(P.S. I'm convinced that if I had a sweet playroom like that when I was a kid, my life would have gone in an entirely different direction.)
|"It was about time," Hiller said, "we finally win a shootout."
Hate it or love it, the shootout can be the ultimate in enjoyable agony, and last night was the epitome of that. It took eight excruciating rounds for the Ducks to earn an amazing 14th straight home victory against the Calgary Flames, dating way back to January 19, 2004. More importantly, it was a win Anaheim desperately had to have.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's an extra point to move up on teams," said Bobby Ryan, who had the first goal in the Ducks' 3-2 decision. "But I think that's the most critical shootout we've ever been in. You could feel it down the bench, that's for sure."
Not only that, it was Anaheim's first shootout win since Ryan won it for them way back on October 8 against the Rangers in Helsinki. Since then, the Ducks had gone 0-4 in the shootout and another 0-4 in overtime (including Calgary last month).
"Yeah, it was about time we finally win a shootout," said Jonas Hiller, who was a major reason they finally did. He stopped six of eight Calgary attempts, including a few that would have clinched it for the Flames. The Ducks couldn't breathe easy until he made a stop on Mikael Backlund, but had to reach behind his own body to shoo the trickling puck away from goal line. That more than made up for the fact the Ducks lost a 2-1 lead in the third period and dodged a couple of close calls in overtime. (They actually almost won it themselves in the extra period when a quick Teemu Selanne shot got under goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and hit the very inside of the far post.)
"We really needed those two points," Hiller said. "We really wanted it. It wasn't an easy game. I think both teams played really hard. You could see it out there. Both teams really wanted those points.One point more or less, especially in the situation we’re in, can be between having a chance to make the playoffs and being out of the playoffs. I knew it was really important. I really wanted it."
The Ducks only got in position to win on Hiller's save because of Niklas Hagman, Anaheim's eighth shooter on the night after only Ryan and Corey Perry had successful shootout bids. Hagman sprinted in on countryman and former Calgary teammate Kiprusoff, and waited just long enough to get the goaltender sprawling before lifting a wicked wrist shot past him.
"It's a goalie that I've practiced a lot against quite a bit," said Hagman, who played in Calgary from 2010 until he was acquired by the Ducks last fall. "I don't have that many moves. He knows my go-to moves. I tried to switch it up a little bit.
"I wanted to come with good speed and I wanted to shoot it. Luckily for me, he probably thought that I'm going to go with my backhand."
(Kiprusoff was going for his 300th career win and his first in Anaheim as a member of the Flames. He actually earned his second NHL win in what was then known as the Pond as a member Sharks on April 8, 2001. Since then he is 0-6-3 lifetime at Honda Center in the regular season.)
"We needed that one pretty bad," said Bruce Boudreau, whose Ducks pulled to within 10 points of a playoff spot. "I’m sure in the last 30 games there are going to be a lot of games like that around the league, which is what makes hockey so great."
And even if that gut-twisting overtime and shootout took a year off all of our lives, or at least made us lose a little bit of hair, maybe in the end it was all worth it. That, as well, is what makes hockey so great.
|This overtime win last March made it 13 in a row at home vs. Calgary.
Cam Fowler was just 12 years old and Teemu Selanne had less than 450 goals when the Flames last won in Anaheim a 5-1 victory on January 19, 2004. No one could have predicted it would be their last win here for the next eight years, although, that Calgary win ended a nine-game winless stretch that had dated back to January 13, 1999. (It's important to point out, also, that the Flames did take Game 3 of the first round series at the former Pond in 2006, a series the Ducks ultimately won in seven.)
To presume that lengthy streak has much to do with what will go on tonight is silly. After all, the only guy who played in that game who will also suit up tonight is Toni Lydman (and he was playing for Calgary at the time). Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, who will be in there for the Flames tonight, were actually both out with injuries in that '04 game.
So, as Jerry Seinfeld might say, it's really the Ducks' clothes that have dominated the Flames' laundry all these years.
"None of that stuff matters when it comes down to it," Ryan Getzlaf told the OC Register. "Every time you step on the ice (against them), it's usually a new team from year to year. We've got to make sure that we continue it."
Said Iginla to the Calgary Herald, "We go in with the mindset that we're due to win in there, right? As far as guys thinking, ‘Oh, we haven’t won there in forever.’ That’s not (true, except) for a few of us, you know what I mean? Other guys have only played three, two games in there (as Flames).”
So history means very little tonight, as both the Ducks and Flames could desperately use a win -- though Anaheim is a bit more desperate than Calgary. The Ducks know their margin for error is dwindling by the day, after losing last Wednesday to the Stars and getting only a point against the Blue Jackets last Friday. Anaheim is 12 points back of Minnesota in the eighth spot, with five teams between them and that plateau. That includes these Flames, who are four points back.
"We're in that position," Bruce Boudreau said yesterday. "We've just got to play one game at a time. You can't look at the big things because it'll be overwhelming if you look at the whole picture."
This morning, for the second straight day, Matt Beleskey skated with the second line while Niklas Hagman was moved to the fourth unit. The combos looked like this:
| MORE PHOTOS
This year’s version of the Anaheim Ducks Skills Showdown had an even bigger crowd, even more fun moments and even more laughs, as more than 7,000 fans enjoyed the event Saturday afternoon at Honda Center.
Season ticket holders were let into the building early, where they were treated to a Q&A with Ducks boss Bob Murray and coach Bruce Boudreau. Questions were taken from a collection that attendees had submitted in advance online, and among the quips from Boudreau was this one on what he thinks it will take to make the playoffs: "I do this math every single day. Unfortunately, I count on all the other teams to lose.
“We have to go on a pretty good run. We've broken it down into segments. It's feasible, we just have to beat teams ahead of us."
He added, “This is why coaches and GMs lose their hair..." then turned and looked at Murray to the delight of the crowd.
There was one question asking Boudreau about his experience doing the HBO 24/7 show last season when he was Washington’s coach. "It was fun,” he said, “until I watched it...I didn't realize I swore that much until my mom phoned me and chewed me out."
After the 30-minute chat, the general public poured into Honda Center as the players warmed up, split into Team Black (captained by Teemu Selanne) and Team White (Corey Perry). The earliest indication it would be a fun day came when tiny little Samuel Beauchemin (Francois' 5-year-old son) skated with the Ducks, and at one point went in and scored on Jonas Hiller one-on-one. (You'd be hard-pressed to find something more adorable than this in a hockey rink.)
Some bigger kids were among the youth players that led off some of the skills events, which included: King of the Breakaway, Fastest Skater, Nothing But Net, Accuracy Shooting, Hardest Shot and Obstacle Relay.
When all was said and done, Selanne’s Team Black won for the second straight year and retained the ugly ceramic pig trophy that was picked out last year for the event.
“We tried to keep the competition even and close, but my team had more passion and skills,” Selanne said tongue-in-cheek afterwards. "In the end, it paid off.”
POST-SKILLS COMMENTS | EVENT HIGHLIGHTS
There were some accusations of cheating during the Accuracy Shooting, to which Selanne said, “We have a little thing going here: If you don’t cheat, you’re not trying hard enough. But it was a fun day.”
Some of that fun came from Boudreau, who joined hosts Steve Carroll and Kent French as an in-arena analyst. He didn’t hesitate to rip his own guys, taking a shot at Matt Beleskey’s long hair and saying of Sheldon Brookbank during the breakaway event, “I can see why Sheldon hasn’t scored a goal this season.”
As several Ducks looked impressive during the Accuracy Shooting, Boudreau had last night’s 3-2 loss to Columbus on his mind when he cracked, “Where were these guys last night?”
That accuracy event was seized for the second straight year by, of all people, George Parros. Georgie nailed all four corner targets in a row, the second straight year he’s done that. “I’ve won three years in a row,” said Parros, including the skills competition at the First Flight Field Trip event for kids. “That’s no coincidence … Not everyone is cut out for this event though.”
Perry immediately matched Parros by hitting the targets with his first four shots, but there was some controversy because he didn’t actually break the first one. “Corey Perry shoots muffins,” Selanne said, “and he can’t even break the coin.” (I like that Teemu calls the foam target a "coin." It's a little bigger than that.)
Of Parros' victory, Boudreau said, "It just goes to show that anybody can win at anything."
Some other highlights:
- Perry pulling out the mini-stick (just like at last weekend’s skills competition at the All-Star Game) to score during the King of the Breakaway event. Remarked Boudreau, "It's great he could score with Jason Blake's stick."
- Cam Fowler winning the Fastest Skater at 14.06, edging Lubomir Visnovsky (14.07). Said Fowler, "He'll probably just tell you he was tired or that he didn’t have his legs." (By the reaction of his teammates, that’s a common Lubo line.)
- The new Nothing But Net event, which required one player to flip pucks from the crease to a teammate trying to catch them in a basket attached to a stick. Both the Perry-Nick Bonino and Beleskey-Parros duos got four out of five.
- During the Hardest Shot, Selanne challenging Saku Koivu, then edging him 92.5 to 91.6 Ryan Getzlaf won the event with a 99.3 mph shot, leading commentator Brian Hayward to ask him if that might convince him to shoot more. That brought a huge roar from the crowd.
- Team Black capturing the Obstacle Relay (players zig-zagging with the puck through cones) and hanging on for the 12-10 victory, with Selanne holding up the ceramic pig and the team posing for a rather Stanley Cup-like group photo with it.
“It was similar to when I hoisted the Stanley Cup,” said Selanne with only a hint of sarcasm. “It’s pretty heavy too, but again, you have to earn this. This little pig came home.”
For Boudreau, it was his first time being involved in an event like this, as they hadn’t adopted it in Washington. “That was pretty cool,” he said. “Especially in Southern California, where we’re trying to grow the sport, it’s great to have events like this. With my personality, I wanted to be involved and make it as interesting as possible for these fans. The guys had smiles on their faces and showed how much they love doing it, even after a tough game last night. They came out here and did a great job. That’s what hockey players are all about.”
Said Selanne, “It was a fun day. It was great that so many people showed up again. It’s nice to have fun and give a little extra for the fans.”
|Let it snow...
Wednesday night, as the Ducks were losing to the Stars 6-2 in Anaheim, the Jackets suffered a 3-2 defeat at Los Angeles. The game ended in controversial fashion when a last-second Drew Doughty goal appeared to come after the clock stopped for a full second in the final moments.
It was yet another blow in a rough season for the Blue Jackets, who come into Anaheim having lost six in a row. Part of the reason for their demise is a ton of injuries, but they did activate major offseason acquisition Jeff Carter yesterday after he missed 10 games with a separated shoulder suffered in the last Ducks-Jackets game, on Jan. 8.
That game was one of the catalysts for a nice 9-1-1 run for the Ducks, and a six-game home winning streak that was halted Wednesday night vs. Dallas. Bruce Boudreau spoke a bit about that off night with the media after yesterday's optional practice.
"We alluded to that this morning in the meeting," he said. "You can see it creeping it and we have made mention of it. We played so, so good until the Ottawa game. Then, I thought we played average at best in the Colorado game, but won. Then, we lost in Dallas. We played okay, but didn’t play at the level we had. We had the break and then played against Phoenix. I thought our first period was substandard. We won, but we played okay. Then, we had last night. We have to rectify that. We haven’t let it slide without noticing. It’s time to get back up to the top."
The Ducks have improved their position since that January 8 vs. Columbus, which they entered just one point in front of last-place Blue Jackets. In that game, Jonas Hiller left in the first period with an injury, Iiro Tarkki came in and earned his first NHL win and Corey Perry threw in a hat trick as the Ducks won a second straight game for the first time since mid-October.
A fully healthy Hiller will be back in there tonight and the Jackets will have to decide between Wednesday night's starter Curtis Sanford (three straight wins vs. Anaheim and a 2.34 GAA) or Steve Mason (3-1-0 with a 3.64 GAA in five career starts at Honda Center, despite being pulled in the last game there).
For the Ducks, Perry and his linemates need to get things going, as none of the RPG line has registered a point in the last three contests. In typical (and likeable) Boudreau fashion, he made a timely other-sport reference in talking about getting those guys going.
"You’re not going to win unless your best players are your best players," he said. "That is the simple fact on any team in any organization. If Eli Manning stinks the place up this week, I don’t care how good the Giants defense is, they’re not going to win. The same with Tom Brady. It’s the same in any sport. You look at the NBA Finals. LeBron wasn’t exactly very good and how did they do? We need our best player to be our best players."
So what do you do?
"I have to believe you challenge them a little bit," he said. "I brought a few of them in today and said 'We need you to better.' We aren’t going to win unless they are better. It’s great to have a lot of our role players playing great, but the great players have to be the great players. Everybody sees it. It’s not just out there that we’re winning and getting by. No matter who you are, if you’re best players aren’t your best players, you’re not successful. They can work really hard and do all the right things, but they have to start producing."
Boudreau confirmed this morning that Jason Blake will be in the lineup after recovering from his foot injury and that Devante Smith-Pelly (broken foot suffered at the World Juniors) could return next week.
Minnesota beat Colorado 1-0 last night, so the Ducks enter tonight's game 12 points behind the Wild for the eighth spot.
Sometimes you need nothing more than the coach's words to describe things, in this case a discouraging 6-2 loss at home to the Dallas Stars.
"We played bad tonight," Bruce Boudreau said bluntly. "It wasn’t fun to watch."
Indeed, the momentum the Ducks had generated from a run of 9 wins in 11 games, from an emphatic 4-1 win on the road out of the All-Star break, was restrained by last night's defeat. And it didn't help that it once again came at the hands of the Stars, who edged the Ducks 1-0 before the break and now represent the only two regulation losses the Ducks have suffered in the last 12 games.
"I thought we played 12 really good games in a row," Boudreau said. "Tonight, we didn’t. We stunk."
Actually, things did begin promisingly for Anaheim last night, as they went on top early when Matt Beleskey's shot from the point caromed off Stephane Robidas' boot and got past Kari Lehtonen. (At first glance, it appeared Andrew Cogliano got his blade on it, which would have been a nice follow-up to his hat trick the night before.)
But things went south from there, in large part because of some carelesness with the puck. Dallas scored three unanswered -- two coming off Luca Sbisa turnovers -- and never looked back. Yes, the Ducks went into the third down two goals, but their hopes were quickly dashed by a Sheldon Souray goal just 36 seconds in that made it 5-2 and many any comeback doubtful.
"We battled back, had a lot of energy in the second period and thought we could turn this game around," said Sbisa, who took responsbility for those two Dallas goals in the first. "In the first shift of the third period they got a goal and that kind of knocked the wind out of us. At the end of the day, we can’t be happy with ourselves."
Last night's loss meant the Ducks remained 10 points behind the Wild in the eighth spot with 32 games to go. A big hill to climb? Certainly. Impossible? Well, the Ducks themselves are trying to show they still have faith any way they can.
Yesterday each player was given this t-shirt, which reads I BELIEVE on the front and MIRACLES DO HAPPEN on the back.
|"Bring on the hats! ... What? No hats? Fair enough."
Cogliano had a rather astonishing hat trick -- three straight goals in a span of 6:51 -- to lead the Ducks to an emphatic 4-1 victory over the Coyotes last night in Glendale. Cogliano's second period goals not only gave the Ducks a lead they never surrendered, but they marked his first career hat trick in 377 NHL games (all consecutive, by the way). It was also the second-fastest hat trick in Ducks history, behind the one Bobby Ryan reeled off in 2:21 over two periods in LA in 2009 (surely you remember the third one).
Cogliano got the first one after goalie Mike Smith got caught behind the net, and Matt Beleskey (back from his hand injury) took the puck away from him and fed Cogliano for the easy tap-in. That was just the start of a rough night for Smith, who gave up the second straight to Cogliano halfway through the second on a wrist shot that snuck through on the short side. The third came a few minutes later, as Cogliano darted behind the Yotes defense and backhanded a shot through that Smith immediately agonized over.
Here's a look at all three:
Afterward, Bruce Boudreau joked, "It might have been the ugliest hat trick I've ever seen."
Cogliano, meanwhile, estimated that his last hat trick came at the Junior A level, while with something called the St. Michael’s Buzzers. ”I scored four goals in one game," he said. "Other than that nothing in college or the NHL.”
He came ever-so-close to getting a fourth last night too. Cogliano had a couple of chances for a fourth goal later in the game, none more apparent than when the Coyotes emptied their net for an extra attacker down 3-1 late. Teemu Selanne strutted with the puck toward the abandoned net, and either didn't see Cogliano behind him or elected not to rub salt in the Phoenix wounds, dropping the puck in himself to seal the victory. (Faced with a similar situation back on January 10 vs. Dallas, Selanne was able to leave the puck to Saku Koivu for the empty-netter that gave him a hat trick.)
"'T' can do," Cogliano said, "whatever he wants."
Either way, it was a satisfying road win for the Ducks over a Phoenix team that is similarly trying to claw its way toward that coveted eighth spot in the West. Last night's win inched the Ducks to within 10 points of the Avs in eighth. Yes, there is still a long way to go, and wins have to come in bunches for Anaheim, like they did last month.
They've had little time to savor last night's victory though, as they jetted right back to Orange County, where they take on the Stars tonight at home.
Dallas represents one of the few bumps in the road of a 9-1-1 run for Anaheim over the last 11 games. Dallas edged the Ducks 1-0 on January 24 in the last game before the All-Star break, snapping a five-game Stars skid. That game and a crushing 1-0 overtime loss in Calgary earlier in the month is all that's kept the Ducks from a 11-game win streak. Just saying. (Again, another reason it's fun to be a Ducks fan right now -- when that's something you can quibble over.)
Oddly enough, this is the first game for the Stars since that slim victory over Anaheim. The break has come at a good time for them, not only because they had been struggling before that win (seven goals in the last six games), but because they had some time to get guys healthy. No. 2 scorer Jamie Benn came back from an emergency appendectomy and played in the All-Star game. Pesky Mike Ribeiro played in that Ducks game for the first time since going down with an MCL injury on January 7. Captain Brenden Morrow, who missed that January 24 game with a neck/shoulder issue, was taken off IR during the break. Stephane Robidas looks to be close to 100 percent after recovering from a foot injury.
For the Ducks, Jason Blake will be out for the second straight game with his foot injury, and Kyle Palmieri was just recalled from Syracuse in case it's more serious.
Kari Lehtonen, who earned his first career shutout in that win over Anaheim before the break, will be in net tonight, according to coach Glen Gulutzan. Lehtonen did more than let one in during that Koivu hat trick game at Honda Center three weeks ago, a resounding 5-2 victory for the Ducks.
A reminder, tonight's puck drop will be at 7:35 p.m. Pacific, rather than the normal 7:05 p.m. time for Ducks weekday games.
|The last time the Ducks were in Glendale? They had a different coach and all the players had mustaches. Times have changed a bit.
Anaheim's week-long hiatus dictated by the All-Star break ends tonight when they take on the Coyotes in Phoenix (or rather, Glendale) at 6:00 our time. (Reports out of Glendale indicate that Corey Perry will reportedly be using a full-sized stick the entire game.)
For the Ducks, it's not only the first game out of the break, but hopefully the continuation of a major push to get into playoff position. That push started in early January, when the Ducks reeled off an 8-0-1 stretch to go from 20 points out of the eighth spot to 11. But it hit a slight bump in the road when the Ducks were edged 1-0 in Dallas a week ago today, the last game before the break. They go into the final 34 games of the season 12 points behind Minnesota's eighth slot.
“Everybody in the room knows what we have to do,” Bruce Boudreau said after holding a late-afternoon practice session in Glendale yesterday. (It was a practice, by the way, that All-Star Corey Perry took part in after hustling back from Ottawa.) “We’ve known what we’ve had to do for a month now. Everybody’s sense of urgency is at different times in the year, as far as teams go. There are teams that haven’t reached their sense of urgency yet. We reached ours earlier than most teams.”
The Coyotes have fallen three points out of playoff position thanks to a swoon that has coincided slightly with the Ducks' hot streak. The Yotes are 4-7-5 in their last 16 games, including a 6-2 rout by the Ducks a couple weeks ago at Honda Center.
While the break came at a time the Ducks were playing their best hockey, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said yesterday it was a welcome respite for his club. “We needed the break bad,” Tippett said. “Our group has been exhausted for a couple of weeks. I think within a six-week period, we were 28,000 miles traveled, which is unheard of in the League. I can't ever remember a stretch like this.”
Said Boudreau, “They’re in a state or urgency as well right now. And they know that we’ve beaten them the last two times we’ve faced them. It should make for a good game.”
Jason Blake, still struggling with that leg/foot injury, did not skate this morning and is questionable. Meanwhile, Matt Beleskey did skate this morning as he recovers from a hand injury suffered in the same game, but his status for tonight is still uncertain.
“It’s getting there,” Beleskey told the OC Register yesterday. ”It’s coming back. I wouldn’t rule it out. It’s just a little sore still.”
The reigning MVP shined during the Breakaway Challenge during Saturday's Skills Competition at Scotiabank Place. He led off his first of two attempts with a lacrosse move where he carried the puck on his blade before losing it at the last moment and backhanding it past goalie Brian Elliott. On his third try, he revealed something even more creative -- and downright funny.
Just as it looked like he was going to skate in on net, Perry stopped, threw away both gloves and his stick, and pulled a mini stick out of his gear. He then bent way low to move in on Elliott, hilariously deking right and left before Elliott graciously bailed out of net as Perry sent it through from his knees.
Here's the video of both moves:
Unfortunately, Perry was beat out by Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, who boldly donned a Superman cape and Clark Kent glasses (although everyone knows you don't wear those at the same time). Kane then slid headfirst on his belly before tapping the puck past a playing-along Elliott (here's that video). Kane ended up winning with 47 percent of the fan votes.
Yesterday, Perry's goal in the third period was one of three quick ones in the third that helped Team Chara to a 12-9 victory in a typically laid-back, high-scoring All-Star Game.
Check out all the photos of Perry from the weekend here.
Also during the packed weekend for Corey, he managed Friday to meet up with some family and friends at a relative's house not too far from Scotiabank Place. You can read about that in Eric Stephens' nice piece in the OC Register, which includes this from Corey's dad Geoff.
"To the guys around, he's just Corey Perry," he said. "He's just one of the boys. Yeah, he's won a Hart Trophy but we don't dwell on it. He won that back in June and that was for last year. That's the way he goes about things. Just takes them in stride and goes forward."Corey just wants to be Corey. He doesn't want any special treatment. The Corey Perry that left here to go play junior hockey is the same person."
As far as getting back to regular Ducks hockey, the team is headed to Phoenix, where they play the Coyotes tomorrow night.
|Perry reportedly created those lights with his mind.
Like last year, the draft will divide the 38 All-Stars and 12 rookies into two teams for the game on Sunday. Team Alfredsson is led by captain Daniel Alfredsson of the All-Star host Senators and assistant captain Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. Team Chara is led by captain Zdeno Chara of the Bruins and assistant captain Joffrey Lupul of the Leafs.
In last year's draft, Perry was taken in the 15th of the 18 rounds by Team Staal. But coming off a Hart Trophy season in 2010-11 and the fact that good buddy and former teammate Lupul is helping with the selecting for Team Chara, you can bet he'll go higher this year.
From the NHL: The teams will compete in the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition™, at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m., ET, and the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL® All-Star Game, at Scotiabank Place on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 4 p.m., ET. Live television coverage of both events will be provided by NBC Sports Network in the United States.
A coin toss will decide first pick, with Alfredsson and Chara, joined by their assistant captains, alternately drafting the 38 remaining All-Stars through 19 rounds. Each team will consist of three goaltenders, six defensemen and 12 forwards. To ensure that the final draft picks are true selections and not simply predetermined due to position requirements, each team's three goalies must be picked by the end of Round 10 and each team's six defensemen must be picked by the conclusion of Round 15.
The 12 Rookies participating in the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition will be divided by the National Hockey League into two groups of six. At the completion of the 15th round of the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft, one NHL Rookie will be selected to choose which All-Star team his group will join for the skills competition.