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

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ducks vs. Sharks, round 1 game 2

Ducks beat the Sharks in Game One, but could they do it again? Was it more than dumb luck? About a hundred rabid fans decided to find out together at the Hooters watch party.

I like going to these watch parties because it's fun to be amidst the craziness and energy of sports fans en masse. It is a little annoying that I always end up going alone, and sitting by myself either at the bar or at a table. Sometimes I make a friend out of the fan sitting next to me, sometimes not. But I guess I'm not really there to socialize. I'm there to cheer on my boys.

Thank goodness Jonas Hiller wasn't a fluke. In game two, Hiller is sharp between the pipes once again, making swift lateral movements to block the first couple of Shark shots on goal.

Two minutes in, the game's first power play goes to Anaheim off a tripping call by an argumentative Clowe. Our boys spend all but maybe two seconds making shots against Evgeni Nabokov. The Sharks barely hang on, all the way until the last four seconds. And then, in a feat of sheer beauty, my boy Bobby Ryan dives and converts his own rebound off the post and into the net!

First (early) goal of the game.

First career playoff goal for Bobby.

I swear, watch that shot from the net camera and tell me it isn't incredible. The HP Pavillion is completely hushed.

The Sharks get their first power play opportunity shortly thereafter on Ryan Whitney for slashing. In Game One, the Sharks had six fruitless power plays. This time, the Sharks are in front of Hiller and catching their own rebounds. But Hiller is stellar and gives the Sharks no goals. He's helped tremendously by our penalty kill team who make it difficult for the Sharks to penetrate at the blue line.

Overall though, the Sharks are bringing a more physical, more confrontational game. The players are looking good, as I'm sure they got quite a talking to by their coach during these past few days since Game One. But our boys won't be pressured. Every puck that's covered up is followed by a floor of players exchanging words and dirty looks at the crease.

Another penalty for our Ducks with a little under six minutes left in the period. Petteri Nokelainen gets sent to the sinbin for holding. I get nervous everytime our Ducks have to go on the penalty kill. Sure, they've been excellent so far, but when you have to use your penalty kill so many times... it's just a matter of time.

But not this time. Another Sharks power play killed off by Hiller and our Ducks defense.

Hiller's leaving rebounds, but his mates are right in front of him to clear those pucks. It's a beautiful thing but boy, does it make a game intense! It also makes me nervous how many shots the Sharks are getting on the Duck net. Hiller is carrying this team, people, right into the first intermission 1-0.

The second period looks to be just as physical as the first. The zebras are letting players on both sides get away with a lot of potential penalties. People are getting shoved, elbowed, grabbed, stick-handled... you name it. Play goes on.

And then, on a long wrister, the Sharks capitalize on an Anaheim zone turnover and tie up the game, 1-1.

After a scrum that makes my blood boil, Chris Pronger ends up in the penalty box. There are Shark players taking whacks at Hiller, but there's no call. And when a Duck, like Chris Pronger, tries to defend his netminder with a retaliatory push, the Duck ends up in the penalty box and the Sharks end up on the power play?? Tell me how that works. The only revenge that our Ducks can revel in, no goals for the Sharks on their power play.

Dammit, Pronger in the box AGAIN?!? This one after a viscious cross-check. Even though the Sharks have been held 0-3 on their power play, it's as if the Ducks are daring them to score that goal. Argh! Mike Brown is outstanding in this penalty kill, buzzing around the Sharks in their zone, forcing turnovers in the neutral zone... I love that guy! Yet another Sharks power play killed.

With only five minutes left in the second period, both teams are looking pretty tired. The Sharks have dominated, giving the Ducks very little time in the offensive zone. Thank god Hiller is still strong. He's had to be in order to keep this game 1-1.

At the end of the period, our boys get a chance to make some great shots on Naby. No goals, but a good shift in momentum. Until... Ducks get a weird call for too many men on the ice. Argh! Another Shark power play... fruitless.

I swear, the second period of Game One was one Duck penalty after the next. The second period of Game Two looks exactly the same. And I'm frustrated as all get out. The second intermission comes mercifully, the score is unbelievably still tied, 1-1.

The third period opens with ANOTHER Duck penalty. "Elbowing" by Brown. I swear, the Sharks are messing with our Ducks, goading them into taking these penalties. Our boys have to work extra hard to keep their cool. C'mon boys, you really need to work on that. It's a game of numbers. Give them 100 power plays and they're bound to capitalize... and then where's your momentum?

Finally, an opportunity for our Ducks when Brown gets a generous whistle. Maybe it's a makeup call. Either way, it's a Duck power play, just the second one this game. Unfortunately, our boys can't even get situated in the zone. The pp ends, but the momentum stays. There are some good shots on goal, something to wake Naby up.

And then, payback! A play so fast, most people (including Naby) don't know what happened. Teemu Selanne races to a puck behind the Shark goal line. He manages to pass it quickly to Erik Christensen who chip passes it against the boards. It bounces awkwardly, right onto Andrew Ebbett who banks it off against the back of Naby's pads and into the goal. Holy crow, talk about good karma. The silence in the HP Pavillion is deafening. Ducks up, 2-1.

Ebbett's first career playoff goal.

Now, if our boys can just hold on. The period is about half over. Instead of backing into a defensive stance, I'm happy to see our boys still going strong with their offensive play. Naby is forced to make some quick, timely saves. Off a faceoff, the Captain draws back and waits for ample traffic in front of Nabokov. He throws his pass into a slew of bodies. Somewhere, Drew Miller spots the puck and pounds it between Naby's legs. Goal!!

Miller's first career playoff goal. What a night for the rookies! All three of our goal scorers started off as minor leaguers at the beginning of this season. Not to mention, our amazing netminder is also new to the playoffs.

Less than a minute later, Cheechoo, who should have been called on interference for pounding Bobby at the blue line, grabs a puck in front of Hiller and sends it home. It's 3-2, Ducks still leading thanks to Miller.

C'mon boys, you can do it! Five minutes left... no more penalties... keep your cool, protect the lead.

Two minutes left, Erhoff shoots and hits pipe. What a break! The Ducks capitalize on their good fortune and make remarkable strides to keep that puck in deep. Getzlaf, Perry, Scotty... all pushing, not to score, but just to stay deep with the puck and not let it turnover. A few more saves from Hiller and time is out!

Ducks steal another game away and make the series 2-0. This win comes courtesy of the young guns.


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