POSTED ON Monday, 05.21.2012 / 10:43 AM
With their bitter rivals from up the freeway blasting through this postseason -- 11 wins in 13 games and one win away from the Stanley Cup Final -- your average Ducks fan probably can't help but reminisce.
It was five years ago this spring that the Ducks seemingly steamrolled their way through the 2007 playoffs on their way to a Stanley Cup triumph. Those Ducks went 16-5 over the likes of Minnesota, Vancouver, Detroit and Ottawa, with a lineup that included three definite Hall-of-Famers and had at least one promiment hockey writer calling them the best team of all time. A sample:
That Ducks team featured three sure-fire Hall of Famers in Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne; an incredibly potent kid line featuring Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner; two excellent goalies in J-S Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov; tons of toughness and the premier shutdown line of Sammy Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen.
But as good as those Ducks were, it's fascinating to think how even they needed some good fortune that postseason to earn the right to lift that Cup. That's the nature of hockey and the nature of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, how the smallest breaks, tiniest bounces can be the difference between getting your name on that Cup and being just a contender that came oh-so-close.
And if you're into anniversaries, you may just have been reminded of that fact yesterday. For it was on May 20, 2007 -- Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena -- that made all the difference for that legendary Ducks team.
Unable to muster anything against Red Wings goalie Dominic Hasek, the Ducks were in desperation mode down 1-0 in the closing moments of the game, in danger of going down 3 games to 2. But Pavel Datsyuk was called for interference with 1:47 remaining and the Ducks pulled J.S. Giguere to give them a 6-on-4 skating advantage. And then this happened:
Scott Niedermayer's shot from the slot clicked off the stick of Nicklas Lidstrom and fluttered past Hasek with 47.3 seconds remaining to tie the game, with the usually graceful Niedermayer falling on his face just before getting mobbed by his teammates. It's unquestionably the biggest goal in Anaheim Ducks history, followed closely by this one:
In overtime, Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja turns the puck over with pressure from Andy McDonald, Selanne picks it up, goes familiarly to the backhand and pops the water bottle 11:57 into OT to give the Ducks the shocking victory. (I was in the building that day and five years later I can still recall the sounds of Detroit fans cursing and banging the backs of the seats in front of them after that goal.)
Two days later the Ducks won Game 6 at home -- another good break for that team, as Detroit clawed back from a 3-0 deficit and nearly tied the game in the closing moments of a 4-3 Anaheim win. Fifteen days after that, the Ducks were Stanley Cup champs.
POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 2:38 PM
You may have missed it since it happened during today's play in the IIHF World Championships in Helsinki, but Bobby Ryan had another gorgeous goal to add to his already crowded career highlight package.
Playing (with Cam Fowler and Kyle Palmieri) for Team USA against Luca Sbisa's Switzerland side, Ryan showed the skills he's developed after years of playing warmup soccer with his teammates. A Max Pacioretty pass from behind the net was much too high for Ryan to get a stick on, so he kicked the puck to himself with the left boot, than batted it in out of mid-air.
Check out the video, along with Fowler's pretty tap-in goal that helped USA to a 5-2 victory over the Swiss and a No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals.
Team USA faces Finland in the quarters on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Pacific, a game that will be televised on NBC Sports Network. Team Canada (with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry) plays Slovakia at 3 a.m. Pacific. (If you're up at that ungodly hour, it will also be on NBC Sports Network.)
POSTED ON Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 2:28 PM
It's a well-deserved gesture to a coach who quickly made himself at home in this organization, and led the Ducks to a 27-23-8 record after taking over for Randy Carlyle on the night of November 30. He also helmed a blazing January and February that had the Ducks playing as well as any team in the league after a wickedly frustrating first half of the season.
Off the ice, Boudreau could hardly be a more likeable guy, friendly with fans and media alike, often funny and always willing to do what he can to promote hockey and the Ducks in Orange County and beyond. I've always thought the biggest compliment you can give a person of stature (athletes, celebrities, etc.) is that they "get it," meaning they understand the importance of being cheerful and engaging with the public. Teemu Selanne is a guy who "gets it." And Bruce Boudreau absolutely "gets it."
Today he had a conference call with media from his offseason home in Washington, DC and was his jovial self. After the Ducks PR guy introduced Bruce on the call, he got on the line and said, "Atta boy, way to work."
He was asked how the deal came together and said that although he and Ducks boss Bob Murray had been talking about it for awhile, "At the same time it took 10 minutes. We haven't been in the same place at the same time much this offseason. We finally met in Toronto last week, went an saw an AHL game together and just chatted.
"We both have the same vision and we're on the same page, so it seemed like a good idea. I think this team has just started going where we want to go. We competed with all the teams that are in the playoffs now."
Asked how much the extension adds some stability, he replied, "You put enough pressure on yourself to win all the time, but at the same time it's important to have stability and have the players know that someone is going to be around for a long time.It's always great that the GM and ownership have that much faith in you, and it's my job to justify it."
The conversation turned to the Western Conference Finals between the Kings and Coyotes and Bruce was asked for his pick, once again showing a firm grasp of the Anaheim-LA rivalry. "As much as I didn't really want to do it, I picked LA to win the West," he said. "I thought they were the toughest team we played, especially down the stretch when teams had to win.
"Whatever it is, a new team is going to be in the Final for the first time in a long time, and I think that's great for hockey. I'm happy that it will grow hockey in Southern California, and to me that's really important for the game. But, I've got to be honest, I'm not going to sit here and say I hope they win. It all depends on who their opponent is in the Final, by the way."
That drew a laugh from the media on the call, since Boudreau's old employer, the Capitals, is heading toward a Game 7 with the Rangers right now.
He went on further about the Kings: "My feelings are going to be day to day. Is it motivation for us if they do win? Is it going to make the rivalry more intense because we won one and they won on the last five years, two California teams winning the Cup since 2007? They haven't won anything yet, so they've got a ways to go, but the way they played the first two series, it's not out of the realm."
No matter what effect the Kings' success has on the already passionate Ducks-Kings rivalry, it sure is nice to know we'll have Boudreau on our side for (at least) the next three seasons.
POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 11:05 AM
In case you missed it last night, the Phoenix Coyotes wiped out the Nashville Predators in five games to earn their first-ever berth in the Western Conference Finals and a series with the Kings.
It's a testament to the strength of the Pacific Division that those two teams have advanced to the NHL's version of the Final Four. Sure, this year's division champ (Phoenix) had a lower point total than the other division winners (Vancouver and St. Louis). But the three-way battle for that division title (which included San Jose) wasn't decided until the last day of the regular season, and it's largely due to fact that each of the Pacific's teams beat up on each other all year.
For example, the Ducks went 3-3-0 against the Coyotes this season, and 5-1-0 against the Sharks, who finished seventh in the Western Conference. (Although, Anaheim was a disappointing 1-3-2 versus LA this campaign.)
While both Western Conference finalists are considered "division rivals" of the Ducks -- and there is unquestionable disdain between the Ducks and Kings, not to mention Ducks/Sharks -- it's pretty hard to hate the Coyotes. As a hockey fan, how do you not root for Phoenix (as long as they're not playing the Ducks), when you consider the distractions they've overcome to become among the class of the Western Conference?
For the past several years, the team has endured bankruptcy (ultimately being purchased by the NHL in 2009) and constant rumors of being relocated to other cities, including the likes of Winnipeg, Quebec, Hamilton, Ont., and Seattle. Through it all, they've managed to win hockey games -- a lot of hockey games. Since making the change behind the bench to former Dallas coach Dave Tippett, the team has made the playoffs each of the last three seasons. Now they've advanced the conference finals for the first time since they entered the NHL as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979.
(Plus they used to have Bryz, and we've always liked Bryz.)
You would get no argument in proclaiming that yesterday was the best day in Phoenix Coyotes history. In the afternoon before Game 5 against the Preds, they held a press conference in which NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the team would be purchased by a group led by Greg Jamison, former CEO of the Sharks. Not only that, the intent of that ownership group will be to keep the team in its current home in Glendale.
A few hours later, the Yotes took down Nashville 2-1 in front of a sellout crowd at Jobing.com Arena in which everyone wore white. (Well, almost everybody. I believe you may recognize Mr. and Mrs. Tennis Ball, whom you can see during every Ducks game at Honda Center? They apparently made the road trip for this one.)
With the Kings having pulled off a mildly surprising sweep of the No. 2-seeded Blues on Sunday, we've got what should be a thrilling Western Conference Final that will start sometime this weekend (schedule won't be released until later this week).
What sounds better to you? Stanley Cup Champion Phoenix Coyotes or Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings?
I think I know the answer but give us an answer below anyway and feel free to elaborate in the Comments.
POSTED ON Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 1:07 PM
Bruce Boudreau is currently writing a playoff blog for the LA Times, in which he begrudgingly admits he likes the Kings (currently up 2-0 in their conference semifinal series with St. Louis) to come out of the West:
It’s hard to say this, but the most impressive team so far has been the Kings. I’ve said from the beginning of the playoffs, they are as well-rounded a team as there is right now. Darryl [Sutter] does a really good job implementing his system and makes great adjustments during the course of a game. It’s quite a battle when you face them.
Boudreau writes that he believes it will be Kings-Rangers for the Cup.
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In case you didn't already know, six Ducks are playing in the IIHF World Championships IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships, which will be played May 4-20.
Bobby Ryan, Cam Fowler and Kyle Palmieri will skate for USA, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf with Canada and Luca Sbisa with Switzerland. While the preliminary and quarterfinal rounds of the tournament will be split between sites in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden, all six of the Ducks will only be playing at games in Helsinki at Hartwall Arena. The semifinal and medal round games will also take place exclusively in Helsinki.
Here's a schedule of the games involving the Ducks. Games involving Team USA (including Saturday's match with Team Canada) will be televised on NBC Sports Network. We'll be providing coverage (including video highlights) on AnaheimDucks.com as well as our Facebook and Twitter.
POSTED ON Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 12:08 PM
Our Ducklings in Syracuse hit a bump in the road in the Calder Cup Playoffs when they fell 5-1 at St. John's (Winnipeg affiliate) last night in Game 3 of their first round series. The Crunch trails two games to one in the five-game series, hoping to prolong a season in which they finished a blazing 15-3-1-1 to earn a postseason berth.
Winger Kyle Palmieri was a part of that run (despite spending part of it up with the Ducks) and had an outstanding season in Syracuse, scoring 33 goals in 51 games. I spent some time with on the phone with the bright and affable Palmieri this morning, and you can read that Q&A here.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 11:45 AM
The Kings' first-round ouster of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks had to remind Ducks fans of their team gloriously doing the same thing to the Sharks back in the 2009 playoffs. And LA making it to the second round is just one piece of a pretty unorthodox Western Conference Semifinals round.
Just imagine your reaction if three years ago -- that same year the Ducks took down SJ and nearly got past Detroit -- someone had told you that the Kings, Coyotes, Blues and Predators would be the final four teams in the West. That year, only St. Louis made the postseason, and the Yotes and Kings were 13th and 14th in the conference (each 12 points behind Anaheim in eighth).
It's all a testament to the parity brought on by the post-lockout salary cap era in the NHL, as each of these teams took down some pretty heavy hitters in the first round, all in five games. Along with LA taking out last year's Western Conference champs, St. Louis got by the Sharks, Phoenix knocked off Chicago in a series in which the first four games all went to OT, and Nashville handed Detroit a five-game defeat (the Wings' hadn't lost in the first round since 2006).
Meanwhile, this comes courtesy of STATS LLC (and passed on by Thomas LaRocca of FoxSportsWest.com):
The last time a conference semifinal round had zero teams with a previous Stanley Cup title was the 1983-84 postseason (the semifinal teams in the Campbell Conference that season were the Blues, North Stars, Oilers, and Flames).
2011-12 Western Conference semifinalists
142-170 all-time in postseason games.
24 postseason series wins all-time.
Advanced to Stanley Cup finals three times (1967-68, 1968-69, and 1969-70)
73-114 all-time in postseason games.
12 postseason series wins all-time.
Advanced to Stanley Cup finals once (1992-93)
18-27 all-time in postseason games.
2 postseason series wins all-time.
Furthest postseason advancement = 2nd Round (2010-11 and 2011-12)
36-73 all-time in postseason games.
3 postseason series wins all-time.
Furthest postseason advancement = 2nd Round (1984-85, 1986-87, and 2011-12)
Combined all-time postseason records for Blues, Kings, Predators, and Coyotes/Jets: 269-384. Here's another look at it.
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By the way, you'll notice that the rotating top stories section of the homepage (on the top left) has taken on a slightly different look. That's because we (and the other 29 NHL teams) have shifted to a non-Flash version of that module, meaning it will now show up when you visit the website with an iPhone or iPad. Just letting you know.
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Just came across this beauty of a Fox promo for the NHL Playoffs on the Grantland website. There are no words.
POSTED ON Monday, 04.16.2012 / 9:18 AM
I got this email over the weekend, a nice reminder of what guys like Teemu and Saku, and the Ducks organization, mean to people:
I wanted to write and say thanks for the work you do on your blog -- we don't hear much from the media out here in terms of what's happening with the Ducks, so being able to check out the message board, news links, and your blog have been really great!
My brother and I were in Anaheim from March 23rd to the 30th. He was a part of the teacher's convention that had been happening that week at the Convention Centre, and we wanted to do as many things as possible while we were there, including Disneyland & going to the Bruins and Sharks games at the Honda Center. It was spring break week for us (I work with kids who have disabilities and special needs as a teacher's assistant), and what a week it was! We had an amazing time there! Watching the sun rise over the Anaheim Hills in the morning, a California tan, hockey games, Disneyland, and fireworks every night....it doesn't get any better than that!!!
Honda Center staff, when they realized we were from Winnipeg, were terrific to us, and the fans sitting around us at the games were so welcoming and fun. We may be known as "Friendly Manitoba" out here, but Ducks fans are great, too! The last time we were in attendance at a game at "The Pond" was in 2001. It was an incredible feeling to be a part of the atmosphere again.
My family and I have known Teemu and Sirpa Selanne since Teemu started playing in Winnipeg. They lived on the same street as my aunt and uncle, and they were so much fun to get to know. We've been to Anaheim a few times since he and Sirpa have lived in California, and have connected with them. We weren't able to see Teemu play in Winnipeg when he came with the Ducks in December -- it's not easy to get tickets for games here -- most go to season tix holders, the rest are sold for higher than normal prices....so we figured that coming back to Anaheim was the way to go, and were happy it all worked out. It's much easier (and cheaper) to get tickets for games in places like Anaheim, Calgary, even Edmonton. It sounds crazy, but it's true. For us, spending the money to come to a place like Anaheim was totally worth it, and we would absolutely do it again.
We surprised Teemu after the practice at the Honda Center on the 24th...we made it just in time seeing as we had gone to Anaheim Ice first. He said he had been looking for us when he was in Winnipeg, and we were all disappointed that it hadn't worked out. I'm happy for him, and for his family, that coming back to Winnipeg was a good time for them. Seeing Teemu again & getting a chance to see him play live & score some great goals, together with having the opportunity to meet Saku Koivu, was terrific. Our dad passed away from kidney and liver cancer in 2008 after a long and hard fight -- Dad always thought of Saku as an inspiration with how he fought cancer and won -- so it was a real honor to be able to meet him.
I'm glad, too, for all of the hard work & visits the players & others in the organization do for all those who are sick in hospital and beyond. From someone who's been through it -- helping someone who is terminally ill -- it means an awful lot to see and hear about what goes on to put smiles on people's faces. I've seen the various videos from the website, and have read the stories together with my family. All of it puts some smiles on our faces, knowing that there are people out there who care.
Looking forward to reading more on your blog. All the best to you and the rest of the organization as you prepare for next season!
Michelle Enns & Jody Lagacy
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 11:17 AM
POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 12:16 PM
Players came and went throughout the day yesterday, having their meetings, signing various objects for charity (as somewhat captured in this video) talking with the media, and saying their goodbyes (hopefully for just the summer).
Here are a few items of note from the media sessions:
• Teemu Selanne didn't elaborate too much further from what he's already said about whether or not he'll come back for a 20th season. But he did say, "Obviously, there's a lot of question marks there. It comes automatically, the feeling, 'Is this over right now?' Mixed feelings. You still want to be in the playoffs and not finish the season there."
And he mirrored the sentiment of us all when he said, "It's going to be tough to watch the playoffs this year."
• Speaking of players considering retirement, Lubomir Visnovsky admitted he thought about it after enduring what he thought might be, "[the] worst season ever for me" after strugging with injuries all year. "I was very mad during the season because I [didn't] feel comfortable," he said. "My confidence was very low…[But] I want to play. I want to be here with my teammates."
• Two other Ducks played with injuries this year and will have that taken care of this offseason. Toni Lydman will have work done on his knee and Francois Beauchemin is scheduled to get a torn labrum repaired Thursday in LA.
• Saku Koivu addressed the fact that his contract is up this summer, and reiterated that he'd like to come back to the Ducks. "We've enjoyed it a lot," Koivu said of playing in Anaheim. "Everything that we looked for has happened except the success in the playoffs. When you're family's happy, you feel comfortable. I don't see a reason why I should go and look for something else.
“I want to be a part of something good. I want to be part of these guys [and] to make the playoffs and make a push there. I’m confident and I’m hoping that things will work out there in the next little while and we can hopefully be back for next year.”
Of impending contract talks, he said, "It’s too early to say right now. We’ll see. I’m confident we’ll get things done.”
• Bruce Boudreau spoke to reporters well after the meetings were over and remained his jovial self while remaining solemn over a season that ended without a postseason appearance, a rarity for him.
"It’s a very difficult time," he said, sporting a two-day-old beard growth on his face. "I’ve been lucky enough starting in juniors to be on seven championship teams. When you’ve tasted that, you want it every day. You get spoiled and then find out how difficult it is when that’s taken away. I don’t want that taken away. I want to live in that high-rent area again."
And he looked forward to his first training camp with this team. "They will be reminded about it every day in camp. We’ll have t-shirts or something. We’ll have reasons to remember it, whether it’s video or some other reminder that this isn’t going to happen again."
Boudreau will be on ESPN's SportsCenter on Wednesday night doing playoff analysis, as well as CBC's Hockey Night in Canada this weekend. Meanwhile, his other offseason plans are to just find something, anything, to do. "I know my wife will kick me out of the house anyhow, because I start to lose it. I’m pretty well born to be a hockey guy, and that’s what makes me work. Her to-do list is for me to get out of the house. Otherwise I just follow her around and it drives her nuts. If I’m at home for more than a day, I’m like a whipped puppy just following her around and going, “What are you doing, what are you doing?” She hates that. She’ll sit there and say, “Is there not a game of golf you can play somewhere?” She’s the only wife I know that wants you to go out and play golf. I’m lucky that way."
And more on next season: "When they come to camp, we want them to be prepared to go from the first day ... We’re going to be in shape, but it means that systematically and team-wise, we will be structured to know exactly what we’re going to do from the drop of the puck in game 1. You just look at the starts of the teams that I’ve been on. It’s a formula that works and it’s one that’s going to work again. If we have a good start, then we won’t be sitting talking like this at this time next year"
The Ducks will get a better idea of just how much a rookie could potentially impact them next season when the NHL Draft Lottery is held tonight at 5 p.m. Pacific. The Ducks have a 6.2% chance to win the lottery, which would move them up a maximum of four spots into the second slot.
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For a reminder or more cheerful times, the NHLPA just release this video that Bobby Ryan shot during the Skills Showdown back in February. Good stuff.