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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ducks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Flash is back!!!

And not only that, Jonas Hiller is starting once again in the net even though he started in last night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Definitely a strong indication that J.S. Giguere's slump has been well noted by coach Randy Carlyle.

But anyway, how exciting is it to see Teemu Selanne back on the ice?? The home crowd sounded its approval with numerous cheers as he took a spot in the lineup beside mates Bobby Ryan and Brendan Morrison.

Carlyle is also keeping his big scoring line intact. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Chris Kunitz are on the ice together again tonight and, as the game opens, big offense is again the play of the day. Scott Neidermayer is up in front of the net again, playing the more offensive defenseman.

But one thing I'm a little disappointed at, it's the lack of puck time in the Blackhawks zone during the first period. Maybe our boys are a bit tired, but I'm not liking the disconnect between the players. They just seem sluggish to me.

Not like the well-oiled machine that mopped the ice with the Coyotes last night.

But that could just be me. The announcers seem to disagree.

Blackhawks land the first goal, but that's okay. The Coyotes got the first goal last night too. On the first power play of the night, dozens of hits on the Blackhawk goal, but none go in until Chris Pronger fires a slapshot from the blue line which, in the replay, showed to be a redirect by Bobby. This one goes home.

The officials give the goal to Pronger, and award an assist to Bobby, so that's another point for my boy either way. (During the intermission, the officials review the tape and give the goal to Bobby. That's his 11th this month, tying him for the lead in the NHL.)

As the first period continues, I'm getting a bit hot under the collar here. The Blackhawk's goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin, has a bee in his bonnet and that bee's name is Corey Perry. I dunno what the deal is, but there's lots of bad ref calls and tensions rise quickly because of it. Almost every play ends with guys yelling and sticks in the air.

I'm thinking there's going to be a lot more fighting (and Duck penalties) before the night is done.

And then, the Blackhawks take back their lead. To his credit, Hiller is doing a phenomenal job with saves, but the Ducks defense is a little lacking this time, and Hiller can't stop everything. I think the defensemen are just as riled up as the frontmen... which is probably why they can't help but be up there, in the opponent's face, instead of helping out around the goal crease.

But again, that's just me.

The second period opens, and in the first half there's only one goal. A Blackhawk goal. Damn. The Ducks are having problems keeping possession... and it's totally frustrating for the fans. For this fan, in the very least! Things have cooled, but so have shots on the Blackhawk net.

And then Travis Moen comes through. Burying the puck deep in the Blackhawk goal on a two against one front while the Ducks are short-handed. It was beautiful, people. Beautiful! At the end of the second, Ducks are behind by one.

As for the third period, geezus chryst, I think the Ducks need to take Hiller out for a beer after this game cuz seriously, without him they'd be down so many goals this period. I spent this period on the edge of my seat. The Ducks offense kept the Blackhawks on their toes... that puck spent a lot of time in the Blackhawks' zone, I'm amazed a goal hasn't come of it yet.

Unfortunately, all the Blackhawks have to do is repeatedly clear their zone. The Ducks have to penetrate to even get a shot at the equalizer.

After Hiller leaves the Duck net empty, there's shot after shot on the Blackhawk goal. And a questionable play with a Blackhawk pushing the net off its bearings after the skirmish in front of the net gets a little too hot to handle. But overtime was not to be in this game. Blackhawks hold their lead for the win, 3 to 2.

The definite stars of the game? Both netminders. Undoubtedly so.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ducks at Phoenix, vs Coyotes

So, our boys should be well rested after the All Stars break, right? At least all but three of our boys anyway. That was the hope of every Ducks fan going into Tuesday night's game.

I also held that same hope. But minimally, I just wanted to be conscious for tonight's game! Having undergone some outpatient surgery this morning, I agreed to come home with my parents afterwards only after they promised me I'd be able to watch the Ducks game in peace.

I did have to compete with Spongebob Squarepants courtesy of my little brother during the middle period, but I caught the crucial goal-earning moments on the rebroadcast. A good thing too, because there were A LOT of goals made by our Ducks in this game! Hell, this is the team that deserves to make it into the playoffs. I dunno who that other team is that's been playing of late, but I'm hoping they won't be back soon.

Incidentally, this game is being played at the arena in Phoenix. Yours truly will be in this arena this weekend. Not for a hockey game, but for a metal concert. Hockey game, mosh pit, same difference.

Right off the bat, I'm noticing how much energy our Ducks offensive has. Even defenseman Scott Niedermayer is playing a more offensive defense, following the puck deep into the opponents' zone and having more of an active role along the front lines. The boys look good. They're moving their feet, they're playing a fast game, they're monopolizing on forechecking opportunities. However, the first goal goes to the Coyotes during the first period, who quickly shoot a rebound into the net. To add insult to injury, Sammy Pahlsson takes a penalty for supposedly checking the shooter.

Although to me, it looked like he crashed into him on account of inertia. Either way, it's a penalty that the Ducks must kill. And then, an elbow on Corey Perry which spins him around and knocks him to the ice. No call. Pssshh... what else is new?

Jonas Hiller is looking sharp in the net, making a number of saves in this first period.

And then, with a few minutes left in the first period, Ryan Getzlaf takes advantage of a turnover puck and deftly passes it behind him to Chris Kunitz, who slams the puck home. It's a fabulous play, and takes our boys into the first intermission with a tied game and smiles on their faces.

Within the first minute of the second period, the Ducks take the lead as a Scott Niedermayer slap shot finds its way to the net, chipping off Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry in its path. Off the resulting faceoff, the first fight of the game. And then in the next minute, the Ducks lose their lead to a goal by nemesis Shane Doan.

We're tied up, 2 to 2.

Kudos to Coyote netminder Ilja Bryzgalov in this game. His team would have given up quite a few more goals if it hadn't been for his sharp reflexes. Although, not sharp enough to evade a scramble in front of his goal crease later in the period which results in Kunitz poking the puck through and past the netminder's right leg pad.

And then, Pahlsson wins the faceoff with a quick pass to Chris Pronger, who winds up a big shot that chips off of Rob Niedermayer's stick shaft and into the Coyote net. Just like that, Ducks increase their lead to 4-2 before the middle of the game.

Personally, I'm going nuts watching this game unfold. Keep it up, boys!

The power line appears to be Kunitz/Perry/Getzlaf and the boys spend a lot of time on the ice with the puck as Carlyle takes full advantage of their abilities.

Before the second period comes to a close, Doan manages to slip a puck past Hiller and bring the score to 3-4. But the Ducks take back their two-goal lead as Scotty takes the puck all the way into the Coyotes' zone, behind the net, and quickly passes it in front of the net. It finds Travis Moen's stick and is hit into the net... with one second left on the clock. Incredible!

Gotta hand it to the captain!

Three minutes into the third period, my boy Bobby Ryan becomes the talk of the rink again. A slap shot from Steve Montador is blocked by Bryz, but the rebound bounces to his right and into Bobby's sights. He rushes the puck, hitting it above Bryz at a sharp angle, and into the net. There's word about Bobby being in the running for Rookie of the Year, despite the fact that he didn't even start the season with the Ducks. He still has more points and more goals than any of the other rookies at this point in the season. Hell, whatever the eventual standing, one thing is for certain: the boy is hot right now.

The Ducks lead by three goals with half the period to go. You might consider it a done deal, but considering how things have gone for the Ducks this season, I won't chance jinxing anything until that final horn blows.

After the Coyotes fail to take advantage of another power play, the winning big line scores again, second goal of the game for Perry. Getzlaf buries the puck into Bryz's leg pads, but the rebound escapes to find Perry speeding towards the goal. He chips it in and flips over a Coyote defenseman in the same breath. The Ducks increase their lead to four goals.

And they kept that to the end for a glorious victory. Shots by numerous members of the team, Ducks bring it, 7 to 4.

All Star weekend

(I've done a little decorating around here. Hung some pictures up, that kind of thing. You like?)

Okay okay, call me a rookie. This was my first All Star weekend. And, because my cable provider is a piece of crap, I had to drive out to my parents' house just to enjoy the skills competition.

I would have watched the actual game there too, but I had to work that day.

I've been crawling the Versus, NHL, and Ducks websites religiously the entire weekend, searching for video clips and news bites. I'm a little bummed that I can't find any replays of the game, just highlight videos, but that's okay. I'm amazed that I can actually find a lot of other stuff like pre-game shows, post-game shows, interviews, red carpet highlights, etc. What would we do without the internet??

I probably wouldn't have watched at all if three of our Ducks hadn't gotten invited to Montreal for this. Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, and J.S. Giguere all played as starters in the All Star game. Getz also got a spot in the Breakaway Challenge, and all three got to participate in the Elimination Shootout.

I felt a bit bad for Giggy, going into this weekend in his hometown and all with so many losses under his belt this season. He's in a slump, but he pulled it together to put up a good fight in the Elimination Shootout. I didn't hear/see much about the couple of goals that were scored on him during the game, but I'm kinda relieved he wasn't the final goalie for the West during the shootout! That honor went to the Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo, who I think held up well despite the eventual loss.

Another highlight for me was seeing Scotty make it past two rounds of the Elimination Shootout. Nobody ever expects the defensemen to make it very far in this event, but at one point, he was the only defenseman still on the ice. Go Scotty!

Personally, bias or not, I still thought Getz's Breakaway moves were the most skilled. The Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin might have appealed to the audience more (that guy is quite the showman!), but I thought Getzlaf's around-the-back-of-the-net shot required a little more talent than donning a hat, sunglasses, and Pittsburg Pens' Evgeni Malkin's stick. Ovechkin was, in the very least, memorable. And maybe that's good for the sport in the long run.

But I digress...

Even though our boys didn't win any of the categories, and don't even get me started about Bobby Ryan not getting invited to play in the YoungStars game, it was still great fun to watch the skills competition. And I got a feel for some of the other great players in the league this season. There's definitely some talent out there and I wish the festivities of the weekend were more easily accessible to the public who just might be perusing their cable channels.

The NHL would have a heckuvalot more fans and followers. Honestly, I don't think hockey is a difficult sport to get into. You don't have to know diddly squat about the rules of the game to be able to enjoy watching. It moves quickly, it's emotionally charged, and you see some incredible showmanship in most games.

And, in the middle of a fight, sometimes a hockey game breaks out...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ducks at New York, vs. Islanders

By now, I'm sure you've heard the news. The Ducks lost both back-to-back games against New York, first with the Rangers, then with the Islanders. LOST TO THE ISLANDERS?!? A team riding an eight-game losing streak?!? The worse team in the entire league?!?

Ugh. Talk about losing streaks.

I don't feel like doing the oh-so-sad play-by-play, so why don't we just do a little commentary instead. Yeah, you're gonna have to listen to me blab and spread my opinion around like Country Crock.

It isn't as if the Ducks didn't fight for this one. Their power plays were great, their offense was strong, their defense (well, besides J.S. Giguere, but more on that later) was excellent. They outnumbered the Islanders in shots on goal nearly three-fold, and there were so many Duck pucks ringing the goal posts and dangling inside the Islander crease. I don't think I've ever seen so many close goals. After digging a 0-2 hole in the first period, our Ducks were robbed, people. ROBBED!

Kudos to Islanders goaltender Yann Danis, who chose this game to really come into his own. He made a number of excellent saves, and under continuous pressure, because his defensemen weren't doing a whole lot to help him out. He got lucky a whole heckuvalot as well, but one thing's for sure, he's the reason the Islanders won this one.

He also ended Ryan Getzlaf's 10-point streak. What a goober.

The one goal that the Ducks were able to land was a beauty. An assist from Capt. Scott Niedermayer to Corey Perry, who deftly took the puck down the Islander zone and then a quick backhanded pass to Bobby Ryan who slipped it past Danis for his, count 'em, eight goals in the last NINE games.

Is my boy hot or what?

I have a hunch that, if Jonas Hiller didn't start his turn in the net behind a two-goal Islander lead, he could have helped bring his teammates to a win. And that's not to pay any disrespect to Giggy, but he definitely hasn't been on his game recently. Whether it has anything to do with the loss of his father earlier in the season or something else in his personal life, it has affected his goaltending. Maybe he just needs some time away from the game. Unfortunately, he isn't going to get it anytime soon. Now he has to go into the All Star game with yet another pull and another loss under his belt.

Either way, giving up so many goals has to affect the whole team. They are undoubtedly already frustrated by the losing streak (exception against the Minnesota Wild), and I'm sure this kind of early blow lowers morale. By the third period, the Ducks seem tired. The second was incredibly strenuous, and probably left the boys with too little energy in the third for that equalizer.

Well, there will be a break for the All Stars events which, I'm not even sure if I'll be able to watch the festivities... my crappy-ass cable provider doesn't offer Versus. Maybe it'll be worth the drive to my parents so that I can use their DirecTV.

Hopefully, our boys will make good use of the break and be able to come back with a win against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ducks at New York, vs. Rangers

Trying to capitalize on the winning lineups from the Ducks game against the Minnesota Wild, we'll start off this game with similar switches to Corey Perry's and Samuel Pahlsson's linemates, and Jonas Hiller in the net.

The New York Rangers are known for their incredible goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, and honestly, considering Hiller's stellar stats this season, I'd much rather see him in net than J.S. Giguere.

I give my love to Giggy, of course, but I do feel that he's in somewhat of a slump this season. If you're going up against a team who's going to make it exceedinly difficult to score any goals, the least you can do is make it just as difficult for them to score any goals on you.

And that's a lot of what we see in the first half of the opening period. It's a fast and furious game, lots of energy, lots of force. The Rangers get the first power play, after Chris Kunitz gets shoved into Lundqvist, pushing him out of the goal crease. Unfortunately, they capitalize and score off a lucky rebound opportunity.

Shortly thereafter, the Ducks answer with a goal of their own. Ryan Getzlaf fires on goal from the blue line which is blocked by Lundqvist. Pahlsson at the crease takes a pummeling from the Ranger defenders in the area, but gives Bobby Ryan the chance to sneak in from behind as the puck squirts from the crease. And with a deft flick of the wrist, Bobby fires that puck under Lundqvist and into the goal, right before suffering a blow to the head from Pahlsson as he's pushed by a Ranger defender.

Beautiful play! Another point for Bobby, Getz, and Pahlsson.

In keeping with all of the action so far, things step up a notch as Corey Perry sustains a check that drives him headfirst into the glass behind the Rangers goal. Drew Miller, seeing his teammate suffer the hit without so much as a flinch from the refs, more or less a whistle blow, jumps on the Ranger checker as Perry slowly picks himself up off the ice. Sure, it's a roughing/fighting penalty, but this is one of those penalties that is worth taking. You're defending your teammate, you're sending the message out to your opponents that they can't treat your mates that way.

The Ducks pull off a sucessful penalty kill and the first period ends without any other goals scored.

At this point, something funky happens with my recorded telecast cuz, next thing I know, I'm looking at the second period, five minutes in. WTF? Anyway, looks like the Rangers managed another goal, we're 2 to 1 at the game halfway mark.

Can I just say I was right about my hunch that starting Hiller in this game would be a good idea? I'm seeing save after excellent save from Hiller. Like many of his rookie teammates, Hiller is really coming into his own. It's great to see.

With two minutes left in the second period, and on the heels of a fruitless Ranger power play, Perry capitalizes on a beautiful pass from Andrew Ebbett, and skillfully slips a goal past Lundqvist. Absolutely incredible.

The third period opens with another tie, 2-2. Another fight early on, with Travis Moen and the offending Ranger both taking five for fighting.

Ducks and Rangers exchange power plays but with nothing to show for either team.

Also notable, the numerous amazing plays by the younger Duck players. Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Perry... and Drew Miller at this point in the third period. He takes the puck single-handedly down the length of the ice, pursued by three Rangers, and tries to force that puck into the Ranger goal. He almost eats the goal post as he's checked and pushed into the goal. Thank goodness he put his hands up right before he made contact with that post. No goal, but a galiant effort nonetheless.

Games like this one get me all fired up because the Ducks are taking so many penalities... and there are so many Ranger offenses that are getting overlooked. It just isn't right, it fires up the Ducks and makes them play like a swarm of angry bees, and just leaves a bad taste in every Duck fan's mouth.

And again, another Ranger power play goal. And at the end, a Ranger empty-net goal. It's a 2-4 loss for the Ducks, but I think everyone can agree, they fought hard on this one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ducks at Minnesota, vs. Wild

Randy Carlyle isn't the only person disappointed in the Ducks performance at Pittsburg. Hopefully tonight, they'll make that up. Although, I'm hearing our boys didn't get into Minnesota until two in the morning... meaning, more stress on backup goaltender Jonas Hiller to block pucks missed by sleepy Duck defenders.

The Ducks have their work cut out for them. The Wild has Niklas Backstrom between the pipes. But Carlyle has completely mixed up the players on each line, "scrambled eggs" as Ryan Carter referred to the new groupings. Maybe Carlyle will find a winning player combo. We certainly hope so!

The first period started and ended with an even 0-0 score. Lots of excellent shots on goal that didn't find net, nods both to Hiller and Backstrom for some great saves. Our Ducks are moving their feet more with The Wild than they did against last night's Pens, but no goals to show for it yet.

A lot of back and forth in the second period. I do have to say, if it weren't for Backstrom's skills, the Ducks would be up three or four goals by now. And same goes for the Wild. If Hiller wasn't on the ball tonight, some great goals would've passed into the net. About halfway in, the Ducks get their first power play of the game. A sweet pass from Andrew Ebbett to Corey Perry results in the first goal of the game.

Speaking of Andrew Ebbett, he's been looking pretty good in both this game and yesterday's game against the Pittsburg Pens. Fast skating, lots of quick shots on goal... keep an eye on this boy, he's coming along!

More action in the second half, both teams are playing hard. The Wild make a shot on goal which hits the crossbar, "ping!", and then there's a scramble for the rebound. I felt bad for Hiller, who through himself onto the puck and, with everyone kicking and swinging, the puck manages to work itself out and across the goal line. Lucky for the Ducks though, one of the refs blew the whistle before the puck crossed. In the meleu, Steve Montador and a Wild began exchanging blows.

Another fight breaks out less than a minute later. Lots of edge now between the players!

At the end of the second period, Perry has the game's only goal. Ducks lead, 1-0.

Early on in the third, Travis Moen takes a puck to the face and disappears to the Ducks' locker room.

And then, during a multi-shot streak on Backstrom, Bobby Ryan passes a shot to Montador, who shoots it at the goal. Backstrom blocks, but allows a rebound straight to Bobby, who meets the open net with a swift swing. This is Bobby's 13th goal of the season, and the 2nd goal of the game.

Here's my opportunity to wax enthusiastic about my boy Bobby. They talk about how shy Bobby has been, how he wouldn't even look interviewers in the eye, preferring instead to avert his gaze at the ground as he spoke. Carlyle prompted him to boost his confidence, speak to his fellow teammates, be a presence on the team. And now, Bobby's coming into his own, proving himself to be one helluva hockey player. You see his confidence as he weaves that puck deftly along the ice. You see his confidence as he speeds towards the puck. And I think it's positively exciting to watch a young man with such potential grow into an amazingly skillful athlete.

Anyway! The third period rapidly comes to a close, the Wild feverishly trying to get onto the scoreboard. But as we come to the last minute, not only is Backstrom not called to the bench, but the Wild defense seems to lose its steam. They let the Ducks shuttle the puck around the ice without any confrontation. So much so, Ryan Getzlaf leisurely passes the puck to Perry for another goal, with less than 30 seconds left on the clock.

It's another shutout for Hiller, his fourth this season. And really, this game goes to the goaltenders, because they were the true stars of this game.

The Ducks take this one, 3-0.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Go Bobby, Go!

I know I am MORE than behind in reporting Ducks' games at Pittsburg and Minnesota, but not to fear, I'm working on those.

In the meantime, enjoy Bobby's hat trick one more time as he lands the number one spot in SportsCenter's Top 10 NHL Goals. Looking at how spectacular those other nine goals are, I feel even more pride that Bobby's made number one!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ducks at Pittsburg, vs. Penguins

This game had been touted as a meeting of the big little boys. Rookies, that is. As I understand it, Sidney Crosby was the very first NHL draft pick by the Penguins in 2005. The Ducks, having the second draft pick, took Bobby Ryan. Crosby went on to be one of the highest point earners in the league. And Bobby, as you know, has just recently shown his potential.

Tonight's game between the Penguins and Ducks would have been the first time Crosby and Bobby would face each other on the ice. Unfortunately, the anticipation will have to continue. Crosby won't be playing tonight, thanks to a knee injury he sustained a few games ago.

I'm sure the Ducks don't mind too much. I know I don't!

Apparently, the Penguins have been facing quite a few men out with injuries. The Ducks know what that's like, adding Brett Festerling to the long list of injuries. Matt Belesky was sent back to Iowa in exchange for Troy Bodie, making his NHL debut in tonight's game.

Even with Crosby out, the Ducks couldn't pull it together on this one. At the end of the 1st period, the Penguin's Cooke scored despite J.S. Giguere's best attempts, and scored again early on in the 2nd. Giguere blocked a lot of hard shots, but I guess nobody's perfect.

Finally, on a power play near the end of the 2nd, Bobby sped the puck down the ice, making a speedy pass to Ryan Getzlaf right in front of the goal. Beautiful pass, beautiful goal. That's what we want to see, boys!

The third period saw many infuriating shots on goal for the Ducks, but no shots on net. Our Ducks just could not even this one out! And then, in the last five minutes, the Pens score a lucky shot from the face off. Leading three to one now, the Pens sat back into defense mode, protecting their lead. Try as they might, the Ducks couldn't get any more goals.

ANOTHER disappointing defeat, 1-3.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ducks vs. Detroit Red Wings

I'm finding myself having to remember to breathe as I watch the first period unfold. Both the Ducks and the Red Wings are pressed to deliver defensively, as there are numerous close goals.

Chris Pronger, Steve Montador, and Scotty Niedermayer are on their game tonight, I'm happy to notice. They're right up there, helping J.S. Giguere keep pucks out. Unfortunately, it's not quite enough as the Red Wings capitalize on rookie naivety, scoring despite Brendan Mikkelson's best attempts.

'Course then, these are the Red Wings. They are a top-notch team, taking the Stanley Cup last season and ranking second in the league right now. The fact that we could get to the middle of the first period before that first Red Wing goal... hey, I'll take that!

There's tons of commentary about my boy Bobby Ryan during the game. Seems everyone has caught Bobby fever. Damn, now it'll be even harder for me to track down a size medium number-54 shirt. I've been trying since before Bobby's hat trick.

You realize just how good Red Wings' goaltender Osgood is, the Ducks are making some incredible shots on goal, but are denied everytime. Luckily, he couldn't defend against everything. Ryan Getzlaf decided this would be his big game, scoring the first Ducks goal as the third assailant in what seems to be an Osgood shootout. First, Montador takes a shot on goal, blocked by Osgood. Chris Kunitz catches the rebound and takes a shot from the opposite side, blocked by a flailing Osgood. Then, Getzlaf catches that rebound, shooting it in.

Getzlaf delivers a second time, minutes before the end of the first period. It's a winning Getz/Perry/Ryan lineup, with Corey and Bobby keeping Osgood busy at the goal crease while Getz beautifully weaves the puck around defenders and then assists to Perry, who chips it in for the goal.

The score is 2-1 as the first period ends.

The second period opens with multiple goal attempts by the Red Wings. After playing a lot of defense in the first period, they bring the offense strong and hard. Somehow, Giggy and his defenders manage to keep the puck out of the goal for all but one of those attempts. Red Wings tie it up, 2-2.

It's hard to believe we're already halfway through the game. This is definitely one of the fastest, most active games I've seen in a long time. Even the commentors are calling it a playoff-style game. Ducks grab the lead again with a great play, earning Perry and Getzlaf another assist and Montador his fourth goal of the season.

In the last five minutes of the second period, Brett Festerling takes a puck on the inside of his left knee, bringing him down onto the ice and unable to get back up. He's off to the locker room for evaluation. At the end of the second, you can see the tension between the players begin to mount. There's plenty of one-on-one scuffles between the players, still plenty of drive and action with these guys. If you were actually at this game, I'd say you definitely got your money's worth!

The first half of the third period is even more intense. You don't get the Red Wings down by one goal going into the third without creating a situation where they are in your face every chance they can get. I'm so amazed at our boys' efforts. They are holding up so well, I feel that no matter how this game goes, they should be so proud of themselves for how they played this one.

As if I've spoken way too soon, the Red Wings tie it up with a flying snap shot. And then again, less than a minute later, another goal. Although, this last one was under debate because that goal was pitched in with a high stick. The Red Wings were given this goal, even though the replay reveals it to be a bad call.

Unfortunately, the refs calls stay, replay or no replay. Red Wings take the lead, 4 to 3.

It looks like the wind has been taken out of the Ducks' sails. Perhaps these goals bring just enough disappointment to let the fatigue of such a strenuous game set in. The pace of the game drops noticeably, as the Red Wings retreat to defending their lead. There are a couple of good attempts by the Ducks, but nothing produces a goal.

A valiant attempt by the Ducks ends in defeat, 3 to 4.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Young guns

When I was in high school, I had the hugest band-crush on Metallica. They were riding high on their new-found popularity with their self-titled "black album" and had geared up for a huge tour. I spent hours upon hours in my bedroom, the walls covered with James Hetfield posters, belting out the chords to "Master of Puppets" and "One" on my deep metallic blue Jackson Dinky XL, all the while allowing my imagination to run wild.

I'd dream of seeing them in concert and being right up in front, mere feet away from my guitar idols. Right in the middle of "Fade to Black," James' hand would go into a cramp and he'd have trouble playing the song. Eyes scanning the audience, he'd notice my concerned look. "Maybe you could help me out?" I'd read the words off his lips.

With a big grin on his face, he'd help me up onto the stage where I'd strap on his guitar and rock the rest of the song with the guys. The crowd would scream, the pyro would go off, and the guys would be so blown away that they'd invite me backstage afterwards and we'd spend hours jamming on more songs.

Yup, I had a huge imagination in high school, but I remember that particular day dream always putting stars into my eyes. How cool would it be to jam with the guys that inspired you to start playing in the first place? How amazing would it feel to share in their passion, and have them share in yours?

Probably a bit like what life is feeling like right now for the six young men the Ducks have recalled up from Iowa. I can only imagine what it feels like for Andrew Ebbett, Bobby Ryan, Drew Miller, and Matt Belesky to be shooting pucks side by side with Ryan Getzlaf. Or for Brett Festerling and Brendan Mikkelson to be skating that blue line with Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer.

Sure, the Ducks had to take a few hits as a team to allow these rookies their chance to show the NHL what they're capable of, but so far, you have to admit there's some potential here! Right now is, undeniably, Bobby Ryan's time to shine. He's the first Ducks rookie to score a hat trick, and the first rookie in the entire NHL to do it under 2.5 minutes since 1938. He also leads with the most points in goals and assists for a rookie since his debut.

And how is it that he's not in the NHL YoungStars game?? Shenanigans! (Actually, probably more like red-tape politics)

In any sense, what an opportunity for these guys. I'm hoping we'll get a glimpse of the future of hockey, what with such talented rookies on the Ducks active lineup.

I'm living vicariously through you, boys. Get ready for that guitar solo...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ducks vs. New Jersey Devils

My work hours are very hockey-unfriendly. Meaning, I'm usually not able to watch the games as they happen because I work primarily evenings. The typical scenario is me, sitting at work, trying to answer phones and contribute to work flow while quietly listening to the AM radio on the internet. I set my VCR to record my games at home, ghetto-style, on a VHS tape, and I watch after I get off shift.

Pretty fabulous, isn't it?

Sometimes I don't even bother to try to listen to the games at work. There are way too many interruptions, and I'm not able to concentrate on either work nor the game. Tonight, I'm going to attempt to write this blog post while listening at work. Yes, I'm really that crazy.

Hopefully our Ducks give me a game worth all of this juggling!

There was some question as to what would happen to the lineups what with Corey Perry returning after his four-game suspension. Looks like he'll be on the first line with Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz. That means Bobby Ryan will probably be pushed back to the second line with Andrew Ebbett and Brendan Morrison. J.S. Giguere starts in net.

As the game starts off, I'm annoyed by way too many stupid questions over our work phones. *sigh* I miss the first goal by the Devils, but that's fine. (Although watching later, I see that it was quite a doozy, bouncing off of a Devils' helmet before landing into the goal net). And then a beauty of a goal by my Bobby Ryan, with an assist from Morrison. Well, I'm guessing it's beautiful, cuz I don't have a visual, but there's plenty of cheering on the radio, and fans chanting "Bobby! Bobby!"

Heck, that's all the proof I need. After all, we already know this kid is capable of some unbelievable shots.

Okay, now we're getting slammed at work and I'm going to have to do the rest of this entry after watching my tape. I guess there's a reason why I've never attempted to do this before!

The rest of this review is based off my dowdy VHS tape. Watching the game is so much better than just hearing it anyway. And oh man, Bobby's goal was indeed beautiful. Even before this goal and the out-of-this-world hat trick, Bobby showed lots of potential. He plays with such passion and drive, you just want to see the boy do well, ya know? And he gives you plenty of speed and agility to be proud of. I'm glad he's finally getting his chance, even though it took Selanne's injury to get him some decent ice time.

See, I got plenty of reasons to love Bobby =)

Our Ducks get to the first intermission with the lead, thanks to a marvelous chip shot by Sammy Pahlsson. Good start, guys, keep it up!

Not a lot of goals scored in the second period, but a worthy attempt by Getzlaf right against the goal crease. The Ducks' defense is definitely stepped up on this game, you can tell by the large number of ineffective shot setups by the Devils. I was hoping our boys could keep that up... until the Devils stuff another goal into the net beyond Giguere during a rare Devils power play.

That goal seemed to wake everyone up, and now we're battling. It's 2-2 going into the final period.

Quickly into it, a wrap-around shot by Kunitz that had to be reviewed on the overhead tape before it could be deemed a goal. Ducks take the lead, 3-2. I gotta give props to Giguere for pulling it together for this game. He had a number of beautiful saves, including a point-blank shot at short range. Keep up the good work, Giggy!

As much as I enjoyed having Bobby on that front line with Getz and Kunitz, I think the boys made it fairly clear that the Getzlaf-Kunitz-Perry line is a force to be reckoned with. Extending their lead to 4-2, Kunitz landed a simply elegant shot with assists from Getzlaf and Perry.

With no more than 30 seconds on the clock, the Devils manage to stuff the puck, along with six or seven hockey players, into Giguere's goal. Still, their effort fell short, Ducks FINALLY won this, 4 to 3.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ducks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

After a day of rest, I was hoping our Ducks were ready to start off their weekend with a winning webbed foot.

I drove up to Kings' territory for this game. Hey, I can't help it if my date lives in the wrong county. He's a decent guy though, so no faulting him. And, I'm turning him into a Ducks fan so he can't be that bad, right?

Walking to dinner right across the way from the Staples Center, my date and I felt the hostility. We donned Ducks hats, but I tried to stay low-brow. I love my Ducks, don't get me wrong, but advertising my loyalty to a team that had just gotten served at this very venue two nights prior... uh, not the brightest idea.

At least they weren't playing the Kings that night. Hell, I'm not THAT stupid!

Nonetheless, my date and I were paying customers. We got one of the restaurant staffers to turn a television over to the Ducks game. We watched as the Ducks proceeded to repeat the previous night's score pattern. By the time we're five minutes into the second period, the Ducks were shut out 0 to 2.

With the exception of St Louis (by the way, probably the smallest hockey player I've seen yet), the Lightning seem to be doing a lot of fumbling. Come to think of it, everyone is doing a lot of fumbling and falling and flailing. To the Ducks credit, I can say it's probably difficult to make a cohesive team out of a bunch of newbees. I mean, we're out some major players, and we've got guys on the ice who've probably never played an official game together. Hell, Matt Belesky got called in from Iowa to cover injured Todd Marchant with only 15 minutes to get his butt on the ice.

Later in the second period, finally, a Ducks goal by Andrew Ebbett, the second in his NHL career. And then two maddening attempts for Ducks goals, answered simply with a pipe "ping!" both times. The Lightning followed up nine minutes later with another goal. There was a glimmer of hope as Chris Pronger and Steve Montador shot goals within 12 seconds of each other, bringing the score to a 3-3 tie.

Looks like we're relying on our defensemen for goals. As for our star forwards, Corey Perry is still out on his fourth of four-game suspension, Teemu Selanne is still out with his lacerated thigh injury, and my boy Bobby Ryan is looking pretty tired after having spent a huge 20+ minutes on the ice the previous night. I'm not even sure what's the problem with Ryan Getzlaf. It feels like it's been ages since he's been in the spotlight. Could it be the fact that the Lightning are covering him like white on rice?

And when he finally does take the spotlight, it's for all the wrong reasons: fighting with a Lightning. It puts him into the penalty box during a time we definitely could have used him out on the ice, making shots on the goal. One more goal from the Lightning, and the Ducks are in a scramble to try to land one more to stay in the game.

I don't know if our boys are tired, or if they're just not used to playing with each other, or maybe a little of both... it just looks like there is so little energy on the ice, so many missed passes, so many sluggish shots on goal. Aiya, no more goals in those final eight minutes, and the Ducks lose it again, 3-4.

Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Once upon a time, I dated an asshole. Well, he didn't become an asshole until two years into our relationship so, for the purpose of this little story, I'll refer to him instead as the ex that introduced me to hockey.

He was a Kings fan (hmm, what did I just say about becoming an asshole?), and he got tickets often for games at the Staples Center. Of course, I'd go. I'm all about free entertainment, but I never considered myself a Kings fan. I didn't feel any connection with this team, not to mention it was hard getting behind a team that kept losing!

One night, my ex told me we had tickets to see the Kings take on the Anaheim Ducks. We were late, as we always were. The game was already a few minutes in and the Ducks had already scored on the Kings. My ex was pissed. I was intrigued. Watching this cohesive team of modest players skate circles around the Kings... it was the beginning of a beautiful love affair.

And the best thing of all, they were Anaheim's team. I'd spent 17 years of my childhood living in Anaheim. I decided then and there that I was truly a Ducks' fan.

The Ducks went on to beat the Kings that night. My ex went home upset, not because of the Kings loss (that happened at most of the games we saw), but because he had to yell at me twice for cheering on the "wrong team." I went home smiling.

So maybe it's a fitting thing that I should start this Ducks blog with Tuesday and Thursday's hometown rivalry.

Tuesday's game saw the Ducks defend against the Kings at the Honda Center. My boy Bobby Ryan got the first goal in that game, assisted by Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Pronger. I think people are finally starting to take notice of Bobby. I know I've begun to pay particular attention when I see the lineup of Kunitz-Getzlaf-Ryan on the ice.

Good things happen when those three are skating.

The second period saw a lot of action, including a Kings goal during a 5-on-3 power play. Jonas Hiller was phenomenal nonetheless. Having been through so much with J.S. Giguere, I get a little protective of my favorite goaltender! Although, I do have to admit that Hiller's got some mad skills.

I'm glad our Ducks don't have to play against him!

The second Ducks goal happened during the third period, a doozy of a power play goal by Sammy Pahlsson, assisted by Scotty Niedermayer. And, at the end of the game, a final nail in the Kings' coffin by Robbie Niedermayer's empty net goal.

Speaking of Pahlsson, was he hot or what winning all of those face-offs? Ducks beat the Kings that night, 3 to 1.

Unfortunately, I think the Ducks celebrated Tuesday's victory a little too much. Our boys just could not get it together Thursday night when they played the Kings at the Staples Center. Yours truly attended an official Ducks viewing party, trying to share in a little Ducks love. But, as the score was a humiliating 3-0 against the Ducks by the middle of the second period, even the tasty barbeque chicken wings were getting hard to swallow.

I was hoping, praying! our Kunitz-Getzlaf-Ryan lineup would pull a miracle.

And wouldn't you know it, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus... and his name would be Bobby Ryan! My boy scored, count 'em, one, two, three goals in less than two and a half minutes to tie up the game. If you haven't seen his incredibly beautiful hat trick, click here. My friends, that shot will be replayed in highlight reels for seasons to come.

I wish the rest of the boys could've capitalized on this amazing opportunity to take back the game. I hate to admit it, but I was disappointed in the lack of passion in the other players. Bobby made those goals like a man truly loving the game... we needed a little more of that Thursday night, perhaps we wouldn't have lost 4 to 3.

And maybe we wouldn't have lost it in a lousy power play goal that the Kings scored when the Ducks had too many men on the ice.

Maybe next time, guys.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I called it first!

This place still needs a lot of work (obviously), but hey, there's not a lot of time left in a day when you're watching Ducks games, reading Ducks articles, writing on an existing blog, and going to work so that I can attempt to pay my bills. Sometimes, I even need a few hours for sleeping, eating, and showering too!

Gah, what would I do if I had more than two pets to look after?

Anyway, I hope you're catching the recent hometown games between our Ducks and the Kings. I have a story about that, the fortuitous way I was first introduced to the Ducks two years ago. I'll cover that when it isn't 7am (I haven't slept yet). I also intend to cover reviews of the two games. All in good time.

But first, I just want to put into writing that I recognized the talent in Ducks rookie Bobby Ryan ten days before his first hat trick last night. This is an excerpt from a letter dated December 29, 2008 that I wrote to Adam, a writer for the Ducks official website:

"I particularly enjoyed your recent remarks regarding Bobby Ryan. Personally, I'm behind this guy all the way. I like finding pro athletes with a lot of potential but fairly little recognition so that I can cheer them on through their sports season. Bobby's my boy this time around, and I was glad to see you might even give a nod at my choice. =)

Here's to a hopeful start of a marvelous career."

Go Bobby, go!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A new idea

I think I've come upon a possible purpose for this here Blogger blog, besides a directional post to my REAL blog.

I've become quite the Ducks hockey fanatic this season (I've loosely kept track of them the past few seasons, but this season, I'm all about it), and I'd love to try my hand at writing a Ducks blog. At least, I think it'll be a nice side project for me through the rest of the hockey season.

I'll be making this space a bit more Duck-friendly in the next couple of days. This'll be fun!

My Zimbio
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