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, November 30, 2009

Ducks vs Phoenix Coyotes

Yours truly had been originally planning to race home after work today, and plant myself in front of my computer to type up this post as I listened to the radio feed of the game. Neither team is televising this game, and it would have been interesting to write a picture-less post without a visual reference.

But I'll have to save that experience for a different day, as a Duck buddy of mine came up huge with an extra ticket only a few hours before the game.

You've probably guessed that the Phoenix Coyotes are one of my significant other teams (the Pittsburgh Penguins being the other), so any matchup between a significant other and my spouse team is sure to be met by mixed feelings. But my Ducks severely need points right now, and the Phoenix Coyotes have a few to spare (I'm doing a double take just typing that sentence).

So, let the anthem of this game be "Let's Go Ducks!!"

'Stach power!

As the game is starting, it's noted that Kyle Calder is out with a bloody eye injury obtained during practice when he took a puck to the face. His vision is intact but he's expected to be out 2-4 weeks. Consequently, Matt Belesky is back out with the boys.

As a whole, our boys don't seem to be playing with as concerted an effort as they did in Friday's remarkable contest against the Chicago Blackhawks, but they putting in some good effort. I thought our defense looked a little clumsy out there against one of the Coyotes' top lines (consisting of dynamic duo Lombardi and Upshall), and that could potentially be a big mistake.

Faceoff at center ice on the Ducks "D"

Nevertheless, J.S. Giguere got the start again in this game, and looks quite excellent with his sharp saves.

We go into the first intermission without any points for either side.

Ducks with some good offensive plays, keeping the Yotes on their toes

Ducks improve their game in the second, possessing the puck for extended periods of time. The forecheck looks strong. Phoenix loses a man on a hooking penalty call, and Anaheim's lethal power play takes advantage. It's Ryan Getzlaf with the goal, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer get the assists.

Speaking of Teemu, that second line is really coming together. You can literally see the chemistry smoking on the ice!

How old is that Finnish Flash again? 29?

The zebras are liberal with their penalty calls tonight, with both teams taking turns in the sin bin. However, there are no goals during the second period, and we go into the third leading 1-0, but with 53 seconds of penalty time left to kill.

The Coyotes came back for the third, but our Ducks took a little too long to get back into the game. Not sure if they lost their focus or if they were tired, but it looked like a team that had checked out 20 minutes too early.

One of Anaheim's best defensive highlights occurs when James Wisniewski decides to try his hand between the pipes for a spell. Jiggy is out of position after a puck bounces straight into the air off of him. As it falls back to the painted ice behind our netminder, Wiz is seen flying through the crease to bat the puck safely away. Amazing play, and the fans scream their approval as the replay is shown in glorious slow motion on the big screen.

Jiggy continues with some great saves, but so does ex-Duck Ilya Bryzgalov at the opposite end. Lack of a tight defense forces Jiggy to make some sprawling saves that leave him horribly out of position for rebound bids. It's just a matter of time before the Yotes tie things up.

Hey Wiz, don't let guys like Upshall camp out in your goalie's crease!

Running on that momentum, the Yotes continue to come on strong. Unfortunately, the extended space between our Ducks defense and the Yotes top lines that I noticed in the first period comes back to bite us. Lombardi does some skillful skating through the crease, leaving a puck behind Jiggy as the dust settles.

Captains Niedermayer and Doan battling for the puck

Anaheim ends up taking a questionable penalty five minutes later as Teemu and Yotes' Upshall exchange words after a play. Somehow Teemu gets a 2-minute roughing penalty and Upshall skates away with nothing. Tough call for the Ducks, but they manage to kill it and build on that momentum to bring the equalizer with less than two minutes left in regulation.

Corey Perry gets the puck to Nick Boynton who fires at the net from inside the blue line. My boy Bobby Ryan gets his stick on it to tip it in. HUGE goal for the Ducks, and another assist for Perry who has now officially broken Teemu's record for longest franchise point streak.

We take this baby into overtime.

But only a little over one minute into overtime before the Yotes manage to strike first, and steal the two points. It'll be an overtime loss, and a single point, for our Ducks who have one game remaining in this seven-game homestand.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ducks vs Chicago Blackhawks

This is a big one, folks. Our hometown heroes have managed to string two wins together, but can they even hope for a third? The Chicago Blackhawks team that has rolled into Anaheim is a scary one. Touting their own line of red-hot young guns, a newly-healed Marian Hossa, and bigtime goaltender Cristobal Huet, it's important that our boys show up strong in this one.

And they do, but not before some sloppy play by both teams in the opening minutes. A number of turnovers and odd-man rushes have J.S. Giguere and Huet pulling the big saves.

Yours truly is elated to see Jiggy absolutely rocking between the pipes.

The Chicago power play isn't something you want to see very often, but our Ducks flirt with it twice in the first period. Luckily, our PK is looking strong tonight. They've improved nicely over the last couple of games. In similar fashion, they prevent the 'Hawks from scoring both times.

The Blackhawks do a little penalty killing of their own, but not quite as successfully as our Ducks. Ducks strike first with a power play goal, a beautiful display of Corey Perry skills. Ryan Whitney at the blue line tosses a puck towards the net, and it hits Perry in the gut. The puck then drops to the ice, with Perry waiting patiently. In one motion, he sweeps the puck to Teemu Selanne on the other side of the crease, and Teemu pops it in.

Perry's assist on that Selanne goal ties him with none other than Teemu Selanne in the franchise high 17-game point streak (set back in 1999).

Ducks go into the first intermission leading 1-0.

Our hometown heroes burst into the second period with energy, taking advantage of Chicago's turnovers in the neutral zone to get the puck in deep.

Again, I'm impressed with Evgeny Artyukhin on our Finnish line. In one instance, the whistle blew as Saku Koivu knocked a puck that was easily covered up by Huet. A 'Hawk takes the liberty of pushing Saku while he's following up near the crease and Tuuk, coming to the aid of his linemate, converges on the guy and gives him a good shove back.

I'm liking that opponents will think twice before pushing around our veteran Finns because they'll have all of 6'5", 270-pound Tuuk to answer to. Way to back up your mates!

Capitalizing on another Blackhawk penalty, Selanne comes up big again. Captain Scott Niedermayer gets the puck to Getzlaf who streaks up the slot and backhands it towards Huet. Stick battling with a 'Hawk defender right in front of the crease, Selanne gets a piece of it, bounces a carom off his stick, and sends it into the net.

I can't believe it, Ducks lead 2-0.

"This team would not be the Ducks without Teemu."--Giguere

Blackhawks take yet another penalty, with Byfuglien taking an uncalled for liberty on Jiggy, falling all over him, knocking his mask off, and sending a forearm and a knee into the back of Jiggy's head. In anger, Jiggy rushes him and gives him a good shove, but nothing that will get him a neutralizing penalty. Byfuglien gets two minutes in the box and our boys take advantage once again.

This time, it's a simple slap shot from the point by Nick Boynton. Clean path for Nicky's rocket of a shot, which is screened by Kyle Calder. Nicky's first goal as a Duck brings big smiles from the D-man, and yours truly is very happy to see Nicky rewarded for all of his hard work thusfar on the blueline. An assist point goes to my boy Bobby Ryan.

Despite the three goals, I have to hand it to Huet for keeping the damage to only three goals. Our boys are coming on hard, and Huet has had to make some great saves.

Ducks take the 3-0 lead into the second intermission.

The third period sees more good play from our boys. Blackhawks fight feverishly for a goal, but Jiggy denies their every bid. No additional goals (but lots of close calls) for our Ducks in this period, but they don't need any. Jiggy gets his first shutout of the season, and our boys snap the 'Hawks 8-game winning streak.

Another interesting factoid, this is Jiggy's 32nd career shutout. Incidentally, Miikka Kiprusoff (whose team our boys played earlier this week) also had his 32nd career shutout today, in a game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Great job, guys! Arguably your best game of the season to date. Let's keep climbing!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ducks vs Carolina Hurricanes

"Please, please... don't let our Ducks be the first road win for the Candy 'Canes! Please don't let it be like the Leafs all over again!"

I'm sure I wasn't the only Duck fan thinking/praying our hometown heroes wouldn't slip up a win against fellow bottom feeder, the Carolina Hurricanes. The 'Canes have been fighting against a number of injuries, and we should consider ourselves lucky to not have to deal with goaltender Cam Ward.

Manny Legace, the backup's backup, would start between the pipes for the Hurricanes. The man has an astounding 11-2-2 career record against the Ducks.

As the first period unfolds, our worst fears felt like they might actually be realized. Our boys were slow and sluggish, lacking any kind of assertive presence, and fumbling a number of turnovers in the neutral and defensive zone. Very bad. 'Canes score an early goal less than two minutes in, as the stomachs of Ducks fans everywhere drop.

Kudos to J.S. Giguere for showing up at this game while the rest of his mates continued their pre-game naps, at least through most of the first period.

The only saving grace was the fact that the 'Canes weren't exactly connecting their passes either, nor did they minimize their own turnovers. It was kinda like watching a game of peewee hockey, except without the adorable roly-poly goalies.

Yours truly is a bit irked that Kyle Calder always seems to find the penalty box at every game. What's the deal, Calder? Too good to sit with your mates on the bench and you'd rather sit by yourself in the box for a breather?

I believe the early goal was a good kick in the pants for our boys. They brought on the pressure and offensive presence for the tail end of the first and were literally all over Legace and the 'Canes crease. Ducks go into the first intermission 0-1, but looking determined to grab this one back.

Ducks keep it going into the second, and have a number of strong bids on goal. Credit to Legace for some great saves. Ducks continue to pour it on through the second with lots of aggressive play, grinding in the corners, and forechecking in the neutral zone.

Apparently, it was Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne's idea to get Evgeny Artyukhin on their line, and Arty sounds extremely appreciative to be there

The penalty kill is looking much stronger too. Having a spot-on defensive team in front of you automatically makes a goaltender look that much better. And in Jiggy's case, he's feeding off the energy of his mates to come up strong in between the pipes. You'd better believe it, as soon as Jonas Hiller is back out there and this team shows up to play in front of him, he'll be stellar too.

A high-sticking penalty on 'Canes Eric Staal sends our boys on a power play at the tail end of the second. Two 'Canes defenders chase Corey Perry to the corner, but he manages to get the puck out behind him to Selanne near the crease as he's run down. Selanne makes a neat pass to the Captain across the paint. He's undefended, and winds up for a one-timer, but whiffs and turns it into a knuckler that flips over Legace and flutters into the net.

Either way, it's a goal! Ducks take a tied game to the locker room for the second intermission. Perry also extends his career-high point streak to 16 games, one short of the franchise record.

Ducks apply more heat going into the third, both of our two scoring lines coming in waves. Keep throwing those pucks at the 'Canes' net, just a matter of time, right? At least it keeps some of the pressure off our defense, which could be looking a tad better tonight.

My boy Bobby Ryan gets robbed yet again by Legace

Finally, the tide turns with the tie-breaker off a simply beautiful goal by Petteri Nokeleinen. It's initially a chippy play, as Nokie gets pushed off the puck near the boards. Kyle Calder manages to wrangle it near the back end of the circles and flip it blindly towards the wall. Nokie is magically there, after recovering from a big hit and acquiring the inside position on his 'Canes defender. He chops at the puck and sends it into the net behind a stunned Legace.

That's Nokie's second for the season and Calder's first assist as a Duck. Okay Calder, maybe I forgive you for all the time you spend in the box. Maybe. In the excitement of their celebration, the boys topple into a heap of smiles on the ice.

With only a minute and a half left in the game, Ducks net an insurance goal. You could see this one unfolding from the Ducks defensive zone. Tuuk controls the puck for a split second as he's challenged at the defensive blue line. His linemates take off on a rush, as if in anticipation that Tuuk will somehow get them the puck. And he does, chipping it quickly off the glass. Saku is there when it lands, already in full stride. He knows Selanne must be somewhere near the crease, so he sends the puck towards the net and Selanne neatly tips it in.

Tuuk to Saku to Selanne, perfect second line production with goals and assist points all around

The nightmare last-minute opponent goal unfolds yet again, second game in a row, as the 'Canes manage to bounce a fluky goal into Jiggy's net with only 53 seconds left. Thank goodness for insurance goals. Ducks snuff out any other signs of life from the 'Canes to bring a win, and two points, 3-2.

The insurance goal would become the game-winner

Thanks guys, for not giving the Hurricanes their first road win

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rinks Tour - Goalie vs Shooter

The Anaheim Ducks Rinks Speaking Series continued with installment #2 this past Tuesday at the 949 Roller Hockey Center in Irvine.


This particular speaker series would focus on the shooter/goalie relationship, and would feature special guests Brian Hayward (hosting), Corey Perry, and Pete Peeters.



There was a modest crowd for a Tuesday night and, as the clientele were primarily youth hockey players and their parents, the discussion was geared towards the play of the game. Hayward did most of the talking, explaining the unique relationship between the shooter and the goaltender, and how that relationship has changed drastically over the decades.

Pete Peeters shared his experience as a goalie, but also as a goalie coach. However, he didn't reveal too much about his strategies for coaching J.S. Giguere and Jonas Hiller.

Peeters did say he wanted to see our goalies being more aggressive in their creases

Hayward opened the floor to questions from the audience. This is always amusing, especially in audiences largely comprised of kids. A few highlights (quotes are approximated as I didn't have a recorder on me):

Question for Corey Perry: "How many fights have you been in?"
Perry paused, then looked at Peeters: "Pete, you start." After the laughing subsided, he smirked, "Probably ten in a year."

Question for Perry: "What's your favorite shootout move?"
Perry's answer: "Going really wide with the puck, almost all the way out to the boards, and then coming in at an angle. I like it because it increases the number of possible moves you can make as you approach the net."

"I've always played that kind of game, right in front of the net."

For the record, Perry says he was indeed pushed into Miikka Kiprusoff during the third period of the Ducks vs. Flames game last night. The incident ended in Kipper angrily whacking Perry with his glove. Yours truly doubts there isn't a goalie in the league (besides Hiller and Giguere) who doesn't hate Corey Perry.

Question for Perry: "Do you like starting fights?" Hayward: "Of course he does!"

After the Q&A session, Perry, Peeters, and Hayward hung around to take pictures and sign autographs for all of the fans in attendance. The next installment of the Rinks Speaker Series is next month.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ducks vs Calgary Flames

How about it, Ducks?

Based on prior track records for the Calgary Flames here at the Ponda, you'd think our boys would have a good chance at nabbing two points. But this is hockey, and these are our Anaheim Ducks. So you never know.

Yours truly watched Flames captain (and all-around great guy) Jerome Iginla net a hat-trick against the Los Angeles Kings during their last game, and I'm understandably worried. The Flames are playing Miikka Kiprusoff (another personal favorite) in net, while our Ducks will put their faith in J.S. Giguere. Not to take anything away from my Ducks, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Kipper is a huge goaltender, arguably the best in the league currently. To say it'll be tough to get pucks past him is an understatement.

New headgear for Jiggs

One thing is certain, it was set to be a great game from the very start, as most games between Ducks and Flames tend to be.

Our hometown heroes came out looking good. Lots of grinding in the corners put pucks on Ducks' sticks, I'm liking how our boys are winning a majority of their battles along the boards. Strong forechecks and aggressive play sets the stage early on for this game.

An already physical start got even more physical as big George Parros drops gloves with monster Brian McGrattan. This guy is scary. But the fight's a good one, and fans are treated to a relatively equal exchange of punches.

Parros and McGrattan doin' the tango

I'm happy to note that Jiggy is holding his own nicely between the pipes. Of course, it definitely helps when the rest of your team, especially your defense, decides to suit up at the same time you do. But confidence is contagious on the rink, and Jiggy is a big piece of that tonight.

Our boys are on the penalty kill first, with a hooking call on Kyle Calder, and soon after that again, with an unfortunately questionable hooking call on my boy Bobby Ryan. Since Jiggy is the one in net, Ducks penalty killers take a different approach. Hanging back towards the middle of the ice, they allow Jiggy a clean look at the puck at all times. It's been reported that Jiggy prefers his mates stay out of the way through long bids on goal from the offense.

Some goalies want all shots blocked as best as possible, others prefer clean, deflection-less paths between puck and glove.

We do a good job on the penalty kill, but the Flames still net the first goal of the game as ex-Duck Glencross neatly evades d-man Nicky Boynton and challenges Jiggy one-on-one. The puck pops the water bottle and the Flames take the early lead.

But our big line answers back. Ryan Getzlaf pressures the puck away from behind the Flames' net, right to Corey Perry waiting in the slot. He fires the puck towards Kipper, who blocks the shot but leaves a rebound in the crease that Bobby is able to knock into a nearly open net.

Another goal for the Bobby Ryan goal tally

And again, a Ryan Whitney slap shot from the point (assisted by James Wisniewski from down the blue line) makes it through to the Flames' net. It rebounds off Kipper's shoulder, and Getzlaf is there when it lands to hammer it home.

That assist for Perry gives him a 15-game point streak, second longest in franchise history

Joffrey Lupul is still out with back spasms, so coach Carlyle has kept Evgeny Artyukhin on the second line with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. There are some coordination issues still needing to be worked out, guys needing to connect passes and match strides, but those get better with practice. I'm still liking the potential of this second line combo.

The game goes without a goal all the way until the final 18 seconds of the third period. Playing 6-on-5, Iginla comes up big for the equalizer. On one hand, I'm happy our boys all but shut him down for most of the game. On the other, it's just heartbreaking to watch the regulation win slip through our boys' fingers with 18 seconds to go.

The ensuing five minutes of OT go at a draw, and we move to the shootout. Ducks shooters are Perry, Getzy, and Selanne. I still believe Bobby should get the shootout opportunity over Getzy, if anything, because Bobby puts 500% more shots on goal than Getzy does. But tonight, it's Selanne that comes up big with a Finnish finish.

Blurry, but this is the Finnish Flash with the game-winning biscuit in the basket

Win or loss, our boys should be proud of their play tonight. Even better, they have something to show for it in the standings. Two points for our hometown heroes, and yet another reason for the Flames to loathe the Ponda.

Ducks celebrate a win with Jiggy

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ducks vs San Jose Sharks

Judging by the throngs of vocal Shark fans at the Ponda tonight, I'll say that the Sharks-Ducks rivalry is alive and kicking. Lots of empty seats at the Ponda, but lots of noise. Probably one of the noisiest games I've been to this season. Every time chants of "Let's go Sharks" started up, we Duck fans would drown them out with "Let's go Ducks."

Annoying, but I suppose that's the price you pay for living in such a great area: Tons of the opponent's fans in your arena.

Left to right, James Wisniewski, Ryan Whitney, and Saku Koivu in the starting lineup

Yours truly was incredibly happy to see James Wisniewski and Saku Koivu back out on the ice tonight. Ryan Carter is still out with a fractured foot, and looks to be out now for another four weeks.

The first period opened with some good pressure from our boys. They attacked the crease mercilessly, and put some great shots on Evgeni Nabokov. I'm liking the gritty play by our hometown heroes, and having Wiz back out there with his physical, self-sacrificing play is priceless.

Before there's any points on the board, George Parros goes fist to fist with Frazer McLaren after a big hit on newbee MacGregor Sharp (whose name reminds me of the farmer in those childhood Peter Rabbit tales). It's a good fight for Parros, and a well-earned 5 minutes in the sin bin.

Big George got some good ones in there

Again, I want to point out some excellent play by Nick Boynton at the blue line. Nicky was out there again, blocking shots and keeping Sharks on the perimeter. Petteri Nokeleinen is also worth mentioning, getting his stick into those passing lanes, intercepting passes and otherwise being a nuisance to the opposing team.

The Ducks start off the second period on the power play as my boy Bobby Ryan was tripped up behind the net at the end of the first. Wiz gets our boys on the board first, with a slap shot from the point. Naby had no traffic in front of him, it was a soft goal that should have been stopped.

Ducks celebrate Wiz's first goal of the season

But we'll take it! Ducks 1-0. Sweet goal for Wiz and an assist to Saku... gifts for our boys coming back from injuries.

An interesting new line combo for our Finnish duo, big guy Evgeny Artyukhin joins Saku and Teemu Selanne on the second line. He does have the speed, and I like the fact that Tuuk is a big physical player, a good compliment for our smaller Finns. Maybe Tuuk can add some grit to this line too, as Selanne has needed to step up his physical play in the corners to battle for pucks and Saku still worries me with the way he seems to get thrown around like a ragdoll on the ice.

Evgeny Artyukhin: "You hit Finn, I hit you."

Looking forward to seeing what this line manages to do.

Kudos to the Ducks for staying disciplined through such a physical game. Penalties were at a minimum, although there was a dumb crosschecking penalty to Ryan Whitney. Sharks spent more time in the box than our Ducks. On this unfortunate penalty, the Sharks would pull ahead with their second goal of the night.

Whitney redeemed himself, however, with the second Duck goal. Our Ducks were blessed by over a minute of 5-on-3. After a smash of bodies goes down in front of the Shark net and leaves both Bobby and Naby down on the ice, the puck squirts back to Whitney who unleashes a one-timer top shelf over both Bobby, who's practically curled up in the fetal position awaiting a potential puck hit, and Naby. Great shot, and crucial considering it evens things up for our boys as we go into the second intermission.

Perry is red-hot right now

Sharks would pull a lead with a third goal seconds after their power play expires. During that penalty kill, Todd Marchant had one killer of a chance to pull the Ducks into a lead with a shorthanded goal. He had Naby down and just couldn't angle that puck into the net.

The defeated attempt seemed to take the air out of our Ducks' sails. The rest of the period had a very lackluster feel, Ducks not skating enough in the offensive zone, Sharks content to defend. It was frustrating to watch, and even more frustrating to hear with all of those screaming Sharks fans in the Ponda.

Guppies swimming in formation

Our boys played well. I liked seeing all the shots taken by our blueliners at this game, hope the trend continues. Both of our goals came from d-men. I just wish our boys could have been rewarded with at least one point...

Hopefully better luck against Calgary on Monday!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ducks vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Walking through the Ponda parking lot before tonight's contest between the Ducks and the Lightning, I felt a different energy in the air. Something seemed off. Maybe it was the fact that it had been almost two weeks since we'd seen our boys here at home. Maybe it was the fact that our boys haven't seen a win since they left.

Actually, I think it was the ominous silence that engulfed the sparse hockey audience as they entered the Ponda. This didn't look or sound like nearly enough crowd one hour before puck drop.

Way too many empty seats at the Ponda for my liking

It was the sound of a hockey team needing to string a few wins together, needing to claw their way up from dead last in their conference. It was the sound of faith desperately needing renewal, and fans asking their team to come through.

"One game, one win, your whole perspective can change and you move forward with confidence."--J.S. Giguere

Our hometown heroes started the game off with good speed and energy. The Lightning answered in similar fashion. There were some new jerseys on the ice. With Saku Koivu and Ryan Carter officially placed on the Injured Reserve, ex-King Kyle Calder played alongside Joffrey Lupul and Teemu Selanne, and MacGregor Sharp saw his first NHL ice on the energy line with Mike Brown and George Parros.

Yours truly didn't note any remarkable play involving the new line additions, and is still feeling the loss of Saku and Carts. Neither guy puts up huge points on the scoreboard, but they do those little things that help energize other guys to get points. We need them back!

First goal of the game went to Anaheim, right as a power play expired. A pressured Corey Perry sends the puck up along the left wing to Ryan Getzlaf who, seeing a relatively open Teemu Selanne across the slot, quickly passes it between the feet of a defender and Teemu converts it past Lightning netminder Mike Smith.

That assist will extend Perry's point streak to a league-high 13 games

Minutes after the first goal, James Wisniewski would take a slap shot off the top of the foot. Hobbling back to the Ducks' bench, fans watched Wiz as he grimaced and writhed in pain. Wiz never did return to the ice, but luckily, the foot isn't broken.

Ducks would take a 2-0 lead to the locker room after the first period. The same pieces would be in play for the second goal. Perry, once again sending the puck up along the left wing, this time to Teemu who lifts it through the slot in a beautiful aerial pass to Getzlaf in front of the crease. Getzy pops that puck deftly over Smith's left leg pad.

Wiz's absence requires our remaining defensemen to take up some extra minutes. One guy really stood out tonight. Nick Boynton proved himself very useful, especially on the penalty kill. Nicky pushed Lightning forwards to the perimeter, stripped pucks away and into the corners, and blocked a number of shots. I'm really liking him paired up with the Captain as well.

Nick Boynton, becoming an asset

Trying to change the momentum of the game, Zenon Kenopka picks a fight with Mike Brown

Another moment of breathholding sent our boys on a 4-minute power play. My boy Bobby Ryan would take a high stick to the right eye, leaving enough blood to warrant the double minor. Unable to capitalize on the first power play, Bobby himself would make good on the second, catching a pass from Lupul. Going one on one with Smith, Bobby lifts it short-side. Ducks are looking at a nice 3-0 lead.

Shortly thereafter, I'm not sure what happened, but Jonas Hiller disappeared to the bathroom or something and didn't tell anyone. A minute later, the scoreboard read 3-2, and Steve Stamkos would net himself the highlight reel goal of the night by batting in his own rebound from his back as he careened past the crease.

Luckily, Hiller returns and continues an otherwise spotless display of stellar netminding.

Unlike games past, our boys did a good job at trying to keep the penalties to a minimum. Didn't see quite as many dumb penalties. There was, however, a considerable lack of energy from our boys during the third period. Why they can't show up for a full 60 minutes is beyond me. The Lightning would tie things up and force the game into overtime.

Luckily, the nailbiting would continue for only about a minute more, thanks to an ill-timed cross-checking penalty against the Lightning. Known to excel in short-man scenarios, Scotty Niedermayer would come up big in this 4-against-3, slapping in the game winner from the blue line and giving his team two much needed points.

Additional nods to Bobby for generating a number of penalties from the Lightning; Brendan Mikkleson for playing with more confidence than I've seen him thus far; and Petteri Nokeleinen for some excellent rushes and shots on goal.

Ducks celebrate a much-needed win

Good job, boys. Enjoy your win and get ready to do it again this Saturday, against your old friends, the San Jose Sharks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ducks at New Jersey, vs Devils

It has felt like ages since the last Ducks game, and our boys start their 4-game road trip with a contest against the New Jersey Devils. Not looking to be easy, the Devils have been doing very well. I'm sure it doesn't help our Ducks one bit that Martin Brodeur, the NHL's winningest goaltender, will be between the pipes for the Devs.

Oddly enough, this game would have seen the Niedermayer brothers playing on the same ice for the first time this season, albeit in opposing sweaters. Robbie, however, is out with an injury, so that story will have to play out next season.

J.S. Giguere flew out with his mates on the roadtrip, his groin injury supposedly healed, and Justin Pogge was reassigned once again to Bakersfield. Rumors continue to fly regarding Jiggy's future with the team. While I fully support Jonas Hiller as our number one goalie (I believe he proved himself capable during our playoff run last season), I do feel bad for Jiggy. The guy has an extensive history with this franchise; he was a superstar not too many years ago. He's also an outstanding individual, always gracious and friendly with fans. Based on principle alone, he deserves better than to be hung out to dry by the naysayers.

But that's just yours truly being sentimental. Inevitably, I want the goaltender that performs best to be in our net. Period. That's the only way our Ducks will have a chance to be playoff contenders this year.

Hiller will start tonight, but we'll most likely see Jiggy start at least once during the road trip.

An unexpected lineup change, Saku Koivu is out of this game with a lower body injury. Not too happy about this one, I was hoping to see continued production from the second line since they had seemed to begin clicking as of late. Erik Christensen will be filling in and, as good a player as he might be, he definitely can't finish like the Fins.

Right off the first faceoff, Langenbrunner slams a puck from the blue line which deflects off a stick and angles past Hiller. Devils take the lead a mere 38 seconds into the game. Not a good start, and a complete confidence buster for our boys.

I've always admired how Hiller recovers and refocuses after a goal. He doesn't get visibly emotionally shaken after he lets one in, and I'm sure that definitely helps our boys. They look fast and physical against an equally gritty Devils team. Calls seem to go our way for the first period, and the Ducks get a number of power play opportunities. Unfortunately, they are frustratingly unable to capitalize.

Within the first three minutes of the second period, our hometown heroes tie up the game. My boy Bobby Ryan speeds the puck around behind the Devils' net, passing quickly to Ryan Getzlaf in the slot. He throws the puck into traffic in front of Brodeur, who takes a gamble with a poke check attempt. He fails to make contact, however, and Corey Perry is right there in front of the open net as the puck squeezes between Brodeur's pads.

That goal extends Perry's 9-game scoring streak; arguably Perry is the hottest Duck at the moment. The Ducks are gifted soon after by another power play after a Devils penalty for too many men on the ice. One would hope they'd be able to snatch the lead, but again they can't capitalize. Our boys just can't penetrate the zone.

The story stays pretty much the same for the rest of the game. Devils pull ahead with two more goals, our boys can't get anything else going. Even on yet another too many men on the ice penalty against the Devs, there's no offense on the power plays. Hopefully not a sign of things ahead, Ducks have three more games in four days, but drop this one to the Devils, 1-3.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ducks vs Phoenix Coyotes

Not wanting to jinx anything, I went into Saturday's contest against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes hoping our Ducks would play just as well as they had been of late, to string together a second win. But I didn't say anything.

No mention of how good our second line was starting to look, as they've appeared to have finally found each other. No mention of how red hot Corey Perry has been. No mention when Jonas Hiller puts on his very best performance between the pipes. I did point out the irony that Ducks D-man James Wisniewski would be returning to the ice for the first time since the two-game suspension he received for his CLEAN hit on Yotes' captain Shane Doan.

As good as our boys are playing now, it still does sit badly in the minds of numerous Duck fans, that we started off this season in last place. I hope we can make up for a horrible October with a stellar November and December.

For the game against Phoenix, I was blessed with a ticket right behind the players benches. I will say it's definitely an experience to be had by any fan at least once. I was mere feet away from the players, which lent for some awesome photo opportunities; however, I couldn't see anything as far as the game went.

I do know that goals went to Teemu Selanne in the 1st, my boy Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry in the 2nd, and Mike Brown in the 3rd. Our Ducks went into the final 15 minutes of the game with a 4-0 shutout, but then they decided to give us fans a scare by allowing Phoenix to score three times in ten minutes!

Luckily, the Yotes weren't able to net an equalizer and the Ducks would take the win, and two much-needed points, 4-3. Hopefully the momentum from a couple of wins at home will carry over onto the road, where our boys will play four games before coming back home for an extended homestand through the end of November.

And now for those pictures!





















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