|"Dude, what the hell just happened?"
When the Dallas Stars finished off a 3-1 victory in Edmonton, it hammered home the final nail in the Ducks' coffin, mathematically eliminating them from the 2012 postseason.
But as we looked down at our laptops and phones and got the expected-but-still-sombering news, we ultimately looked back up to the ice and saw an Anaheim team that hardly looked like a non-playoff contender. The Ducks were at that time in the middle of beating a good Sharks team for the fifth time in six games. Teemu Selanne netted a pretty tip-in goal just before that Dallas score became final to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead that eventually turned into a 3-1 final thanks to the weirdest goal we've seen in a long time.
With Antti Niemi sent to the bench for an extra attacker, Corey Perry collected the puck at center ice with an empty net in front of him. Instead of firing the shot, he unselfishly dropped the puck to linemate and friend Ryan Getzlaf, sitting on nine goals since March 2. Getzlaf, with pressure from Brent Burns, actually missed the net with a backhand. The puck hit the end boards and came back to Perry, whose shot was denied by Dan Boyle's slide into the net, knocking it off its pegs. Officials deemed Boyle intentionally knocked the net off and awarded an automatic goal to Perry, leaving him with a sheepish grin and Getzlaf with an incredulous one. (According to Rule 63.6: "When the goal post has been displaced deliberately by the defending team when their goaltender has been removed for an extra attacker thereby preventing an impending goal by the attacking team, the Referee shall award a goal to the attacking team.")
Later in the locker room, Perry walked from the workout room toward curious reporters and said with a smile, "I have no idea. That's all I got."
So in their last game, the Ducks have a puck that goes in the net and is ruled no goal, then three nights later get a goal when the puck never goes in. It's a strange game, and a strange way to end what was a rather gratifying win against a bitter rival, one that knocked the Sharks all the way from the Pacific Division lead into eighth in the West.
But when that victory comes on the same night the Ducks are officially eliminated from the playoffs, the painful question lingers: Where were wins like that in the first three months of this season?
"I think this team really deserved more than we’re getting right now," said Selanne, fully conveying the bittersweet sentiment of the night. "We all know the first half was so bad. The second half we had to do some miracles. It doesn’t really happen in this league very often. That is very disappointing.
"Hopefully everybody remembers this when it’s October and November. Those points, you can’t get them back right now. This league is tough. You have to be consistent and be able to play 82 games. That is why some players and teams are better than others. They find a way to do the job every night."
He paused. "The first half," he said, "we bailed out."
Whether Selanne is part of that team in October, he wouldn't say, but he did joke that he'd be around to remind them about it whether he's in uniform or not. For now, we'll watch these last five games and hope they're not his last five games.
Meanwhile, we'll keep one eye on the out-of-town scores and those Western Conference standings. And if the Sharks don't make the playoffs for the first time in eight years, we'll have the satisfaction of knowing the Ducks had a lot to do with that.
|Hard to believe, but tonight and Sunday and that's it at Honda Center this season.
There is the matter of a fierce rivalry with their in-state foes, and an opportunity to make a serious statement with a fifth win in six games. But there is also the opportunity to do some damage to San Jose's playoff hopes for the second time in nine days.
The Sharks have won three straight after a 5-3 defeat at home to the Ducks a week ago Monday, putting them on top of the Pacific Division -- for now. They're just a point in front of Dallas and Phoenix and two in front of the Kings (the Stars and Kings each tonight). If the Ducks down the Sharks tonight, they could not only lose their lead in the division, but they could tumble as far down the standings as seventh in the West.
And even further motivation comes from the fact that ... well ... our guys simply don't like their guys.
"We like visiting that city," Bruce Boudreau said a day after that satisfying win in San Jose last week. "We hate them, but we like visiting that city."
Asked about the "hate" factor yesterday, the soft-spoken Cam Fowler said, "It's a strong word, but we definitely dislike them. Not to say we don't have respect for them because they're a great team. But the Kings and the Sharks and the Ducks, I think, all have a strong hate for each other. That's just how it is."
Luca Sbisa told the OC Register, "Just as much as we hate the Kings, we hate the Sharks. They're always good, right? They're always up there, and we don't really like that, either. You want to give it to them as much as possible, and I think they want to do the same thing."
Again, the Ducks could be officially closed out from the postseason in the middle of the game tonight, as both LA-Calgary and Dallas-Edmonton drop the puck a half hour before Anaheim-San Jose does. But whatever happens on the NHL scoreboard, that won't influence the Ducks' approach tonight or in any of the last six games.
"We have an obligation to every team in our conference to play the best we can and put the best lineup out every night," Boudreau said this morning. "We're looking to win. We're not looking to get into the lottery, we want to be as good a team as we can the rest of the season."
There is little question that this 2011-12 season is one tinged in frustration. An incredibly difficult first half gave way to a great January and February, but the Ducks ultimately ran out of fuel and now stand on the brink of official elimination.
But while this campaign has been the proverbial rollercoaster ride, one thing that has been consistently refreshing is the presence of head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Since arriving in Anaheim in the beginning of December (after a November 30 hiring), Boudreau has been extremely candid, oftentimes funny, continually kind and generous with his time. Meanwhile, he's maintained a passion for winning that led was reflected in his success in his previous job in Washington, and shined through in Anaheim during most of these last few months.
Boudreau showed a little of that passion Sunday night, when officials overturned what would have been a tying goal in the third period vs. Boston, citing goaltender interference. "Every now and then," he told reporters today, "I lose it.
That fire is the Boudreau his players have seen at times over the years, and which revealed itself during a few salty tirades that aired on HBO's 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic last season. But away from the rink, Boudreau is a soft-spoken, witty 57-year-old father of four (three sons, one daughter). That's a side of him that revealed itself during an enjoyable hour-long Q&A with host Steve Carroll and fans on an episode of the Off the Ice show, taped last week at ESPN Zone and aired on AM 830 radio.
Carroll started off the session by apologizing to Boudreau for interrupting his dinner, to which Boudreau replied, "I don't think you have to worry about me starving."
Asked about jobs he's had outside of hockey (aside from a hockey school he's run for 30 years, which wife Crystal helps with), he spoke about the time he was 16 and he and some friends found a job planting trees.
"So, you're supposed to dig a little hole and plant a pine tree every five feet. By mid-morning, I had gone through two buckets and everyone else had gone through maybe a half bucket. The boss comes up and says, 'You're unbelievable. You're great,' and I said, "Yeah, I'm really scurrying through this. Give me another bucket." So he started to watch me a little more closely, and what I was doing was digging a hole and putting about 12 trees worth in there, just stuffing them in there. He saw that and fired me on the spot. That job didn't go well."
Another time he spent part of a summer working as a bartender in his buddy's pub. "After about a week, I didn't charge anybody for any drinks," he said with a laugh. "I would just be giving drinks out and shots. I just wanted to get everybody drunk. He said, 'This isn't working out well,' and he fired me too.
"I need to stick to hockey. It's the only thing I know, and the only thing I've been able to do well. We've got to keep this gig going for awhile."
On the difference between media here and back East. "In the East Coast, they're not looking for hockey knowledge or looking for the answers. They're looking for dirt. They want to make headlines where you've said something or you're criticizing somebody. This year I sat out Ovechkin for one shift against Anaheim, and it made headlines all across North America the next day because they made it bigger than it was. I wasn't thinking anything except that I wanted to win the game that night, and he wasn't playing that well."
"As to what he's doing next year, I don't think he's going to make up his mind until July. Once he starts taking time off and starts missing it again, he's going to want to play. I don't know what his plan is though. He's got four kids that he follows around all over the place. Whatever it is he decides to do, he's earned the right to do it. The man has given his whole life to hockey."
On having played and coached at so many different levels of hockey: "It really gets you to understand people. That was the biggest thing. Even at the NHL level, to know what a player is going through and be able to put yourself in that's position, I think that's really important. If you can relate to what they feel, then you can understand what they're going through and you know how to treat them, whether to give them a kick in the butt or a pat on the back. You just need to know when to do it.
"The thing that comes to my mind is talking to a player whose wife is pregnant. He's not playing well, and you're asking him what's wrong, and he doesn't want to tell you. Then you talk to another player and he's like, "Listen, Matt hasn't slept in three weeks. He's sleeping in the rollaway because his wife can't sleep and the baby has colic and you're wondering why he has no energy in the game. It's sort of an insight and now you know what the deal is, instead of thinking that he's dogging it or not working."
And on his approach to the remaining games: "I expect to win all [of them]. That's what we thrive on. We've had two bad games since January 1 (6-2 at home vs. Dallas and 4-2 loss to LA on the road). Every other game we're either in the game or winning the game. I don't see why we can't strive to win them all. Until they elimate us, we're gonna go down fighting. Even in the last game of the season, if we're playing somebody and it doesn't mean anything to either team, we want them to think, Holy crap, are they gonna be good next year. That's the situation and that's what's gonna happen.
"I think we have the basis for a really good hockey team for a really long time. I'm excited about being part of Ducks hockey for awhile."
That's something we can all agree on.
Twelve hours later and around here we're still thinking about the goal that was taken away.
The word "frustrating" has been used in this space and elsewhere on a number of occasions to describe Anaheim's 2011-12 season, but frustration reached a whole new level last night.
In a hard-fought battle with the defending champion Bruins, the Ducks appeared to get the tying score with 12:38 left in the third, when Matt Beleskey one-timed a shot from the circle through an Andrew Cogliano screen and past goalie Marty Turco. And although it was immediately ruled a goal on the ice by referee Brad Watson right behind the net, the four officials conferenced afterward and overturned the call. It should be noted that there was not replay review, only the officials discussion, since goaltender interference is not a reviewable offense under NHL rules. Still, it left the Ducks, their fans (among the 17,395 in attendance) and especially Bruce Boudreau absolutely incensed.
Here's the whole thing:
The announcement from PA announcer Phil Hulett was, "No goal. Player in the crease." But being in the crease is only an infraction if a player "maintains a significant position in the crease impairing the goalkeeper's ability to defend his goal." Although Cogliano never made contact with Turco, officials decided he interfered with Turco's ability to make the save.
Cogliano: "At the end of the day, I didn’t touch him whatsoever. "I didn’t know it was goalie interference. I asked the linesman and he said he thought maybe I was impending him from making a save. I thought he was kind of set before the puck went in. The puck was already going in before he was trying to make a save. That is just how it goes."
Boudreau: "There was no explanation given to me. None ... Sure, they got another goal. We would have played completely different if there was a 2-2 tie with 10 minutes to go. We would have tried to take into overtime because one point to us is really important right now."
Indeed, the call hurt even worse when Brian Rolston scored on the rush six minutes later to put the Bruins in front 3-1. And even though the Ducks crawled back on a Lubomir Visnovsky goal with 2:29 left, that was as close as they would get.
The loss left the Ducks on the brink of official elimination, but not quite there, as games from around the league could seal it over the next two nights. But a victory would have been a third straight gratifying one for Anaheim, which slowed the rival Sharks' playoff climb last Monday night, then knocked off the NHL-best Blues on Wednesday. Now the Ducks look at these final six games, starting back here Wednesday night against those same Sharks, this way:
"We'll continue doing what we we're doing, which is playing hard," Boudreau said. "We get a chance to stop San Jose. Let's prevent them from making it. Let's do whatever we can to win."There's a lot of character in that room. So let's show the world (why) we had one of the better records in the NHL from the beginning of January."
Once a year I go and speak to kids at Oak Grove Elementary School in Aliso Viejo, whose principal Mrs. O'Connell-Bogle is a longtime Brady family friend. More than 250 fourth- and fifth-graders gather in the auditorium to listen to me talk about my job and the Ducks in general.
It's always a fun (and ego-boosting) time, especially the question-and-answer session in which the kids get extra motivated because I sprinkle in trivia questions and reward correct answers with foam Ducks pucks. (That tends to cause a near riot, but it's worth it.) They ask questions like, "Who's your favorite player?" or "Where do you sit during the games?" or "What other sports do you like?" One of the kids asked if I was related to Tom Brady, and it took me a couple seconds to decide whether or not to lie and say I was.
I always bring my Ducks Stanley Cup Champions ring when I speak, partly to show it off to the kids and partly because one of the fourth-grade teachers, Mr. Elliott, is a die-hard Kings fan. I make sure to point out to the kids that the Ducks have won a Cup and the Kings never have, and Mr. Elliott inevitably gets his revenge (see below).
I spoke there a few weeks ago, and just yesterday the thank-you notes from all of the kids came pouring in. I read through all of them, which were very nice, and I wish I could answer all of the questions in them. The notes from Mr. Elliott's class all were decorated with a drawing of me wearing Kings gear. Inside, each of the notes contained lines like, "Did you know that the Kings logo is attractive?" or "Did you know the Kings are higher up in the standings than the Ducks?" or "Did you know ducks are far down the food chain?" or all of the above. (Some even apologized on the back, admitting that their teacher made them do it.) Here are some of the better drawings of me in Kings gear:
Some other highlights from the thank-you notes (followed by my comments in italics):
- Dear Adam Bradie...
- I've got a song for you: Brady, Brady you are awesome, Brady, Brady you are awesome, you have the ability to be on stage, Brady, Brady you are aaawesome
Think I could get a CD of that?
- I don't really like writing, but whenever we do it in class, I sometimes get carried away.
You and me both, kid.
- My teacher handed out Ducks reading logs and if you read 120 minutes (like me), at the end of the month you can win two tickets to a Ducks game, a Ducks hat, bookmark, foam puck and pen! It really got me inspired to read very big novels.
- Did you know that ducks are unhealthy?
Not sure how to answer that.
- When you were a kid, I bet when you liked to write about things and draw, and you can type and post pictures now! Time really flies by.
You're telling me.
- That ring was shiny, but those are fake diamonds.
Thanks for that
- Thank you for coming to our school. That's like once in a lifetime.
Not so sure about that.
- Who is the guy under the Ducks mascot costume?
Costume? What do you mean?
- This paragraph is going to have a lot of questions, so get ready! Who is your favorite player on the Ducks? Do you have fun when you write? I think I saw you at a Ducks game before. Do you go to different schools to talk about what you do? Do you hate the Kings? What is your favorite sport to play?
Head is still spinning.
Kelsi P. Donaldson
P.S. I'm a girl
- You're the best Ducks blogger in the world.
Well, top 10 at least.
- I hope you write a lot of good stuff on your blog.
Keep hope alive.
- Adam, you are a cool guy. I wish you were the coach of the Ducks.
I agree with half of that.
|This is what your life was like when you were 19, right?|
Anaheim's first three scorers in a fulfilling 4-3 win over the top-ranked Blues -- Cam Fowler, Nick Bonino and Devante Smith-Pelly -- average 20.67 years of age, and they set the table for relative old guy Jason Blake to net the clincher in the third.
With the Ducks nine back of the eighth spot with seven games left in this topsy-turvy season, meaningful wins are hard to come by. But Anaheim has managed to get a couple in a row, slowing the rival Sharks' postseason climb on Monday night and taking down the team with the NHL's best record last night. The Blues have 100 points, were the first team to clinch a playoff spot when they beat Tampa Bay last Saturday night and came into last night's game with a ridiculous 37-0-1 record when scoring at least three goals.
But the Ducks tarnished that mark, becoming the first team to score four goals on stingy goalie Jaroslav Halak since the Blue Jackets on December 18.
Three different times last night the Ducks went down a goal, and three different times they caught the Blues, taking their first lead when Jason Blake banked one in off the back of defenseman Ian Cole's skate.
"I saw [Evgeni] Malkin do it last night," joked Blake, who was looking to feed a crashing Teemu Selanne. "I knew 'T' was going and I just threw it. Fortunately it went off their defenseman's foot or leg or whatever it was."
To those in the crowd, it looked initially like Selanne might have jammed it in, and even he and Blake weren't sure. "I said, 'That went off you, right?'" Blake said. "And he goes, 'Something hit me. But they've got video, so we'll just check it out.' It was all good fun."
That may not have been the prettiest goal in the world, but the ones that the 20-year-old Fowler, 23-year-old Bonino and 19-year-old Smith-Pelly had definitely were. Fowler hammered home a slap shot on a first period power play after Ryan Getzlaf gave him a nifty between-the-legs touch pass at the point. Getzlaf also came through on Smith-Pelly's big tying goal in the third, pushing his way behind the net before delivering a backhand pass that DSP chipped through. And sandwiched in between those, Bonino picked up a loose puck after Kyle Palmieri's shot was blocked, then expertedly waited out Halak before slinging it just under the crossbar.
Meanwhile, Jonas Hiller did his thing two nights after finally getting a night off, making a number of athletic saves among his 35 on the net, including a few while the Ducks clinged to that one-goal lead over the final six minutes. And the Ducks got a little inspiration from Bruce Boudreau after a sluggish first period that followed a day of only off-ice workouts for the team. He told reporters that he told his guys, "if you're going to play like this after a day off, you won't have any more days off. It's pretty simple We looked like we were in mud. And we were looking in awe at the St. Louis Blues because they're No. 1 in the league."
It's hard to believe, after watching the way they played the last two games, that the Ducks still sit in 12th in the West, well short of a playoff spot with seven to go. (If there ever was such a thing as an at-large berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Anaheim would almost certainly be the top candidate.)
As it is, the Ducks can only look at those last few games and keep giving it all they have.
"I think that's the professional thing to do," Blake said. "It's been obviously a crazy season. We're trying to win hockey games. It doesn't matter if you're in it or out of it or you're fighting or whatever the situation may be."
Said Bruce Boudreau, "I don't think at any point we've just thrown in the towel. It's the same as the season. We were dead and buried in December and January. We're still not eliminated yet."
- - -
If you were in the arena last night or watching the game on TV, you might have seen the feature below on the Ducks getting fitted for the Lady Ducks Fashion Show luncheon, being held today in Newport Beach. The highlight of the video is Lubomir Visnovsky's outfit, complete with blue pants, which leads him to claim, "I'm like business man from Slovakia from 1985." Take a look:
- - -
Last but not least, a great tweet last night regarding the Ducks' diversity:
The same Blues who have made the playoffs just once since the lockout, the same ones who started the season 6-7-0 before firing coach Davis Payne, have 100 points and were the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff spot. The Blues are one of eight teams in the NHL this season to fire their coach, but replacing Payne with Ken Hitchcock (a former Cup winner in Dallas) has had a pretty clear turnaround effect on the team.
Hitchcock took over the team early enough in the season to get the Blues to buy into a defensive-minded system that has them leading the NHL by a mile with just 1.85 goals-against per game. That's why they're a ridiculous 37-0-1 when scoring three or more goals.
They've got a young and talented back end that includes guys like Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk (whose brother Keith happens to be a Ducks staffer), as well as a stellar goaltending duo of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. Elliott leads the NHL with a goals-against average of 1.62 (1.62!) and a .937 save percentage, while Halak is second in goals-against (1.85) and fourth in save percentage (.929). They've pretty much split time in net this season, with Halak having 42 games played to Elliott's 33, but Halak will be in net tonight against the Ducks at Honda Center.
Bruce Boudreau this morning was asked about Halak's playoff performance against his No.1-seeded Washington Capitals in 2010, when the goalie led the Montreal Canadiens to a first round series win in seven games. "I'm still mad at him," Boudreau said, not exactly smiling.
Meanwhile, the Blues don't even have a player among the top 60 scorers in the NHL. Their leading point-producer, TJ Oshie, is currently 69th in the league with 50 points.
"They're a good hockey club," Boudreau said of the Blues this morning. "It's not going to be easy. It never is against these guys."
And get this: The Blues have been doing this all season despite having a pretty decent amount of injury problems. In fact, for the first time this season, St. Louis practiced yesterday at Honda Center with its full opening night roster (and mid-season acquisitions) on the ice, though some of the guys out there aren't ready to play yet. That included Alex Steen, Matt D'Agostini and Kris Russell, who are all out with concussions. Steen has been out since December and has been in California receiving therapy in a hyperbaric chamber.
Also on the ice but questionable was David Backes, who has a foot injury, and definitely out tonight is former Duck Andy McDonald, who has a bad shoulder.
The Blues, who are in the second leg of a seven-game trip, are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, including a 3-1 win over Anaheim at home back on March 8.
Tonight the Ducks look to keep intact that same Ryan-Bonino-Palmieri line that rang up eight points in the 5-3 win in San Jose two nights ago. Look for Devante Smith-Pelly to possibly join Getzlaf and Perry on the top unit. Jason Blake and Niklas Hagman, who were held out of the game in San Jose, are possible to be in the lineup tonight, according to Boudreau. Also, Jonas Hiller looks to be back in there after getting a "rest" following 32 straight starts.
One cool thing if you're at the game tonight: The Ground Zero American Flag will be presented tonight during the national anthem, and later available for viewing on the concourse near Section 209.
|As Ducks prospect Peter Holland tweeted last night: A goal celebration - Can't think of any other situation where it is publicly acceptable for 5 guys to come together and hug it out
For the time being, the Sharks are in the unfamiliar position of being on the outside of the playoff race, sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference. A win last night over the Ducks at home would have, incredibly, vaulted them all the way up to third, since they would have taken over the Pacific Division lead from Dallas.
But the Ducks made sure that wouldn't happen, at least for one night, twice scoring on the shift right after a Sharks goal and lighting the lamp five times in an unfriendly building for a satisying 5-3 win over their rivals. Jeff Deslauriers, who got the surprise start to break Jonas Hiller's string of 32 in a row, was rusty at the start, but got better as the game went on in earning a 27-save win.
"Our team's got a lot of pride and we've played awfully hard from January," said Bruce Boudreau, who has had a pretty good sense of the intra-state rivalries since he got here a few months ago. "Whenever you can sort of derail, a little bit, a California team, you like to do it."
The Ducks have certainly done that this season, having won four of five games against San Jose (they play the final game of their series a week from tomorrow at Honda Center).
Boudreau, who hadn't given any indication after the morning skate that he was going with anyone but Hiller, didn't even tell Deslauriers himself until that morning, reasoning that the 27-year-old “might be a little nervous and not get a good sleep.”
Said Deslauriers, “I was more excited than nervous, but you always have butterflies going into a game. Any game I’m going to play I’m going to have those. That’s normal.”
Boudreau also sat down veterans Jason Blake and Niklas Hagman, and made Bobby Ryan (who just turned 25 on St. Patrick's Day) the "old guy" on a relatively new line with center Nick Bonino (23 years old) and Kyle Palmieri (21).
Last night, the trio (the PBR line, if you will) looked like they'd been playing together forever, combining for eight points -- Ryan had a first-period goal and two assists, Bonino had a career-high three helpers and Palmieri had big second-period insurance goal and an assist.
"It's fun getting a win," Bonino said, "but to do it against the Sharks is that much better."
Palmieri's goal, which gave the Ducks an all-important two-goal cushion late in the second, was a thing of beauty. Ryan gave him a pretty drop pass on the rush, and Palmieri's first shot was knocked down by the stick of Douglas Murray. But the kid followed up by sneaking the puck in behind goalie Thomas Greiss from a bad angle. Take a look:
Meanwhile, Francois Beauchemin pinched in on the power play to get a first period goal, Corey Perry nicely followed up after Ryan Getzlaf was denied on the breakaway, Nate Guenin gave the Ducks three unanswered on his first goal since opening night vs. Buffalo and George Parros beat the tar out of former teammate Brad Winchester.
All in all a pretty good night. The shame of it all is, there haven't been more of those nights in the last few weeks. But if battling a desperate San Jose team in their barn was a challenge, the Ducks will face another one tomorrow night against St. Louis at home. The Blues have surprised everybody by already clinching a playoff spot with a league-high 100 points. It's the first of three straight home games for the Ducks, who have just eight games remaining (four at home and four on the road).
|Too much of this last night.
They all proved troublesome for the Ducks this past weekend at Honda Center, and they've all afflicted them during this rollercoaster season.
A loss Friday night to the KIngs was the fifth in six games with the Ducks' old rivals, and a defeat yesterday evening to a newer rival, the Predators, gave Nashville a season series sweep and six straight wins going back to last year's contentious first-round series.
Friday night, the Ducks had a rough first period against the Kings, falling into a 3-0 hole before valiantly fighting back and coming up just short in the final minutes (getting ultimately done in by an empty-net goal). Last night against Nashville, the Ducks instead jumped in front 1-0 on a beauty of a shorthanded goal by Devante Smith-Pelly. But they couldn't get anything else past goalie Anders Lindback and gave up two to the Preds in the third, then a later empty-netter to clinch it. Playing the second of a back-to-back, Nashville seemingly waited for the Ducks to provide an opening and attacked (I suppose that's why they're called the Predators.)
“They never beat themselves. They hang around," Bobby Ryan said of a very good Predators team. "They just continue to be there and be in your way and chip away at things.
"They’re almost sneaky. Because it doesn’t feel like they’re getting chances and then all of a sudden, it’s a quick one.”
It was a frustrating way to go for the Ducks, especially against two teams you love to beat and hate to lose to, no matter where anyone stands in the race for the playoffs.
Tonight the Ducks turn around and face yet another bitter rival, this time on the road, as they take on the Sharks up in San Jose. The Sharks go into this one in an unfamiliar spot in the standings, ninth place in the Western Conference but just a point out of seventh and eighth with games in hand on both. Despite a recent drought in which they went 3-8-4, they beat Nashville at home on Thursday and Detroit there Saturday. They're actually also just a point out of the Pacific Division lead, which would catapult them to third in the West.
The Ducks would love nothing more than to make sure they go nowhere on that ladder tonight, in what always is an unfriendly building. More than that, they'd like to turn the tide on a frustrating weekend that was the continuation of a tough stretch following that inspiring surge in January and February.
"You learn to hate it and you never want to do it again," Boudreau said. "That's what I get out of it when something like this goes on and you start losing and you get frustrated like we did a little bit at the end there.
"You remember those things for awhile. And you come back, knowing you don't want to go through that feeling again."
Boudreau indicated that Hiller would go again tonight but that backup Jeff Deslauriers, "will play before the year is out. At some point [Hiller] is going to get a rest." He also said that Toni Lydman, who missed last night with an upper body injury, is feeling better and will be available.
That starts tonight with the Ducks-Sharks game at 7 p.m.
Here's a photo you don't see every day (that's Chuy from the Chelsea Lately show, in attendance last night):
|More of this tonight, please.
Two nights ago it was the Red Wings -- a team the Ducks have faced in the postseason five times -- which the Ducks promptly trounced 4-0 at Honda Center. Tonight it's the Kings, a team the Ducks have never battled in the playoffs (the first time they both made it in the same year was last season), but one they have battled 107 times over the years. Sunday it's the Predators, a relatively fledgling rival that was born from a treacherous playoff series last year that Nashville took in six games.
Both rivalries have something in common: No matter where the teams are in the standings it always feels like a playoff game. It's gratifying when the Ducks beat either of those teams. But I enjoy beating the Kings just a little bit more, mostly because of the geographic proximity of LA, meaning we run into their fans just a little more on an everyday basis than we do Wings fans. That's why last year, when the Ducks beat the Kings on back-to-back nights to leapfrog them into the fourth spot in the West, was so exhilarating.
Passing them this season is a little more remote of a possibility, since the Ducks currently trail the Kings by seven points in the standings with 11 games to go. But that doesn't make tonight any less intense, especially since the Ducks have lost four of the first five to LA this season, and Anaheim pretty much needs to win them all from here to the finish line to maintain its postseason hopes.
"It’s a playoff game for us, but playing the Kings, it’s a big rivalry, right?" said Luca Sbisa this morning. "Guys are going to be extra fired up and they’ll be fired up as well. It’s going to be pretty emotional and a fun game to watch.
"It’s going to be a physical, emotional hard-nosed game. The guys like games like this, and the fans do too."
Now whether Sbisa and Corey Perry will play in this game remains to be seen. Bruce Boudreau didn't seem optimistic when he stood in front of reporters this morning, despite the fact both Perry and Sbisa skated with the team. "They’re starting to skate in practice, but I don’t know whether they’ll be back tonight or Sunday," he said. "It looks sooner than later though and not another week. It looks like they’ll play before the San Jose game [Monday]."
Both remain gametime decisions, but with so few gametimes remaining, Boudreau said, "We don’t have the luxury of waiting for anything. If they’re able to play, they can play."
Perry took a few one-timers this morning and said the shoulder, which he injured last Saturday in Dallas, felt "alright." He added, "Each day it feels like it’s getting stronger, so that’s a positive sign. It’s a tough decision. You don’t like sitting out, but you don’t know how it’s going to feel taking a check or whatever. It’s a lot of hockey and a lot of banging and battling for position. It’s playoff hockey, so it’s going to be tough out there. We’ll see how it is."
"It’s tough. It’s been a long time since I missed a game, especially with the dogfight we’re in, to make a push for the playoffs the last 10 or 11 games. It’s definitely not fun watching. Riding the bike and watching on TV isn’t what you enjoy doing."
Asked about his status, Sbisa said, "We’ve done a lot of treatment the past few days. It’s feeling much better, but it’s a gametime decision. I don’t want to say I’ll be able to play and not be out there. We’ll see how it feels tonight.
"You’ve got to be mobile out there, and if you’re not, guys can just take you out. You’ve got to make sure you’re 100 percent because if you’re not, you’ve got guys like Nate Guenin. You don’t want to make a selfish decision and go out there for two or three shifts and then call it a game. If I play, I’ve got to be 100 percent."
Translation: Both of those guys are more likely to be in there Sunday.
Even without both of them on Wednesday, the Ducks looked very strong against the Red Wings, thanks in part to two goals by Kyle Palmieri. The 21-year-old skated with Getzlaf and Perry this morning, and figures to be on the top unit with at least Getzlaf this evening.
Palmieri wasn't even brought up to Anaheim until last Monday (in the wake of Perry's injury) and was leading the AHL with 32 goals. Boudreau was asked today about whether he'll be up here for the rest of the year.
"He’s the best scorer in that league, so you’ve got to weigh one versus the other," he said. "You’ve got to think about Anaheim first, but at the same time, do we know him well enough to know where we slot him next year? Every day you take it and see where it is. If he keeps doing what he did last game, he’s not going anywhere."