going. He speeds it past a frustrated Turco. The crowd erupts.

Modano... hits post!

The crowd continues roaring as Selanne tees up. He charges Turco and then comes screeching to a slow to chip it in up over Turco. Beautiful! The crowd screams its approval.

Eriksson for the Stars, must score for another round of shootouts. He advances too close and can't get a shot out, Hiller easily blocks.

And it's a 4-3 win for the Ducks, PLUS a possible 6th seed as our boys reach the post season for the 4th consecutive year.

Hiller is mobbed by his mates as they rush out onto the ice in celebration. After the huddle breaks up, the Captain leads his team on an appreciative lap around the rink. My brother and I stay for the "jersey off the back" ceremony, a perfect end to a rocky game.


My Zimbio
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