In praise of Bobby Ryan

In praise of Bobby Ryan
"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable. I played with [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the league. Bobby's hands are right with those guys... He's a superstar in the making, it seems."
---Ryan Whitney, former Ducks defenseman

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ducks vs. Sharks, round 1 game 6

Back at the Ponda, it's our hometown heroes' chance to put away these Sharks once and for all. How sweet would that be to do here at home? In a way, our Ducks don't really have a choice. If they lose this one, the pressure will be so strong to win the last one, and on Sharks turf no less.

If you ask me, I think Sharks coach McClellan has finally figured out who his big offensive line should be. In game five, his Thornton/Marleau/Setoguchi line was dominant in scoring and the Blake/Boyle defensive line was effective in shutting down our Ducks all the way up until the third period. No doubt he will have them out again and they'll be in top form as they try to escape elimination. And with this knowledge, and the momentum of a win here tonight, they'll come out at the Shark Tank for game seven with guns ablazing.

Well, it's settled. Ducks have to win this one tonight.

Right off the draw, Ryan Getzlaf goes toe to toe with big Joe Thorton. Wow! Talk about the fight of the century. I'm not sure if this is a good thing so early on, but it definitely sets a physical tone to the game at hand. As if we didn't already know it's going to be a physical affair!

Man, the Ponda is loud tonight, and rightly so.

Ugh. Only a minute in, the Ducks draw their first penalty. It's Robbie Niedermayer for tripping against Roenick. I'm happy to see that Jonas "Hiller the Shark Killer" is once again on his game, making some great saves in the Sharks first power play. And the Sharks come up fruitless.

After the power play, the Sharks carry their momentum to keep the puck primarily in the Ducks zone. They're definitely coming hard. C'mon boys, fight back!

Cheechoo takes a huge hit thanks to Corey Perry's shoulder, and the Ducks draw another penalty. Replay shows it's Perry's elbow that makes contact with Cheechoo's head. Our Ducks penalty kill is tremendous, but I'd rather they didn't need to be! Let's stay out of the sinbin, boys. Francois Beauchemin takes a puck off the left ankle and is shown limping off to the locker room at the next whistle.

Not a good sign. The Sharks are hitting harder, putting more shots on goal... and ANOTHER Duck penalty. This one is on James Wisniewski for slashing. The fans are booing. This is a horrible start. I can only hope they'll regroup and shape up during the first intermission. And hopefully, they won't have dug a huge hole of goal deficit by that time. It's during this penalty that Hiller lets one past him. Blake puts a huge shot on Hiller that rebounds into the slot, right on Michalek, who hammers it home.

The next play is whistled off at the Shark net, which instantly turns into a mosh pit. Oh man, more penalties are going to come out of that one. Two in the sinbin for the Sharks, George Parros and Mike Brown in the sinbin for the Ducks, but additionally, big D Danny Boyle is in for the Sharks. And our boys have their first power play. Unfortunately, it's short-lived. Teemu Selanne gets a hooking call less than thirty seconds in. Now we're 4 on 4.

And see, these aren't necessarily bad calls. Our Ducks really need to clean up their act. You can't get anywhere offensively if you're constantly killing off penalties.

Finally, penalty against the Sharks on a hooking play. We're 4 on 3 for the first 15 seconds. It lends to a beautiful mid-air tip in by Perry, off a pass from Getzlaf in the slot who bounces the puck off Evgeni Nabokov's right leg pad. Big goal for our boys, tying things up 1-1 with one second left in that 4 on 3 power play.

As if it could get any faster, play picks up tremendously after that goal. Ducks have risen to the occasion, re-energized, making good hits, strong forechecks, and shots on Naby. The fans sense it too, "Let's go Ducks" resounding. They're starting to look really sharp out there, connecting those passes and going whistle-less from here on out to the first intermission. It's 1-1 and it looks like our boys are finally ready to play some hockey.

The great plays continue in the second period, as the Ducks' third line sets up a few scoring opportunities. The Sharks' third line is also strong, putting a number of shots on Hiller. Our goaltender is on fire though, and he's flawless. My eyes are literally drying out trying to follow all the action here. Big George ends up in the Shark net with Nabokov twice. His line also gets a bunch of scoring opportunities. Maybe it's just me, but the Sharks don't seem to be connecting their passes as well as the Ducks are. Ducks also outnumber the Sharks in shots on net.

We get halfway through the period without any penalties, all the way until the whistle blow ends in a scrum in front of Hiller. He crawls away with the puck as the players get into each others' faces.

Frankie Beauchemin gets an interference call, and the Sharks get another power play. The penalty kill is looking strong, with Hiller once again blocking pucks with his mask.

Now it's the Ducks turn on the power play. Erik Christensen catches a puck on the breakaway, pausing perfectly before he passes the puck to Andrew Ebbett speeding down the slot. His Shark defender hooks him as he fires on the net. His bid flies over the net, but draws an all important penalty.

Right off the faceoff, Selanne wins the draw. It goes back to the Captain at the blue line, who passes it up to Chris Pronger. He fires it back to Selanne who, on a pass to Getzlaf, makes contact first with a Shark stick and it's past Naby in the blink of an eye. First goal this series for the Finnish Flash! And only nine seconds into the power play.

They hardly finish officially announcing the goal when Mike Brown muscles possession of the puck, passes quickly behind the net to Ryan Carter who manages to feed it up ice to Frankie at the blue line. He fires a huge one timer, which breaks Boyle's stick in its path to the Shark net. 3-1 Ducks lead!!

The fans are screaming, our Ducks are on fire, and I'm so wishing I were at this game! The Sharks on the bench look stunned and bewildered. It's a beautiful sight, people.

"Let's go Ducks!"

And Hiller makes a highlight reel sprawling save. What an unbelievable period!

I would hope to see another goal by my boy Bobby Ryan, tying him with the record for goals in a post-season series by a rookie. He's contributing big time tonight, doing all of those little things that prove so important. But earning a point isn't in the game plan, at least for the first two periods.

The horn sounds the end of the period and a brawl erupts on the ice. Pavelski and Ryan Whitney start throwing fists. The zebras let them duke it out for a bit before pulling them apart. There's defnitely going to be penalties at the beginning of the third. But for now, Ducks have a comfortable 3-1 lead going into the second intermission.

The third period opens with a bunch of guys in each sinbin, but Anaheim with the man advantage. Nabokov comes up big in the Sharks penalty kill, as our boys fire shot after shot on him. He's keeping his team in the playoffs at this point. No goals.

Things are getting really chippy. A whistle after Hiller covers up turns into another scrum as Michalek takes a stick to Wisniewski. Guys run in from all corners of the rink to join the melee. As the zebras discuss how they'll dish out the penalties, the coaches look on as they lose important parts of their specialty teams. The sinbins are practically standing room only as there are four players from each team sitting out.

Our Ducks strategy looks like it involves keeping the puck deep in the Shark zone whenever they can, still applying pressure on the forecheck in their defensive zone. They've got the lead, but they can't let up.

There's a nervous moment as Setoguchi goes deep after a home run pass from Marleau. Before he can reach it, Hiller is flying out of his crease to knock the puck away with his stick. It's just Setoguchi and Hiller out there and I'm suddenly reminiscent of the play where Hiller takes a flying dive at the puck out on the blue line. No shot on goal following that moment, but our Ducks don't manage to clear. About 17,000 fans including myself are holding their breath as the few feet surrounding Hiller turn into a veritable pinball game, the puck bouncing off Hiller's chest, off sticks, off skates... everywhere except the net.

Only half of the period left, and the Sharks are getting even more desperate. I think they're starting to get a little sloppy, fanning on shots, fumbling the puck at the blue line, not connecting on passes. And Hiller is staying sharp and true as they apply tons of pressure around his crease.

Play continues up and down the ice, shots on both netminders. We're down to the last five minutes of the game, and the score is still 3-1. This is it, the final stretch! Our big line is on the ice, keeping the puck as deep as possible for as long as possible. Perry gets dragged for a while as Ehrhoff tries to free his stick from his skate blade. A puck battle in the corner to the right of the Sharks net turns up aces as Robbie Niedermayer manages to dig out the puck and get it to Getzlaf in open ice. He edges it up to the high slot, trying to open up a shooting lane. He fires a mad wrister and all we see is Naby's water bottle jump. GOAL!!!

Huge grins on all our boys on the ice and on the bench. The Sharks are positively pissed, and I'm loving this! By the way, with a goal, an assist, and a fight, that's a Gordie Howe hat trick for Getzlaf. Two minutes and some change left, shall we consider this one done? The fans are on their feet. The rest of the game is a mad scramble for the puck, which is flying haphazardly all over the ice. Empty net for the extra attacker. It doesn't make any difference. The Ponda is deafening. The final horn sounds and it's over!

Hiller takes his Ducks in their eighth seed all the way to the top, defeating the President's Trophy winner, and kicking the Sharks all the way into next season. Which, incidentally, will be the next time Sharks fans will see their team on the ice.

Bring on the Detroit Red Wings!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ducks vs. Sharks, round 1 game 5

I could've caught tonight's game at a watch party, but I opted to crash my parents' house instead. Hey, free food and seating in front of a 52-inch HD flatscreen sometimes beats out the draw of fellow fan camaraderie. Although, it will make for a patchy blog post... (my family seldom leaves me alone when I visit)

We're off to a bad start here, Corey Perry in the penalty box for cross-checking and, somehow, Jonas Hiller is even MORE stellar than ever to help our boys kill that penalty.

Ugh. Duck penalties!

At the halfway point, I'm sensing that this game is looking a lot like an amalgamation of our Ducks least impressive performances. Again, THANK GOD for Hiller. He's the only reason why the Ducks are still in this.

Our boys just seem half a second too slow in this game. I don't think this series will end tonight, boys. You'll have to bring it back home and win with your home fans.

Or maybe I've spoken too soon? The third period begins with a Ducks deficit 0-2. A beautiful pass from Andrew Ebbett to Ryan Carter right in the middle of the slot goes in past Evgeni Nabokov for Carter's first career playoff goal.

Good work, boys! Now you have 19 minutes to get one more.

And that they do. Off a perfect pass from the Captain, failsafe Corey Perry fires one in over Naby's glove hand.

Suddenly, we have a tied game, 2-2. I'm glad our boys finally decided to show up and play some hockey.

I'm noticing my boy Bobby Ryan wincing in pain off his last shot, which he still manages to fire onto the net with good force. He's back on the bench still wincing, and is later replaced by Teemu Selanne on his top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Perry. I hope he'll be okay.

Two minutes left in regulation and we're still tied 2-2. There have been big opportunities for both clubs to take that winning goal, but the goaltenders have been huge. I even have to say that Naby's been playing his best game of the series here.

Overtime. The first one this series. It takes about six minutes for a puck to get stuffed and whacked through Hiller's padding. Unfortunately, I was right. Our Ducks will just have to bring this one back home to the Ponda and win amongst a sea of orange playoff towels.

Let's go, Ducks!

Game Five... can our hometown heroes put the San Jose Sharks away with a 4-1 series trouncing? We'll find out tonight.

In the meantime, I'm watching a simply riveting series finisher between ex-Duck Chris Kunitz and his Pittsburg Pens against the Philly Flyers. Awesome game!

Isn't playoff hockey great??

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ducks vs. Sharks, round 1 game 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just one man and his net

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not my idea of halftime entertainment!

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

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

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

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

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

Ducks lead 2-0.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Second to Hiller...


And first? My boy Bobby Ryan.


Can I say, "Calder! Calder!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ducks vs. Sharks, round 1 game 3

Can't say I was too confident about our boys' ability to win on home ice for game three of the Ducks-Sharks series. I mean, home ice hasn't been too friendly to our hometown heroes during the regular season, what are the chances that would change in the post season?

I originally listened to this one at work and, since it wouldn't air on any television station save Versus, had to ask my mother to set her DVR to record it for me. In the end, I'm kinda glad I missed this game because what little I'd heard on the radio had been pretty ugly.

Some game notes:

- Jonas Hiller looking sharp once again in net. The Sharks have noticeably amped up the manpower in front of the crease and Hiller had to work a lot harder to make his saves.

- Like the first two games of the series, game three was also wrought with penalties. Our boys really REALLY need to work on staying out of the penalty box. What's notable is that the Sharks are also drawing a lot more penalties with their more physical play.

- George Parros and Murray go toe to toe in the first fight of the series. Big George had to put an end to the hits Murray kept making on Teemu Selanne.

- I think the strength in the Sharks' defense (which was actually another word for "offense" in this game -- all but one goal total between the two clubs were made by defensemen), was fueled by the momentum of being in the lead. The Sharks never trailed, and it showed in their game. The fact that the Ducks never led, I think that showed in their game too.

Let's just forget about this one and look forward to the next one!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ducks vs. Sharks, round 1 game 2

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

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

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

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

First (early) goal of the game.

First career playoff goal for Bobby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ebbett's first career playoff goal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ducks vs Sharks, round 1, game 1

Oh, what a time to be a California hockey fan! Game One of the Sharks-Ducks affair is finally here and yours truly tried to watch this one with way too many Duck fans (and one hapless Shark fan who generated a chorus of boos as he took a seat clad in his Sharks jersey) at an Oggi's watch party.

Squinting at the screens while standing and waiting for a table, or any seat at the bar for that matter, grew old after the first two periods, so I decided to hoof it back home during the second intermission. I was hungry, dammit. Lo and behold, as soon as I walked in my front door, the game actually got started. Yup, I will take total and complete responsibility for that one. Apparently, if I'm not comfortable watching my boys with food and drink before me, nobody's going anywhere.


Anyway, as is usually the question before any Duck game, who would coach Carlyle put in net tonight? Turns out, it's going to be Jonas Hiller. His very first playoff game. Man, I'm nervous enough for him. But you can do it, Jonas, we have faith in you. We've got five other Ducks who are playoff naive, but it can be arguably pointed out that the Ducks have been playing playoff hockey for the past month.

Right off that first whistle, you can feel the energy at the Shark Tank. Those fans are LOUD! The players are definitely playing with that playoff vigor. Hits are hard, skating is fast and tight, pressure is high through the neutral zone, and I'm noticing that the zebras are indeed letting the boys play. There are quite a few calls that would have been made in the regular season, but no whistles are blown in the postseason. Although, it lends itself to be seen if that's simply because the Ducks are playing.

Don't expect any generous calls if you're a Duck. I think our boys are well aware of that.

Before you know it, the first period is half over. No goals and minimal shots on goal. However, each goaltender has already faced a lot of traffic. With about seven minutes left, Bobby Ryan takes a skate to the face. Amazingly, he isn't hurt. Thank god! I don't want to even imagine what would have happened if he didn't wear the visor.

I'm happy to see our "new" acquisitions doing well out on the ice too. Petteri Nokelainen is putting some excellent hits on the more aggressive of Shark players. James Wisniewski is looking sharp on the blue line. Erik Christensen poking at pucks on the forecheck. And, with less than two minutes left in the first period, we get our first power play after Drew Miller gets tripped up in the neutral zone. Our boys don't capitalize before the horn sounds the end of the first. It's 0-0.

Going into the second period, the Ducks' first power play yields no fruit, but there are some good scoring chances. Ugh. Now there's a penalty called on Robbie Niedermayer for high sticking. First power play for the Sharks. Hiller and the penalty kill boys do a fabulous job keeping the Sharks off the scoreboard. Keep in mind, the Sharks power play is ranked number three in the league.

Analysts John Ahlers and Brian Hayward are making a big deal about the Sharks' coach Todd McLellan changing up the line he's using to face our Ducks' Legion of Doom (Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan). Joe Thorton's line wasn't shutting them down, so now he's got ex-Duck Travis Moen, Goc, and Cheechoo out there against them. Five minutes in, Perry takes the puck through neutral ice and is pressured to cough it up, right onto Bobby's stick as he speeds down the slot. Bobby deftly handles the puck around two defenseman and puts a tremendous shot on goal. Evgeni Nabokov manages to make the save, but it was a huge opportunity for our Ducks.

Maybe McLellan needs yet another shutdown line? *snicker*

Another power play chance for the Sharks as Robbie is called again, this time for holding. Although, I'd say that call was rather questionable. No matter, it is what it is. And our Ducks just need to take it and focus, not lose their cool, and kill this penalty!

I'm proud of our boys, as they make a stand at the blue line, giving the Sharks a very hard time trying to penetrate the zone. They make a successful kill.

A few miscommunications as Hiller is forced to play a couple of pucks behind the net. No Ducks in the area to pick them up. Followed by a nailbiter shot on Hiller which sends him deep into his own net. As the puck trickles across the crease, Getzlaf is also in the net. He sees the puck and manages to kick it away from the net as Goc swings away at it. Whew!

Our Ducks answer with a few good shots on Naby. Sheldon Brookbank makes an early hit on Moen before he touches the puck, and draws an interference call. C'mon guys, let's try to stay out of the sinbin! At least our pk has been looking good so far. And Hiller has been nothing but stellar. Sharks have made far more shots on goal, but we're still tied 0-0.

As soon as they're at even strength, our boys lay the pressure on hard in the Sharks zone. Good plays, shots on goal, forcing Naby to make great saves. I gotta say I'm liking the addition of Christensen on the line with Andrew Ebbett and Teemu Selanne. It's another potential scoring line.

Woohoo, elbowing penalty against Clowe on Chris Pronger. Their second power play of the game. Selanne misses an incredible opportunity on a wrap around, but it hits the net instead of going around the post. Our boys follow up with a number of good shot opportunities, but no goals.

Here we go AGAIN. Robbie in the sinbin, this time for hooking. Argh!! It feels like our Ducks have spent the entire second period on the penalty kill. No goals still, but our Ducks have over a minute of penalty kill to look forward to after the second intermission.

It was about this time that I decided to head back home. My back was killing me and standing around at the watch party with no chair, not to mention no food and drink, was starting to get on my nerves. With the score frozen at 0-0 through the first two periods, it was going to be a 20-minute hockey game.

Shots are 23-11 favoring the Sharks early in the third. They come on strong, almost pushing the Ducks onto their heels with their momentum. But our Ducks push back, Bobby makes an excellent shot that gets blocked, but it transitions down the ice to Selanne getting tripped by Cheechoo. Power play for our Ducks. Whitney slams a one-timer but Perry couldn't get into position in time at the crease. And then a succession of quick passes: Whitney at the line, down to Getzlaf on the left wing, and back up across ice to the Captain who shoots it in one motion past a Perry screen for the first goal of the series.

Yes!!! 1-0.

The Sharks are amping up their game now, as if it could get any more intense. Erhoff whips a zinger past Hiller, but it hits the crossbar. It's taken down the ice and Ebbett fires one over Naby's crossbar. Bobby fires one that Naby almost couldn't catch. Oh no, Perry takes a penalty for slashing. Huge opportunity for the Sharks to pull even.

C'mon, penalty kill! Hiller, amazing again, outwaits a tremendous shot by Boyle, faking multiple times as Boyle attempts to fire his shot into the top corner. He makes another big save by taking a puck to the mask, just another day for Jonas Hiller.

As the Sharks get more and more desperate, there are a number of no-calls against our Ducks. Stay cool, boys, don't get frustrated. Ducks get a break as a Shark hits another post. With less than five minutes left in the game, Getzlaf takes an elbowing penalty. Ahh!!

The penalty kill holds true and, as Getzlaf comes out of the box, Mike Brown slows his progression to the Anaheim bench, gets his stick on a Shark pass and the puck goes straight to Getzlaf. He carries it single-handedly down into the Sharks zone and fires a one-timer past Naby. With that goal, Getzy's 13th career playoff goal, our Ducks pretty much seal the deal.

With two minutes left, the Sharks draw a penalty. I think I can finally breathe! Sharks pull Nabokov just to even it up man-to-man, but our Ducks already have this one in the bag. Game One of the series is history, Ducks take it 2-0.

I'm so proud of our boys for their discipline and their drive in this game! The defense and the penalty kill were simply awesome. And Jonas Hiller?? What better way to debut in the NHL playoffs than with a well-deserved shutout. Go Hiller!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On the bandwagon

It's officially the first day of the playoffs, and the eve of the first Ducks-Sharks game. Seems like everyone's got predictions, everyone's got opinions, everyone's got keys to the cup. So, in similar fashion, I'll share mine.

Keep in mind though, I'm no analyst. I love hockey in general, yes, but I don't know too much about team histories (other than the Ducks), or who's strong and who's not. I know what I know just by reading a hockey blog here and there, perusing the site, catching random games on tv, and noticing who my Ducks have had to beat in this season's conference standings.

So, I don't have any stats or special formulas to help me with my picks. Likewise, I don't have any burdensome rituals before I make my decisions.

It's all about gut instinct, people. Ugly, but true. Putting myself in the Cup Playoff Challenge game is about as official as I get. This is what I got:

In the West, Round One:
- Ducks in 7 over the Sharks, 35 total goals
- Red Wings in 7 over the Blue Jackets, 35 total goals
- Canucks in 5 over the Blues, 25 total goals
- Blackhawks in 7 over the Flames, 35 total goals

In the East, Round One:
- Bruins in 7 over the Habs, 35 total goals
- Capitals in 5 over the Rangers, 25 total goals
- Devils in 7 over the Hurricans, 35 total goals
- Penguins in 7 over the Flyers, 35 total goals

Yup, what do I know? Except I'm averaging 5 goals a game, that's where those total goal numbers come from. Tonight, there were wins by the Pens, Canucks, Rangers, and the Devils... so I'm not doing too bad.

As for our Ducks, I think they have a pretty good chance against the Sharks. They just have to keep a few things in mind. Again, just my humble opinion:

- Discipline, discipline, DISCIPLINE! Don't give those Sharks power plays, cuz they will bite if you give them a chance.

- Tight goaltending. Jonas Hiller has no playoff experience, yet he's been riding a pretty hot streak. DON'T play him in back-to-back games, he stinks in that situation. That's when we put J.S. Giguere and his huge playoff experience between those pipes. Also, if Hiller starts to look even the least bit unfocused, I say pull him and get Jiggy in there. The last thing we need is a goalie injury due to unfocused netminding.

- We've got two excellent scoring lines. The Getzlaf-Ryan-Perry line will most likely be matched up against the opponent's biggest shutdown line. Hopefully, we'll be able to count on the Miller-Selanne-Ebbett line to come through with the goals.

- Francois Beauchemin is back! I can't tell you how happy I am about this! He looked really good on the ice in those last two regular season games. With Chris Pronger, Scottie Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, and James Wisniewski on the back end, our defense is going to be tough to beat.

- Have fun! Our boys seem to do best when they are enjoying themselves on the ice. Since so many people had pretty much written off a Ducks postseason, I think our boys go into this one with a lot less pressure than the Sharks. Hell, there's no Presidents' Trophy to live up to. Take advantage, boys, and have a great time out there.

We'll be rooting for you!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ducks in the playoffs!

I know I'm behind in posting here. But I'm trying to catch up now, before the Ducks begin Round One.

The final season game between the Ducks and the Coyotes was disappointing. It should have been dubbed "Pipe Dreams" cuz our boys hit metal at least four times during that game. It was tight and we could have taken it if it weren't for all those post shots.

Some other highlights of that game:

- Francois Beauchemin looked fantastic back on the D-line
- Another goal for my boy Bobby Ryan, his 31st of the season
- 45 seconds later, a goal by Teemu Selanne
- I was surprised and dismayed to see Jonas Hiller start in net. After Friday's exhausting game against the Stars, Hiller deserved a rest. Not to mention, he has a very bad record for winning the second of back to backs. Coach Carlyle made a mistake starting him, in my opinion.
- J.S. Giguere looked good in the third period and through OT, but he suffered in the shootout. Those have never been kind to Jiggy (okay, I'll succumb to the more popular way of spelling the nickname).
- You could tell our boys were just tired playing that game. They couldn't get the energy up against the 'Yotes.

So that's all I'll say about that one.

Moving on, it's playoff time! Our boys ended up in the 8th seed, playing round one against the San Jose Sharks. Oh boy, these guys, AGAIN. Honestly though, I wanted to see our boys up against the Sharks more so than the Red Wings.

They might have had a better chance against the Red Wings, but I want to see an action-packed playoff for as far as our boys can go. To start against San Jose, I mean, what an intense first round this will be!

To anyone who says California hockey is a joke, I ask them to watch this match up. You're going to see some incredible hockey here, I guarantee it. The rivalry between these two clubs is already fired up, but after the way the last game of the series ended, you can bet our boys have a bone to pick with the Sharks.

I can't wait for it all to start, this Thursday evening. Bring it!


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ducks vs Dallas Stars

This is the one, folks. I'm actually at this game with my brother, hoping to see our boys officially reach the post season in person. To watch our Ducks clinch the playoffs at the fan appreciation game... the last home game of the regular season? How sweet would that be?

If the Ducks can win this one, they clinch that playoff position. At least, that's how the standings are at the beginning of this game. It isn't impossible. Ducks have trounced the Stars before. But then, the Stars have trounced our Ducks too. It kinda depends on how hard the Stars will try to be a spoiler.

Based on the first half of the first period, it looks like the Stars have decided to put their all into killing the Ducks' playoff hopes. They're hitting hard, playing aggressively, leaving our Ducks reeling on the ice.

It also doesn't help that our boys don't seem to be playing their best tonight. I don't feel like they're fast enough, engaged enough, sharp enough. They seem sluggish, a split-second behind in the forecheck, and failing to connect passes. Maybe they've had one too many days off.

In defensive news, guess who's back on the ice for the first time this year? Francois Beauchemin is playing alongside Sheldon Brookbank. It's good to see Frankie back out there, even more so because I get nervous watching Brendan Mikkelson whiff his shots and miss his passes. But I digress.

Our boys get the first power play of the game when Stars goaltender Marty Turco high-sticks Corey Perry at his goal crease. Hopefully a pp will wake our boys up? Apparently not. But the fourth line springs to life. Right after that penalty expires, Robbie Niedermayer makes an excellent thread-the-needle pass to a charging Todd Marchant. It's snapped up high and into the net before Turco can blink.

First goal of the game goes to our Ducks. The crowd starts up a taunting chant, "Turrrrr-cooooo, Turrrrrr-coooooo..."

And then Chris Pronger gives the Stars their first power play opportunity. Luckily, it proves goal-less. But our boys need to step up their defense. They're losing faceoffs, they're turning over the puck constantly, and there has been very little time spent in the Dallas zone. Jonas Hiller has been sensational in net, thank goodness, because he isn't just the last line of defense so far...

He's the ONLY line of defense!

C'mon guys, we need to get our asses into gear!! You can't rely on Hiller to win this game for you. He keeps getting shots on him, one of them will eventually go in.

Second chance for our Ducks as Ribiero takes a two-minute slashing penalty and a two-minute unsportsmanslike conduct minor. There isn't enough time left in the first to serve both of those, but our Ducks don't capitalize before the horn sounds.

And it's a merciful horn sounding. Ducks go into the first intermission leading, 1-0, but I don't believe they deserve that lead. They're outnumbered for shots on goal 17 to 7, and outnumbered for hits 10 to 4. Our boys better pull it together. I don't know what's wrong with them, but I'm feeling kinda gypped. I paid to see a hockey game, dammit. My Ducks had better show up.

As the second period unfolds, the Ducks can't capitalize on the second half of their double pp, but they do a better job about possessing the puck. They probably got a talking to by coach Carlyle in the locker room during that intermission.

Hooking earns Robbie Niedermayer two minutes in the sinbin during which time the Stars manage a power play goal. Ugh, to add insult to injury, it's scored by "super-pest" Steve Ott. Where's Giguere to put that guy in a headlock when you need him?

Sitting in my upper deck seat, I'm wondering where all of the fan stamina is. Well, probably sucked out, but I'm trying my best to get my boys into this game with cheers of "Let's go, Ducks!" and "C'mon Ducks!"

Another power play opportunity for the Stars when Perry gets two for tripping. Our boys don't manage to give up any goals this time.

Man, I'm still feeling less than enthused about tonight's game. Where are my Ducks? Thank goodness Hiller decided to show up today, and continues to remain sharp between the pipes through the second. I also have to say, the zebras have been kind to our Ducks too. The penalties that did get called against us were valid, and I saw a few questionable moves that could've been called but weren't.

There's a little bit more puck possession by the Ducks this second period, but not a lot of shot opportunities. Again, Ducks outshot 13 to 9. But they close out the period with a hooking penalty against former Duck Brendan Morrison. No goals. And what do you start to hear? Booing from the home crowd here at the Ponda, yours truly included.

The score is 1-1 at the second intermission. Time to start playing some hockey, boys.

Finally, our Ducks are in the building. The top line makes a number of shots on goal. My boy Bobby Ryan gets robbed by Turco a few times, but it's nice to see our boys actually playing now. The energy is contagious, and the third period is looking to be a better one for our Ducks. Hiller is still making those great saves, he's been carrying the team through the first two periods.

Perry wins a battle in the corner, bringing the puck around to the front. Bobby charges the net, drawing the attention of a Stars defenseman and opening a passing lane for Perry directly to the Captain. Perry, patiently waiting for that lane, shoots it quickly to Scott Niedermayer who throws that puck in to retake the lead.

On the next shift by our top line, a beautiful succession of passes might have Bobby with another goal, but again, he's robbed by Turco.

And now, a holding penalty against Getzlaf. It's killed off without any shots on goal by the Stars. Whew! We're officially back in this.

A gasp and then silence from the crowd as Getzlaf, fresh out of the penalty box, collides accidentally with Perry. His shoulder smashes into Perry's head, leaving him flat and still on the ice for a few harrowing seconds. Back on the bench, he's in obvious pain. We'll have to keep an eye on him.

Ugh, a lot of action in front of the Anaheim net yields more saves by Hiller, but finally, a Stars goal. We're tied again, 2-2, with six minutes left.

Less than a minute later, Teemu Selanne charges after a puck behind the Star net. He flicks the pass to the front of the net right as Andrew Ebbett shows up, and Ebbett slams it home. Ducks retake the lead, 3-2.

Now if we can just hold onto this lead...! The veterans lead the game by example now, guarding the puck in the Duck zone, getting it deep in the Stars zone, passing to other forwards and trying to keep from sending it back to the defensive pair where it might possibly be sent out over the blue line.

At a minute thirty, there's electricity in the air. The fans start to rise to their feet, the cheering getting louder. One minute left. Our top line cycles it deep and keeps it there. But somehow, and this is like the steal of the season, the Stars manage to get the puck on a stick and Ott nets the equalizer WITH 13.1 SECONDS LEFT.

It's suddenly very quiet in the Ponda. We go into overtime and, with that extra point, the Ducks clinch the 7th seed in the playoffs. Preds lost bigtime to the Wild an hour or two before, and all our boys needed at that point was one. If they pull off this win, they could possibly take the 6th seed.

How sweet a win that'd be because, after all, these are the Stars we're playing. I'm sure our boys want to send this club packing on their final game of the season with a big fat L. And it looks like it'll be decided in a shootout.

I feel positive about this because Hiller has done so well in the shootout. And he's so hot tonight. The crowd is on their feet.


Perry's up first, as usual. He's turned away by a poke check.

Brunnstrom first up on Hiller. DENIED!

Bobby's up next. He whips out a number of dekes with those sweet hands, but he can't get it up over the top of Turco's glove.

Neal for the Stars. He speeds in on Hiller and gets it up with a left-handed shot over Hiller's glove.

Pressure's on Getzlaf, who must win to keep things going. He speeds it past a frustrated Turco. The crowd erupts.

Modano... hits post!

The crowd continues roaring as Selanne tees up. He charges Turco and then comes screeching to a slow to chip it in up over Turco. Beautiful! The crowd screams its approval.

Eriksson for the Stars, must score for another round of shootouts. He advances too close and can't get a shot out, Hiller easily blocks.

And it's a 4-3 win for the Ducks, PLUS a possible 6th seed as our boys reach the post season for the 4th consecutive year.

Hiller is mobbed by his mates as they rush out onto the ice in celebration. After the huddle breaks up, the Captain leads his team on an appreciative lap around the rink. My brother and I stay for the "jersey off the back" ceremony, a perfect end to a rocky game.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ducks vs. Sharks, home-and-home

The good news? Ducks totally dominated and won a game against the Sharks!

The bad news? Ducks lost the second one and couldn't get those much-needed two points.

The good news? Ducks are still playing better than ever!

The bad news? After the horrible scrum at the end of tonight's game, I'm fearing we're going to see some fines and/or suspensions.

The good news? Ducks' playoff dreams aren't completely dashed yet.

The bad news? The last two games are absolutely vital.

Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. I'm not going to jinx our playoff chances by talking about the playoffs prematurely. Let's talk about the first half of the huge, six-period showdown between the Sharks and Ducks. I wasn't able to be at home for this one, I was actually at the Kings/Coyotes game. Impressive showing for the Kings. Too bad really, since I was rooting for Matthew Lombardi and the Coyotes.

Anyhow, our boys were fighting their own battle 400 miles away in San Jose.

Our Legion of Doom (Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf-Bobby Ryan) starts off on the ice. Jonas Hiller in net for the Ducks, Perry's best friend Evgeni Nabakov in net for the Sharks.

Four minutes in, James Wisniewski shoots the puck wide at the point, but Getzlaf chases it down behind the net, shoots it quickly behind him on the short side, and straight to my boy Bobby, who taps it in for the first goal of the game. This one is Bobby's 29th goal of the season, tying him with franchise-record-setting rookie Dustin Penner.

Two minutes later, our Legion of Doom line strikes again. Chris Pronger mishandles the puck and nearly loses it at the blue line, but manages to chip it behind him to Getzlaf. Getzy passes it quickly to Perry who's skating down through the slot towards Nabakov, who apparently wasn't prepared. A quick wrister puts it into the net. Perry's 30th goal, Getzlaf's 62nd assist (tying him for Paul Kariya for the record).

And our Ducks are up 2-0! Tell me I'm not dreaming!

The lead is well-deserved. Our boys are skating like a perfectly-oiled machine. Putting the pressure on the Sharks through the neutral zone, coming with the forechecks. But the Sharks are a very aggressive team, and you can see why they hold the first place right now in the Western Conference.

At the middle of the period, the Sharks put their first puck behind Hiller.

The puck is kinda weird in this game. It's rolling, flipping around, not lying flat. Hiller catches a lucky break on a Shark breakaway in the neutral zone. The Shark offender couldn't get enough control on the rolling puck to make an effective shot. No goal.

At the end of the period, Hiller makes a bad play and ends up behind the net. Ducks take a penalty trying to help defend, and luckily, no goals scored despite the Sharks throwing all sorts of shots at the net. It's the first power play of the game, with only three seconds of it in the first period. Ducks take the 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

As the second period unfolds, our Ducks show some great penalty killing. No shots for the Sharks on the power play, although there are a number of pucks rolling through the slot. And then another penalty, this one against Ryan Whitney for interference, which is argued by Whitney.

Petteri Nokelainen manages to steal the puck mid-pass, and heads upstream short-handed with Todd Marchant. He attempts the shot but it's redirected high into the netting abve the goal. On their next advance, the Sharks get it into the net. We're tied up, 2-2.

Finally, the Ducks are playing in the Sharks' zone. But their play seems to be falling apart. The Sharks are making better passes, better plays. Argh, this is hard to watch. Especially since the Ducks keep turning it over in neutral ice due to incomplete passes. Plus, we're not making hits, we're not staying close defensively. C'mon boys, we can do better than this.

As if they heard me, Christensen passes from behind the net right into the slot. Mike Brown jumps on that pass in the slot and quickly releases the puck before Naby can stabilize. And it's in the net!

Feeding off the momentum, our boys manage to stay in the Sharks zone and fight a bit harder than they had been. The second period is a lot of back and forth, up and down. Until Hiller makes some excellent saves and a scrum breaks out behind the Anaheim net. It's four on four for the rest of the period.

On a turnover in the neutral zone, Getzlaf breaks away with the puck, with Teemu Selanne speeding up the center behind him. He manages a beautiful pass through a set of Shark defender legs straight to the top of the crease. Teemu is there, his stick blade flat on the ice, and when the puck connects, it's chipped right into the net. That's why Getzy is such an incredible playmaker. This is his 63rd assist of the season, breaking the franchise record. What an amazing play! And it gives the Ducks an even bigger lead going into the second intermission, 4-2.

As long as our boys can manage to stay out of the sinbin, their chances remain good for this win. Against a team that has such a strong power play record like the Sharks, you just can't give them those opportunities to score, because they will.

As the third period opens, Hiller is again stopping pucks with his mask. He's also making some high-traffic, breath-holding plays. Just protect this lead, boys! They're putting some good shots on Naby as well. This one is getting intense as the Sharks try feverishly to close the goal gap. Personally, I think there were a number of times the Sharks could have had a penalty called, but our boys lucked out as no whistles were blown.

And now, the Ducks get their first power play when Teemu gets hooked. The Sharks have the 3rd best pk in the league. There's a breakaway, with Erik Christensen speeding up the ice, Bobby following. As he approaches the net, Christensen saucers the puck beautifully over a defender's stick, right to Bobby who slaps it in on the far side of the net. Perfect! Bobby's 30th goal of the season; he's the first Ducks rookie to do so. With only five minutes left, our boys are still playing offense.

Ducks penalty called on Pronger for interference. The Sharks have possession for a majority of this pp, but Hiller and the Ducks defense keep them scoreless.

Wow wow wow. What a win for our Ducks! It's only the fourth home loss for the Sharks this season. Unbelieveable. Final score for the first half of this home-and-home: 5-2.

As for the second half of the home-and-home...

I don't even want to think too much about tonight's game, it'll only make me mad all over again. I was there and saw all of the nastiness first-hand. So, just a few highlights.

Jonas Hiller in net again, Brian Boucher this time for the Sharks. Hiller is on a seven game winning streak, tying a franchise record. Unfortunately, he won't break this record tonight.

Fatigue was probably a factor in tonight's game, as our Ducks just seemed slower and not as physical. We, the fans, tried to give our boys extra energy. There were thundersticks handed out at this game and believe me when I say it was absolutely deafening in the Honda Center.

Petteri Nokelainen, on a short-handed breakaway, scores his fourth goal of the season. It was a thing of beauty, even more so as the first goal of the game.

The second Duck goal comes in the second period. Corey Perry capitalizes on a power play after Shelley gets a penalty for slapping George Parros with his stick. It was a retaliated "how ya doin" after big George hit Shelley over the boards and into his own bench.

Generally speaking, the first period was all about the Ducks. The second period was all about the Sharks. And the third period, well, that was all about really bad officiating. Going in, it was 2-2 and you thought you'd be looking forward to twenty minutes of grade A hockey. Instead, there were a number of non-calls that should have been calls and, most likely out of frustration, there was an all out brawl behind the Shark net after the final horn blew.

The fans, just as angry as our cheated Ducks players, threw water bottles and the like onto the ice, while the loudest "Ref you suck!" chant I've ever heard rang out. There really isn't anything else I can say about this game. I just want our boys to cool down, rest up, and bring their all for Friday's game against the Dallas Stars. I'll be at that one as well, and I'm really hoping for a better end than this one. As a money-paying fan, I think I deserve to get fair officiating, in the very least.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ducks at San Jose, vs Sharks

I don't have time to say much about this game, but don't worry, I will do it justice! I've got a 6am work shift to start in four hours, and then tickets to the Ducks/Sharks game here at home... so we'll have to do a double post for the VERY BIG 48-hour, 6-period game between these two clubs.

But some highlights from tonight's game:
- WE WON!!!
- My boy Bobby Ryan scored TWO more goals and broke Dustin Penner's record for most goals scored by a rookie in a season (and keep in mind, Bobby hasn't even been with the Ducks for a full season)
- Mike Brown made his second goal as a Duck
- Ryan Getzlaf made FOUR assists
- Jonas Hiller was, once again, phenomenal in net
- Ducks have a VERY IMPRESSIVE nine wins in the last ten games

Let's do it one more time, boys. Beat the Sharks here at home!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ducks at Vancouver, vs Canucks

Looking ahead at the Ducks' upcoming schedule, it isn't going to get any easier. Ducks exacted sweet revenge on the Oilers Tuesday night. But can they keep the momentum going to defeat Vancouver tonight? Could they hope to get those all important two points? With that Western Conference playoff run so tight, every game is important. Losing even one game could mean kissing the post-season goodbye.

Jonas Hiller has been so awesome in net; not to worry, he's going to attempt to continue his streak tonight in Vancouver. Another good thing because it'll be Roberto Luongo in net for Vancouver. Luongo is arguably the very definition of consistent. We need as consistent an answer as we can get against him. The history between these two clubs has been a long one, literally, this season. A thirteen-round shootout, a 3-on-3 OT win, etc... You know you're going to get your money's worth of hockey tonight.

Our Ducks are looking real good in the opening minutes. Erik Christensen, Sheldon Brookbank, and Mike Brown are holding tight on the forecheck. Christensen takes a big hit against the boards and big George Parros takes on the hitter. It's a good scrap early on in the game. We're definitely seeing playoff-style hockey here, there is a lot of energy and speed between these two teams. Both netminders have touched puck on great shot attempts within the first eight minutes.

The game's first power play goes to our Ducks for interference. Burrows was standing right on top of Hiller in the crease, his elbow knocking Hiller in the face. After taking a while to set up, our boys get a good circle of passes going. Teemu Selanne to Bobby Ryan, to James Wisniewski at the blue line, down to Ryan Whitney who's advanced forward from his blue line position, and back to Bobby. Retrieving it out of his skates, Bobby makes a shot on goal, which hits Luongo. Selanne catches the rebound and pitches it up high into the net to catpure the first goal of the game.

Is that power play hot or what???

Speaking of hot, I think we're finally seeing a beautifully crafted shutdown line. Coach Carlyle has been putting the team of Petteri Nokelainen, Rob Niedermayer, and Todd Marchant against the opposition's top scoring line and, since our boys are really melding and finding that chemistry, they've been absolutely vital to our recent Ducks' successes. Carlyle has them out now against the Sedin brothers.

On the very next shift change, our top line is out. Corey Perry, in his usual place in front of the opponent's goal crease, makes for an effective screen as my boy Bobby picks up a pass from Getzlaf and shoots it from the back of the left circle for the second goal of the night. The game is up 2-0.

What's that? Do I hear silence from this Vancouver crowd?

Shortly thereafter, the Canucks attempt to change the momentum of the game by engaging Brookbank in a fight. Both players land some doozies before the whistle is blown.

Unfortunately, the Canucks have it in them to bring it 2-1 off an offensive zone faceoff. Thanks to two players in front of Hiller, he never saw the puck before it went in.

Another slight to Hiller, on the next play, Brendan Mikkelson gets wrapped up with Burrows in front of Hiller's crease and his stick ends up clipping Hiller on his left ear, flipping his mask off and stopping play. Thank goodness Hiller is okay. I'm holding my breath as the Ducks can't seem to keep it out of their zone. Drew Miller manages an odd-man attack on Luongo, but is denied by plumbing. A tight circle forms in the Anaheim zone as the Canucks take turns shooting on Hiller. He makes some incredible saves but can't catch them all. A pretty play by the Sedin twins give the Canucks another goal, tying things up, 2-2.

When is this period over? At the one-minute mark, Getzlaf takes a highly questionable call for holding. That trademark Getzlaf scowl blazoned across his face, he argues to no avail and takes a seat next to Brookbank in the box. Argh, and then with nine lousy seconds left, the Captain takes an elbowing penalty as he falls on top of one of the Sedin twins. That penalty box is looking pretty crowded.

At least the Canucks can't score in nine seconds. We go into the first intermission tied, 2-2.

Ducks start the second period with a man-disadvantage, 3-5. Time for a major penalty kill. Wisniewski, gotta love him, puts his body in the way of the shooting lanes and blocks flying pucks twice. He pays the price and has to be walked back to the bench. It's reminiscent of Todd Marchant's block when he took a 100-mile-an-hour puck to the chest in the last game. Literally, our penalty kill is making devoted sacrifices in this playoff run. Ducks have players with heart, people, that much is true.

Somehow, no goals scored during that major man disadvantage.

But after the penalty dies, Burrows manages to bank a shot off Hiller who's spinning around in the crease, trying to follow the puck. It heads straight for the net. Canucks take the lead for the first time this game, 3-2.

Then another Duck penalty. It's against Selanne for interference. C'mon boys, let's control those penalties. We need to watch it! And the Canucks capitalize again, bouncing a puck off the inside of the pipe and into the net. Geezus, suddenly we're down 4-2. Those Sedin twins... Carlyle better find a way to shut them down cuz we have no chance here otherwise.

And now there's a fish on the ice. What the...?

Our top line is back out on the ice. Wisniewski is out there too, a good sign. Perry carries the puck up through the neutral zone, passing to Bobby who screams up toward the net, catching Luongo too far out in his crease. The big goalie can't turn on his heel fast enough to stop the sweet backhander Bobby sends into the net. His 28th this season! Ducks tighten the gap, 3-4, and the game isn't even half over yet.

The momentum has changed now, as our boys come even more aggressively against the Canucks. I wish it helped against the next goal that's quickly pushed into the Ducks' net off an odd-man rush.

But our Ducks recover quickly, pushing those forechecks. Ryan Whitney leads the next charge into the Canuck zone and comes right in front of the crease. He pops the puck at Luongo, and Perry capitalizes on the rebound. It's now 4-5.

Holy high scores, Batman!

I can only imagine what each of these goaltenders is thinking. They look absolutely exhausted, and the second period is barely half over.

And then, before the end of the second, an absolutely gorgeous play which begins with Mikkelson intercepting the puck in the neutral zone. He passes the puck up the ice to Andrew Ebbett and then flies into the slot where he picks up the puck again from Ebbett. Right as he's approaching the net, he hands off to Selanne, who puts the puck in net as Luongo is closing in on the short side. The play was fast, elegant, and beautifully executed. One of Mikkelson's finest moments. It's tied up, 5-5.

It almost feels slow, no more goals and we go into the second intermission tied 5-5.

The third period opens up, undoubtedly with both coaches stressing a need for stronger defense. We get a couple of great saves from both goaltenders in response. And then a fight between Brown and former teammate O'Brien. It's a glaringly unequal fight here, Brown is a lot smaller and can barely reach O'Brien. They tumble to the ice and take their seats for that five-minute rest.

It was at about this time that I got to Zitto's for the official Ducks watch party. Even though I got out of my work obligation an hour later than expected, I decided I'd still go because the Ducks weren't horribly losing. We were tied up 5 to 5. The end was bound to be exciting, and something I'd want to share with a room full of rabid Duck fans. When I got there, the Street Teamers at the door were surprised, "You're just getting here now? You've missed a great game!"

"Oh yeah, well, I've got it recorded at home. But I thought I'd drop by to share in the festivities."

"That's cool. And hey, you can still enter the raffle."

For the entire third period, play is up and down, back and forth on the ice. No goals. Maybe everyone is tired. Maybe we've used up all of the goals in this game. Maybe the defense has stepped up. There's also few penalties in this third period.

I spoke too soon. Pronger gets his stick into the midsection of a Canuck and gets a two minute penalty for hooking at about three minutes left in regulation. It's a nailbiter of a penalty kill and Marchant is nothing but beautiful through the whole thing. Hiller and the defense hold strong, no goals. In the remaining one minute, both teams pour on the energy.

It doesn't matter. This is a Ducks-Canucks game, remember? Overtime is almost always a given this season. Hiller makes a huge stop against a spin shot from Daniel Sedin. I don't know how he saw it, but thank goodness he did. Those of us at the Zitto's watch party are glued to the screens. The room erupts in cheers every time Hiller makes a save, every time our boys come up with the puck on a forecheck. And again, another huge save by Hiller as he catches a quick redirect right in front of the crease. I almost can't watch. The horn signals the end of OT and we go to a shootout.

Ducks have been doing well in shootouts lately. I know that the Canuck 13-round shootout of October 31 still leaves a bad taste in our mouths, but let's pray we can pull this one out.

First up, Demitra for the Canucks, who opt to shoot first. Lucky break for HIller, Demitra hits post.

Perry up first for the Ducks. He skates out real wide, and sneaks that puck right through the piehole. First goal, Anaheim!

Next up, Wellwood. Hiller waits him out and makes the block, sending the puck high into the air.

Second for Anaheim, Getzlaf. He attempts the deke, but Luongo stays with him and blocks his attempt.

The moment of truth. It's Burrows vs Hiller. And it's a glove save!! We're on our feet at Zitto's, high-fiving and knocking fists. It was a struggle, Hiller slipped up a bit, but our boys rallied and gave him a chance to make up for it. And he did, coming through beautifully late in the third, through overtime, and in the shootout. Two more points and a firm seat (at least for tonight) in the seventh seed. Well-deserved, boys!

The icing on the cake for me, I won the raffle at the watch party and am now the proud owner of a Chris Pronger autographed stick. W00t.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I do have one game to catch up on, the Oiler/Duck game that went down last night. But right now, I feel like a little opinionated commentary, so that's what's on the menu.

If you've been reading here and following my rants through the trade deadline, you'll know that I'm a big J.S. Giguere fan. Giggy has done so much for this club and I couldn't stand hearing everyone say we should trade him away because he's been less than stellar this season. Yes, he's been through some tough times, what with the passing of his father, but I still believe that Giggy is a staple of the Ducks.

As the playoff crunchtime is upon us, and the Ducks fall in and out of a playoff seed every other day, you have to start looking realistically at the situation.

Realistically, Giguere hasn't been having a good season.

Realistically, the Ducks have the offense, the penalty kill, the defense pairings, the shutdown players, THE SKILLS to make it into the playoffs. And to do well in those playoffs. We've got so many excellent players, I don't see how we couldn't make it in.

(Realistically, winning the cup is another argument altogether, and I'm not going to get into that right now.)

But realistically, it's been the goaltending that's been consistently inconsistent this season for our Ducks. If Giguere can't bring his best to each game, every game, we need to have someone in net who can. Luckily, the Ducks are in a very lucky place to have two excellent goaltenders.

Jonas Hiller has more than proven that he's a good man to have between the pipes. Sure, he's a little more on the dramatic end (I still think that's a good thing as far as getting the fans into the game), but if he keeps pucks out of the net, he could dance an Irish jig between plays and I'd still want him in net.

I think it's realistically time to give Hiller his big break. Coach Carlyle should start Hiller in every game left this season. He needs to give this team the chance to make it into the playoffs, and see how far they can get in the playoffs. If Hiller slumps, then Giggy is our fallback and really, is that such a bad thing? No respect at all to Giggy, but we need a consistent goaltender right now.

From here on out, it's all about Hiller.

My Zimbio
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