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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ducks at Boston, vs Bruins

When I found out Veniza-trophy winner Tim Thomas was going to be in net tonight, I got nervous.

Norris-trophy winner Zdeno Chara was also going to be in the lineup.

I wonder if our Erik Christensen was slightly relieved to find out he'd be spending the game up in the press box as a healthy scratch, considering Z's the one that seems to have permanently screwed up his shoulder seasons ago.

Yours truly watched this one at the first official Duck Watch Party of the season at O'Connell's Sports Bar and Grill in Huntington Beach. It's always fun being in the company of other sports fans when your boys are playing. O'Connell's is a small yet cozy place, with some awesome lunch specials. Baby Rebel was not cooperating with the harsh lighting, so no pictures from the scene.

Our Ducks haven't been able to get a win yet this season, would they be able to defend against such a decorated team? Last season's top seeded Eastern Conference team who handed them a humiliating 0-6 shutout the last time they shared ice? It definitely wasn't going to be easy. The Bruins came out with guns a-blazing, making some good bids on net, but they were handled very well by Jonas Hiller.

Hillsy did let in a five-holer which, I'm sure, he would've loved to take back as it looked as if it went right through him. My boy Bobby Ryan had a number of scoring chances in that first period (and throughout the game), none of which he could capitalize on. Our hometown heroes were looking good though. Feet were moving, forechecks were aggressive, our boys were moving into shooting and passing lanes, and dominating in the faceoff. They were doing those little things as well as much improved tape-to-tape passing... maybe it would just be a matter of time.

The second period saw the Bruins make a couple of crucial mistakes. They ended up with overlapping penalties, and our Ducks were gifted with a beautiful 69 seconds of 5-3 power play. Teemu Selanne found net on both penalties, the first with a slap shot that sped past a Corey Perry screen and between Thomas's legs. The second, showcasing what the Ducks do best on the doorstep, came off a Thomas rebound. Saku Koivu caught the puck bouncing back in the slot, his bid rebounding again off Thomas to Perry, who tapped it to Selanne as he approached the net on the left. It was Selanne's infamous backhander that slid the puck in behind Thomas's leg, and our Ducks would take the lead, 2-1.

Not that our boys were able to stay out of the sin bin themselves, but I'm glad it wasn't a revolving door. I noticed some favorable changes in our boys' penalty kill. Saku and Todd Marchant whittled penalty minutes by possessing the puck for extended periods of time, and both acted as pests making it difficult for the Bruins to penetrate the zone, more or less set up. Once they were set up, Saku intercepted a number of passes, sending the puck back down the ice and requiring the Bruins to set up once again.

Maybe it helps having a veteran former captain on our team who's had history playing against these Eastern Conference teams, but I was very pleased with our PK this game. Yours truly loves having Saku on the PK unit.

Our boys would score again with a beautiful play by Perry. Not the first time he's made good with this display of patience and solid puck handling, Perry skated the puck down the left wing off a feed from James Wisniewski, then across the slot in front of the crease. Faking with a shoulder, he baited both Bruin D-men and Thomas, who went down expecting a short-sided wrister. Once the goalie went down, Perry patiently slid the puck around to the opposite side of the net and lifted it top shelf.

Simply beautiful.

Our defense is doing a better job at keeping the doorstep clean, but I think there's still work to be done there. Opposing guys and pucks still linger around the crease a few seconds longer than they should. Every game our boys play though, has gotten increasingly better than the last. And that's a good thing. Credit to Steve Eminger and Luca Sbisa, who are both looking more and more like gritty Duck D-men.

Our boys headed into the third period with a nice 2-goal lead. Learning their lesson from Tuesday, when they blew their 3-goal lead and lost in overtime, our boys kept the foot on the gas through the third. There was a lot more puck possession in the offensive zone. And it paid off.

Big guy Evgeny Artyukhin caught a pass from Joffrey Lupul and, catching the Bruin D off guard, sped off to the races. I'm always amazed to see such a large player burn rubber the way Arty does, and that man sure can skate. With Hunwick on his heels, Arty bore down on Thomas and snapped the shot five-hole.

That's the second goal for Arty in three games. Again, big grins on the bench from the Russian. Fast becoming a fan-favorite?

I'm sure the game felt like it had turned a complete 180 for Jonas Hiller, who could've sat down with a lawn chair and a margarita during the third period. He faced 19 shots on goal in the first period, but only four during the third (for a total of 15 for the second and third combined).

Finally, finally! Bobby gets his goal. It's off a slap shot from the Captain at the blue line, which hits Bobby's leg on the way to the net, and then shoots past Thomas five-hole. Unbelievable, but Bobby will take it!

Picture by Elsa/Getty Images North America

Our boys looked quite comfortable with their 4-goal lead with 3 minutes left in the game. A couple of penalties gave the Bruins man-advantage opportunities, but our much-improved PK killed them all. On one of these, Perry would tally his second for the evening. Lupul would go down on one knee to block a shot from the blue line. Perry caught the bouncing puck and went on a short-handed rush. Not exactly known for agile speed-skating, Perry managed to shoot the puck which was easily blocked by Thomas. The puck rebounded, bouncing off Perry's shoulder and helmet, flipped over Thomas's shoulder and became Perry's first shorthanded NHL goal.

The cameras caught subsequent grins and laughing from coach Carlyle and the boys on the Duck bench.

"Sometimes you get to be lucky. But to be lucky, you've got to fight for it."---Jonas Hiller

Lucky bounces went the Ducks' way in tonight's game, but when it happens as many times as it did tonight, you have to admit there was more than just luck involved. Our hometown heroes ended their night with a well-earned 6-1 Bruin beating and what looked to be an altogether fun game to play. It was definitely a fun one for us fans to watch. Next up, a reunion with Chris Pronger and the Flyers in Philadelphia this Saturday.

Some interesting stats about today's game: Teemu logged his 115th career multi-goal game and Ryan Getzlaf played his 300th NHL game.


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