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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vancouver Olympics 2010 men's hockey in pictures

Since yours truly couldn't attend any of the Olympic action in person to get great pictures (wouldn't that be the day!), the next best thing I can do is share the great shots taken by others. Here's a collection of my hockey favorites over the past two weeks... (my apologies that some of the larger pics don't quite fit)

Bobby celebrating his first Olympic goal against Swiss game #1

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Finland beats Belarus

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Teemu in the Finland vs Germany prelim game

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Winner Team USA, loser Team Canada prelim

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images North America

Scotty, Getzy, and Perry celebrate after a goal against Slovakia

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images North America

Bobby in Swiss #2 game

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images North America

Bobby and Hiller in Swiss #2 game

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Hiller's crazy puck juggle from game Swiss/USA game #2. Puck would eventually go in behind Hiller, but not until after the horn

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images North America

Luca Sbisa defending Kessel in game Swiss/USA #2

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Bobby and Hiller, final handshake, Swiss #2 game

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Goalie to goalie, Hiller and Miller after Swiss #2 game

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Corey Perry getting one past Naby in Canada vs Russia

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Corey Perry getting one past Bryz in Canada vs Russia

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images North America

Saku celebrating win over Czech Republic with Kipper

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America

Bobby and Selanne shaking hands after US beats Finland

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Teemu, Saku, and Team Finland with Bronze (over Slovakia)

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America

Teemu with his Bronze

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Captain Koivu with his Bronze and Finland flag

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America

Getzy, Scotty, and Pears win the gold

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

Team Finland vs Team Slovakia for bronze

Yours truly is home in time for this game, and ready to live blog.

I don't know what's wrong with Team Finland, but the commentators are right. There's no urgency, no desperacy, no passion in their play.

And it seems to be translating into a lack of goals on the ice.

At the first intermission, the score stands 1-0 Finland.

On the power play in the 2nd, it starts to look like Team Slovakia want that bronze (it would be their first team medal ever) a little bit more. Nobody's watching Marian Gaborik and he sneaks into the defensive borders of the Finns. From there, he's able to wrist the puck straight in past Miikka Kiprusoff.

The Fins get a couple of power play chances to retake the lead, but are unable to capitalize. Instead, the Slovaks take advantage of some Finnish recklessness and pull ahead with a goal on a 5-on-3.

And again on a short-handed breakaway.

At the second intermission, things are looking bleak for Finland as they trail 1-3.

Yours truly is feeling absolutely bummed. The last Olympic games for Saku and Teemu, and this is how they're going to go out? Please no!

As the 3rd begins, the commentators are pointing out that Teemu has only had eight minutes of ice time. He's also spending the Finland power plays on the bench! If yours truly was the Finnish coach, I'd have my number one goal scorer out there on each and every power play. Don't worry about him, he wants to play!

On a Finnish 5-on-3, Suomi closes the gap with a deflected goal off of Niklas Hagman. Mere minutes later, Olli Jokinen nets another. The score is tied 3-3 with 13 minutes left in regulation.

Finland finds themselves on another power play, courtesy Hossa. Who should grab the puck and get on a breakaway but Jokinen again. He shoots and it's in!

Suomi has just now taken the lead, 4-3. Unbelieavable rally! Three goals in barely over three and a half minutes. Slovakia is reeling. Finns need to keep up the pressure.

Talk about keeping the fans on the edge of their seats, Team Finland has to fight through a penalty kill before the game ends. At one point, the equalizer is right at the Slovak fingertips, but Zednik can't pull the trigger.

In these final minutes, Kipper has GOT to come up huge. The Slovak net is empty with a minute left...

Kimmo sets up Valteri Filpula for the empty netter... and it's in!

Yours truly is just elated to watch the Finnish boys on the bench jumping and cheering and yelling at Filpula as he converges on the empty net. Watching them hug and clap each other on the back, I can't help but feel so good for Teemu as the cameras cut to him jumping up and down like a little boy, a huge smile on his face. The excitement just pours out of him.

Teemu, Saku, and SUOMI with the bronze! Way to go, guys! The big gold medal game is tomorrow, Team USA and Team Canada.

No matter who wins and who loses, Ducks came out winners these Olympics. They'll be bringing seven medals home to Anaheim!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Team Canada vs Team Slovakia Semifinal

Don't count the Slovaks out just yet... after all, Sweden did, and where did that get them?

During the first period of this game, you can see why. Team Slovakia touts a good defensive system, collapsing down really low around the net.

It isn't until 14 minutes through the first that Shea Weber fires one from the point, which gets redirected by Patrick Marleau past the Slovak netminder. There's a review to make sure Marleau's redirect was below the crossbar, but it's pretty obvious that it was.

An assist for Captain Scotty Niedermayer.

Shortly after, great play by our Duck boys on the ice. Perry below the goal line fighting for a puck, getting it to Getzlaf who manages a pass under pressure to Pronger at the point. It's a patented Pronger rocket, with a redirection from Brendan Morrow in front.

Goal. 2-0. First intermission. Can I just say I've never missed Prongs and his point shots more than right now?

And boy, points for our Ducks in spades. Yours truly is pleased.

The Slovak goalie, Jaromir Halak, is good... but it appears that Team Canada has found his weakness: shots from the point or back from the blue line, with a well-placed deflection near the crease. Granted, those are difficult shots for any netminder to block, but both of Team Canada's goals came from that setup.

Halak denies the Canadians through most of the second, but what he really needs are his offense to get some pucks behind Roberto Luongo. Can't win if you can't score.

Before the end of the second, and on the power play at that, Prongs gets the puck to Perry who's skating up and down along the left wing, angling for passing lanes. He decides to fire on the net and the rebound comes out to Getzy who backhands it home from his knees.

It's a beautiful play, and it takes us into the second intermission with Canada leading 3-0.

The Slovaks haven't given up hope, however, and they are rewarded with a puck that squirts between Luongo's pads and the post. 3-1 Canada, with eight left in regulation.

Chants of "We want USA" echo around the arena. It's looking as if the gold medal game will be between Team USA and Team Canada...

Wait... maybe I've spoken too soon.

Michael Handzus bats one out of the air in the crease, and it's in behind Luongo. One-goal game with five minutes to go!

The Slovaks came on strong in the last few minutes. Lots of shots on Luongo, but Canada holds on. I don't know what it says that Canada let this one almost slip away, but maybe that's a good sign for the US come Sunday. Great game, Slovakia.

Team USA versus Team Canada for the gold. Hockey fans may have dreamed about this matchup, but who really thought it would happen?

Team USA vs Team Finland Semifinal

Wow... action in the first three minutes of this game! Yours truly is blogging while watching, not always an easy thing to do, especially when the action comes as quickly as it has in the early minutes of the Team USA/Team Finland matchup.

Also known by Duck fans as: "I want to cheer for Team USA but I really want to see Teemu and Saku finally win gold for their last Olympics!"

Only two minutes into the game and Finnish netminder Miikka Kiprusoff makes a HUGE mistake. He comes out of the net to face a rolling puck, but turns it over to Ryan Malone just within the blue line, who slams it home to an empty net.

The Team USA bench bursts into cheers and elation.

The confidence is contagious, and you can practically see those young Americans swell with pride as they realize they might actually have a shot at this. My boy Bobby Ryan, as I suspected, is being used on a checking line along with other big boys David Backes and Ryan Callahan.

This is definitely an aggressive game. You need a big checking line when physicality counts as much as it does today.

I'm in awe watching this game. In the first period alone, it's a USA goal landslide.

Zach Parise...

Erik Johnson...

Patrick Kane... twice...

Paul Stasny...

And that's just within the first 13 minutes of this game. Of course, two Finnish penalties don't help Team Finland's cause.

Those of you watching this live with me, we are witnessing the complete disintegration of an Olympic hockey powerhouse. In a way, it's sad, because we have Ducks on this team too. And knowing this will be the last Olympics for Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, a big part of yours truly wanted to see them finally win Gold.

I don't like faulting the goaltender, but in this case, I think it's hard not to. Kipper should not have started that ball rolling. He's pulled after the 4th USA goal, but the damage may have already been done. Niklas Backstrom takes over the Finland net, allows two more goals before the end of the first, but stops the bleeding at that.

The second period goes without many interuptions at all, and while Team USA has slowed some in their aggressiveness towards the net, they are still backchecking, still forechecking, still playing physically, and trying to stay out of the sin bin.

Team Finland is playing hard, but after being rattled so badly in the first, they can't seem to get many shots to Team USA netminder Ryan Miller.

Miller, by the way, is doing splendidly. Many have him pegged as the MVP for Team USA's effort.

During the third, the Finns come harder, but Miller denies every attempt. With about half the period to go, Miller is changed out for backup goalie Tim Thomas. Yours truly thought this a classy move, as Timmy has gone on record to say it has always been a dream of his to play in the Olympics. At age 35, one would suspect Thomas may not likely return in four years.

Miller is given high-fives and salutes on the bench as he prepares to watch the rest of the game with his mates. Bobby even retrieved a game puck to give to Miller as a token of his incredible 100+ minute Olympic shutout run.

A collective Duck-fan gasp sounded as Bobby was struck point blank by a puck to the left side of the head. He was able to get off the ice, and was shown hunched over on the bench with a bag of ice held against his ear. Luckily, the puck went off the helmet and there was no blood or broken bones.

Hey, we need that boy for our playoff run!

The Finns are rewarded for their efforts with a power play goal against Timmy with about five minutes left in regulation, but that's the only mark they'll make in this semifinal game.

The Americans trounce Finland in a 6-1 landslide and move on to the gold medal game this Sunday. Yours truly is happy... and sad at the same time.

Photo courtesy Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Some stats and numbers:
- Bobby spent 8:44 on the ice and had one shot on goal.
- Ryan Whitney spent 11:06 on the ice.
- Teemu had one shot on goal in 13:44 ice time.
- Saku had two shots on goal in 13:36 ice time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Men's hockey Olympic quarterfinals

Four big big games today, starting off with Team USA vs Team Switzerland (part 2).

Both teams start off with fires lit under them. The commentators are gushing over the energy of team USA, and while I can agree there's definitely energy, it's looking largely unfocused and reckless to me. Probably indicative of the young stars that make up the team, they're going to have to concentrate on connecting some plays and being a team if they hope to bring anything against Jonas Hiller.

The Swiss are also coming on with energy, but their offensive force is not nearly as big as their defense. Ryan Miller is forced to make a handful of good saves, but the Team USA defense has a way of blocking many of those shots before they even reach their intrepid netminder.

Put it this way. Hiller faced 42 shots as opposed to Miller's 19.

My boy Bobby Ryan only got eight and a half minutes of ice time, but he managed three shots on goal and some nice YouTube-able plays. Hiller played a phenomenal game. He definitely helped his team fight to the end.

There were no goals through two periods of play. Not until Zach Parise got one by Hiller did the momentum swing, and Team USA gave that extra push. Parise potted an empty netter with less than a minute left in regulation.

Team USA moves on to the quarterfinals.

By the way, I'd forgotten to mention that Bobby is also writing an Olympic blog (along with Hiller and Ryan Whitney). You can read his thoughts here.

Next up, the heavily commercialized game of Team Canada vs Team Russia. Sid vs Ovie... again.

Elimination rounds

Two games to keep an eye on today, although one SHOULD be a no-brainer.

First up, Team Switzerland vs Team Belarus. The winner of this game will go on to play Team USA in the quarterfinals Wednesday. Yours truly was not able to watch this game (the job that pays the bills interfered), but it was my understanding that Jonas Hiller could have been much sharper between the pipes than he actually was.

In the end, it wouldn't matter. The Swiss squeezed out Belarus in a shootout, winning 3-2.

It'll be Hiller vs Bobby Ryan part two.

The next game on the Canada Place schedule was Team Canada vs Team Germany. After Canada's loss in regulation to USA on Sunday, you can bet the pressure was on to deliver against Germany. Shouldn't be a problem, right?

Martin Brodeur lost his opportunity to netmind, and Roberto Luongo would be the one in goal today. Team Canada redeemed themselves today, positively shredding Germany with a 8-2 win.

Our boys Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry looked good out there, despite neither recording any points. Getzy had one shot on goal, Perry had four. Captain Scott Niedermayer would net a goal.

If anyone is keeping count, as of today, I believe all of our hometown heroes have multiple Olypmic points to their names, with the exception of Hiller (obviously) and Ryan Whitney. I'll do a breakdown in the next post.

Team Canada will go on to play Team Russia in Wednesday's quarterfinals. Looks like another Sid vs. Ovie matchup!

Lots of hockey to be watched. Unfortunately, the television schedule has left much to be desired. The Team USA vs Team Switzerland quarterfinal will be aired on NBC at 3pm Pacific Time, but there's only a 2-hour time slot dedicated to it. Will they cut the game short??? How horrible!

The Team Canada vs Team Russia quarterfinal is scheduled to start at 4pm on CNBC. So of course, there's overlap... which makes it all but impossible for yours truly to record via VCR.

Following later in the day, Team Finland vs Team Czech.

I suppose I'll be refreshing the Olympic web page again and again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Super-rink Sunday

Forget the Superbowl, today is hockey's day.

There were three big games today, but I'll focus on the last two because those feature Duck players. Yes, I'm biased, but it's my blog and I can do whatever I want.

Yours truly attended a watch party for the big Team USA vs Team Canada game this afternoon. The location was my favorite local sports bar, Oggi's in Tustin. The atmosphere was pure electricity, as tons of hockey fans came out to cheer on their country of choice.

With Ducks on both Team USA and Team Canada, it felt a little like a win-win situation for yours truly. However, I'm known to be a sucker for underdogs (heck, I'm a Phoenix Coyotes fan for crying out loud), and my boy Bobby Ryan make the decision easy. Team USA all the way, baby.

In between the pipes, Team USA would stay with Ryan Miller. For Team Canada, Martin Brodeur would get the nod.

The game started off wonderfully with an early goal for Team USA courtesy Brian Rafalski. Further energized, Team USA went on to have a great first period. They played with confidence and speed, and the forecheck was incredibly effective. Team Canada could not even set up in the offensive zone.

Team Canada did get on the board before the first half of the period expired, with a goal by Eric Staal. But it was answered less than a minute later by a second goal from Rafalski.

Unbelievable game for Rafalski.

The holes in the defense had been addressed, it seemed, and they weren't as glaring in Team USA's game tonight. The defensemen were better distributed along the blue line, turnovers were better controlled, and I think Canada only got away with one odd-man rush the entire game.

The second period, for Team USA, looked a little more like a typical Anaheim Ducks' second period. The boys looked a bit slow, a bit caught back on their heels. Dany Heatley would take advantage and score for Canada, tying the game up 2-2.

Before the end of the period, a pinball play in front of Brodeur's crease would land a third goal for Team USA. Credit to Chris Drury, assists to David Backes and Bobby Ryan. Again, Team USA would take a one-goal lead into the locker room for the intermission.

A series of penalties for Team Canada drove the momentum back in Team USA's favor for the third period. The forecheck reappeared, some of the extra kick returned to Team USA's step. On the last USA power play, Captain Jamie Langenbrunner would give the US a 2-goal lead for the first time in the game.

And then Team USA would take two penalities of its own, allowing a goal in the last five seconds. Sidney Crosby, pulling the game once again down to one goal. It became a veritable shooting gallery around Ryan Miller, with a desparate Canadian team taking every possible shot.

With about a minute left in regulation, Brodeur was pulled for the extra attacker. Zach Parise and Ryan Kesler danced with the puck near the blue line. Kesler took off down the ice, as did his defender Corey Perry. Parise's shot sped past them. When it looked as if Perry had effectively kept Kesler away, the fallen American swung his stick, connected with the puck, and sent it into the far corner of the net.

Empty net goal! And in that moment, Team USA realized what it had done. Kesler was tackled by Parise, Langenbrunner, and Erik Johnson behind the Canada net. On the bench, guys were hugging and slapping each other on the back, smiles stretched wide across their young faces.

There were 45 seconds left in regulation, but Team Canada would fail to bring a tie. Team USA had done it, beating the favorite and creating a situation where either Team Canada or Team Russia would leave Vancouver empty handed.

Miller came up HUGE, especially in the last five of regulation. He would face 45 shots during this game, compared to Brodeur's 23.

A few Duck observations...

Bobby's ice time was considerably increased in this game, I'm happy to say. He played nearly 12 minutes, had two shots on goal and one assist.

Ryan Whitney got the least time on ice of any Team USA player, 5:22, and he was a -1.

This definitely wasn't Corey Perry's game. To add injury to insult, Perry collided at one point with Staal and, while crumpled on the ice, had Chris Pronger fall over them both. Perry left blood on the ice, but there would be no penalties as all of the players involved belonged to the same team! Not Canada's finest moment by far.

Both Perry and Ryan Getzlaf would fail to pen any goals or assists, but each served two penalty minutes and had one and three shots on goal, respectively.

Captain Canada, Scott Niedermayer, has played better games himself. I think Scotty showed some rare frustration, getting himself involved in post-whistle shoving scrums on more than one occasion. He had three shots on goal, was a -1, and saw 17 minutes of ice time (which, incidentally, is a lot less than Scotty is used to playing).

It was an incredible game, and the watch party atmosphere made it even more memorable for yours truly.

The game that followed could have also been a nail-biter. Team Finland and Team Sweden have had a very heated rivalry through many Olympics, including the gold medal game four years ago. Unfortunately, this game failed to meet most expectations.

I don't know what was wrong with Team Finland, but it seemed that nobody showed except for Tuomo Ruutu and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. He was able to stop the bleeding on a 0-3 meltdown by his countrymen, but with no effective attacks on net, Kipper couldn't exactly do anything about the bagel on the scoreboard.

With the preliminary rounds finished, the top four seeds go to USA, Sweden, Russia, and Finland (qualifying round). These four teams don't have to play in Tuesday's elimination rounds as they go straight through to the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The remaining eight teams will play Tuesday, with the top seed playing the bottommost seed, 2nd top playing the 2nd from bottom, etc.

- Czech vs Latvia
- Canada vs Germany
- Slovakia vs Norway
- Switzerland vs Belarus

The winners in these elimination rounds will go on to play the top four seeds on Wednesday. Yours truly will be posting the rest of the men's hockey schedule tomorrow.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Finnish Flash strikes again

History is being made, ladies and gentlemen.

In today's contest between Team Finland and Team Germany, Teemu Selanne would pen an assist. That puts his career point total to an Olympic record-breaking high of 37!!

That's our Finnish Flash!

Saku Koivu would also get an assist in this game.

Expecting Miikka Kiprusoff to be between the pipes, yours truly was a little surprised to see Niklas Backstrom. But Niki did well, blocking all 24 shots that he faced for his first Olympic shutout, 5-0.

Team Finland will face their biggest, bitterest rival, Team Sweden on Sunday. Don't forget, Sunday is also the day Team USA will face Team Canada.

More Olympic excitement to come!

Hits and misses, Olympic prelims

Another big day of men's hockey for our Ducks Olympians, today would feature contests between Team USA and Team Norway, Team Canada and Team Switzerland.

In watching USA versus Norway, yours truly has a few notable observations. The offensive lines are looking like they're starting to gel a little bit. Today's game was definitely physical... Team USA's bigger boys weren't afraid to throw their weight around. Passing plays looked cleaner, and the team would benefit with goals.

Defensively, I think we have problems. As long as the puck is in the offensive zone, Team USA looks good. But as soon as they have to defend, there's way too much open ice. Not to mention, I don't think it helps that the defensemen have been joining the offensive rushes. You may get away with that in games against less talented teams, but once you start playing the big guns, you're going to need both D-men holding up that blue line. Without that, turnovers quickly become dangerous odd-man rushes.

This happened a number of times in today's game, and Ryan Miller did his best against the Norweigan forwards, but you're playing a numbers game. Give them too many good scoring chances, and they will eventually score.

Unfortunately, yours truly isn't feeling too confident about the netminding. I understand Ryan Miller is probably going to be starting for as long as we're winning, or something like that, but I was actually hoping Jonathan Quick would get an opportunity between the pipes. I'm just a tad bit more impressed with Quick's game than Miller's going into the Olympic break.

My boy Bobby Ryan got less than 10 minutes of ice time in today's game... can I ask why?

In any case, Team USA proves good enough to win today's contest, 6-1.

The next men's hockey game on the schedule would pit Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Scott Niedermayer against their fellow teammate, goaltender Jonas Hiller.

What did I say about underestimating Team Switzerland? Hiller and his incredible D would take Team Canada all the way through five minutes of sudden death overtime and into a shootout. Switzerland would fall 2-3 in that shootout.

Hiller had an absolutely phenomenal game, I wish he had been rewarded with a win. He faced 47 shots, stopping 44. And when you figure that it's guys like Sidney Crosby, Jerome Iginla, Ryan Getzlaf, and Dany Heatley firing these shots, Hiller's performance is even more remarkable.

The Swiss play a hard, gritty game. I give them very good chances of taking a win away when they play Norway next.

Honestly, if Team USA had the defensive core and netminding of Team Switzerland, they'd be a force to be reckoned with.

No goals or assists for any of our hometown heroes today.

On a sidenote, who wants to bet Jeremy Roenick will take Mike Milbury out before the end of the tournament?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wins, Finns, and journalism spins

The Team USA vs Team Switzerland match got men's ice hockey off to a good start, and the excitement would continue with the very next game.

Team Canada, with Ryan Getzlaf on the roster, took on Team Norway later that afternoon. Team Canada's roster looks like a veritable hockey all-stars team, what with Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Captain Scott Niedermayer from the Anaheim Ducks, and league-known superstars like Sidney Crosby, Jerome Iginla, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Rick Nash, Chris Pronger, and Jonathan Toews.

Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo started in net for the Canadians, and got himself a shutout, 8-0. The game started off slowly, going scoreless into the first intermission, but play quickly picked up as players got comfortable.

Our three Ducks would come away with one point each, Getzy and Pears got goals, and Scotty an assist.

This morning, Team Finland took on Team Belarus. More points for our Ducks, Captain Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne would both get assists in this 5-1 win. Teemu is a bit of a legend in Olympic circles, holding 20 goals and 36 points in five Olympic appearances. He's now tied for the leading Olympic record for the most career points. Five more Olympic goals will tie him for the most career goals in the modern era (since the 1956 Olympics).

Can the Finnish Flash do it? Yours truly would say, if a broken hand and broken jaw can't keep him out of the Olympics, it's very possible he'll go on to tie that record.

Switching opponents, Team USA will take on Team Norway tomorrow. And Team Canada will face Jonas Hiller and Team Switzerland. The big game between USA and Canada will take place this Sunday, along with Team Finland versus rival Team Sweden.

A few of our Ducks have taken pen in hand to blog about their Olympic experiences. Ducks defenseman Ryan Whitney's blog can be found on the OC Register webpage, and netminder Jonas Hiller's blog can be found on the Ducks homepage.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Team USA vs Team Switzerland

The very first men's hockey Olympic game is a big one: Team USA vs Team Switzerland.

Considered the underdogs against big guns Canada and Russia, Team USA gets to start against a team that shouldn't be underestimated. Team Switzerland will have none other than our Jonas Hiller between the pipes, and we know just how hot Hiller is right now.

Team USA features Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller in net. Miller has the second top save percentage in the league, but has been facing some difficulties as of late. Only three guys on Team USA have been here before. Both players from our Anaheim Ducks, Ryan Whitney and my boy Bobby Ryan, are looking at their Olympic debut.

What an amazing feeling it must be to represent your country with so many other talented players that you've only shared ice with as opponents.

It's a little bittersweet that Bobby and Whitney will be taking shots on Hiller, but that's how it goes. Another familiar face on the Swiss team, prospect Luca Sbisa!

In the first period, the teams are looking pretty evenly matched. The Swiss aren't afraid to play rough, laying hard hits and grinding in the corners. Team USA has had less time to play together, while the Swiss have had at least 40 games worth of practice, sans Hiller and Mark Streit who play in the NHL.

Hiller is looking very sharp between the pipes, he's playing a great game. Team USA is putting pucks on him, but he's holding strong.

With only about a minute left in the first, David Backes forces the puck away with an effective forecheck behind the Swiss net. Bobby takes a hit along the boards and the puck squirts to the defender at the blue line who shoots it at Hiller. It's fought off and, as it rolls away from the goal, Bobby catches it in the slot and fires it over Hiller's glove hand.

Like I was saying, bittersweet. But it's Bobby's first Olympic goal and it puts Team USA up 1-0 going into the first intermission.

Play in the second amps up a few notches, becoming much more physical. Backes scores for Team USA. And then Ryan Malone too on the power play. They are tough bids on net and nobody can fault Hiller for them. Everyone is skating better in the second. Team USA gains confidence with those goals, driving hard to the net, connecting passes.

The rest of the second goes goal-less, with the Swiss defense looking strong.

The Swiss offense kicks up in the third. They create some scoring chances for themselves, and Team USA appears to be caught on their heels. Miller is forced to make some big saves. Inevitably, Team Switzerland scores on the power play.

On a sidenote, I gotta say I really do miss Luca Sbisa. Can't wait until he's back up with the Ducks.

As Team USA regains their confidence, Hiller continues to come up big on the saves. You can tell, he's playing an awesome game, with a number of sweeping glove saves that plenty of players on the ice are sure to recognize. Nothing gets by him during the final period. It will be a loss for Team Switzerland, but Hiller had one heck of a game.

Team USA didn't have the most pristine play on the ice, there are definitely some aspects that these guys need to clean up before they take on Team Canada on Sunday. Turnovers are a problem, and the defense needs to really step things up, but for a team of young firecrackers, they can be proud of a win today, 3-1.

Olympic schedule for men's hockey

The 2010 Winter Olympic games started last week with the opening ceremonies Friday evening. Most of the NHL players still had games to attend over the weekend and would join their respective national teams early this week. Our hometown heroes will be generously represented on the rosters of four different country teams.


The action starts off today with Team USA versus Team Switzerland at noon Pacific Standard Time. Yours truly will be at work, but recording the game at home.

For anyone curious about the first round of the men's olympic hockey schedule, here's a rundown: (games in italics feature Anaheim Ducks player(s) on the game roster)

Tuesday February 16:
- 1200-1500 PST: USA vs Switzerland on channel USA
- 1700-1900 PST: Canada vs Norway on CNBC
- 2130-2330 PST: Russia vs Latvia on CNBC
Wednesday February 17:
- 1200-1430 PST: Finland vs Belarus on MSNBC
- 1700-1900 PST: Sweden vs Germany on CNBC
- 2130-2330 PST: Czech vs Slovakia on CNBC
Thursday February 18:
- 1200-1430 PST: USA vs Norway on USA
- 1700-1900 PST: Canada vs Switzerland on CNBC
- 2130-2330 PST: Russia vs Slovakia on CNBC
Friday February 19:
- 1200-1430 PST: Sweden vs Belarus on MSNBC
- 1700-1900 PST: Czech vs Latvia on CNBC
- 2100-2400 PST: Russia vs Slovakia on CNBC
Saturday February 20:
- 1200-1430 PST: Norway vs Switzerland on MSNBC
- 1630-1900 PST: Slovakia vs Latvia on MSNBC
- 2100-2400 PST: Belarus vs Germany on MSNBC
Sunday February 21:
- 1500-1800 PST: Czech vs Russia on NBC
- 1600-1900 PST: Canada vs USA on MSNBC
- 2100-2400 PST: Sweden vs Finland on MSNBC

I'll post the rest of the men's hockey schedule a little later on in the week. Go teams! Go Ducks!! (And Go USA!! - hey, I never claimed I wasn't biased)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ducks at Calgary, vs Flames

There are two more games for our boys before the Olympic break. And of course, they're a back-to-back over the weekend. Our boys are in Calgary tonight, and then in Edmonton tomorrow. It would be nice to nab a playoff spot prior to the Olympic break... I'm just saying.

Starting in the first period, our boys come out of the gates with good energy, but one quickly notices that Calgary is controlling the puck a lot more.

Towards the middle of the first, our boys are awarded a few scoring chances. But keep in mind, it's Miikka Kiprusoff in the Calgary net. His game is downright phenomenal tonight. Honestly, you can't give Kipper all of the credit. The Flames defense is spot on, it's as if there's a forcefield that forms below the circles every time our Ducks enter the zone. Not to mention, our hometown heroes must have left their forecheck in Anaheim. There's simply not enough pressure on the Flames, and they take advantage.

Ducks do get a goal, but the lamp didn't light. Upon further review, it's noted that a shot from Scott Niedermayer at the blue line gets deflected by Troy Bodie, flies into the net shortside, hits the camera, and pops out. It happened so quickly nobody notices... but it's deemed a good goal.

Unfortunately, the Flames tie it up before the end of the period.

Starting the second, I'm hoping our boys will find some energy... but I'm wondering if maybe their minds are on the Olympics and that's why they look a bit hesitant and unfocused?

The boys do have more bite in the second, but not until after the Flames score again. And that one stung as it came right on the heels of an open net opportunity for Ryan Carter, who fanned on the shot.

After a fruitless Duck power play, Bodie takes on Pardy and it's a good tussle.

It's starting to get a bit frustrating, watching our boys have their chances, but not be able to get one past Kipper. I'm sure the frustration is felt on the ice as well... our boys are playing hard, but just not getting the job done.

Passing starts to get sloppy, shots on goal start to get aimless, and that puck posession problem only worsens. Duck players grab the puck only to quickly turn it over or pass to the wrong guy.

Kudos to Saku Koivu, he had a number of good shots on goal. Would've loved to see him get one. Kudos to Steve Eminger as well, doing what he can against blocked shots and keeping the crease clean.

And then Iginla scores again...

Ducks go into the third trailing 1-3. Matt Beleskey bravely takes on Curtis Glencross about five minutes in, and Koivu follows up the energy boost with a puck to the plumbing behind Kipper.

Our hometown heroes manage to stop the bleeding, keeping the Flames from scoring again in the third, but they just can't get their cycle game going. Calgary takes this one, 3-1.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ducks vs Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers go into tonight's contest riding a horrible losing streak... but that doesn't give our Ducks any reason to be confident. This one counts just as much as any other game, and our boys need to come up big in their last at home before the Olympic break.

Especially without Ryan Getzlaf due to that ankle sprain.

The game does not start well. Our boys look rather slow, very un-physical, and there's a huge disparity of shots on goal between the clubs. Yours truly wants to yell, "Why aren't you skating?! Let's play on their end! WAKE UP, DUCKS!!"

Hiller: "Dude, throw me a bone, eh?"

Jonas Hiller is the only player who appears to have suited up, and thank goodness he has. He's tested quite a few times in the first period, but holds steady. The Oil come out with guns blazing and I'm amazed they weren't rewarded for their efforts.

As if sensing the need for some energy, big George Parros drops gloves with Jacques

Maybe it worked! Corey Perry sends a threading the needle pass across the slot to my boy Bobby Ryan, who instantly chips it in with a one-timer.

Bobby and company at the bench to collect high-fives after the goal

With Getzy out, Bobby, Perry, and Saku Koivu make up the first line. It's an interesting group and I'm curious to see how successful they are. That one goal is a good start. Teemu Selanne, Matt Beleskey, and Ryan Carter compose the second offensive line... at least for the time being.

You know how coach Carlyle is about mixing up the lines.

Ducks go into the first intermission with the only goal of the game and yours truly is glad for that, even if we didn't quite earn it.

Back to back penalties earn the Oilers nearly 90 seconds of 5-on-3 power play. Our Ducks collapse into a tight defensive triangle and manage to keep the Oil off the board. Simply amazing.

Oilers also take their share of penalties, but Duck power plays would appear to be a bad omen tonight. A little less than halfway through the game, Oilers would force a turnover and get a short-handed bid past Hiller. Ugh.

Ducks do get their chances, but it looks like the same scenario every time. The first bid gets blocked by the Oilers netminder, and the imminent rebound never gets picked up. Why do we not have anyone crashing the crease??

With 5 minutes left in the 2nd, the Oil do it again with another short-hander. They take the lead, 2-1. But Anaheim answers back quickly during that same power play. Bobby receives a quick pass from Petteri Nokelainen, and sends a rocket of a sniper shot over the glove hand of the Oiler goaltender.

The game is tied 2-2 at the second intermission.

Play goes back and forth, up and down, for most of the third. About halfway through, Todd Marchant completes a perfect deflection of a slapper from James Wisniewski at the blue line. Ducks have regained the lead.

Marchant's redirection gets Wisniewski's slapshot bid into the Oil net before the glove even comes up

Frantically, the Oilers try to force the game into overtime with an equalizer. Luckily, Hiller and the boys deny them.

First star of the game, Jonas Hiller. The team better buy him a steak dinner

It was a messy, somewhat sloppy game, but our Ducks finish off their February home schedule with two more points.

Just a few more pictures...

Yay for milestones!

For anyone curious, this is the new occupant (Vesa Toskala) of J.S. Giguere's stool next to the Ducks bench

The Ducks have two more games this weekend before the Olympic break. Yours truly is planning to cover as many of the Olympic games (ones that feature our hometown heroes) as possible, but no guarantees I'll be able to get telecasts.

But what I can offer is a Ducks54 exclusive: an interview with Team USA forward, and my personal favorite Duck (as if you didn't already know that), Bobby Ryan! Bobby was incredibly gracious and generous with his time, allowing yours truly to get the scoop on a variety of topics, hockey and otherwise. If you submitted a question for me to ask Bobby, chances are, he answered it. Stay tuned here for his answers.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ducks vs Los Angeles Kings

After last Thursday's Kings/Ducks defeat, yours truly was looking for retribution in tonight's contest between the same two teams. This time, we'd be on Ducks home ice. And this time, our hometown heroes wouldn't be playing on the second night of a back-to-back.

Maybe this time, we'd actually win for the first time in this season's Freeway Faceoff series. To add a little more pressure to the situation, the Kings roll into Anaheim riding a 9-game franchise-high winning streak. Our Ducks would hope to snap that streak, and add to their own 9-game home winning streak.

Yours truly was able to attend this game thanks to a generous Duck buddy with an extra ticket, but Baby Rebel was sans batteries. So no pictures tonight.

Even though tonight's contest took place on Duck ice, there were plenty of Kings fans in attendance. Such is always the case. And since the Kings scored first, those fans were even more obnoxious. Such is always the case. But our boys were playing hard. They were aggressive and gritty, putting lots of shots on goal. Just a matter of time.

Before the end of the first, our boys would tie things up with a power play goal from Teemu Selanne on a Kings 3-on-5. Bad penalties for the Kings to take (delay of game with a puck tossed over the glass, followed shortly by too many men on the ice), and Ducks capitalize after shooting repeatedly on Jonathan Quick.

Gotta say, Quick is one helluva goalie, even if he is a Kings goalie. Ducks have multiple chances, and yours truly is left wondering what they're going to have to do to get any more goals here.

We're tied 1-1 starting the second period.

Before the first half is over, our boys pull ahead with two more goals. The first comes off an awesome blind pass from Corey Perry to Ryan Getzlaf who quickly converts. It's a Pears-Getzy beauty, plain and simple.

What would have been the second goal of the period gets waived off. Perry is in the crease to knock a James Wisniewski rebound past Quick. The reason it's waived? "Player in the crease." And somehow, there is no penalty, just a no-goal. The crowd roars its disapproval.

To literally add injury to insult, Getzy twists awkwardly onto his ankle during that play. He disappears to the bench and doesn't return for the night.

Less than a minute later, Ducks get a goal that isn't waived off. It's Saku Koivu, chipping in a rebound from Teemu. He's not in the paint and it's good!

Ducks up 3-1, and there's a bit of a reprieve before the obnoxious King fan behavior starts up again. But just a bit. Kopitar nails one at the end of a Ryan Whitney penalty.

Ducks answer that goal less than 30 seconds later with a beauty of a sniper shot past the Kings defender and Quick's glove. Ducks take their two-goal lead into the second intermission. Yours truly must admit, this was one of the best second periods I've seen our hometown heroes play in a loooong time.

The Kings are expected to come on strong in the third, and that they do. Jonas Hiller is phenomenal, stopping bid after bid. I can feel the tension in the air, how long can he hold them off?

All. Period. Long. Hiller holds strong despite another Whitney penalty, and sees his team snap the Kings' streak while upholding the Ducks' home winning streak.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ducks at Los Angeles, vs Kings

It's no secret that yours truly isn't exactly fond of Los Angeles Kings fans. Granted, they aren't as bad as Red Wings fans, and any half-knowledgeable Duck fan can always rebuke by pointing out that the Kings still have yet to win the Cup, but they're still nasty.

So by default, yours truly also isn't too hot about traveling 2+ hours in traffic to the proverbial lion's den to get heckled by Kings fans on their home turf.

However, a Duck friend offered a free ticket to tonight's contest and who am I to turn down free Ducks hockey?

John T. Meyer, of fame, was also coming along to witness an away game with a small group of Ducks fans.

The game did not have the outcome I'd wanted, but it was encouraging to see the Ducks rally to tie things up in the third, 4-4, and for a while they managed to silence those pesky Kings fans. Unfortunately, victory would not be theirs, and Ducks would fall 4-6 in regulation. Despite the outcome, and despite the heckling, yours truly did get a number of excellent pictures.

So let's just focus on those.

Kings home ice


Davis Gaines sings the national anthem

Jonas Hiller did well between the pipes. I believe our D could've done more to help him out.

I will give kudos to Brett Festerling, who played a gritty, hard-hitting game. Festerling was out there on every shift, hitting anything that moved. It was impressive.

Newcomer Jason Blake would pot his first goal as a Duck during the first period

George Parros engages in a long-winded fight with Ivanans in the first

A very loud Ducks fan (standing) in the next section over thoroughly annoyed all of the Kings fans around him with never-ending cries of "Let's go Ducks!" Priceless

Troy Bodie skating by the bench for high-fives after putting away his third NHL career goal

Ryan Carter (pictured) and Matt Beleskey would also score for the Ducks tonight

Staples Center crew replacing a pane of glass that fell after Ryan Getzlaf placed a huge hit on Matt Greene against the boards

Our hometown heroes will try to take some much-needed Western Conference points away from the Kings again Monday night. This time, our boys will be on home ice. And this time, they won't be playing the second of a back to back.

I'm hoping it'll make a difference.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ducks vs Detroit Red Wings

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 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.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ducks in Florida, vs Panthers

Cruelly, this game isn't being televised anywhere so... there will be no way to check out new acquisition Jason Blake until our hometown heroes come home.

Yours truly is stuck at work, unable to risk even the radio feed. What I do know, Ryan Getzlaf has scored and Teemu Selanne (face encased in a jaw cage) has come right back out onto the ice and scored a power play goal.

Honestly, can nothing stop our phenomenal Finnish Flash??

My understanding is that Jonas Hiller is doing wonderfully between the pipes, and the Panthers have yet to get one behind him.

To make room for Selanne and Blake, youngsters Matt Belesky and Dan Sexton have been sent back down. I hope this doesn't disrupt our currently-hot offensive lines.

Apparently, it won't! At least not tonight. Corey Perry gets a goal before the third period winds down. And Hiller lands another shutout, the first under his new contract extension, 3-0.

Yours truly is feeling bittersweet as our boys finish their road trip. Yes, they're down a veteran goaltender and good friend, but they're also up on hope and faith and a true shot at making the playoffs with a remarkable goaltender secured.

My Zimbio
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