The boys are back in town!
And not a moment too soon. This one is a notable game for a number of reasons.
We've got new faces on the ice. Jason Blake will make his home ice debut alongside Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Blake played the last game, but only versus viewers got to see him. Yours truly is curious about this lineup, prefering that my boy Bobby Ryan stay on the line with Koivu.
Blake, sporting number 33, and his new team during warmups
Glaringly absent, especially from warmups, is J.S. Giguere. Justin Pogge has been called back up in his place. Also absent are Dan Sexton and Nick Boynton, recalled to the minors. Matt Beleskey was also sent back down, but then quickly brought back up. Yours truly was happy about this, as the young man has shown excellent potential.
We've got new faces in the stands too. If you remember John Meyer of www.pickmyNHLteam.com fame, he's in attendance tonight as part of his official inDUCKtion to his Anaheim Ducks fanship. He has organized a small group of about 30 Ducks fans to get together and watch the game from the cheap seats, yours truly included. The game became a sort of Duck fan reunion for those of us who keep in touch and enjoy Duck games together through various forms of social media.
The group of Ducks fans John organized to join him at his first official Ducks game
This post is thusly dedicated to John and the other Duck fans and friendships that have formed thanks to these unique applications.
It's Jonas Hiller, our number one goaltender (ooh, like the sound of that!) versus Jimmy Howard in net for the Wings.
Just a minute and a half into the game, Ryan Whitney scores from the blue line with a slapper through a perfect Bobby Ryan screen. Our huge fan group erupts in screams and high-fives. Excellent start to the game.
Troy Bodie responds to a hit on Kyle Chipchura and drops gloves with Jonathan Ericsson. It's a good fight for Bodie, and both get five for fighting. Bodie continues to impress, and is rewarded with ample time on the Ducks checking line.
Our boys look like they could be playing more aggressively against these division rivals, but given the Wings played last night and our Ducks need to play tomorrow night, perhaps it's better that they've matched energy levels.
Before the end of the first, Steve Eminger shoots a wrister towards the net. It hits Chimichanga before landing behind Howard in the net. The goal, however, is under review for the possibility that Chimi batted the puck in with his hand.
Chipchura would net his fourth of the season
The goal is deemed good and Ducks take the 2-0 lead to the locker room at the first intermission.
Speaking of Eminger, great play by him defensively. I'm happy to see Eminger keeping up the improvements he's been showing ever since his return to the lineup weeks ago. He's blocking pucks, doing well in forcing breakaway players to the perimeter or stripping the puck away from them.
The Red Wings come on stronger in the second, as I expected they would. It doesn't help that the Ducks take back to back penalties, but Hiller holds strong and makes some phenomenal highlight reel saves. The penalty kill is still looking good. Howard is likewise making some good saves and keeping the damage to a minimum.
Hiller earned a well-deserved first star of the game
Yours truly is happy to see Saku Koivu playing well despite the lack of Bobby on his line. He forces a number of turnovers in tonight's game, and also works his magic during his time on the penalty kill.
The big line is once again intact, with Bobby on that line alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. They come up with a great goal, contributions from all five players on the shift culminating in a deflected puck off Bobby's stick made ready in the slot.
The Wings spoil Hiller's shutout bid with a power play goal by Pavel Datsyuk, who had been denied earlier by Hiller's high glove. Ten seconds later, the period ends. We're 3-1 going into the second intermission.
Glove save by Howard
The third intermission doesn't see any additional goals by either team, but yours truly was a bit dissatisfied with our boys and their apparent decision to simply hold a lead. I felt like there was way too much play in our defensive zone. Hiller was forced to come up big on a desperately firing Red Wings team, and thankfully he was able to deliver. Perhaps our boys were conserving their energy for tomorrow's contest against the Los Angeles Kings.
Yes, that has to be it.
Even though the Selanne/Koivu/Blake line didn't get any points this game, I do like the dynamic I'm seeing on the ice between those three. Should prove very interesting as they spend more time on the ice with each other.
Either way, it's a Ducks win and given how tight the Western Conference standings are, we'll take those two points! Nothing caps off a great night spent with friends at the rink than a regulation win against the Detroit Red Wings.
"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