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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Changing of the guard

On Saturday morning the news broke that Jonas Hiller had been signed to a 4-year contract extension. This would keep him in Anaheim through the 2013-14 season at $4.5 million per year. Reasonable, considering the young netminder is only going to improve with time and had already shown such promise in last season's playoffs.

Ducks fans everywhere would rejoice, as the future of Ducks goaltending appeared to be in safe gloved hands. It was a little obvious that Hiller had unofficially taken over the number one goaltender position for the Ducks; he has been the primary starter since the beginning of the year.

24 hours later, J.S. Giguere would receive the call that he'd been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for goaltender Vesa Toskala and left winger Jason Blake. Jiggy was sent back to the hotel from morning practice to pack up his things.

J.S. Giguere was no longer a Duck, an era in Anaheim Ducks history had ended.

Yours truly was shocked but not completely surprised at the news. It saddens me greatly, yes, because this is the Jiggy that carried an Anaheim Ducks team to the 2003 playoff finals. This is the Jiggy that brought home a Conn Smythe trophy despite being on the losing team. And this is the Jiggy that would make sure his team would lift Lord Stanley, on home ice, in 2007.

On a personal note, Giguere was the first Ducks player I came to recognize as I used to passively listen to radio game broadcasts in my early days as a hockey fan. He wasn't just a Ducks player, he was THE Ducks player. The man had been the face of the franchise to me, and his quiet congeniality during interviews with the media was something I had grown fond of.

In person, Jiggy was exactly that. A fan favorite, the superstar was always humble, always smiling, always agreeable to pose for a picture or sign an autograph for a fan. I'm going to miss having him playfully shoot pucks against the glass at us during warmups at the Ponda.

Thank you for everything you've done with this club, J.S. The Ducks would be nowhere near anything without your perserverance, your passion, your faith. We wish you the very best of luck in Toronto, and we hope to see you on Anaheim ice again soon.

The Anaheim Ducks' J.S. Giguere 2000-2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ducks at Tampa Bay, vs Lightning

Hoping to pick up a lackluster roadtrip, our hometown heroes will start with Jonas Hiller once again between the pipes tonight. Not that J.S. Giguere did badly against the Capitals, but I suppose it's a nod to our unofficial number one goaltender.

Teemu Selanne, sporting a cage over his lower jaw, skated with the boys during practice today, but he won't be joining his mates on the ice tonight.

It's fellow Fin Antero Nittymaki in net for the Lightning.

Ducks look good in the opening minutes of the game, George Parros gets a good tilt in with Matt Walker. But after the Ducks' first penalty kill, our boys are looking rather disconnected and uncoordinated. Not a good sign.

Halfway through the period, the Lightning take advantage of bad positioning and a missed puck connection by Steve Eminger, going on a 2-on-1 against Ryan Whitney. Hiller's swift lateral movement gets him in place for the bid, but it slips by 5-hole.

There are some scoring opportunities for our boys, but no paydirt. Yours truly is seeing too much passing and not enough shooting. Lightning carry the 1-0 lead going into the 1st intermission.

The passing still looks a little sloppy on the Ducks end and the defense is leaving way too much space for Lightning shooters to set up. I'm not liking this second period Ducks team.

Finally, Ducks get a power play when Dan Sexton is pushed face first into the glass. Power plays haven't meant much this season, but yours truly stays somewhat hopeful. After a fumble by Ryan Getzlaf at the blue line leads to an incredible scoring chance by the Lightning, Ducks regroup to successfully tie up the game with a power play goal by James Wisniewski.

The goal and a successful penalty kill round out the second period for our hometown heroes.

The third period sees more energy and scoring opportunities for our Ducks. Everyone is driving hard and it's making for some good hockey. Things are getting a lot more chippy too, with guys pushing and shoving after nearly every whistle. Both goaltenders are standing up huge and keeping goals to a bare minimum. Lots of highlight reel saves for both teams.

As the final minutes of regulation wind down, the physical aspect of the game goes into overdrive. Dany Sexton is the unfortunate recipient of a Lightning tackle, and a good old-fashioned line brawl erupts. Any time you're seeing Saku Koivu throwing punches, you know there's some heated situations on the ice. Once play resumes, it's a continuation of pucks failing to find the back of nets.

Five minutes of sudden death overtime don't solve anything, and suddenly, we're in a shootout.

Corey Perry, Getzy, and Wiz up for the Ducks. Perry's denied and Stamkos scores. Then Getzy follows with a display of skillful hands for a goal, and Hiller denies the next two Lightning shooters. The game rests on the shoulders of Wiz, who approaches Nittymaki with a similar shootout move to that used in his first shootout. But, before Nittymaki is expecting the release, Wiz quickly snaps the puck five-hole.

It's in and the Ducks take 2 points away from Tampa!

Dare I say that Wiz is our newly crowned shootout king?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ducks at St. Louis, vs Blues

Our Ducks begin the Eastern portion of their road trip in St. Louis tonight, facing fellow Western Conference bottom feeders, the Blues. Being a cellar dweller isn't saying much in the West, as the teams are so tightly packed that any time can spend time in the cellar with just one or two ill-timed losses.

With that said, our Ducks really need two points here.

The first period has both teams playing rather equally, the Ducks with a number of scoring opportunities but can't capitalize. The Blues can't either, and both Hiller and Mason hold strong.

The first intermission sees a pair of bagels on the scoreboard.

The second period consists of a littany of goal attempts, posts, pipes, and big saves by Chris Mason, but no goals on the scoreboard for our hometown heroes. Yours truly is considering changing the channel.

It isn't as if the Ducks are playing badly. They just can't seem to buy a goal tonight.

Unfortunately, the Blues don't seem to have that problem. They go up two goals in the second and carry the two-goal lead into the second intermission.

At the beginning of the third, the Blues continue to make the Ducks offensive lines work hard. They put another goal up on the scoreboard in the process. Things are looking bleak until about five minutes in, when the Blues defense make a crucial mistake and leave a veritable open net in front of Scott Niedermayer. Corey Perry had run the puck all the way down the right wing, getting it to the Captain while the Blues defense parted before him.

Yours truly is hoping the goal will spark some confidence in our hometown heroes. Kudos to Steve Eminger for some amazing puck protection in front of the crease, helping out his goaltender.

Halfway through the period, Ducks strike again. Dan Sexton works hard to win a battle for the puck behind the Blues net. He scrambles to fire the puck in front of the blue paint, and my boy Bobby Ryan is there to quickly one-time it over Mason and into the top corner.

Ducks fans everywhere are elated as it has now become a one-goal game. Can our boys complete a stellar comeback??

Energized, Ducks spend more time in the Blues zone, increasing their shots on goal this period to twice that of the Blues. Mason comes up big to keep things under control, but he can't stop everything. And the zebras have all but swallowed their whistles. A number of infractions on both sides happen without stoppages in play.

With less than a minute left in regulation, Bobby catches a rebound right in front of the net. Ryan Getzlaf hammers the puck from the point. It bounces off Mason's mask and the netminder can't find it before Bobby has chipped it into the basket.

Suddenly, our boys have at least a point in what was looking like a lost cause only 20 minutes ago.

Sudden death overtime goes without any goals, so we're off to the shootout. Without Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, or Joffrey Lupul the starting three become Pears, Getzy, and Bobby.

Pears, using his traditional wide-angle approach, gets one behind Mason. Getzy too. The Blues answer the first three attempts with two of their own, forcing fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds of shooters. We're seeing plenty of shootout first-timers, including Sexton, Matt Beleskey, and Evgeny Artyukhin. Turns continue until the seventh round, with a beautifully unstoppable shot by James Wisniewski.

I never would have taken Wiz for a shooter, but maybe he should be after tonight's performance?

Our Ducks steal, quite literally, two points from the St. Louis Blues, and get a huge boost of confidence for our hometown heroes on their daunting roadtrip.

Let's hope we'll have Koivu back for the team's next contest in Atlanta.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ducks vs Buffalo Sabres

Tonight's game is huge. It's the last home game until February for our hometown heroes, kicking off a six-game road trip. Of course, every game is another opportunity to get another two points in the standings, but yours truly tends to breathe a little easier when the opponent is an Eastern Conference team.

It's debatable whether the Eastern Conference is weaker this season than the Western, I've heard arguments favoring either side, but at least, when our opponent isn't a conference rival, winning in OT doesn't adversely affect the standings. Personally, I can't stand that a team losing in OT still gets a point. A loss should be a loss.

But it's not, which seems to be one of the big reasons why the Western Conference standings are so tight. I feel that time rather than ability is going to be the major factor in determining playoff berths this season in the West. After the last game of the season is played, whoever happens to be in that top eight will go on. Add another game, and those bottom seeds could look completely different.

But I digress... there's a game tonight.

Our Ducks showed up huge in the first period, absolutely blasting out of the gates. By the middle of the first, Ducks were up 4-0.

Yes, you read that right.

Absolutely unbelieveable!

Credit goes to Ryan Getzlaf, Evgeny Artyukhin, Mike Brown, and my boy Bobby Ryan, in succession. The game started to get really chippy, as it definitely would have if the tables had been turned. Frustrated, the Sabres took undisciplined penalties and made a number of sloppy turnovers during that first period.

I'm glad our boys capitalized, because a team like the Buffalo Sabres aren't going to keep that up for long.

While the fourth Ducks goal was being reviewed, Sabres switched out goalie Lalime for league save percentage leader Ryan Miller

One on hand, yours truly was thrilled to see Miller (who, incidentally, looks a lot like his brother Drew) live on Ponda ice, I also didn't want to see our Team USA number one goaltender worked too hard. It was supposed to be his night off. Of course then, I also knew Duck goals were going to be in very short supply for the rest of this game.

The second period was, unfortunately, not unlike other second periods for our Ducks. Our forechecking presence was all but gone. I think it followed our D out of the rink. Jonas Hiller was also notably out of sorts. Even his good saves would be followed by an unconfident glance towards the net behind him. Sabres clawed their way back with three unanswered goals in the second.

It never fails to surprise me just how huge the attendance always is by the opponent's fans at the Ponda.

Ducks put things together for a better showing in the third, where Troy Bodie would net his second NHL goal. How crazy, to get your second career goal, and the game winner, against none other than Ryan Miller. Major bragging rights there!

Hiller also tightened up the netminding and came up big in the third. Sabres would get one more goal after pulling Miller for the man advantage in the last 60 seconds on regulation, but they couldn't find the equalizer before the final horn.

Our Ducks would extend the home winning streak to eight games, and leave for their road trip on the right foot

Let's check out some pictures!

Bobby's tip-in goal against Lalime, which was deemed good after a lengthy league review for high-sticking. It wasn't actually his stick that touched that puck

Definitely deserving of a game star, Tuuk earned points on an awesome assist to Mikey's tip-in goal, as well as his own goal. It's a pleasure watching this big man skate!

Bobby and Corey Perry sniffing for loose change around Miller

Sabres' Kaleta reacts to a love tap from Nick Boynton in the first

USA! USA! Miller will be teammates with Bobby in less than a month

Dan Sexton jumps over a puck mere nanoseconds before it's gloved by Miller

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Casino Night 2010

Time again for our Anaheim Ducks annual charity event and costume extravaganza, Casino Night took place at the Ponda last night. This year's theme? 70's disco.

I can just see Jonas Hiller shaking his head, "Wha?"

As attendees checked in, they were welcome to the sights and sounds of go-go dancers

The Ponda was transformed into a 70's casino, complete with flashing lights, disco stage, and lots of 70's fashion that probably shouldn't see the light of day.

Yours truly was told that attendance was a lot higher than last year's casino night

Proceeds from all of the casino games, silent auctions, raffle drawings, and the photo opportunity booth went to charity. I believe our boys were in an exceptionally generous mood considering the getup they were given to wear for this event.

Group photo of the Disco Ducks!

Back row (left to right): Evgeny Artyukhin, Steve Eminger, Sheldon Brookbank, JS Giguere, Jonas Hiller, Ryan Whitney
Front row (left to right): Brett Festerling, Dan Sexton, Matt Beleskey, Troy Bodie

Obviously, some of our hometown heroes were more comfortable with this costume than others. I watched James Wisniewski flip up his collar and show off his dancing moves for a few of us fans, and a couple of the guys even pulled apart pieces of their wigs to tuck into the tops of their shirts.

J.S. Giguere was in great spirits, completely playing up the 70s vibe

As is the tradition at these Duck events, Todd Marchant called a rookie up to the stage to talk about himself in front of the hundreds of guests in attendance.

Dan Sexton, trying not to die of embarrassment

Todd made sure no rookie was forgotten, he called Troy Bodie up next

Bodie was a little more at ease, as if he was expecting to be put on the spot

Yours truly had an absolute blast at this event, talking to the players, eating the food, drinking the beer, and rocking out to the 70s music. And, of course, taking plenty of pictures.

Kyle Chipchurra and Bodie winning big bucks at the roulette wheel

Mike Brown dealing at the blackjack table

Captain Scott Niedermayer and my good friend Suz

Corey Perry: "Hey baby..."

Brett Festerling at the craps table

Bobby Ryan told me that the league had already reviewed his big hit at the end of the Kings/Ducks game, and he wouldn't be receiving any additional penalties. Yay!

The next time fans would see the Ponda, the casino theme will be long gone, and our boys will be ready to take on the Calgary Flames. Go Ducks!! Although, there might be some leftover glitter on the ice...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ducks at Los Angeles, vs Kings

Coming off an exhaustingly physical game against the Boston Bruins the evening before, our Ducks are in no shape to take on division rivals, the Los Angeles Kings.

Looking at the NHL schedule, yours truly has to ask, why do we face the Kings at the Staples Center on the second night of a back-to-back three times this season??

I understand coach Carlyle wanting to reward Jonas Hiller with yet another start, especially after he handled the second Nashville-Chicago back-to-back with such excellence, but really? Do we need to tire out our number one goaltender at this point in the season? If it were up to me, J.S. Giguere would have started this game.

Yours truly watched this one at the official Ducks watch party at Mutt Lynch's in Newport Beach. Nice sports bar, tasty BBQ wings, would definitely visit again.

I was not expecting much from our hometown heroes tonight, but what I was definitely not wanting was a lower body injury (they're saying it's a knee injury) to Saku Koivu that takes him out of the game. Also, there's a huge hit that my boy Bobby Ryan placed on a King in the final moments of the game that might possibly be under review by the league.

Otherwise, our boys did not play that badly in the first and second periods of the game. However, they just could not generate the needed offense. Two of the Kings goals were lucky pinball bounces that no goaltender would have been able to stop, if only by luck. It was also very apparent that the Kings had studied our game with the Bruins the night prior, and they took our boys to task physically. The game started to get downright angry in the third as penalty minutes piled up.

In the end, I believe the 0-4 score doesn't accurately reflect the efforts and early game play of the Ducks, but I'm hoping that, with two days rest, our boys will be ready to put that winning streak back together for Sunday's matchup here at home against the Calgary Flames.

But first, stay tuned for story and pictures from tonight's Casino Night!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ducks vs Boston Bruins

Teemu Selanne, classy team player that he is, says he doesn't mind playing on the fourth line. He doesn't get nearly as many ice minutes, but he does get to skate on the power plays. "When the team is playing this well, you don't want to change anything."

Right on, Teemu.

Ducks haven't played since the back-to-back over the weekend, and now they have another back-to-back starting tonight against the Boston Bruins. Collectively, Ducks fans everywhere are holding their breath, praying the winning streak continues.

It's Jonas Hiller in net again tonight, his first game since winning accolades all the way up from the league itself. Hiller was awarded the second star of the week for his excellent play last week. Only six goals given up in the last four games. That's the Hiller we know and love!

Tuukka Rask, the current league leader in goals against average, is in net for the Bruins.

Already a fight in the first five minutes of period one! Troy Bodie and Adam McQuaid exchange some huge hits and get the crowd into the game.

Geezus, can I just say that Zdeno Chara is really frickin' huge?? Mike Brown looks like a toddler trying to get the puck away from him. Well, not really, but you know what I mean.

After a seemingly slow start for our boys, the pace quickens to see our Ducks with a number of scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, Rask is as good as we feared he'd be. Hiller's mates ask him to come up huge a few times, and he delivers. It looks like it's going to be a battle of the goaltenders.

Just as the period, and the Ducks' second power play of the game, winds down, Dany Sexton gets his 7th of the season. My boy Bobby Ryan receives a pass from the blue line that he can't quite direct into the net. The puck bounces through the crease to the right side, where Dany is Johnny-on-the-Spot to chip it in.

Another fight erupts right off the center ice faceoff. It's Kyle Chipchurra and Bitz, getting in a good fight for their money. The energy level is sky high going into the first intermission, Ducks up, 1-0.

Our boys started off the 2nd looking good, but then James Wisniewski took an awkward slide hard into the boards. His face twisted in pain while he was down on the ice and the Bruins scored.

Call me a homer, but c'mon. That play should have been whistled dead. We had a man down for at least three seconds, with a zebra standing right there, and no whistle. Wiz had to be helped off the ice. Yours truly doesn't know which to be more concerned about... the no-call or the loss on our blue line.

Our Ducks begin a downward tailspin as the Bruins score again, mere minutes later. Angry, frustrated, the physical factor amps up about 200% as guys take shots at each other after the whistle.

Thank God, Wiz is back out on the ice. Unfortunately, Bobby and Ryan Getzlaf aren't. They're sitting in the sin bin (but so are two Bruins) after that post-whistle altercation. Wiz is the good luck charm, as Matt Beleskey pots his fourth goal. It's from Petteri Nokelainen who's centering in place of Getzy. The change in momentum sees our boys spending time in the offensive zone. The Bruins score again before the end of the second, and this game is officially a rollercoaster.

The score is 2-3 as we start the third, and we've got Getz in the box for slashing. But once he's out, he's straight down the slot, taking a beautiful pass from Wiz streaking up the right wing. Getzy converts the puck at lightning speed, and the next thing you know, it's behind Rask.

It's Getzy's 100th career goal. Sometimes, an angry Getzy is a goal-scoring Getzy.

Ducks tie it up 3-3!

The boys are energized and keep the pressure on the Bruins, who are also fighting hard. Bobby dodges and weaves with the puck to get a good shot on Rask, and nobody notices Steve Eminger sneaking up the right wing. He's rewarded big-time, as Bobby's bid rebounds up and over the netminder, dancing just in front of the goal line before Eminger pushes it in.

And then, more bad luck for our Ducks. Teemu takes a slapper from Ryan Whitney, which redirects off Bruins' Miro Satan, bounces off the ice, smack to the left of his face. He's writhing on the ice, later getting up and is able to leave the ice on his own, but there is an awful lot of blood. Again, the Duck energy deflates.

C'mon boys, hang in there, we have to get this!

There are some very precarious moments in front of the Duck crease, but Hiller holds strong! This game seriously has me nauseous at this point. No more blogging, all I can do is watch with my hands over my face! The Bruins were never able to net that equalizer and our Ducks are rewarded with two hard-earned points.

Our Ducks fought so hard, and the Bruins did too... excellent playoff-hockey-style game by both teams. This game is an excellent example of why I love hockey!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ducks at Nashville, vs Predators

Weren't we just here last week?

Yes, but hopefully, our hometown heroes will see a much better result than last Saturday. A huge factor in those results will be the status of Teemu Selanne.

Before the game starts, it's officially announced: The Flash is back!! Honestly, yours truly was a bit concerned about how Teemu Selanne would fit back into the lineup after he returned to the ice. I'm loving our top two lines as they have been these past couple of games and I don't want to see things change. At least, not too much.

Knowing my boy Bobby Ryan is good playing on either line (that boy is good playing with nearly anyone), I still wanted to see Matt Beleskey with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and I still wanted Saku Koivu with Dan Sexton. Why mess with good chemistry when we FINALLY have it?

As the first shifts hit the ice, I was happy to see that coach Carlyle and myself seemed to be of like mind for once.

Teemu was placed on the third line, with Petteri Nokelainen and Mike Brown. Odd linemates perhaps, but it didn't stop Teemu. He would pot the first goal of the game during the first period (during which yours truly had only radio feed so...). It was a tip-in coming to Teemu from Nokie in front of the crease, but you could definintely see that the down time hasn't done anything to the Finnish Flash and his ability to find those sweet spots on the ice. I think the time he spent conditioning only made him faster.

Starting into the second, our boys are moving well, spending lots of time with the puck. They have a number of scoring opportunities, and it eventually pays off. Matt Beleskey's third goal of the season (and third in as many games), is a perfect end to tic-tac-toe passing between Perry to Getzlaf on the wings and to Beleskey skating undefended down the slot.

Rinne is the only thing standing between him and the net, and it isn't enough. Ducks go up 2-0 and I'm definitely LOVING this kid! He's on a streak of game-winning goals and I'm hoping he can keep it up on that Perry/Getzlaf line.

Or maybe someone else on that line? I'm typing the previous paragraph and suddenly, Getzy scores from the top of the left circle. A seeing-eye slapper that's effectively screened by Beleskey.

Woooo!! Ducks up 3-0!!

The goals have made our boys confident and aggressive in their forechecking. The Predators are back on their heels and getting a little sloppy. Hiller is also feeding off that extra confidence, making some spectacular glove-handed saves and not giving up any rebounds.

Our boys continue to look sharp as the second period ends. Passes are connecting and feet are moving. Unfortunately, our Ducks take their first penalty before the horn sounds.

In the beginning moments of the third, and our Ducks' first penalty kill, Hornqvist nails a puck past Hiller. Preds are on the board, and energized by their goal. They're aggressive and taking advantage of the fact that our Ducks are having trouble getting into the Preds' zone. Even the power play falls flat.

They come back stronger in the last half, playing aggressively in the neutral zone in order to protect their lead. Unfortunately, a bad turnover leads to another goal for the Preds. They've closed the gap to one with three minutes left in regulation. It greatly unnerves me whenever our boys have to defend a lead with five minutes or so left. There's always that chance of a crazy comeback by the opponent, of the highlight-reel goal with 20 seconds left on the clock, of our boys getting squashed on the doorstep of victory.

But not tonight! Ducks would snap a 5-game streak of road losses and win this one, 3-2. Let's do it again tomorrow, boys! And Carlyle, please don't play Hiller on a back-to-back, ok??

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ducks vs St. Louis Blues

Remember the last time our Ducks hosted the Blues? If you don't, you're lucky. It was a horrible 0-5 shutout.

Needless to say, some payback is in order.

Jonas Hiller gets the start in net, after an awesome win Tuesday night against the hated Detroit Red Wings. Yours truly is excited to see if our boys can pull it together again for two straight wins at home.

On the other side of the ice is Chris Mason, who is in net for the Blues for the second night of a back-to-back. Incidentally, the Blues have a new coach after having sent Andy Murray packing. Not sure whether this bodes well for our Ducks or not, it might still make things interesting. The Blues are doing just as badly as our hometown heroes, and they go into tonight's contest tied for the 12th spot in the Western Conference.

Even though the Blues played (and lost to) the San Jose Sharks last night, I'm impressed by the energy and forechecking pressure of the Blues' forwards. No wonder the Blues are so good on the road. Our boys are matching them step for step and it's an energetic burst through the first period.


The Blues get on the scoreboard first, a short-hander off the faceoff during a Ducks' power play no less. Hiller had no chance blocking that one, as it caromed and changed direction off the shaft of Corey Perry's stick. I'm hoping our boys can overcome the drop in momentum.

Our boys keep the shots on goal coming, however, and both the first and second lines have their chances. Kudos to defenseman Steve Eminger. I'm not always impressed by Eminger, favoring Nick Boynton more times than not between the two, but Eminger does a great job stepping up during this game... at least during the first period. He's sacrificing the body to block shots and making good decisions along the blue line.

My new favorite 1st line consists of Ryan Getzlaf centering Perry and rookie Matt Beleskey

Guys start to mix things up after the whistle and the game gets even more physical than it already had been. Unfortunately, Perry unwisely decides to take himself and Blues' David Backes out of the game for five minutes.

Maybe Pears thought a fight would be a good way to get his team riled up over their one-goal deficit?

Going into the second period, Ducks continue to come on strong. Impressive yet again are the puck-handling skills of Petteri Nokelainen. Nokie has been awesome in the last couple of games, getting good scoring chances because he's been able to play his gritty game while deftly maneuvering the puck around defenders. Keep it up, Nokie!

Ducks draw back to back penalties and earn a valuable 5-on-3 opportunity. Our boys set up a number of one-timers, but can't get anything through to the net before the penalties expire. However, shortly thereafter, Nokie provides the perfect screen for a James Wisniewski slapshot from the top of the left circle.

Wiz's equalizer is his second goal of the season

As we hit the halfway mark of the game, Ducks continue to apply pressure to what seems to be a tiring Blues team. Big hits and battles along the boards come up favoring our boys, and Ducks are leading in shots on goal. On the other end of the ice, Hiller is holding his own with some sharp saves as well.

At this point, yours truly is the recipient of gracious Duck friends once again and can enjoy the rest of the game from the 200 section. The majority of the second period is fairly quiet, with man-advantage opportunities for both teams turning up empty. The score going into the second intermission is 1-1.


Only one minute into the third, Hiller is the recipient of another unlucky bounce. A puck fired absently towards the Duck net ricochetes off of Ryan Whitney and bounces into the net past Hiller.

I think every Duck fan at the Ponda matched Hiller's skyward look of disbelief. The goal, combined with a double minor penalty against captain Scott Niedermayer, have the Ducks reeling back on their heels.

Following a potentially dangerous Blues breakaway (Brett Festerling came up big sliding in and poking the puck away from the charging Blues forward) Saku Koivu jumps on a puck that squirts from a battle against the boards and passes it to my boy Bobby Ryan as he's streaking through the neutral zone.

From where I'm sitting, I see the puck head straight to number 9 with speed. "Go Bobby go!" The next thing I know, the puck is in the back of the net and Bobby is celebrating with a jump against the glass. The replay reveals a perfectly beautiful highlight reel snapshot fired between the legs of the Blues defender, targeted into the top far corner of the net.

Bobby's incredible play earns him the first star of the game

The last half of the period is met with renewed energy from our boys. Tied up, big saves still coming from Hiller, hits still raining from both benches, it's looking like we might be in for some overtime. Our Ducks are applying a lot of pressure in the final five minutes, credit to Mason for keeping his mates in this one.

With less than three minutes left in regulation, Getzy forces a turnover in the Blues zone. Perry plucks the puck away and circles it towards the net, firing on Mason. A rebound results, but Beleskey is there as he crashes the net to chip the puck over Mason.

Beleskey brings the Ponda to life with his game winner and second goal of his NHL career

Time is suddenly on the Ducks' side as our boys take the lead for the first time tonight. Todd Marchant escapes the defensive zone with the puck and is able to evade a Blues defender for the empty net insurance goal.

Marchant: "I've been taking tips from Robbie Niedermayer..."

This one goes down in the books as another Ducks win at home, 4-2. Time to take the winning to the road, boys!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rinks Tour - Playing in the Olympics

As part of the Anaheim Ducks Rinks Tour speaker series, hockey superstar and all-round fan favorite Teemu Selanne was on hand tonight at the Artesia EastWest Ice Palace to speak on the topic of playing in the Olympics.

Teemu, who hasn't been on the Ponda ice in front of fans for some time, was right at home answering questions from fans and interviewer Dan Wood.

It was the largest turnout I've seen for a Rinks Speaker Series yet!

After the Q&A, which included some really good questions (and answers), a few autographed Ducks items were handed off to fans answering trivia questions correctly. The night finished with Teemu signing autographs and taking pictures with all of the fans in attendance.

(And believe me, there were LOTS of fans in attendance!)


Here's a taste of the Q&A. Please note, yours truly did not have a recorder so the questions and answers are paraphrased as accurately as my hand could write in frigid ice rink temperatures.

Dan: Is it hard playing against your teammates in the Olympics?
Teemu: It can be, especially when you have to play against (Corey) Perry and (Ryan) Getzlaf... all the yapping you hear in the locker room...!

Dan: How do you adjust when, one moment a guy is your opponent on a different NHL team, and the next, he's your teammate on an Olympic team?
Teemu: It's not hard, it stays on the ice. There are no hard feelings, at least not for long. But at first, it was different. I saw two big guys drop the gloves in this league, then go out after the game for beers! *laughing* In Finland, we don't fight.

Audience question: What Finnish athlete did you learn the most from?
Teemu: Jari Kurri for hockey...


Audience question: Are you playing tomorrow?
Teemu: Not sure yet, I went to the Doctor today and he gave me the green light... maybe not tomorrow, but hopefully Saturday.

Audience question: Are any of your kids going into hockey?
Teemu: You never know, they're having fun now, but the middle one has a passion for it... *shrug* I drive them to the rink and laugh at them on the ice.

Audience question: Do you get paid to play in the Olympics or is it just pride?
Teemu: I think we get paid 25 dollars a day... *smiling*


Dan Wood: Do you remember the first time you played against Wayne Gretzky?
Teemu: It was 1991 in the Canada Cup... I remember looking at him at the faceoff... *starry expression* 'Can you sign an autograph?'

Audience question: Why do you like playing hockey?
Teemu: I started because my older brother and my other friends played it, and it was fun. I still enjoy playing... that's why I still play.

Audience question: Could you please not retire?
Teemu: I was supposed to retire five years ago! One more, one more... it's got to end somewhere.

As much as we love Teemu and know he deserves retirement after giving so much to the Ducks, to our community, and to hockey itself, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I hope he doesn't retire anytime soon! We're so lucky and blessed to have a professional athlete who is this devoted, this classy, this INCREDIBLE here in Anaheim.

Ducks vs Detroit Red Wings


"Hey Pavel, you better tell him! You're gonna get it too!"--Corey Perry

The above is one of my favorite quotes ever caught on tape, during a game against the Detroit Red Wings in which Perry was mic'ed up. And indeed, it held true in tonight's contest between our hometown heroes and those nasty Wings as Pavel Datsyuk was made a non-factor.

Just for clarification, I don't hate the Red Wings. They've got plenty of talented players who do good things for the sport. Rather, it's the throngs of obnoxious Red Wing FANS that show up at the Ponda whenever this team is in town.

Wayyy too many red jerseys for my taste...

Who I am happy to see back on the ice is Ryan Getzlaf. Getzy does a lot of everything, but I'm sure there's also a huge psychological effect on the rest of the team just having their big offensive leader back. You could feel the momentum swing as the game started up.

Sight for sore eyes: Getzy's back!

The Red Wings came out of the gates, guns ablazing. Ducks defense allowed too much space between themselves and the Wings' offense, and I was not happy with the lack of pressure on the puck. What happened to our forechecking skills?

Early on, Getzy took a dumb penalty in the neutral zone. Slashing, I believe it was. During the ensuing penalty kill, Saku Koivu capitalized on a Bertuzzi turnover and he raced down the ice with Rafalski on his heels. Excellent stick handling and puck protection by Saku led to a shot on Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard. Veteran wisdom kept Saku on the inside of Rafalski, just long enough to whack at the rebound off Howard, and send it into the net.

A beautiful short-hander gives Saku his 9th for the season, 200th for his NHL career, and a turning point for his team

After that goal and the remainder of Getzlaf's penalty was killed off, our boys came with a vengeance. The big line, now consisting of Getzy, Corey Perry, and rookie Matt Belesky (who I've already been impressed with), got one, two, three shots on goal... and one goes in.

It was a perfect setup, with Brett Festerling quickly passing the puck along the blue line to Sheldon Brookbank, who one-times it toward the net. The puck narrowly missed the post and then rebounded off the boards straight back out to Belesky, who pushed it between Howard's foot and the goalpost short-side.

Ironic that Matt's first NHL goal would follow almost exactly two minutes after Saku's 200th

Yours truly is extremely happy to see this young man get his due with a goal. Take every advantage that you're on a line with Getz and Pears, Matt... plenty to learn from these boys.

From then on, our hometown heroes continued to play well. There was great puck possession, dominance in the faceoff circle, and successful battles fought in the corners. Ducks stayed physical and the hits kept coming. In short, our boys looked like a new team. Controlled, confident, dangerous.

Let's round out a good period with a tussle between Troy Bodie (who's already sporting a shiner courtesy of Blackhawks' Dustin Byfuglien) and Doug Janik

And the best part about going into the first intermission 2-0 on these Wings?? The fact that the otherwise obnoxious Wing fans at the Ponda have had the wind taken out of their sails.

Another phenomenal game for Jonas Hiller, who would get a nice W to show for it

There were no goals scored by either team during the second period, our boys came less aggressively, but still held strong defensively. Yours truly got to move closer to the ice courtesy of some awesome Duck friends who let me know there were a few open seats near them. The game is seriously faster when you're closer to the ice. You can appreciate the speed and the angles that our boys have to deal with, and how physical the game really is, especially against two gritty teams. It's harder to watch the game as a whole, but it's an incredible experience in its own way.

Kudos to Todd Marchant for putting in a most valiant effort tonight. He was out there, forcing turnovers, stealing pucks, and heading a strong PK unit. Every time something favorable happened with the puck, Marchant was in the middle of it.

Hiller: "Hey dude, thanks for getting my stick back to me."
Eminger: "No problem, bro." (or something like that, I'm sure)

You knew the Wings would give everything they had going into the third. Anaheim had some great scoring chances, but Howard locked down hard. The Detroit offensive was seriously lacking (not helped by the holes in their roster... but then, a lot of teams have holes right now), however they managed to get one past Hiller behind a nice big screen of Holmstrom's Butt.

But Getzy would help Perry put an end to his point drought nearly two and a half minutes later when he deftly stole the puck away from Rafalski on the doorstep and passed it between Lidstrom's feet to Perry, who popped it in behind Howard. Oh yes, Perry missed Getzy!

With the two-goal lead and about five minutes left in regulation, our boys continued to do a good job defensively, and made it their business to effectively clear the zone. Why they have such a hard time doing this in some/most games is beyond me.

Another fight before the end of the game, my boy Bobby Ryan would take a hit to the face by Wings' Lebda. He took offense but could not get Lebda to fight. Bertuzzi, however, was all over it. Bobby was quickly taken down to the ice as Bertuzzi's jersey came off faster than a virgin's dress on prom night, affording my boy absolutely no grip for leverage.

Bobby being escorted after his tussle

Adding sweet insult to injury, Kyle Chipchurra would seal the deal with an empty netter that was chipped across the length of the ice.

Ducks celebrate a glorious win 4-1, well-deserved

And Saku gets the first star of the game, also well-deserved

I'm hoping this is the team that shows up for Thursday's game against the Blues! Whaddya say, Ducks?

p.s.--My dear Ducks friend and Twitter pal Suz Broughton got to host Ducks TV this game. Check it out!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ducks at Chicago, vs Blackhawks

Again, yours truly was at work for the majority of this game. Undoubtedly, it'd turn out to be a good thing.

I didn't have to hear our boys struggle through the first period, which didn't see any goals on the board from either team. Ducks had played the Nashville Predators the night before, and the 'Hawks had played the Los Angeles Kings the night before. Both teams took a little time warming up.

Unfortunately, the Blackhawks warmed up way before our Ducks did. Scoring twice in the second, they kept up their onslaught while the wheels completely fell off of the Anaheim train going into the third.

Yours truly got home from work, turned on the television, saw the Hawks score three more times in a span of five minutes, and aptly turned the television off.

Petteri Nokelainen would pot two goals for the Ducks in the later half of the third period, but it was already too late. As uttered previously, at least it wasn't a shutout.

Come back home, boys. At least you have a better home record.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ducks at Nashville, vs Predators

The number of times I wanted to just turn the television off and go to sleep might indicate just how awful this game felt.

Might I add that the game ended before 8pm?

Not that our boys played particularly badly, although I still don't like that our defense is often nowhere in sight (where's our D? Pfft, our D just played the Winter Classic, that's where), but watching a team struggle again and again... it's tiring. Poor Scotty Niedermayer is a -11 right now. Ugh.

Our one Duck goal in this game came from hard-working Mike Brown. THE hardest-working player on the Ducks roster game in and game out, is Mike Brown hands down. I like seeing Evgeny Artyukhin back out on the ice, and especially the way he played tonight. He was in the crease, causing havoc with his huge frame, and it allows guys like Mikey to get pucks in the net.

Right from the very beginning, our lack of defense is glaring. Jonas Hiller stood on his head and, behind a solid D, we would have won this game. But our boys relied too heavily on Hiller, even from the first puck drop, and there's only so much a goalie can do. If you missed this game, at least watch the highlight reel saves... Hiller has a number of awesome ones worth seeing.

Ryan Whitney is now sporting a Frankenstein-like scar on his lower left cheek thanks to taking a puck to the face. I'm glad he wasn't badly hurt, but honestly, if a top 6 defenseman goes out on IR, maybe we could call up a rookie with potential. Another Dan Sexton, but on defense?

I'll try to stay positive and focus on the few bright spots in tonight's game. Saku Koivu, again doing the little things. Even he has had to bump up his defense. As a smaller player, Saku does a great job darting into passing lanes and getting his stick in people's way.

Matt Belesky, again doing a great job being physical. He was on that puck, fighting for it along the boards and in the corners. Still loving this kid.

And final kudos to Corey Perry, who I noticed a number of times showing off those awesome stick-handling skills. That boy can move a puck. He didn't have any goals this game, but his skill is still there. Perry misses Ryan Getzlaf, it's very obvious.

I think we all miss Getzy... and Teemu Selanne... and Joffrey Lupul.

Olympic rosters announced

Even though our Anaheim Ducks are having a hard time climbing out of the Western Conference cellar, seven of them have been called upon to represent their respective countries in this February's Winter Olympics.

Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Captain Scott Niedermayer will be suiting up for Team Canada, Scotty will also captain that team.

For Team Finland, our very own Finnish Flash and Saku Koivu will pair up once again. It's my understanding that Saku will captain that team too.

Team Switzerland will be appropriately represented with Ducks' Jonas Hiller in net and defensive prospect Luca Sbisa.

And finally, our very own Bobby Ryan will be playing on Team USA.

That's seven Duck players on olympic rosters! I believe only the San Jose Sharks are sending more of their own, with eight.

Of those players chosen, Scotty, Getzy, Teemu, Saku, and Hiller were probably shoe-ins. Perry was a bubble player, but definitely tipped the scales in his favor after putting together some record-breaking streaks over the past few months. Yours truly also thinks it will be interesting to have someone that utilizes Perry's gritty style of play out on an olympic team. Look out goalies, Perry's butt is crashing a crease near you.

I'm glad Luca wasn't passed up. Even though he played just a few games up in the majors with our Ducks, I already saw enough to know the kid has a lot of potential. Having olympic experience will only help the boy. He will be amazing when he's called back up.

As for Bobby, I had a feeling my boy would get the call, but I didn't want to be too confident. He has tied for the leading goal-scorer on the Ducks roster, but also he's tied with the leading US-born goal-scorer in the league. Not to mention, USA GM Brian Burke knows and likes Bobby.

The best thing about all these Olympi-Ducks is the exposure they will get. I don't believe our Ducks get as much recognition as they should for the things they do. If we were an East Coast, or Canadian, team, things would be different. I would love to hear the average American, non-hockey fan say, "Oh, that Getzlaf guy is pretty good, doesn't he play for the Anaheim Ducks?"

My Zimbio
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