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

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ducks vs. Sharks, round 1 game 4

An exceptionally generous date allowed me the opportunity to see our boys take on the Sharks for Game Four of the Sharks-Ducks playoff series. I'm expecting the game to be even more intense, even more physical. Our Ducks don't have the best home record, I'm hoping they'll turn that around tonight. I don't think I'm the only fan ready to push our hometown heroes to victory with home energy.

The series has been all about defense. We've got Captain Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Francois Beauchemin, Ryan Whitney, and James Wisniewski out there... how can we not do well? The Sharks, with Boyle (who made two goals in Game Three), Blake, and Murray put up a good fight defensively. And they proved in the last game that they can play just as physical a game as our Ducks can. This fourth game is important on an emotional perspective. Our Ducks need to take the control back, especially on their home ice. As for the Sharks, I'm sure they're eager to show everyone that Game Three wasn't a fluke.

We're already getting scrums at the crease after every whistle. Our boys seem to have gotten caught off guard early on in this first period. They're sluggish and not moving their feet enough. Jonas Hiller is called upon to make a number of quick saves. Thank god Hiller's awake. C'mon boys, let's get a move on.

Ducks get the first power play of the game, after Wisniewski gets tripped by Pavelski. Our Ducks get some good shots on Evgeni Nabokov, who's looking a bit unconfident in the goal crease. He's leaving rebounds left and right That's a good sign. Ugh, if our guys can just get focused. They're not completing passes, and they aren't in front of the net to capitalize on those rebounds. My boy Bobby Ryan gets a solid four shots on that goal, and an excellent pass to Wisniewski. Go Bobby! The Ducks continue to keep possession of the puck for a good minute or so after the power play ends, and I think they manage to change the momentum of the game.

Another Ducks power play when Setoguchi takes down Bobby after holding on to him behind the Sharks goal line. Shots on net, but Sharks are putting a lot of guys in front of Naby and blocking. Again, no fruit.

Soon after, Andrew Ebbett gives the Sharks their first power play with a retaliatory trip. Ducks' penalty kill proves strong, Hiller is flawless. No goals.

Just one man and his net

The horn sounds the end of the scoreless first period. Our boys picked up their game, and they're playing with a little more discipline. At least, the parade to the sinbin hasn't started yet. The Sharks, amping up their physical game, look like they're taking a few more penalties because of it. I'm hoping our boys will be able to get more offense going in the next two periods.

The second period starts with 4 on 4 hockey, thanks to a few players taking penalties from the scrum at the end of the first period. At even strength, Bobby continues his onslaught of shots on the net. The rest of his team need to catch up to him!

A shot on Naby gets pushed into the net but is deemed a no goal, even though it appears that Naby never had control of that puck. Big George managed to push it through. Boos erupt from the fans in attendance as the replay reveals to us that it should have been a valid goal. Less than a minute later, karma. Bobby grabs the puck in the Anaheim zone and passes it up ice to Ryan Getzlaf, who takes it up through neutral ice and into the Shark zone with Corey Perry on his right wing. Bobby speeds up the center, through the slot, right as Getzlaf makes a beautiful spin pass across to him and he hits it home past Nabokov.

Great goal for Bobby, who does one of his jumping body slams against the glass behind the goal line. First goal of the game goes to the player who finally hits paydirt. Third goal of the post-season for Bobby. The fans in the upper deck start up a chant of "Bobby! Bobby!" and I'm lovin' it. Apparently, Bobby is too. The big screen catches him smiling in the afterglow as he sits on the Duck bench.

Play continues for the next few minutes, and our boys look energized with that first goal under their belt. We end up taking a long break in play as the pane of glass between the two team benches shatters and needs to be replaced. I've never seen that particular pane broken before, and I'm assuming it doesn't happen often. The crew at the Ponda whip out the measuring tape, apparently needing to cut a new piece of glass. Replay reveals the pane shatters when Bobby takes a hit by a Shark defender in front of the player benches. He's pushed along the wall and his shoulder smashes into the glass.

Halfway through the second period, the break in play is taking almost as long as another intermission. Not good for keeping the Ducks momentum going after that first goal. The players are out skating around, trying to keep themselves limber.

Not my idea of halftime entertainment!

Play resumes and our big "Legion of Doom" line is back out on the ice. Perry tries to stuff the puck on a wraparound, but it bounces off Naby and back to Perry. He then catches his own rebound for another shot, which bounces free off the hapless netminder and down the slot to where Bobby is waiting. He drops to one knee and flicks it into the empty net with a quick wrister. Just like that, another goal for my boy, as if nothing had happened. We're on our feet, screaming and cheering, "Bobby! Bobby!"

While the goal is being announced, Wisniewski takes a holding penalty. Amazingly, it's just the second penalty for our Ducks, and the second time they have to call on their penalty kill. Hiller is once again flawless through a number of tricky shots on goal.

Right as Wisniewski is out of the box, our boys are in the Shark zone, putting some sweet shots on net. The word is out, fire on Naby's skates and wait for those rebounds cuz he seems to cough one up every time.

Back in the Ducks zone, Getzy blocks a one-timer off the top of his foot and looks very uncomfortable afterwards. He limps to the bench. Less than a minute later, Ebbett is looking rather shaken himself and barely makes it back to the bench. After the television timeout, both players look much better. Whew!

We've got another penalty, and Marleau heads to the sinbin after high-sticking Getzlaf behind the net. The arena fittingly plays Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box," Our boys get a few huge chances on the first half of this power play. The shots are strong (have I mentioned Wisniewski has one helluva slap shot?), the defensive pairing of Whitney and Pronger are looking perfectly in synch as they complete long stretch passes to each other and to the offensive line. As the end of the second period is sounded, I have to insist that our Ducks are playing the best hockey of the game right now. They're riding high on confidence, on the energy that's practically crackling through the air, and on the momentum of Bobby's two goals.

Ducks lead 2-0.

As the third period starts, the rest of the Ducks power play is killed off by the Sharks. Meaning to send a message to Bobby, big defenseman Blake puts a huge hit on him a few seconds after he leaves the puck. It could easily have been an interference penalty. But Blake took most of the damage off that hit, he spun Bobby, but careened off into the boards in one direction, his stick flying off in the other direction. Luckily, Bobby saw him coming at the last minute and was able to avoid the majority of that hip check.

Hiller continues complete dominance of his goal crease. Very few rebounds, and engaged defensemen helping to clear any rebounds that do appear keep him safe. Hiller is tight and on his game tonight. Honestly, he needs to be. He has no choice. The Sharks are down with zero goals in this final period. You know they're coming with blood in their sights.

Play continues for minutes at a time without a whistle. Our Ducks are making the Sharks play a lot of defense, and that's key to protecting this lead. Huge shot on net by Ehrhoff point blank at the crease, but saved by Hiller. And then again, on a shot made by big forward Thornton. And Hiller keeps himself calm and cool throughout the whole thing. Shots are made, blocked, stripped, and saved... good plays by both teams.

Less than half of the third left. Can we start hoping for Hiller's second playoff shutout? Or maybe a hat trick for Bobby? There will be another goal, not by Bobby, but by his big line. Getzlaf fires from the slot, and Perry puts the redirect on it between Naby's leg pads and into the net. More screaming and cheering from the fans. We're really enjoying this now. The energy is thick, you can tell our boys are absolutely pumped and enjoying themselves out there. Their confidence is infectious and squeezing the life out of the Sharks players.

Puck battles are won every time by Duck players, the Sharks aren't even charging the puck, and Naby is sprawling all over his crease. At every break, the fans are on our feet. There's three minutes left in this game, and we're going to cheer our team right to that win.

Even Hiller's got that extra spring in his step. He makes a glove save with a little more than his usual dramatic flare, and then innocently pushes away from the net while Thornton and Whitney mix things up at the crease, Roenick charging in to add his two cents. Or two fists, as the case may be.

At a buck thirty, Naby leaves the net. We're on our feet. Breakaway by Rob Niedermayer and Drew Miller, who fires onto the empty net from the red line. It's in! With less than thirty left, we've got a cross-checking penalty as Sharks' Miller attacks Ryan Carter against the boards. A huge brawl erupts. It's a power play, but only eleven seconds left. By this time, the Ducks best defensemen (Pronger and the Captain) are held in on the bench, and the Ducks best enforcers (Parros and Brown) are out on the ice. Wise decisions by coach Carlyle.

Sharks' Miller and Sheldon Brookbank, who joined the scrum, take additional misconduct penalties for the incident. The fourth line is left in for the power play, which they opt to whittle away by passing the puck back and forth between themselves in the defensive zone. Second shutout of the series for Hiller, and Ducks lead the series 3-1.

The Ducks are out to congratulate Hiller and each other for the win

The three stars of the game? Third goes to a much-deserving Wisniewski...


Second to Hiller...


And first? My boy Bobby Ryan.


Can I say, "Calder! Calder!"


My Zimbio
Top Stories