First the schedule, which rolls out with four straight games at home against San Jose, Dallas, Carolina and Edmonton. Unlike last year, there are no mammoth eight-game road trips, the longest being four different five-gamers. The first of those is an intriguing one in late October/early November, when the Ducks hit Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Philly and Ottawa. The latter two being back-to-back weekend games with 10 a.m. Pacific puck drop times (love that). That's followed by the longest homestand of the season, a six-gamer against Vancouver, NYI, Buffalo, Columbus, Tampa and LA.
Speaking of LA, the Ducks end the season against them at Staples Center on April 13 and host them here at Honda Center on November 18, January 2 and March 6. Meanwhile, we have the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving matinee against Chicago on November 23 and the now-traditional New Year's Eve game against Colorado on ... you know when New Year's Eve is.
Here's the rest of the schedule, which includes a link for downloading it to your Outlook calendar, iPhone and more.
Now, the AHL affiliation. The Admirals were admitted to the AHL as an expansion franchise for the 2000-01 season, and they were affiliated with the Blackhawks until 2007. They were the Lightning's affiliate the last five years, including this season when they went a ridiculous 43-3 in their last 46 games (including 28 in a row) and rolled to the Calder Cup championship.
And they have some great fans as well, as attested to in this Puck Daddy piece as well as this video in which the crowd helps an 8-year-old anthem singer when the sound in the arena failed during the song.
Trent Yawney, who took over as associate head coach of the Ducks' affiliate in Syracuse in January last season, led the Crunch to a 15-3-1-1 record in the last 20 games and a berth in the playoffs. Yawney will be the coach in Norfolk, where he previously helmed the Admirals from 2000-05. His 24 years of experience in pro hockey include serving as a Ducks scout in 2007-08 and part of last season. Marty Wilford, who was an assistant coach with Syracuse last season, will serve that same role in Norfolk.
The Admirals play in a pretty cool-looking arena called Norfolk Scope, which happens to feature the world's largest concrete dome.
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Those who are still fans of Sammy Pahlsson will be interested to know that the 34-year-old who last played with Vancouver has signed a three-year deal to play with Modo of the Swedish Elite League. Pahlsson, who was with the Ducks from 2000 through 2009, played previously for Modo from 1994 through 2000.
I've told this story before: I was always a big Sammy Pahlsson fan when he was with the Ducks, so much so that when he was traded away in '09, someone dropped on my desk an autographed photo of him that had "Goodbye Brady, My Love" scribbled on it (here's the photo). It's still on my bulletin board and to this day, I don't know who did it.
I just know it wasn't Sammy.
The NHL Draft is coming up on Friday and Saturday, with the Ducks owning the sixth overall pick in this thing.
In the lead-up to the Draft, we've got lots of content to tide you over, including some cool flashback videos covering some pretty popular recent Ducks draftees:
- Behind the scenes of Devante Smith-Pelly's draft day in 2010
- Emerson Etem looks back on his 2010 draft day for TSN
- Cam Fowler goes through an emotional ride of falling to the Ducks at No. 12 in 2010
Meanwhile, I did a Q&A with Ducks Director of Amateur Scouting Martin Madden, in which he discusses the preparation by him and the scouting staff going into the Draft. Good stuff.
And if you're wondering what kind of player the Ducks might get at No. 6, here are some videos of the top prospects.
For more on this draft and past ones for the Ducks, check out the Draft Guide we put up last week.
The panel spoke on a number of topics, and then opened things up to questions from fans. A few highlights:
Check out the videos from the panel Q&A
Murray opened by talking about Teemu Selanne: “Bruce and I happened to see Teemu yesterday or the day before. He looks great and is actually training already, which is a very positive sign. He's heading home next week, and he's coming in to see me Monday morning. This is all very positive, because it's the way we've done it the last four or five years. I'm very hopeful in Teemu coming back. I'm not positive, but at least he's thinking about it.”
Murray indicated that he is currently in talks with free agent Sheldon Brookbank (to whom he’s offered a contract) and will talk with fellow free agent George Parros next week. “George wants to play every night and every game, and we don't know if that can be the case,” he said. “We're committed to playing four lines. We're no longer going to be a team that plays 2 1/2 lines. We did win a Cup playing three lines, but I don't think you can do it anymore. Certain people are going to play some nights, and certain people are not. We want people who buy into that program. If they don’t buy into it, they’re not going be here.”
Added Boudreau, “We all love George. But if you look at the beginning of the season, the physical players are needed an awful lot more than at the end of the season. That’s just the way it worked this year. When you start the season, you’ve got to establish your physicality and protection of stars and all of that. But if you look at the rest of the league, come January and February, a lot of enforcers are being sent to the minor leagues or not dressing.
“As a team that needed to win almost every game in the second half, we had to go with four lines so we wouldn’t exhaust everybody. So there are going to be games where George didn’t play. He has to understand that, and if he does, then great. If he doesn’t and he wants to play a lot of minutes every night, then he’s a free agent and he has the ability to do so. It doesn’t take away from the fact that we really like George."
Murray also said that free agents Jason Blake and Niklas Hagman will most likely not be back with Anaheim next season. “I’ve already told Jason that I don’t think he’s coming back,” he said. “Nick Hagman is not coming back. In an attempt to get a little bit faster … we got smaller, and we need to get bigger again. You can’t do that unless somebody goes and somebody new comes in. So that’s the situation with a few of those guys."
Murray on the Justin Schultz situation: “We’ve offered him everything we could have. This is not a money situation, because we actually offered Justin, before our last game of the year, we offered him absolutely everything we could to have him play for us. This is a situation where a young man wants to check out all 29 teams before he signs. It’s especially frustrating for us because last December when we were in Chicago, he sat with me and we discussed the rest of his career and him playing for us as soon as his season at Wisconsin was done. It would have been a great chance for him to come in and play 10 to 15 games for us and jumpstart his rookie season. He said to me, ‘Mr. Murray, I can’t wait.’ So it’s extremely frustrating, but we haven’t given up. We’re going to continue to try and sign him, and if we get to that 30-day point, we’re going to send another offer. We’ll just see where it goes. I’m not giving up on Mr. Schultz yet. If Justin doesn’t want to be here, we’ll move on.”
Murray on the upcoming draft: "Right now, centers are at a premium as much as defensemen are. If we stay at the sixth pick, we’ll get a defenseman or a centerman, one of the two, which is very good because you build your team from those guys. But if you want to make changes to your hockey team, this is the point in time you do it. The next couple of weeks could be interesting.”
Murray On Emerson Etem: “Emerson had a great year this year in juniors. But the most impressive thing he did this year was when he went to Syracuse and joined them at the end of the year and in the playoffs. He came in as a 19-year-old kid taking a professional’s spot because somebody has to go out of the lineup for him to play. He got better, not just game by game, but shift by shift, and the night we got beat out he had two goals and an assist and was our best player. He has grown as a professional very quickly and he has a chance to make our hockey team next year. The plan is not to add many more than one young player at the beginning of next year, because we want to get off to a good start and it’s time to start moving forward. Emerson will have a crack at a top-six spot, and if he’s not in the top six, I don’t see him anywhere else in the lineup. He’s not going to stay here to play three or four minutes a night."
Murray on the Ducks signing goalie Viktor Fasth last month: “The last couple of years have been tough for our goaltenders, with Jonas going down two seasons ago and Dan Ellis getting hurt last year. Fasth had an unbelievable record in Sweden and he’s not a kid, he’s a veteran who has played. Jonas won’t have to play as many games and our goaltending is in a good situation."
The speaking sessions weren’t all business. The always-engaging Boudreau talked about how much he loves the show Storage Wars and spoke at length about that show and another favorite, Pawn Stars. At one point, Luca Sbisa said into his mic, “You definitely watch too much TV.” Boudreau responded, “I could be watching game video instead, and saying things like, ‘Luca, you’ve got to protect the middle of the ice…’”
Boudreau continued, “It’s either that or get on the treadmill” and after getting a laugh from the crowd, he turned to Sbisa and said, “I knew you wouldn’t have the guts to say that one.”
“I can’t say what I’m thinking right now,” Sbisa replied.
Fans who updgraded their seats during the event were invited down to the Honda Center "ice" (which is just a concrete floor right now). They got to take a shot from center ice at a goal that was covered by a wood panel, and had three small cutouts along the bottom that were just large enough for a puck to slide through. (Here's a photo.) Anyone who made it through one of the holes got to pick from a number of great prizes (one guy chose a round of golf with Boudreau).
When Getzlaf was finished on the panel, he headed down there with his wife Paige and 1-year-old Ryder. After a few tries, he made it through one of the little openings, throwing his hands in the air as if he'd just scored a game-winning goal. He then got a mini stick in Ryder's hands and they messed around for a bit.
While still on the panel, here’s what Getzlaf said about the frustration of watching the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final: “It’s hard because you want to be back there, especially when we’ve been there and won the Cup before. I know what those guys are going through right now, and I want to be back in that position. It’s hard, especially when they’re just up the road, and knowing the start we had last year took us out of that. LA snuck into eighth, and if we could have just gotten there, we could have been in the same position. It’s motivation for next year. They’re where we want to be right now. We want to be the elite team in Southern California, and that’s part of the mindset going into next season.”
As we get closer to the possibility of having to share this date with another team up the road, it's more appropriate than ever to commemorate a very special anniversary for Ducks fans and for me personally, I'm re-posting this piece (with a slight adjustment) that originally ran June 6, 2008:
As anniversaries go, this one will always be a little bittersweet for me.
Six years ago on this day, my mom passed away after a year-long battle with lung cancer. One of my reasons for moving down here and taking this job in 2005 was to be closer to her and my dad in her final months. And I know she would have loved to see what I experienced in this building on the night of June 6, 2007.
So you can imagine that when I watched Chris Pronger carrying the puck from behind the net with the seconds ticking down to zero, Ryan Getzlaf shaking his gloves off his hands like an excited little boy and jumping into J.S. Giguere's arms, the crowd noise reaching a level like none I'd ever heard before, fireworks popping, black and orange confetti falling from the sky and the victory song from "Rocky" coming on ... well, you can imagine it was a little emotional for me.
And my father -- the guy who grew up on the East Coast rooting for Gump Worsley, Rocket Richard and the New York Rangers, who played hockey through high school, who went to some of the first Mighty Ducks games in 1993 and remembers thinking the Pond was too pretty for a hockey arena -- was here that night. He's been here for almost all of the home games since then.
He was part of that roaring crowd, he saw the fireworks, picked confetti out of his hair (and still has some of it under glass at home over a team photo), saw the Stanley Cup being passed around by the players on his favorite team -- his son's team. When all of it finally died down that night and he was heading out of the arena, I called him on his cell phone. He answered it with one word:
Five years later, I can still remember it well. It really was unbelievable.
One more thing:
The final horn that night sounded at 7:35 p.m. Pacific time -- the exact moment the Ducks officially became Stanley Cup champions. That's about the time that tonight's Game 4 might be ending too. But no matter what happens in that game, when the clock strikes 7:35 tonight, maybe call a friend, turn to a loved one, someone who shared that magical night with you -- and propose a toast.
I know I will.
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For a nice reminder of that night and all that led up to it, take a look at this video below, and some of these awesome photos.
The Ducks announced earlier today that they signed 25-year-old winger Ryan Lasch, who last year led the Finnish Elite League in scoring while helping his Lahti Pelicans to the league finals.
But here's why this is such a big deal: Lasch, a speedy scorer who played four seasons at St. Cloud State before heading to Europe, is the first Orange County-born player in the history of the Ducks organization.
I spoke to Lasch from his home in Lake Forest earlier today and here's the Q&A.
The Kings had 95 points in the regular season to earn the eighth seed in the West, although they've looked like anything but an 8 seed as they've steamrolled through the postseason with a 12-2 record and an unprecedented eight straight playoff road wins. They dispatched the No. 1-seeded Canucks in five games, the 2-seeded Blues in four and the 3-seeded Coyotes in five.
The 2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim also had 95 points, but earned the seventh seed in the West. They went on to sweep the 2-seeded Red Wings, edge the 1-seeded Stars in six (including an epic five-overtime Game 1) and down 6-seeded Wild in a sweep.
Meanwhile, both teams were riding an incredibly hot goaltender, though Jonathan Quick's outstanding postseason (1.54 GAA and .946 SV%) doesn't quite compare to the all-time great playoff run J.S. Giguere put together in '03 (1.62 goals-against average and five shutouts, including a perfect 7-0 in overtime and a Conn Smythe).
Want more similarities? How about celebs in the stands?
Further, when the Mighty Ducks won the West in '03, captain Paul Kariya didn't touch the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, out of traditional superstition....
... nor did Kings captain Dustin Brown when LA won the West on Tuesday night.
Depending on what happens in tonight's Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 (or a possible Sunday Game 7), both the '03 Mighty Ducks and '12 Kings could be facing the New Jersey Devils in the Final. We know what happened to those Mighty Ducks -- a crushing 3-0 defeat in Game 7 in New Jersey. What happens with these Kings remains to be seen -- but you know we'll all be watching.
I want to know, Ducks fans, who would you rather see the Kings face in the Final? The Devils can clinch a trip to the Final with a win in over the Rangers in tonight's Game 6 in New Jersey (5 p.m. Pacific on NBC Sports Network). Based on what we've seen in this Devils-Rangers series, New Jersey appears to be playing slightly better hockey and would appear to have the edge on knocking off the Kings. But an LA-New York Final (featuring a Rangers team America got to know during HBO's 24/7 series) has a little more flair than an LA-New Jersey one.
If you're a reader of this blog or my live game logs, you may have seen mention of the The Tennis Balls. They're Dawn and Lewis, a husband-and-wife duo of diehard Ducks fans and season tickets holders who wear neon yellow sweatshirts to every home game. They sit a few rows behind the net in section 215 at Honda Center, and certainly stand out in a crowd. They were even more conspicuous when they attended Game 5 of Coyotes-Predators in Phoenix, when they were two very noticeable blips among the otherwise whited-out crowd at Jobing.com Arena.
Jenelyn Russo, who writes a very good blog for OC Family called When Girls Love Hockey, just put together a very nice piece on The Tennis Balls, including this insight into the history of their sweatshirts:
Dawn doesn’t recall the year exactly, maybe 2005, but she and Lewis were on their way back from a trip to Mammoth and had to rush home and get changed before heading to the Ducks game that night (totally committed fans, of course). They ran out of the house, wearing only Ducks t-shirts. When they got to Honda Center, Dawn knew she would be freezing inside without a sweater or a jacket. So they grabbed the only thing available to wear—bright neon yellow sweatshirts that Lewis had in the back of their car. A custom home builder, Lewis had purchased several of the sweatshirts for his employees and sub-contractors. They had no idea that wearing those sweatshirts that night would have such an effect on their lives as hockey fans.
In the midst of a frustrating multiple-game losing streak, Anaheim won that night and all of their fellow Ducks fans who sit around them declared the day-glo sweatshirts the reason for the win. And they insisted that Dawn and Lewis wear them to every game going forward. So for the most part, they have.
As expected, the Tennis Balls (who have "adopted" the Coyotes as their playoff team), are at Game 5 between the Yotes and Kings at Jobing.com Arena tonight.
|That was Fasth.
The 29-year-old Fasth played with AIK Stockholm this past season and had five shutouts with a 2.12 GAA and .931 SV% in 46 games. For his efforts, he was was named the Goaltender of the Year in the Swedish Elite League for the second straight year. The last player to do that? A guy named Henrik Lundqist (from 2002 through 2005).
The 6-0, 192-pounder also played six of Team Sweden's eight games in the recent IIHF World Championships, going a respectable 4-2 with a 2.34 GAA and two shutouts.
Fasth, who many considered to be the best free agent goalie in Europe, will be given the opportunity in training camp to be the backup to Jonas Hiller. Fasth and and Jeff Deslauriers are both under contract. Dan Ellis, who missed most of last year with a groin injury, is a free agent. Iiro Tarkki, who spent some time with the Ducks this past season (winning his only game) and led the Crunch to the postseason, signed a two-year deal with KHL team Salavat Yulaev last week.
“I’m really happy and looking forward to joining the organization,” Fasth said over the phone from Sweden yesterday. "It’s a dream come true for me. I’m really excited.
"The Ducks showed a real big interest. I had the feeling that they wanted to give me this chance and they believe in me. That is very important for me."
To learn more from Fasth, here's a video feature done on him during the Worlds.
"I talked to the guys this year during the World Championships and started getting some information on how it is out there," Fasth said. "I asked how Anaheim is and I got just got words about it. It made me feel really happy."
Speaking of words, another intriguing part of getting Fasth in here is the endless possibilities for great headlines if he has a strong game. Granted, the name is actually pronounced "Fahst" but still, how about:
FASTH BEATS QUICK
Ducks goalie shuts out Kings
FASTH AND FURIOUS
Rookie's 42 saves lead Ducks to win
FASTH AND FLASH
Ducks netminder shuts down Red Wings as Selanne nets the game-winner
Got any good ones, Ducks fans? Put them in the Comments below or tweet them using the hashtag #FasthPuns.
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Bruce Boudreau was a guest this morning with host Mike Ross on Hockey This Morning on NHL Home Ice, and as usual had a few good nuggets to offer.
As hard as it is for all of us to see two Pacific Division rivals in the Western Conference Finals, he did have a good spin on it. "It gives you hope," he said. "When I was [with the Ducks[, we played Phoenix four times and beat them three times and lost the final game against them in a game where Mike Smith was Mike Smith. He was outstanding, but we outplayed them [this year] pretty badly. And they’re there where they are.
"With LA, we played them three times and beat them once in the last minute. We lost to them once with an empty net and once by one goal. You know that you’re competitive and right there. And we played them at times when they needed to win desperately."
That's one of the many reasons Boudreau has high hopes for next season. "I think we’re there. We’re close," he said. "And who knows, we get off to a little bit better start next season and I think we’ll be a team to be reckoned with."
Another reason for optimism are the young guys who will be given a good chance to make the Ducks roster out of camp next year. "Kyle Palmieri led the American League in goals and he’s a guy who’s up and coming. We’ve got guys who can score that are young. Emerson Etem scored 61 goals in junior, and he’s a guy who will be given a real good shot.
"We’re just looking forward to playing again. We think we can make a splash next year."
Boudreau was asked to reminisce about the time back in November when he was fired by the Capitals and hired by the Ducks not long afterward.
"We move around a lot, so we better have some strong wives and children behind us," Boudreau said about the coaching profession. "When it happened, to be able to get a job as quickly as I was able to was pretty satisfying. I didn’t know anybody on the team, and on the flight from Washington to California I’m sitting there going, “What am I getting myself into?” But it was great to see somebody had taken an interest and thought you did a good job. That was really neat."
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.
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.)