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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ducks at Edmonton, vs Oilers

The moment is here. The opportunity for our Ducks to exact revenge against Dwayne Roloson and the Oilers. There's no other choice. With Edmonton and Anaheim at each others' throats and inches away from that playoff 8th seed, there's a lot riding on this game.

And I think I've mentioned, these two clubs hate each other.

Appropriately, Jonas Hiller is in net for our Ducks. He's 3rd in the league for goals against average. Our top line (aka "Legion of Doom" as dubbed by Oilers coach MacTavish), is ready to go. Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan start on the ice.

Right off, Ducks make some great plays on Roloson in the early minutes. Todd Marchant with a good attempt, George Parros too. Right off, it's also a physical game, as is always expected between these two teams. Brendan Mikkelson takes a beating, but he learned from his hit in Anaheim (where he'd coughed up the puck right in the middle of the ice, creating the perfect setup for an Oiler goal). This time, Mikkelson keeps the puck along the boards despite getting hit twice and losing his helmet.

He didn't have to learn his lesson twice.

Skirmishes erupt after the whistle blows, and minor penalties are dealt accordingly. There will definitely be fighting during this one, folks.

Hiller's using his face to block shots. Beautiful.

Oiler powerplay when a high-stick off the faceoff makes contact with an Edmonton mug. Hiller stays strong through the 4-on-5, despite possible issues with his helmet. He's had two pucks connect with his mask already, you can tell the Edmonton offense involves shooting high through the net. Unfortunately, Oilers capitalize in the last minute of the power play. They take the first goal of the game.

Right off the faceoff, my boy Bobby has his first NHL fight. Staios pins Bobby against the boards and goes to town. Bobby does well holding his own, however, and gets a few shots in before Staios loses his balance and falls to his knees and the fight is broken up by the zebras.

I want to see how his fellow Ducks react because, really, you can't do that to our star rookie and get away with it.

Immediately off the next faceoff, Stortini and Big George go at it. George joins Bobby in the penalty box, giving him an admiring pat on the head as he sits down.

Wow. And we're only ten minutes into this game.

Ugh. A roughing call on Sheldon Brookbank brings on another man-advantage power play for Edmonton. Be careful, boys, don't get sloppy with those penalties. Marchant painfully stops a shot with his body and looks quite hurt afterwards. But he's back out on his next shift of the penalty kill. What a trooper!

As Brookbank gets out of the penalty box, he grabs the puck, drops it off for Getzlaf and then joins the rush up the ice. Getzlaf drop passes it back to Brookbank, who shoots it through the legs of an Oil defender and past Roloson. It's his first Duck goal and his first NHL goal. What a way to earn it, poetic justice!

Finally, the Ducks' first power play off a too many men penalty. They can't capitalize in the first 30 seconds of the power play, so they'll have to try harder as the second period opens with the rest of that pp.

The first intermission sees a score of 1-1.

Executed beautifully, Getzlaf makes a short pass to Teemu Selanne, who makes a short pass to the Captain in the slot. He quickly slaps that pass behind Roloson, screened effectively by Perry. Ducks pull ahead, 2-1.

Play continues visciously, and poor Bobby takes what looks to be an intentional high stick in the face. It's a double minor, but I think it should have been a 5-minute cuz Bobby's face looks completely beat up.

Bobby's right back out there for the first of his two-minute pps. That pp specialty team is hot tonight, and Chris Pronger slaps in a feed from Scotty Niedermayer and Bobby Ryan. It's 3-1.

On the second of the two power plays, our boys have a little trouble setting up in the Edmonton zone. Ryan Whitney defends a short-handed charge on Hiller by lifting a stick. Scotty Niedermayer does the same on a even-man charge shortly thereafter. They're keeping Edmonton shots on goal to a minimum.

Oiler power play when Marchant gets penalized for tangling with Roloson in front of his crease. This one was a nailbiter, the puck bouncing around like a ball in a pinball machine, with a number of great shots on Hiller. He performs beautifully though, and the Ducks penalty kill squashs that one.

Argh, another Ducks penalty. This time against Drew Miller. During the penalty kill, Marchant takes a hard shot in the chest and appears to be in tremendous pain. Oilers try to take advantage, but Hiller makes an incredible save and Marchant is somehow able to clear the puck before he drops to the ice. The whistle is blown and Marchant is helped to the bench where he's checked out for broken ribs.

Hiller isn't just making saves, he's battling in that crease. There's tons of traffic all around him. He fights hard as the Oilers seem to have taken control towards the end of this period, making numerous shots on goal.

Right before the period ends, Scotty takes the puck down the middle of the slot, passing to brother Robbie on the right wing. Robbie, from a really bad angle, punches it neatly over Roloson's shoulder for his 13th goal of the season.

"Niedermania!" as the radio commentators dubbed it.

This was a surprise goal, as the Ducks seemed to be back on their heels. But hey, we'll take it. Ducks lead going into the second intermission, 4-1.

About four minutes into the third, yet another Ducks penalty to the Captain for tripping. A majority of the power play is spent in the Anaheim zone, sending a line of exhausted Ducks penalty kill to the bench after a long minute and a half. They do it though, and no goals for the Oil on this pp.

Our Ducks are content to concentrate on heavy defense to protect their lead through the last fifteen minutes of the game.

A moment of breathholding as Helmsky gets bumped by Petteri Nokelainen and goes flying into Hiller in the crease. Hiller falls backward into the net as the whistle is blown. Helmsky is seen holding his arm out to Hiller as if to say, "Aww, dude, I'm sorry." Thank goodness Hiller wasn't hurt! No penalties assessed.

Three and a half minutes before the game ends, the Oil somehow get one past Hiller. No defensemen covering the guy in front of the crease. At just before two minutes, that extra Oil attacker is on the ice for Roloson and another goal! Suddenly, we're 4-3.

Oiler coach MacTavish stops the game to call for a stick measurement. I guess he thinks Selanne's got an illegal stick. It's kind of an odd call, considering the Oil have tremendous energy now, what with those sudden two goals and the cheering home fans behind them. Selanne skates back to his bench, a wry grin on his face. His stick is deemed legal and the Oil is penalized with a delay of game call.

Penner, of all people, serves the penalty. Another odd move since Penner is notorious for scoring against his former team. Roloson is out for the extra attacker, just to even things up during the Anaheim power play. Robbie Niedermayer has that empty net yawning in front of him, so he sinks he's second goal of the game with thirty seconds left and seals the win.

Vengence is ours as Ducks outscore the Oilers, 5-3.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ducks vs Colorado Avalanche

I cleaned this place up a bit. Well, I updated the right side bar to feature our newest Ducks, and I removed the guys we traded away. Although, I can't bear to get rid of Chris Kunitz just yet.

The new look here also celebrates the new look of our Ducks team. I really think the new guys are reaching their stride. They're melding now, helping coach Carlyle create some great working lines and defensive pairings. It's no coincidence that the Ducks put together a five-game winning streak after the roster included a number of young, fresh players with potential.

I have a new Bobby Ryan goal counter, just cuz I want to celebrate my boy's accomplishments. If you have any suggestions for these pages, drop me a comment. Heck, just drop me a comment. It'd be nice to know somebody is actually reading this besides me!

Anyway, after the Ducks' horrible defeat against Edmonton, we really REALLY need to win this one against the Avalanche. Considering how we'd devastated the Avs last time, it shouldn't be too hard, right? Well, we've said that before.

But if we do it, it'll be the first time in franchise history that Ducks sweep the Avalanche. Hey, it's a nice thought, right?

We've got Jonas Hiller in net, which I'm happy about. I dunno, I still love J.S. Giguere, but I feel like we can't afford an inconsistent performance from him at this point in the playoff crunch. Hiller is just more consistently on his game. Peter Budaj is in net for the Avs; he was the one who started in net, was pulled out, and then put back in the last time Ducks faced the Avs.

In the first four minutes or so of the first period, Budaj is better than he was days ago. I guess that might not be saying much, considering the first goal he let in on that last game wasn't even a shot on goal.

Ducks first power play as Andrew Ebbett gets pushed into the boards. It's an interference call, and I'm happy Ebbett wasn't badly hurt. The replay shows a nasty whip of his head as his body hits the boards. Budaj does a good job keeping pucks out of his net.

Corey Perry came within inches of getting the Ducks on the board first with his signature wraparound, but was denied at the goal post by an Av defender.

Back and forth, up and down until finally, at about 13 minutes into the first, there's a sloppy turnover in the Av's zone right in Perry's lane. He takes it up the ice and shoots high into the net for an unassisted goal and the first of the game. It's his sixth goal in the last seven games.

And then the Avs get their first power play opportunity off a hooking penalty by Chris Pronger. Ducks make a mistake, leaving Liles open at the front of the net. James Wisniewski got caught up watching the puck as the other players fought for it in the corner. He left Hiller by himself and, when Liles got his stick on the pass, Hiller had no chance.

Right off the next faceoff, Mike Brown throws down gloves with Laperriere. Five for fighting to both. The commentators are mentioned a lack of energy with our Ducks. I have to say I agree. There's a lot of skating going on, but not a lot of forechecking, not a lot of muscling in the corners, not a lot of speed.

It's tied up 1-1 as the first period closes.

The second period starts with considerably more energy than the first. Ducks get a power play early on when George Parros is tripped. The Av penalty kill isn't as worthless as it was in the last game these clubs shared. I think that's why our Ducks haven't wiped these Avs yet. Budaj makes a number of saves, helped by fortuitous bounces off the plumbing, until finally... Ryan Whitney slaps an excellent pass through the slot to my boy Bobby Ryan, who passes the puck from one hand to the other and then shoots it high right over Budaj. Goal!

Bobby's 25th goal of the season, and the Ducks retake the lead.

They almost score again on a breakaway by Ryan Getzlaf, Perry on his wing. He makes the pass, but Perry can't put it in the net.

There are more turnovers, more scoring chances for our Ducks this period. And why? Because they're playing much more aggressively. They're getting in there, pushing the forecheck... and then? There's two Ducks chasing two Avs chasing a runaway loose puck as it descends down the Duck defensive zone. Suddenly, holy shit, Hiller comes crashing through, almost to the blue line, pushing that puck out of everyone's way.

See, I told you this was a much more aggressive period!

I've never seen a goaltender fly that far away from his net. Hiller isn't able to drive the puck back over the blue line, and he's lucky he's able to get back into his net before the Avs get a shot attempt. The crowd at the Honda Center is on their feet, giving Hiller a standing ovation.

One thing is for sure, if Hiller wanted to get the home crowd into this game, he definitely did it with that trick. Can't say coach Carlyle is as thrilled.


Hiller goes on to make some phenomenal saves in the later half of the second. He's blocking slap shots and rebounds alike, flying from one side of the net to the other. Yes, I love Giggy, but Hiller makes it very hard to not love him too. He's just so fast in the crease.

Avs on the power play again when the Captain gets penalized with a tripping call. They're fighting to tie things up. And they would have if Hiller hadn't made a tremendous save on a lightning-quick rebound. You'll see that one on the highlight reels, people.

Ducks take the 2-1 lead to the locker room at the second intermission.

Five minutes into the third, my boy does it again. Our winning first line goes into cycle mode deep in the Colorado zone. Getzlaf passes it off to Bobby, who shoots it straight through Budaj to reach the net. Now our Ducks have a more comfortable lead.

Please, guys, don't blow this!

A minute and a half later, there's a scramble for a loose puck shot in by Teemu Selanne in front of Budaj. Ebbett's up there, pushing the puck. It squirts back out on a rebound right to Drew Miller, whose Av defender is suspiciously absent because he's busy falling over in the crease. All Miller has to do is tap it into the net. Which he does, solidifying the Duck lead, 4-1.

When our boys aren't on the Av end scoring goals, Hiller is in the Anaheim end, making those great saves. What a game. This is what our boys have to bring to each and every game in order to make the playoffs. Seriously.

The last of the third is spent with the Ducks protecting their lead. No hat trick for Bobby, even though his mates tried to give him the feed. No matter, Ducks still win this, 4-1, and most importantly, they land two more points for the playoff run.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

You know this is going to be big one. Anaheim and Edmonton? Oh, they HATE each other. When they're nose to nose in the Western Conference, fighting for a playoff position? You'd better believe they hate each other even more. This isn't just going to be a hockey game, people. This is going to be a display of grit and power and dirty determination.

This is war.

We've got J.S. Giguere in net, which does make me a little nervous. Not because I think Giggy might choke, but more so because of the history between these two clubs. I don't want Giggy losing his concentration because of how dirty this game is sure to get. I don't want him starting a fight and getting penalized. In any case, Dwayne Roloson is in net for the Oilers, his 30-something-ith consecutive game.

A little over a minute into the game, Ducks lose a turnover and a sloppy defensive play lends to the first goal in the Duck net by ex-Duck Dustin Penner. Less than another minute later, another turnover in the Anaheim zone and another goal for the Oilers.

At this point, Jonas Hiller suits up and it looks like Giggy's getting pulled.

A fight breaks out as George Parros drops gloves with Jacques. It slows the game down, gives the Duck players on the bench a moment to cool off as they're undoubtedly taking a mental hit with this bad start, and gives coach Carlyle a chance to let Giggy know he's going back in and he's gotta pull it together.

Still, there's no denying that this looks really bad. We're only three minutes into the game and we're already trailing by two. Our Ducks try as hard as they can to reverse the direction of this game. They make a number of excellent shots on goal, but Roloson looks like he's going to be stellar tonight.

Four minutes later, my boy Bobby Ryan feeds it from behind the net to Corey Perry, who quickly passes it to Ryan Getzlaf on the other side of the crease, and it's in. The play is fast and precise and perfect. And that's what it takes to get one by Roloson.

Bobby puts a big hit on Oilers badguy Steve Gagner and, less than a minute later, the Oilers retaliate with an inadvertent high stick that leaves my favorite player flat on his stomach on the ice. Penalty for Moreau.

Let's put that red hot power play to work. Unfortunately, there are lots of good attempts, but no goals. I'm sensing a pattern here. I'm going to get a headache watching this game cuz it's just that intense. I'm happy to see all of our Ducks participating. Todd Marchant whips a killer turnaround onto the net in one smooth motion. It's blocked, but the crowd cheers their approval of the attempt. Mike Brown is hitting, James Wisniewski is dealing some bangers from the blue line, Petteri Nokelainen is pushing in deep to fight for pucks in the corners. Our boys are playing like everything's on the line.

And it is.

Another fight breaks out, this time between Parros and Stortini. Another five for fighting for Parros. One more and Big George is done.

And it's only the first period.

Teemu Selanne gets his stick slapped away. An interference call is made on Horcoff, another power play for our Ducks. Bobby tries to stuff it into the crease, but an Oiler flings it out and it exits the rink: 5-on-3 power play!

Ducks can't capitalize, but if you wanted to see a dirty hockey game, this is it. Roloson pushes Getzlaf against the piping, knocking the net off its moorings and causing a stoppage of play. Tempers flare at the end of every whistle as players square off and get into scrums. Lots of pushing and shoving between Perry and Souray, including a cross-check from Souray that gets him a penalty. Somehow, Perry is also given two minutes.

But they'll be served next period. We start the first intermission trailing, 1-2.

We start the second with the rest of the power play. Bobby passes to Pronger at the point who puts a huge slap shot on Roloson. The rebound rolls right in front of Getzlaf. He uses his skate to push the puck to his stick and just past Roloson's right leg and over the goal line. The fans are cheering, but the goal has to go to video review because they're questioning if Getzlaf kicked the puck into the goal. Fans scream again as the goal is considered good. We're tied 2-2.

That's Getzlaf's second goal and Bobby's second assist point of the game.

Shortly thereafter, it's the Oilers turn for a power play as Nokelainen gets a tripping call. There's a breakaway by Drew Miller and Marchant, but the goal is denied by Roloson. Unfortunately, Penner is left alone again with the puck, and he capitalizes. Less than 30 seconds later, Brendan Mikkelson gets caught in an aggressive forecheck behind the Anaheim net. He coughs up the puck right into the slot and it's driven home. At the end of that play, Brown drops gloves but his Oiler opponent skates away. Brown gets two in the box.

This time, Giggy's out for good. Hiller has to take up the net right in the middle of an Edmonton power play. That's gotta be tough. We've already given up 4 goals. I hope it isn't too late to save this game. To think, three minutes ago, we'd tied it up.


Hiller stays true and the Edmonton pp is killed off. Right after, the Oilers are penalized for having too many players on the ice. We need this one, boys. No goals, but right as that penalty comes up to expire, Oilers get another one after tripping Ryan Whitney. Another two minutes of power play for our boys. More attempts but no goals, and then a scrum involving the normally mild mannered Selanne and Bobby, and then Pronger and Getzlaf as they join the fray. And then Roloson charges out of his crease!

It's totally out of control.

The penalties are dealt to Selanne and Bobby, two minutes each for roughing. An Oiler gets two for roughing, and Roloson gets two for leaving the crease (which, of course, he doesn't have to personally serve). This doesn't bode well for the Duck power play, but they still make an excellent attempt. The Captain is robbed point blank and Getzlaf shows us that white boys really can jump as he flies to snatch a puck two feet over his head to keep it in the zone.

At the end of that penalty, the Oilers string another one on. Two minutes for delay of game as the puck is flipped over the glass. More power play! I hope Hiller hasn't fallen asleep on the other side of the ice.

Even with six minutes of power play, no goals for the Ducks. Roloson must have been a baseball player in another life or something, every puck that comes near him ends up in his glove. Things are heating up again. Every play ends with a scrum in front of whatever goal crease the players are closest to. Hiller gets a chance to make some great saves of his own.

I hate to say it, but it's starting to look like one of the Ducks' pre-trade deadline games... the ones where Anaheim completely outshoots their opponent but just can't seem to buy a goal. At the end of the second, it's 2-4.

Right off the bat, Wisniewski gets himself a tripping penalty. Ducks on the penalty kill, and some gasping near-misses by our pk Ducks (Marchant and Brown) in getting a short-handed goal.

Off the penalty kill, our top line starts a cycle play, Getzlaf handing off behind him to Perry, who cycles around the net and right through the slot undefended, waiting, waiting, Souray goes down in front of the crease and the only thing between Perry and the net is Bobby. He winds up and chips the puck over the fallen defenseman and goaltender and right around Bobby to hit paydirt.

Corey Perry, gotta love him.

In the next shift, the Oilers get a penalty for cross-checking the Captain. Shot upon shot on the Oiler goaltender... and I have to ask, what kind of crazy energy is Roloson on?? He has made so many incredible saves, and I know they're incredible because our Ducks have been incredible in putting them on the net. On the momentum of the Perry goal, our boys are playing with renewed vigor. Aggressive forechecks, keeping the puck primarily on the Edmonton end, forcing turnovers in the neutral zone. But they can't get that power play equalizer.

They get another chance off a high sticking penalty. Bobby takes yet another stick to the face, this one draws blood. I swear, my boy has a freakin' bullseye on him tonight or something. The first shift took the entire first minor and left the Oil penalty killers gasping for air. Somehow, our boys can't get one past Roloson. Selanne's bid hits pipe and flies into the netting, ending the shift and the power play. The second pp of the double minor goes much like the first.

This is no longer a Ducks vs Oilers game. It's a Ducks vs Roloson game. We need that equalizer and we need it bad.

C'mon boys, we're running out of time here.

And, like so many games this season, 54 shots made on that Edmonton goal (incidentally, that's a franchise record for shots on goal in any one game) but our boys fall short where it really counts. To add insult to injury, the Oil manage one last empty net goal to beat the Ducks, 5-3.

Check that, Roloson beat the Ducks, 5-3.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ducks at Denver, vs Avalanche

The Ducks are on a four-game winning streak. Can you believe it? That's a first this season. What would be even cooler is a win tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

It's definitely possible, the Avs have been crippled by a number of players out with injuries. But again, the Ducks are up against a team that has nothing to lose, which means they could have a stellar performance tonight. Nobody can guess, but one thing is for sure. Our boys need to keep stringing those wins along to keep them in playoff contention. It's a very tight race in the Western Conference (in the East as well) and every game counts.

After playing a tough shootout game late last night, our Ducks are undoubtedly tired. Denver has elevation (and hence, oxygenation) issues. But we have two very talented netminders! It'll be Jonas Hiller in net tonight and I, for one, am glad. J.S. Giguere really came through last night, he deserves a night off. I just hope the rest of our boys aren't too fatigued.

The first Duck goal is, shall I say it? a fluke! As our guys head to the bench for a change, Erik Christensen sends the puck towards the net to buy time for the new line. The puck flips over Av netminder Peter Budaj's glove and into the net. Our boys weren't even expecting it, but that's a goal, and the first of the game. It's also Christensen's first goal as a Duck.

Budaj stares behind him at the puck sitting over the line in disbelief. I can't blame him.

Hiller's making some saves, but also leaving a few dangerous rebounds. Maybe that's okay this game, with the Avs lineup filled with rookies, but he can't keep that up.

A third through the first period, my boy Bobby Ryan loses an edge and slams right into the legs of Salei, flipping him over and landing him head first onto the ice. Both players are slow to rise, causing a whistle on the play. Bobby slowly makes his way back to the bench, but Salei needs help.

I'm happy to see Bobby back out on the ice on the next shift. Salei, on the other hand, is out the rest of the game.

As energetic as ever, Mike Brown speeds along with the puck, making huge hits on Av rookies. I gotta say, I'm loving Brown as a Duck.

There have been some sloppy turnovers in the Anaheim zone that have resulted in the Avs getting extra chances on Hiller. Not good. If the Avs had their early season roster, I'm sure they'd have capitalized by now.

Teemu Selanne pulls some pretty puck maneuvering around the Av net and then back out past the circles where he turns and fires on goal. Redirected by Andrew Ebbett in his usual spot in front of the crease, Ducks have their second goal.

Avs then take a penalty for holding, and our boys are on their first power play of the game. Watching the Avs on the penalty kill, they don't put much pressure on the Duck shooters. The defense just sort of stays back and waits while the Duck with the puck tees up. Everyone's taking shots, it's like a shooting gallery. Just as the penalty expires, Christensen tries to chip a bid from James Wisniewski into the net, but it flips over the crease to Corey Perry, who puts it into a wide open net. Third goal of the game, 25th goal for Perry, and a second point for Christensen.

At the first intermission, Ducks lead 3-0.

Andrew Raycroft takes the net for the Avs at the beginning of the second, but he doesn't exactly have a very promising save percentage either.

And then our Ducks get another power play. Again, I'm watching the Av defense let our boys take turns shooting on Raycroft. Perry even takes his time teeing up his shot, advancing towards the net, and letting her rip. The Av defenseman closest to Raycroft moves out of the way at the last minute as the puck zips past the bereft netminder. That's another for Perry, fourth goal of the game for our Ducks.

The offense fares slightly better, they manage to get a few shots on Hiller. Again, Hiller coughs up some dangerous rebounds, but he manages to throw himself in the path of the second shots.

Ryan Getzlaf takes a clean hit from the opposition, followed shortly by a hit on Perry from Av badguy Matt Hendricks which almost throws him into the Avalanche bench. A scrum breaks out with Getzlaf, Perry, and Bobby each partnering off. After the dust settles, we've got Perry in the box for roughing and Hendricks in the box for roughing and interference, so our Ducks get another power play.

The first shot on goal by Wisniewski at the blue line bounces off Ebbett's stick, rolls under Raycroft's feet, and into the goal. All within a mere eight seconds into the power play. That's Ebbett's seventh goal of the season, third point this game. Assists to Wisniewski and Ryan Whitney. Geez, at this point, everyone's adding to their career totals. It's a point grab bag. I almost feel bad for the Avalanche.

Petteri Nokelainen takes a penalty for tripping, and the Avs have their first power play. It's killed off and, right as Nokelainen gets out of the box, he shoots the puck towards the goal. It rebounds off Raycroft to Robbie Niedermayer who shoots it past Raycroft and into the net. Nothing against Robbie, but if he's scoring goals, someone didn't show up to the game. The Av netminder has noticeably had his will to live sucked out of him. I don't think I've ever seen a guy so miserable.

Ducks are leading 6-0. We're only halfway through the game. Sheldon Brookbank gets an interference penalty as he cuts off Hendricks, and then ends up dropping gloves with him. You realize what's happening here. The Avs, undoubtedly frustrated, have decided to up the physical aspect of this game. On the power play however, Avs finally hit paydirt. Hejduk shoots one past Hiller that our goalie never even saw.

So much for the shutout. Guess we can't be too greedy.

Getting back on track, Nokelainen steals the puck away in the neutral zone, speeds it down the ice, avoids a poke check, and shoots it with a snap shot behind Raycroft single-handedly. That's his third goal as a Duck, and the Ducks' seventh goal in this game. This ties up a season high record, with 26 minutes remaining in the game. Maybe they can beat that record.

I think this is done out of respect, but I'm not positive about that. The Ducks are on another power play, this time a 5 on 3, but coach Carlyle has decided to keep his fourth line out on the ice. In any other game, you'd most likely see the high-scoring Getzlaf/Perry/Bobby line out. Oddly enough, no points for Getzlaf, the Captain, Chris Pronger, or Bobby yet in this game. Ducks play the Avs again on home ice next week, so it's probably a good thing not to completely demolish them. Nothing like the smell of sweet revenge to bring a team back from the dead.

At the second intermission, the slaughter continues, 7-1.

So Budaj is back in the net for the third period. He gets to finish what he started. This game is so mental for goaltenders. It's hard to believe more of them haven't cracked under this kind of pressure.

Another penalty dealt to Hendricks for high-sticking Brendan Mikkelson. Hendricks is probably getting used to the inside of that penalty box. Again, Carlyle answers with his third and fourth lines out on the power play. The Avs are putting a little more pressure on our boys this time. No goals.

And now, Avs on the power play off an interference penalty on Brown. Some excellent stops for Hiller, including a three-shot attempt point blank at his crease. They kill the penalty, but the Avs still manage to get a puck into the goal minutes later. 7-2. With a minute left in the game, Getzlaf gets a cross-checking penalty. No matter, it's still a win.

Best of all, the Ducks have launched themselves into the seventh seat in the Western Conference. Can you believe it, we might see Ducks in the playoffs yet!

Ducks at Nashville, vs Predators

The Ducks are riding high on a three-game winning streak. This is something not seen by this club since what, November of last year? And these have been some glorious wins, let me tell you.

Part of me asks, "Where the HELL was this all season?" But the rest of me is just thankful our boys, who I know have had it in them to perform like this, decided to show us their best stuff when it really counts. Then again, our boys aren't exactly the same boys that went into the trade deadline. The playoff race is only ten games long now and it's do or die. The Ducks are right on the edge of a playoff spot, if they win this one, they'll be in that highly-contended-for eighth spot.

If they win this one. They'll have to pull a four-game winning streak, something that hasn't happened at all this season. Can they do it?

I heard this game live a few hours ago while I was at work. And now I'm writing this blog post off a rebroadcast, since my VCR biffed it and I couldn't record the live telecast. We'll see how comprehensive this is going to be.

Our Ducks have J.S. Giguere in net tonight, and the Predators have Pikka Rinne. The last time these two faced off, just a week or so ago, our Ducks managed a win albeit in overtime. Ideally, they'll take this one in regulation. But, I'll be thankful for any points they take in this game. Against the preds, Giggy holds an impressive 14-7-2 record. But Rinne is a good goaltender and not to be underestimated.

Looking at the stats between the two clubs, they are incredibly close. It makes sense that the score stays 0-0 through the first half of the first period. But not without some great scoring chances for the Ducks. Looks like the Ducks' biggest opponent this game is the plumbing. Ryan Getzlaf biffs a scoring chance by bouncing the puck off the post and we'll see Corey Perry eat pipe at least twice this game.

The first power play of the game goes to the Preds after an interference penalty to Ryan Whitney. It proves harmless however, as the Ducks kill it off and continue to a 0-0 tie at the first intermission.

Our boys have their chance with the extra man early on in the second. Duck-killer Steve Sullivan gets penalized for hooking, but remember, Preds have an incredibly successful penalty kill. I believe it's the 4th in the league. Sure enough, Ducks can't capitalize.

The second period comes to its final five minutes when Teemu Selanne charges down the ice with linemates Drew Miller and Andrew Ebbett. As he draws up to the net, he makes the quick pass to Drew Miller who hits it home. It's not a fancy goal, but it's straight and true... and it's the first of the game. We head into the second intermission with Ducks leading, 1-0.

A duck penalty in the first half of the third allows the Preds to capitalize with that extra man. Shea Weber gets one past Giguere. And now the crowd is in the game, which is tied 1-1.

Now, we're seeing a lot more energy. The audience is cheering, both clubs fighting aggressively for control of the puck. Unfortunately, most of the action is on Anaheim's side of the rink, the Preds outnumbering the Ducks shots on goal 8 to 1. Giggy is on the ball, making save after save. And when our boys actually get control? More pipe for Perry.


No goals as the period ends, and now we're in overtime.

Damn, those Pred fans are loud.

Scary moment when the puck manages to clear the Pred zone and then is snatched up by Sullivan who converges alone onto Giguere. Giggy waits him out and suddenly, Sullivan whiffs on the shot and the puck rolls off his stick. Another scary moment for the Preds when Rinne is left sprawling in his crease as the puck bounces right through. Amazingly, nobody scores, but all of the players are huffing and puffing as the game heads into a shootout.

It's only Giguere's third shootout this season, but he's saved 31 shots on goal gamewide. I have faith in you, Giggy!

First up, Perry. Denied, but just barely.

Then, Fiddler up for the Preds. Giggy stays with him the whole time, no goal.

Getzlaf's shot is blocked.

Sullivan, fan favorite, comes in with some major speed. The puck hits pipe.

My boy, Bobby. He tries his tricky hand shot again but loses a handle on the puck. Denied.

Martin Erat. Giggy waits him out too. Blocked!

Selanne with his signature backhand... and it's in!

Pred's Bonk to tie, it's blocked, and Giggy carries the Ducks to the win and another two points to land them into the eighth seed for the playoffs!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ducks vs Phoenix Coyotes

Here we go again with the Coyotes. This game could go either way. The Coyotes are out of playoff contention, but that doesn't make them any less dangerous. In fact, a lot of clubs do really well when they aren't playing under playoff pressure. On the other hand, the 'Yotes completely slaughtered the Vancouver Canucks yesterday. And I mean COMPLETELY. They could be huge on the momentum of that win. Or, the fatigue could be a factor in their game tonight.

It could be a good thing that this is the second time our boys have faced this new and improved Coyote team. They've seen what it's like to be on the receiving end of the Lombardi/Upshaal/Boedker line. They might know how to fire on Ilya Bryzgalov in such a way that he'll drop a fat rebound. But it could also be a bad thing. The Coyotes know who our best players are. They know to look out for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. They also know just how effective Jonas Hiller is against them.

So, like I said, this game could go either way.

At the beginning of the game, Rob Niedermayer is awarded a few pretty momentos for reaching his 1000th game played milestone.

We've got Jonas HIller in net again, probably a good thing because of Hiller's remarkable 5-0-1 career record against the Coyotes. For the Coyotes, it's ex-Duck Bryz, who has the potential to put our Ducks on their ear.

At two minutes in, Mike Brown and Prust start a tango in the Coyote zone, after Brown put a hit on another Coyote. I see the guy practically dragging Brown by the front of his jersey, trying to get him to fight. Looking at the ref before the fight, he didn't get an instigator call and... well, I don't think you have to do much to get Brown to drop his gloves. Five for fighting all around.

Our Ducks get the first power play when Matthew Lombardi puts a high-stick on my boy Bobby Ryan. First pp of the game and first goal of the game. Bobby and Getzlaf make a perfect screen in front of Bryz. Teemu Selanne sets up Chris Pronger at the point, he fires a slap shot towards the net, and it's redirected in by Captain Scott Niedermayer. Yes! First goal of the game again!

Our boys are skating on the momentum, playing aggressively and keeping their feet moving on the forecheck. Bobby's on the first line again with Getzlaf and Perry. Teemu and Andrew Ebbett are on the second line now with Drew Miller. James Wisniewski with the Captain, Pronger with Ryan Whitney, and Sheldon Brookbank with Brendan Mikkelson make up the defensive pairings.

The Coyotes don't look like the same team our boys played last week. The defense isn't as aggressive and that impressive Lombardi/Upshaal/Boedker line isn't as impressive tonight. Well, this is just the first period, so I don't want to jinx anything. But I'm thinking it's gonna be pretty hard on Bryz. On the other end of the ice, Hiller could probably take a quick nap. During the entire first period, he only has four shots to block.

Our boys can't make anything out of their second power play, Bryz was all over the crease and blocking anything that came near him. But, they came back with a goal once regular play resumed. And was it our superstar first line? Our too hot to handle second line? No... our fourth line! Erik Christensen sped the puck down the ice on the left wing, with Brown keeping pace down the center. As they approach the net, Christensen fires the puck towards Brown and the net, but it passes Brown and is reflected off Bryz's leg pad. The rebound spins to the right and who would expect George Parros to be there? He makes the shot at a sharp angle to the goal line and it's in! Fifth goal of the season for big George. The guys are ecstatic as they pounce on George in celebration behind the Coyote net.

On the replay, nobody's even following George down the ice. And Bryz never saw him coming. He had a big, fat empty net to fire into.

At the end of the first, Ducks lead 2-0.

Early in the second, the Coyotes get a goal off a rebound. Please boys, don't give them any momentum! The Coyotes are notably more lively, giving Hiller multiple reasons to make some really good saves. And then, the first Coyote power play. They make some excellent shots on goal, thank goodness Hiller's on the ball. They're denied.

The next time our big first line is out, they hit paydirt. Bobby takes the puck down the right wing, waiting and timing his pass for when Getzlaf was relatively open. The puck speeds across the slot to Getzlaf and then is quickly turned in front of the net to Perry, who has taken his usual spot in front of the crease. The pass is in the back of the net instantly. It's Perry's 24th goal of the season, tying him with Bobby. And Bobby takes an assist on this one giving him 46 points in the season and making him the all-time rookie point leader in franchise history. Imagine if he'd actually been with the Ducks since the beginning of the season!

Our boys follow up with some unnecessary nailbiting action in their zone thanks to bad defensive play. The Coyotes could have easily closed the gap as it was just Hiller and Duck-killer Shane Doan left with the puck. He didn't score on that play, but he did minutes later, unassisted.

That guy, I swear, will always find a way to score on our Ducks.

A bit annoying, a zebra gets in the way of a perfectly good pass to Bobby, tripping him and sending him flat to the ice. No penalty for the ref, but he calls one less than a minute later against Bobby for holding. I don't know about you, but I didn't see any holding in the replay. I saw a hand on a Coyote back. At least the Coyotes didn't score while Bobby was in the penalty box. The second period ends with the Ducks carrying a smaller lead, 3-2.

We're going to have to see a lot more first period and a lot less second period in this third period. We need to win this one, preferably by more than one goal.

Some tense moments as Todd Marchant and Jovanovski collide and both need to retreat off the ice. At least Marchant is back on the ice on his next shift. More intense play and nailbiters in the creases of both clubs' nets. With eleven minutes left in the game, our boys get another power play. And just 10 seconds in, Pronger passes to Scotty who fires it against Getzlaf's waiting stick and the deflection is in.

Coyotes get a power play opportunity soon after, after Bobby gets called for roughing on what looks to be a clean hit. What's up with my boy and penalties tonight? Hiller makes some more excellent saves in another effective penalty kill. Damn, and then another Ducks penalty against Ebbett for boarding.

Is it just me or does Coyote coach Wayne Gretzky look more evil than usual tonight?

More good saves, more quick pickups from our defense on the rebounds, and no goals for the Coyotes. And then it's the Ducks turn for a power play when Upshaal catches Pronger's face on a high stick and earns himself a double minor. Again, another successful Ducks power play. Scotty to Pronger to Getzlaf and in. Two goals for Getzy, although it seems he was expecting to make a quick pass to Bobby at the crease, not send it in himself. But hey, it's a goal either way.

Our Ducks stay on the power play. Wisniewski fires on the net, Bryz blocks, and the rebound is caught and shot in by Ebbett. Wow. That's four power play goals and all within the first 30 seconds of each power play. With only two minutes remaining, I gotta say it feels nice to actually have a comfortable lead for once in a game!

Ducks take a glorious victory, 6-2.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ducks vs Phoenix Coyotes

In prior seasons, I would have looked at tonight's matchup between the Ducks and the Coyotes (who've fallen from grace in a big way since the All Star break... what happened there?) and smuggly thought our boys would have these two points in the bag. But considering it's THIS season, and the Ducks have managed to biff a number of games against bottom feeders, well, you just never know. Our boys could totally bring it, riding high off a clincher of a win against the Predators. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan could totally click that first line and score some goals; Teemu Selanne, Andrew Ebbett, and Erik Christensen could meld as that second line and score another set of quick goals; Chris Pronger could totally capitalize on the fact that he has a good blue line partner in Ryan Whitney and be able to slap some shots home as well as keep the opponent's offense at bay; J.S. Giguere could finally see the end to his slump or Jonas Hiller could once again prove himself phenomenal between the pipes.

And, just as likely, the opposite could happen. Our boys could be exhausted after last night's game, and fatigue could play a huge part in their defeat. Aware of the strength of our first and second lines, the opposition could put their best defenders on them and completely shut them down. Pronger could have a bad day with the zebras and end up in the penalty box again and again. Giggy could continue his slump, or Hiller could show us that he isn't as impervious as we thought he was. With the way this season has gone, you can't even begin to predict the outcome of tonight's game.

This is the first of two in four days against the Coyotes, tonight's is being played at the arena. A brief note about this venue, I'd love to see a hockey game here. It was a great place to see the metal concert I attended a month or so ago. I stood at center ice, directly underneath the Coyote insignia on the ceiling. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Coyotes, I don't really know why. Just my tendency to support the underdog, I suppose. But when they're playing the Ducks, of course I'm rooting for my hometown heroes.

Oh, and let's keep in mind too that it was this Coyotes team who handed a defeat to the San Jose Sharks in their last game. This one really will be a toss up.

Of note, this is Rob Niedermayer's 1000th game. The Niedermayers are the fourth brother-brother pairing to reach that 1000th game distinction. Kinda cool.

My boy Bobby is once again on that top line with Perry and Getzlaf. With Pronger and Whitney holding up a very tall defensive line, I can just see coach Randy Carlyle smiling to himself. What other team can start the ice with so many notorious players?

Since Giggy played last night, it'll be Hiller in the net tonight. In the first minutes of the game, I'm agreeing with the television commentators: Coyote goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov seems a little slow and sleepy between the pipes. If he's not on his game, that'll be a good thing for our Ducks. Saying that Bryz is normally a terrific netminder is an understatement.

Within the first four minutes, Todd Marchant winds up a slap shot which hits Bryz and bounces in front. Drew Miller, freshly recalled from Iowa, catches the rebound and chips it home. Yes! First goal of the game goes to our boys. Before the end of the first half period, the Coyotes tie it up with a slapshot from the blue line. There's so much traffic in front of the net, Hiller doesn't even see it.

A holding penalty is called against the Coyotes and our boys go on their first power play. I'm hoping they keep that pp momentum they had last night. Unfortunately, I don't think our boys are that good. There's a sloppy pass play that results in a turnover in the neutral zone. Lombardi, a new trade acquisition for the Coyotes, grabs the puck and heads to the races. He fires on Hiller, who can't smother the rebound, so he's fired on a second time. This one, he catches and holds. It's a horrible power play attempt, with no shots on goal for our boys, but nearly three short-handed shots on Hiller.

Before the end of the period, it's a power play for the Coyotes when Sheldon Brookbank tips the puck over the glass. The penalty is effectively killed off, but not without calling on Hiller to make a number of great saves.

We go into the first intermission tied 1-1.

Early in the second period, there's another Anaheim penalty, and another effective penalty kill for our boys. Then our boys go on the power play... which they can't capitalize on. Unlike yesterday's game, this one, while active, doesn't seem as concerted an effort for our boys. Maybe they're tired. Maybe the Coyotes are playing with reckless abandon, considering they're out of the playoff race. Whatever the reason, I'm watching one disjointed play after another, up and down the ice, it just seems chaotic to me.

Then another fruitless power play for the Coyotes, but not without shots on goal. All I can say is, thank god Hiller is on the ball tonight. And finally, the game starts to pull together. There's a number of great plays on the Coyote net. No goals, but our guys are looking real sharp out there. The Coyotes pick up their game too. About ten minutes of pure, whistle-free, intense hockey go by. The second period ends without a goal.

So now it's a 20-minute hockey game. The Ducks defense has been good, but their offense has lacked the bite they need to score. There's a bit of a nailbiter as a scrum breaks out in front of Hiller. The puck manages to squirt behind Hiller and over the goal line, but not before the whistle is blown. Prucha and Sheldon Brookbank exchange blows and leave their teams four on four as a result.

Right as both teams are back full strength, there's an odd play as Marchant shoots the puck towards the front of the Coyote crease. Petteri Nokelainen is there, crashing through like a freight train. He ends up in the net along with the puck. The zebra at the net deems it a good goal, but it has to go to the officials for video review. It could actually have been a goaltender interference penalty, but our Ducks catch a lucky break with this one. On video replay, it looks like the puck is actually backhanded into the goal by Coyote Kyle Turris as Nokelainen slides into the net behind it. Ducks take the lead, 2-1, with about 12 minutes to go in the game.

Can our boys protect this lead? Last night they couldn't, and the Preds tied it up with less than three minutes left.

The power play that the Coyotes get at the nine-minute mark doesn't help. At least there's no goal.

But then, at 2:31 left, it's all too familiar. The killer Coyote line of Upshaal/Lombardi/Boedker proves too much for a tired first line of Ducks and Hiller, who's down early for the first shot on net. He scuttles on his knees to block a possible second off the rebound, but more scuttling doesn't help him block Lombardi who catches the quick pass from Upshaal as he waits uncovered behind Hiller. Looking skyward in obvious frustration and disappointment, I can't help but feel awful for Hiller.

Well, boys, now you gotta make it happen. You've got less than three minutes to put another in net. Although, it is somewhat comforting to know that the extra OT point will help Anaheim, even if they end up losing. And, if they end up winning, that extra point going to the Coyotes won't exactly hurt the standings. OT sees a lot of action, but I'm also noticing the lack of Ducks in the slot to receive passes or catch rebounds. From bad to worse, Pronger gets a hooking call and our boys have to play the last minute of OT short-handed.

No goal and we go to shootouts. Our Ducks haven't seen a shootout since January. So, who's our best bet? Getzlaf and Perry have a good histories with shootouts, so no doubt they'll be in that first three. I've seen Bobby as the third shooter twice now, and both times he couldn't score. But that was a while ago, before Bobby really came into his own. Supposedly, we have a secret weapon in Christensen. But, as he starts as the first shooter, the puck flips up on him and he can't get a handle on it.

Turris shoots first for the Coyotes. The puck somehow shoots between Hiller's legs and then flies wide of the net. Lucky break!

Then Perry for the Ducks. No goal. And Bryz is looking very calm and confident.

Next up, Mueller for the Coyotes. He manages to get one past a notably frustrated Hiller.

Getzlaf is next, and he must score. Talk about pressure! He slides it far to the left and then brings it back to center where he tucks it in close to slide it between Bryz's feet and into the net. The shot is steady and graceful, Getz makes it look easy.

The Coyotes round out their three with Prucha. If he scores, it's over and they win. Hiller blocks and almost kicks it back into his own net. He holds it between his stick and his skate at the goal line for the save.

Then, Teemu. He deftly avoids Bryz's pokecheck but his foot catches on Bryz's stick and throws him off balance. No goal.

Up next for the win, Coyotes' starling, Shane Doan. A beautiful stop by Hiller who pushes Doan off his lane.

And then, my boy Bobby. This one is incredible, people, and worthy of endless replays. Bobby starts off straight towards Bryz. As he's in shooting range, he pulls a number of tight stick handles, fakes out Bryz, and pops the puck around the netminder's left leg.

Fifth shootout round, two in for the Ducks, one for the Coyotes. And lastly, to tie things up, Matthew Lombardi must score. He tries to slip it between Hiller's pads, but fails. As the puck flies out, Hiller pumps his fists in the air.

What a win for our boys! Two points, special nods to Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan for the shootout goals (wait, is that 25 goals for my boy now?), and all of the bragging rights in the world for our phenomenal netminder, Jonas Hiller.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ducks vs Nashville Predators

Tonight's goaltender matchup: rookie sensation Pikka Rinne for the Predators and veteran J.S. Giguere for the Ducks.

I don't even have to say how important a win, preferably a regulation win, is for our Ducks tonight. I'm really hoping our boys have stepped up their power play, because that's what needs work. And particularly against the Nashville Predators who are doing very well with their penalty kill as of late.

Right off the bat, our boys get a power play off a delay of game penalty when a Pred chips the puck off the glass and into the penalty box.

I can see why these guys have such an effective penalty kill. They defend aggressively, putting lots of pressure on the puck. Our boys don't get a chance to focus their shots, and consequently, no goals during this power play opportunity.

Maybe not during the power play, but our first line (now consisting of my boy Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf) makes good. A nice assist from Bobby to Getzlaf, who's in the slot and heads toward goal, but passes it right up to Perry who's in his usual place next to Rinne and the net. Perry holds the puck, swinging it to the right of the netminder, and then patiently swinging it back to the left and past Rinne.

I may have questionable concerns about Perry's playing ethics (that's for a future post), but I have to admit that he is excellent under pressure in front of the net. That was one helluva goal, and a first goal at that (yes!).

Coach Randy Carlyle gets our winning line right back out there. This is a nice change. Our top line, stacked with our best scorers, not resting but back out on fresh goal momentum to attempt to score again. That's what we need.

Uh oh, the Predators get their first power play of the game when Todd Marchant trips up a Pred on his charge towards Giguere. Right at the beginning of the pp, an odd pass from a Pred at the top of the circle clips another Pred at the net on the left side of his rib cage. Unfortunately, the puck changes direction and hits the far top corner of the net behind Giggy.

Man, we didn't even get a chance to enjoy that lead.

Either way, this is a great game. We're getting a lot of great shot attempts on goal, lots of power in the forechecks, and some well-timed turnovers. Our Ducks are doing very well with their offense. They're moving around, keeping the defense on their toes and generating a lot of good scoring chances. I just wish the scoreboard reflected how well they've been playing this period. If you're getting so many opportunities with the puck in front of the net, chances are more of those shots will actually go in, right?

Too quickly we're at the first intermission. The score is tied 1-1.

Giggy has also been making some good stops, holding onto the puck and withholding those dangerous rebounds. The second period starts with another Preds power play. This time, it's against Ryan Whitney for tripping the same guy that Marchant tripped. At least this time, there's no goal in the first 14 seconds. But then, Marchant gets a boarding penalty, and Preds have the 5 against 3 advantage for 20 seconds. They capitalize and take the lead for the first time this game.

What's a Ducks game without questionable calls? There are a couple in the second period, including a no-call that leaves Teemu Selanne tripped up and on his back at the blue line, followed closely by an offside pass that angers an already agitated crowd.

Then our boys get a power play, when a 5'9" Pred manages to trip up a 6'6" Pronger. Talk about David versus Goliath. Perry manages to get one into the net off a mishandle from Rinne, but the whistle is blown before the puck goes in. Fans are pissed, shouts of "Ref, you suck!" echo around the arena. But then, it's the Ducks' chance for an odd bounce goal. James Wisniewski fires a puck that pounces off the back of a Pred leg at the net and then off Andrew Ebbett. The rebound lands right in front of him and he's ready to turn around and chip it in. The goal earns assist points for newbees Christensen and Wisniewski and we're tied again, 2-2

Bobby gets a great scoring opportunity, stealing the puck and steering it quickly right in front through the crease, and tries to stuff it past Rinne. No goal, but an excellent try. He's obviously frustrated sitting on the bench after the play. And frustrated again, as his next play involves a rebound catch that slides just through the crease mere inches away from the goal line and past Getzlaf.

Another excellent play by the new second line of Ebbett, Selanne, and Christensen. Ebbett took it just wide, but caught the rebound twice. No goal, but lots of opportunities. They play a lot of the last part of the second deep in the Predator zone. And, as it's usually just a matter of time, Preds get a penalty when superstar defenseman Shea Weber crosschecks Ryan Carter. The Ducks can't capitalize during the first half, but maybe on the second which will take place after the second intermission.

The first half of the third is high on intense play, low on whistles... and zero for Duck goals. About halfway through, Bobby practically flips onto his face as he trips over a Pred's high stick. It's another power play opportunity for our boys. Bobby brings the power play opportunity and follows it all the way through to his 24th goal of the season. He passes a puck to Pronger at the point, who fires it on the Pred net. Captain Scott Niedermayer is there, creating a screen and trying to stuff the puck which rebounds out. As it rolls away from the crease, Bobby sees it and heads straight for it, still using Scotty as a screen while chipping it into the net over a fallen Rinne.

"Bobby! Bobby!" I'm chanting it at home along with the thousands of Duck fans at the arena. Have I mentioned how much I love this kid?

That's yet another power play goal for our Ducks. Looks like they've been practicing this!

We're leading 3-2 with six minutes left in the game. The Preds are finally playing back in the Anaheim zone after being absent for nearly the past ten minutes. They try to set up but a lot of their passes get intercepted by Ducks or are missed by the Pred recipient. With only 2:45 left in the game, a wild pass carems off what looks like a high stick over Giggy and into the Anaheim goal. Video review doesn't overturn the decision and the Preds have officially tied up the game.

Argh. I want our boys to win and I want them to do it in regulation. Ideally, I don't want the Preds to take any points away from this game. But, considering how long it has taken any shots to reach the scoreboard during this game, I'm betting we're taking this one to overtime.

In the last minute, there's a huge power play for our Ducks off a tripping call on Pronger. They can't score in the first half of the power play so now we're in overtime.

Entering overtime, our boys take possession of the puck and have that extra man on the ice. Taking their time and measuring space for passes and shooting, our boys pass from Pronger to Getzlaf to Selanne, who passes it back to Getzlaf and back to Pronger who brings his stick back for a slap shot towards the goal. Selanne, as he later admitted, had his stick on the ice hoping the two would connect. And sure enough, they did. He sends the backhander straight into the net for the win.

The goal is also Selanne's 1200th career point. He's just the 6th player outside of North America to ever achieve this in the league. It earns him the #1 star of the game and a little one-on-one with commentator Patrick O'Neal. "With 12 games left in the season, does Anaheim have enough in the tank to make that playoff push?" feeds O'Neal, with the final question of the interview.

"Absolutely!" Selanne growls with a broad grin.

I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy birthday!

Hope everyone is enjoying a fun, festive, and safe St. Patty's Day. Have an extra Guinness for Bobby Ryan, my favorite Duck is 22 years old today.

I'm hoping to see you kick some major Predator ass tomorrow night, Bobby!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ducks vs San Jose Sharks

Before this game started, commentator Kent French and color analyst Brian Hayward held short interviews with former Duck Travis Moen and his long-term linemate Rob Niedermayer. They both admitted that it would be weird playing on opposite teams tonight, because they'd been through so many of the same battles on the same line for the last couple of seasons. The telecast replayed the historic footage of the boys hoisting the Stanley Cup, Robbie and Moen together sharing broad grins across their faces.

I swear, I teared up just watching it. I know why the trades went down as they did, but that doesn't make me feel any better about it. I can't help but ask, how could we trade away a guy like Moen?


Those Shark prospects better be worth it, that's all I'm sayin'.

During the first television commercial break, Moen was given a special ceremony with highlights of his four-year career as a Duck shown on the Honda Center big screen. The sold-out crowd gave him a standing ovation, and his ex-teammates also applauded him. You'll be missed, Travis, best of luck to you.

I don't have a lot of time to recap this game, but I'll focus on a few highlights, like the Moen tribute above.

Our boys are very energetic during the first period. They're skating fast and Jonas Hiller is making some great saves. I do wish our boys capitalized a bit more on the rebounds, as Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov seems to be leaving a few around after his saves. But they do a good job keeping the Sharks from scoring and, at the end of the first, it's tied 0-0.

The second period is much like the first, up and down the ice, back and forth, shots on net but no goals. Honestly, I don't know how Hiller is keeping pucks out of his net. There's so many guys in front of him, so much traffic, how can he even see the puck, more or less block it?

It isn't until the last minute of the second period that the Sharks get a garbage goal off an odd bounce and carem. Ironically, it's Moen who gets the goal. If that isn't karma... I guess it's definitely saying something that our Ducks managed to keep things tied against this very powerful Sharks team all the way up until this point.

Another bit of karma? I'm hearing that ex-Duck Chris Kunitz successfully landed a 3-point game (2 goals, 1 assist) for a win with the Pittsburg Pens (6-4). So many of our boys are doing well in their post-Duck careers. I won't read too much into what that might mean.

So, our Ducks enter the third period desperately trying for that equalizer. They put up an excellent offensive front, and here's where you can really appreciate the skills of Nabokov. The Ducks' attempts are nothing short but heroic. I wish they'd have played like this against those bottom feeders they shouldn't have lost to months ago. In any sense, I'm frustrated for our boys as the final third period seconds slip away without that equalizer.

The loss just doesn't give any justice to the passion and talent of our players and our extraordinary netminder.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ducks vs Vancouver Canucks

Okay guys, let's quit with the losing by one point deal. We really need to start winning some games. I hate to say it, but I don't think you guys are going to make it to the playoffs. At least, not the way you're currently playing. I understand there's lots of new guys playing now, and it's hard to get that chemistry you need to win games, but it's coming down to the line here. There's fifteen games, including tonight's, left in the season. If we're going to go down, let's go down fighting.

It's Jonas Hiller again tonight in the net. He did an excellent job against the Wild three nights ago, but we didn't get that win. As much as I'm a fan of J.S. Giguere, I'm happy to see Hiller in net. We're lucky to have two great netminders, let's use them. Early on in the first period, the Captain takes a penalty, but Hiller and our boys do a good job killing it. Hiller is controlling his rebounds, swallowing the puck or sending rebounds into the corners. Go Hiller!

George Parros and newbee Nokeleinen get a great opportunity for a goal, but Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo blocks it. But our boys get another chance on a power play after a Canucks hooking penalty. Our boys' power play unit hasn't been on its game lately, I'm hoping they'll change that this time. Pucks pass from my boy Bobby Ryan to Ryan Getzlaf, to Chris Pronger to Ryan Whitney, who somehow gets it into the net.

The fans cheer the goal, but on a second look, it's noted that Luongo foot hits the goal post allowing the puck to slip in under the net. How odd! It's deemed a no goal, much to the boos of the crowd. But rightly so, it shouldn't be a goal.

That's okay, boys. Let's get a real goal.

Another power play for the Canucks, as Wisniewski is penalized for getting his stick caught between the blade and the boot of a Canuck forward. More great saves by Hiller, no rebond opportunities. I almost feel bad for our rookie netminder. He hasn't had a break yet this game! The power play ends with 14 shots on goal for the Canucks versus 3 for the Ducks, yet the score is still 0-0.

Go Hiller!

With less than three minutes to go in the period, there's a sloppy turnover in the Canucks zone. Teemu Selanne brings the forced puck around, fakes, then shoots through the hole that opens up between Luongo's pads as he falls for the fake. The goal energizes our boys and suddenly, they're playing with renewed vigor. The first period ends with a scuffle, which will probably result in a few penalties, and a score of 1-0.

Sure enough, the second period starts with a Canucks power play as Perry gets a charging penalty. Thanks to Hiller and a very effective penalty kill team, no goals. One thing's for certain, Hiller is ON tonight.

The middle of the second finds Ryan Getzlaf fighting not once but twice for the puck against the boards. He forces it out both times and, when the puck bounces off a redirect from Erik Christensen, Getzlaf is in the right place to slam the rebound home. That's Getzlaf's 21st goal of the season, and his first since the broken nose incident.

And then, another power play for the Canucks. Lots of penalties here for both clubs, but I suppose it's expected considering the Ducks and the Canucks are the second and third, respectively, most penalized clubs in the league. You want an aggressive game? You're going to get one.

After so many shots on the Ducks goal, one of them actually goes in. Thanks to all of the traffic in front of the net, Hiller didn't even see the puck until it was under his feet. Less than a minute later, Hiller stops a shot, but it manages to squirt between his feet and results in the Canucks tying up the game, 2-2. This one was a fault of the Ducks defense to cover the opponent in front of the net. They left Hiller on his own.

At least the Ducks get a power play. The Canuck penalty kill is a strong one, players forming a wall at the blue line and making it difficult to penetrate the zone. Once our boys do manage to set up, Christensen pulls off a fancy fake and feeds Ebbett right at the net. He's denied by Luongo. As the power play expires, Christensen again pulls off a fake. He has the puck, looks one way but shoots the opposite direction towards the goal. It hits Luongo's blocker and the rebound lands right at Petteri Nokelainen who drives it home.

That's Nokelainen's first goal as a Duck and, I gotta say, I'm impressed with how our newest players are performing out there. Just think, they'll only get better as they practice more and learn the systems of their teammates. Our boys continue to pressure Luongo in the crease, making shot after shot on that goal. No additional scores, but one helluva workout for the Canucks.

Before the end of the second, Christensen makes a glorious goal, but has it taken away as Getzlaf gets penalized for goalie interference. The chorus of boos from the home crowd is deafening, even as the period ends. Is it a bad call? Hard to tell, because it looks more like Luongo's own defenseman interfered.

The third period begins with the rest of Getzlaf's penalty. The score remains 3-2. It's still an aggressive game. Lots of good hits, lots of watching Perry fall all over the ice. Our boys are pouring on the offense, often outnumbering the defense with their charge. My boy Bobby Ryan finally gets an opportunity for a perfect rebounded shot on the goal, but is robbed by Luongo. Less than a minute later, he's robbed (ROBBED, I tell you!) again by a lucky block from Luongo's skate.

Considering all of the action going on, there are very few whistles blown this period. Even as a Canuck defender crashes into Hiller, knocking him backwards into the Ducks' net, there's no whistle. The crowd boos and then breaks out into chants of, "Ref, you suck!"

I'm watching all of this and wondering how the period could be so long! I can only imagine how tired both teams are... We've still got five minutes left in the game. And then I speak too soon. A Canuck is left uncovered right in front of the net, and he makes his shot good. You can read the disappointment off Hiller's body language. With less than five minutes left, we're tied up 3-3.

Our boys get a much needed power play and, despite numerous amazing shots on goal, can't get one in to reclaim the lead. And then it's Hiller's turn to do the robbing. He even saves a shot which carems off his mask. That's not the first time we've seen that.

And then, the game in regulation ends. Five minutes of overtime. Shots fired on both netminders. Players falling all over the ice. Getzlaf gets a Canuck hook and our boys are four on three for a power play. There are a number of beautiful shots on the Canuck net, but Selanne gets a holding penalty. Now we're three on three.

Okay, here's my plan. Whatever you do, get the puck to the Captain. He'll take it home, just as he did back in February against the Flames.

We've got Pronger, Todd Marchant, and the Captain on the ice. Marchant gets the faceoff to Niedermayer who pushes it out of the far corner to Pronger, who kicks it into the open ice right as the Captain skates down. He's off, with a Canuck trailing very closely after him. He's barely in control of that puck and just manages to fire it between Luongo's arm and leg for the goal and the win.

Well deserved, boys, 4-3. Most importantly, 2 points for the playoff position race.

Monday, March 9, 2009

After the trade dust settles

First things first, can I say I'm a little unnerved about my boy Bobby Ryan changing his number? For one, I can't exactly change the url of this here blog so, he's still going to be the 54 reference in the title, no matter what number he changes to. For another, my bad eyes can't usually see the difference between a big "8" skating on the ice and a big "9." So, I see Teemu Selanne and Bobby skating at the same time in that second line, and I have a hard time figuring out who's who.

That's annoying.

Otherwise, if Bobby's happy with #9, I suppose I am. And luckily, I was able to change my order for a Bobby Ryan jersey and I'll be able to wear his number 9 at the next game I attend (which, coincidentally might actually be a Kings vs. Coyotes game thanks to a friend of mine nabbing free tickets).


I'm hearing a lot of mixed opinions regarding the trade deadline results. I was just as horrified as any other Ducks fan, hearing that not just one, not just two, but FOUR of our active roster would no longer play in Duck jerseys. The news about Chris Kunitz was already hard to take, but now? Now we'd be saying goodbye to Travis Moen, Kent Huskins, Sammy Pahlsson, and Steve Montador (one of my personal favorites). What's the world coming to?

Let's not forget that Kunitz has been an integral part in the Pittsburg Penguins' recent good fortune. The boy has been scoring goals and assists left and right. As a hockey fan, I'm happy for him. It's his time to shine with a team who will see him improve as a player. But as a Ducks fan, I'm still sad. That's OUR Chris Kunitz, one of OUR Stanley Cup Ducks.

But what good will whining get us? No good. At least we still have Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, and J.S. Giguere. Let's take a look at the newbees we've got now.

Petteri Nokelainen (#17) from the Bruins, traded for Montador. He's making a name for himself as an excellent faceoff winner. I also think he's a good skater, I've watched him maneuver the puck on the ice. He received a horrible eye injury in a Bruin game against the Sharks, but has recovered fully, thank god. He's getting more ice time with the Ducks, which he is definitely enjoying, and he's getting a chance to play on the penalty kill specialty team. The trade was a good one for improving his skills as a hockey player. The icing on the cake? He's now playing with his boyhood hero, Teemu Selanne.

James Wisniewski (#34) from the Blackhawks, traded for Pahlsson. He's a defenseman, and Carlyle is using him on the defensive charge with Scotty. Murray's plan is to eventually use him along with Ryan Whitney in retooling the defensive line. He's excited to learn from Scotty and Pronger, thinking it will be good for his career.

Erik Christensen from (#26) Thrashers. He's a forward, being paired as a winger with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Murray believes the boy needs good forwards to play with, and he'll score goals with them. He'd put himself in a tough position with the Thrashers, trying to live up to his Number One Center label. He couldn't play to his expectations because of nerves and is excited to start clean with the Ducks, playing alongside great forwards. He's already provided a couple of assists, so he's off to a good start.

Finally, two guys not in the pros yet, center Nick Bonino and goaltender Timo Pielmeier. These are draft picks from the Sharks, we lost Travis Moen and Kent Huskins for them, but Murray assures us that they are worth all that and a bag of chips. I'm very curious to see these guys on the ice, but we might have to wait until next season for that.

For good measure, I'll mention Mike Brown, who we received from the Canucks in exchange for Nathan McIver a few weeks before the trade deadline. Personally, I'm really liking what I've seen with Brown. He's out there, picking fights and dropping gloves, as we'd expected him to. But also, he's a passionate player. I see him skating confidently, hitting hard on the forecheck, getting in deep to battle for the puck in the corners, putting a lot of energy into his charges. We definitely got a good man out of this deal.

All of these new guys are under 26 years old. Their addition makes the team very young, and that bodes well for the future. We've got young guys with potential, mixed in with some very successful veterans. What better people to teach, and what better people to learn from?

I completely understand GM Bob Murray's position regarding the boys we gave up. They were part of a long list of unrestricted free agents, guys who may or may not sign with the Ducks for next season. And if they didn't? We'd lose them anyway, with nothing but holes in the roster to fill. By using them in trades, Murray could at least make sure we'd get something for them. Considering the tentative positioning the Ducks continue to have in their run for a playoff spot this season, I'm thinking this was definitely a good move on Murray's part for the future of the Ducks. They might not make this season's playoffs, but even if they don't, we'll have a good lineup to make an excellent run for next season's.

Sometimes, the future is all you have.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ducks vs Minnesota Wild

It appears my VCR didn't catch the Ducks/Stars game on Friday. Considering everything that can go wrong programming a VCR, I guess I'm surprised I haven't biffed more recordings.

Anyway, we'll move on.

Tonight's game opens with Chris Pronger accepting an award for playing his 1000th NHL game. I don't know about you, but I'm secretely very proud to have him reach that milestone as a Duck.

Yes siree.

So, this is the first game I get to actually watch where there's tons of new guys wearing Ducks' jerseys. More faces and numbers to remember, and it's kind of saddening to think that I've seen the last of Travis Moen, Steve Montador, Sammy Pahlsson, and Kent Huskins in Anaheim colors. I'm also not used to seeing my boy Bobby Ryan donning the number 9. Ryan Getzlaf is skating visor-less, finally, and I'm hoping we'll see more action from him. Things have been rather quiet from the Getz camp.

Just about a minute after the game starts, the Wild catches a rebound off Jonas Hiller in a one-knee-down stance and tap the puck into the goal. Damn, again?!?

Our second line is still doing really well. They have a number of scoring chances in this first period, but are continually denied by the Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom in an awkward snow angel position. Bobby is the second Duck rookie to reach 20 goals and 20 assists in a season, he leads NHL rookies with 23 goals right now... and remember, Bobby wasn't even with the team at the beginning of the season. I need to do a little something in the side bar to keep track of this boy's goals.

I'm also still liking Mike Brown's performance on the ice. The guy is energetic and he plays with confidence. He's aggressive as both a defenseman blocking shooting and passing lanes, and when he's driving with the puck towards the net. That's a good man.

Corey Perry and Getzlaf are playing with newcomer Erik Christensen on their frontline. They aren't as fast as they usually are, probably because they're still measuring out how Christensen is as a player. I keep thinking he's Pahlsson, with that big 26 on his back. In the second half of the first period, the Wild gets their first power play opportunity as new guy Jimmy Wisniewski lands himself in the box with a high sticking penalty. Before it's over, the Ducks get a power play off an interference call, but can't capitalize with the extra man.

Apparently, Wisniewski's got a good record. He scored his first goal as a Duck in the Dallas game on Friday. Unfortunately, no goals for him in the first period of tonight's game. Ducks head into the first intermission trailing, 0-1.

After a mild start to the second period, Wild hitter (and irritator, if that's a word) Clutterbuck makes good with his second sneaky hit of the game. Perry is the recipient, and he lays winded on the ice for a good couple of seconds before the whistle is blown. Pronger, who saw what happened, confronts Clutterbuck and gets penalized, giving the Wild a power play.

On the penalty kill, Todd Marchant goes in for a one-man forecheck and catches Backstrom outside of his net as he strips the puck away from the Wild defender, wraps it around, and into the net for a goal. The crowd, booing less than a minute ago, is now cheering and finally, our boys are back in the game.

And then a hooking penalty against the Wild. C'mon guys, here's where you can take the lead. They fail, but the period has become a scramble, the puck traveling up and down the length of the ice, fallen players strewn about in its wake. Perry lands himself a tripping call and the Wild go on the power play. The Ducks kill it off with some great saves by Hiller.

Shortly thereafter, Christensen misses a pass in the neutral zone and Veilleux grabs the turnover, speeds it down the ice, and rips it over Hiller's glove. Argh. Two goals now for Veilleux, 2-1 on the scoreboard. That's not cool, especially when it's public knowledge that the Wild specialize in turnover goals.

They're doing a little interview feature on Hiller during the intermissions. Personally, I'm glad to see it. I like Hiller a lot and I like learning more about a guy who's a great player, yet is a little on the quiet side, staying out of the limelight. He sounds like a humble, down-to-earth guy, probably a pleasure to meet in person.

Carlyle has put Bobby on the first line, with Getzlaf and Perry. The Ducks get a much needed power play, but can't make good on it. The Wild have a tremendously effective penalty kill team. And then, Perry gets his second minor of the game, this time for slashing. Luckily, the Ducks follow suit with their penalty kill.

Our Ducks make a fatal mistake with eight minutes left in the game. Both Sheldon Brookbank and Brett Festerling leave their defensive positions near the net to chase after a puck during a scramble to the left of Hiller. The Wild capitalize, getting the puck quickly to Brunette who has nothing but empty net stretched out in front of him. There's nothing Hiller can do. It's an easy goal... and incredibly frustrating for us Duck fans to watch.

We're in some serious trouble here, folks. Down by two, our boys need to pull it together. Hiller is doing a phenomenal job, otherwise it'd be a lot more than two goals between the teams. Of course, the Wild's MO is to protect their lead at this point. They're clearing the puck at every attempt.

With less than two minutes left in the game, Ducks call a timeout and Hiller abandons the net. And then, with only 21 seconds left, the puck is pushed into a scramble in front of the Wild net and the Captain manages to push it through. There's only 6.5 seconds left for the equalizer, but this isn't a completely impossible situation. However, for the Ducks, it is. They take a disappointing loss against a team they should have beat, 2-3.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ducks vs Dallas Stars

Not outplayed, not outshot, yet outscored. AGAIN. Our Ducks played their hearts out against the Dallas Stars, but were unable to get the numbers up on the scoreboard. Might it have something to do with the complete restructuring of the Duck's roster at the trade deadline?

Perhaps. There are a lot of new guys on the team, guys that our boys haven't played with before. Also, there are the Stanley Cup boys that we've lost, no longer there for physical and emotional support.

Whatever the explanation, all we can do is groan again at the miserable defeat. Newbee James Wisniewski managed a goal off a feed from Corey Perry. And my boy Bobby Ryan, wearing his new #9, made another set of slick moves with his sweet hands, deftly maneuvering the puck past two defenders, across the front of the crease, and in passed Marty Turco. That's another beauty for the highlight reel, and Bobby's 23rd of the season.

As I mentioned before... or maybe I just thought about mentioning it, my VCR failed to record this game so that's all I've got for this one! And maybe that's a good thing considering the heartbreaking loss.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Coming up

I've got a few posts to catch up on, but I just wanted to say that I'm a bit sidelined at the moment: visiting a friend up in Seattle (a town with no NHL team but who should really have one), and unable to get to a consistent internet connection.

But have no fear, I'm back next week. And there's lots to cover. The Ducks/Blackhawks game, the Ducks/Stars game that's going down today, the trade results, and a few other tidbits.

In the meantime, I'm hoping our boys give the Stars another thrashing today. Keep your eye out for Steve Ott, who's back after his one game suspension.

Go Ducks!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ducks at Chicago, vs Blackhawks

With the trade deadline looming, I found myself wondering how many of our Ducks would be playing their last game as a Duck in Chicago tonight. Would the outcome of this game make a difference in any of those trade decisions?

Either way, I was hoping for a win in Chicago. How amazing would this road trip be, if we could get away with winning four out of the six games?

But, we could easily lose this one too. After all, these are the Blackhawks and this game is in their home territory. It's not a nice, warm fuzzy feeling out there in Chitown.

And it wasn't warm fuzzies that I felt as the Hawks owned that first goal barely one minute into the first period. It wasn't warm fuzzies either that I felt as the Ducks came up with nothing in their first power play. It's as if our boys tripped up right out of the gate.

They stepped up their game in the second half of the first period, Mike Brown made an amazing play, single-handedly maneuvering around a wall of red jerseys and coming out on a one-on-one with Hawks' netminder Cristobal Huet. A skilled pokecheck by Huet stopped his goal attempt, but I'm very impressed with Brown's moxy.

The Ducks get a couple more goal opportunities, can't capitalize, but I feel like they're trying to meet their aggressors mid-ice now. J.S. Giguere is in net, starting every game in this road trip. He can't do much to stop the Hawks' second goal, a breakaway that leaves Steve Montador the lone defenseman in the Anaheim zone against three advancing forwards.

Those Blackhawks can move, let me tell you. They've got speed, they've got strength, and they've got agility. It's downright scary.

Ducks go on a penalty kill later on in the first. Brown impresses again as he makes a short-handed breakaway for the net. He fires on Huet, it's blocked, but he catches his own rebound and fires again. Huet sprawls, makes the save, and the puck bounces behind the net where Brown almost reclaims it AGAIN.

Go Brown! He's winning over teammates and fans with this game.

Giggy's making some great saves, but then, so is Huet. Ducks finish the first without a mark on the scoreboard, 0-2.

There's a couple of lucky breaks for our Ducks in the second period. Giggy barely pins a puck, but it's slipping past him and into the net. The whistle is blown right as one of the Hawks attempts to poke it through. If they hadn't done that, I think it would have been a valid goal.

Soon after, Huet makes the fatal error of being caught outside the crease for too long, Perry fires it in front, and Drew Miller knocks it into a nearly empty net for his first goal of the season.

And two minutes later, my boy Bobby Ryan makes his 22nd goal of the season after being in the right place at the right time, as he always seems to be. Pronger slams the puck from the blue line. It goes just wide of the net, but Andrew Ebbett is on it, taking it around the net and firing it out front. The Hawk defenders are tied up with Teemu, and Huet is caught off guard as the puck bounces into the slot just as Bobby is skating up to the net. A quick shot over a sprawling Huet ties the game.

I'm telling you, that second line continues to rock!

Our Ducks are super fired up now. They make continuous shots on net, fighting hard in the Blackhawk zone. A pair of attempts eat pipe, but no net. Their momentum takes them right into a power play, but unfortunately, they can't set up to make any shots on goal.

There's a tense moment as George Parros takes a high stick to the right eye. Play continues, but I'm worried about our Ducks enforcer. He shows up on the ice for his next shift, with a bandaged cut under his right eye. Thank goodness. Travis Moen takes a hit and limps back to the Ducks' bench, no word on him for the rest of the period.

Before the period ends, the Duck do a terrific job killing a penalty against Brendan Morrison. Our boys definitely took control this period. And we go into the second intermission tied 2-2.

The third period starts with a similar feel. Lots of action, lots of moving the puck around. Both teams are playing ferociously, it's like watching a playoff match. The first half of the period goes without any goals. I'm holding my breath all the way up to the last minute of the game. There are some amazing saves by Giggy, some beautiful attempts by the Ducks in front of Huet, and some impressive footwork by the Duck defenders.

As the game goes into overtime, I'm thankful the Ducks are taking at least a point away from this one. It's a turnover that lands a puck into the Duck net, despite a galiant effort by Perry to defend. Yes, it's a loss, but I think the Ducks put up a very good fight. Final score, 2-3.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The trade debate

This year's NHL trade deadline is being so highly promoted that even my sports-clueless coworker, the one who thinks that the Ducks/Kings crosstown rivalry has something to do with little league baseball, said to me: "I bet you're hoping your Ducks get a great deal before that deadline is up, huh?"

You bet.

More specifically, I'm hoping the suits don't do something stupid and trade away any of our best veteran Ducks right as we're clinching a playoff spot.

If there's no chance we can make the playoffs, that's one thing. But if we do happen to make it, I don't want us to be down and out before we even get a chance to battle for the Cup. I want Chris Pronger, Scotty Niedermayer, and J.S. Giguere wearing Duck jerseys as they play postseason games. I've heard a lot of rumors, particularly about these three, as the trade deadline looms.

My buddy Josh Brewster even wrote an article about the Pronger rumors. By the way, I entirely agree with him. Pronger has been holding his own. Yes, the team has been struggling this season, but I don't think it has anything to do with Pronger not pulling his own. Hell, what do you expect from a guy who's had to play alongside a new blueliner practically every other game? Why trade off such a valuable defenseman when it seems so improbable that we'd be getting at least an equally valuable player for him? What if you do trade Pronger, and Scotty decides to retire at the end of the season? What do you do without either of your two big D-men?

Pronger has even gone on record to say that he doesn't want to be traded. "I love playing here in Anaheim with the Ducks and I love living here in California."

And us fans love having him here. Sure, he doesn't really have a say in what the big guns do with him, but it's gotta mean something that he doesn't want to leave.

On an emotional note, I've gotten the chance to meet Pronger and watch him interact with fans and his fellow teammates. The guy belongs. If you've ever seen him in this capacity, you know what I mean. The team wouldn't be the same without him.

I believe the same is true for Giggy. I know I've mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again. Yes, he's had a tough year. Yes, he hasn't been as consistent as we would like him to be. But, in the end, Giggy is one of the best goaltenders out there. Hasn't he been proving that with the last couple of games he's played? Randy Carlyle thinks so. I love that he's entrusted Giggy to start these past couple of games. It's only right that you stand by the guy who has brought your team through so much.

If Giggy gets traded, I will be very surprised indeed. I almost want to bring a sign to the next game I attend: "In Giggy we trust"

Speaking of surprises, what do you all make of the Chris Kunitz/Ryan Whitney trade? Initially, I was emotionally bothered by the trade. I like Chris Kunitz. He's a fan favorite and a team favorite. He's one of the Stanley Cup boys. I didn't even think he was on the table. To lose him, and a promising prospect, seemed like a mistake to me. I know Ryan Whitney's supposed to be a great defenseman, but he better be darn good to lose two players over.

I guess it doesn't help that I haven't heard many positive things about Whitney this season. Being in hockey-sterile Socali, I haven't heard much of anything about Whitney. I'll watch him closely during the next couple of games, seeing as I'll have to construct my own evidence-based theories about him.

Something that helps the Kunitz pill go down a little easier, I do believe the trade was a good thing for Kunitz's career. In the very next game that he played with the Pittsburg Penguins, alongside superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he made a goal and an assist and helped bring the win. If the Pens needed a good guy to join a scoring line, they got one with Kuny.

Still, I'm keeping his picture on the Wall O' Fame over there on the right, at least til the end of the season.

Last man of note is our dear Captain, Scott Niedermayer. I understand he's putting Bob Murray in a bit of a hard place, being mum about his postseason plans. If Scotty is intending to retire, he hasn't let that on. But Murray has been quoted as saying he has no intention of trading Scotty.

I certainly hope not. I love Scott Niedermayer. Players like him are one in a million. And after everything he has done for this club, he deserves to retire with them.

I guess I'll be holding my breath all the way up until Wednesday afternoon.

My Zimbio
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