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.
It's kind of like the last day of school here today at Honda Center -- always a somber occasion as the Ducks players come in to have one-on-one meetings with coaches and management, clean out their lockers, sign oodles of objects for our Community Relations purposes, spend some time with media and generally say goodbye for the summer.
This one is even a little more gloomy, as it comes on the heels of a mostly disappointing 2011-12 that ended last Saturday with a somewhat fitting 5-2 loss in Calgary. The only positive was Bobby Ryan scoring his 30th and 31st goals of the season, making him the only active player besides Alex Ovechkin (and the 16th all time) to score 30 in each of his first four NHL seasons.
But while we might reflect a little on that, and this frustrating Ducks season, today will be a lot about looking to the future -- and about one player in particular. For the sixth straight summer, we'll be wondering if we've seen the last of Teemu Selanne here, or whether he'll come back for at least one more season. He will certainly be asked about that by reporters when he's on his way out the door today, and it was a topic after that game (could it have been his last?) on Saturday.
"If this was my last game, that's fine. I can live with that," Selanne told reporters in the visiting locker room at Scotiabank Saddledome. "Obviously it's a little more tougher to swallow that we didn't make the playoffs. Because I really believe that we have a better team than we played this year. That's the toughest part. Everything else, I'm fine with."
Selanne led the Ducks in scoring with 66 points, and that along with his 26 goals kept him climbing up the NHL's all-time lists.
"I really do think that I can play well," Selanne said. "But, same hand, I don't know if you always have to play as long as you can. You know that it's going to end somewhere. "My dream always was that I can retire with my own terms. I'm healthy. And I (can) still enjoy the game and life after hockey."
(Ah, "same hand." I'm gonna miss that someday. Hopefully, not soon.)
And while Teemu's words might might not be the most encouraging to Ducks fans, Ryan provided some optimism with his remarks to the OC Register.
"There's nothing different to him alluding to it being his last game," Ryan said. "My gut feeling is that Teemu comes back and grants us another year. You never know. He's at an age where he's got four kids doing different things. They're all busy ... they're starting to drive and things like that."
(So...they can drive him to the rink then, right?)
We'll definitely cover that topic more today and in the days leading up to Teemu's self-imposed July 1 deadline (when NHL free agency officially opens.)
Keep an eye on AnaheimDucks.com, as well as our Twitter page and Facebook page for updates from today.
Some nice tweets from the players after the end of the season:
The games may have taken on a different meaning these days, but they can still make you leap off your couch and shout "OH MY GOD!!!" at the TV screen.
That was at least my reaction last night when Ryan Getzlaf did this:
(Could the Edmonton announcer be any less excited?) Getzlaf's breakaway backhand goal 1:12 into overtime not only gave the Ducks a nice 3-2 victory, but it was a shining light in a personal season the Ducks captain said recently he'd like to "forget about."
Getzlaf took more than a month to score his 10th goal of the season, but took only one game to score his 11th. This one made it easy to forget what Andrew Cogliano called, "a pretty bad game for us."
"J.D. was really good," Bruce Boudreau said of Jeff Deslauriers (24 saves), who earned the win against his former team. "And thank goodness that he was really good in his return to Edmonton. Because we weren't good. The fans did not get their money's worth today."
The Ducks were boosted by another former Oiler, Cogliano, who sniped one in from the right wing circle late in the second period. Then just 36 seconds later, Devante Smith-Pelly created a rebound in deep, and Bobby Ryan popped it in for his 29th of the year.
That opens the door for some intrigue in the Ducks' season finale tomorrow afternoon in Calgary. If Ryan scores a goal, that would give him 30 in each of his first four full NHL seasons. The only active NHLer who has done that is Alex Ovechkin and there are only 15 guys in the history of the league who have done it.
"It’s not something I’m thinking a lot about, but being able to reach that point every year for the first four seasons of a career would be a really cool thing," said Ryan in a chat we had a week ago. "But it really hasn’t weighed on my mind too much during this last little stretch. I’m starting to think about it more and how nice it would be, but it’s really an afterthought.
"It would be a cool number to reach, especially to be listed with a guy like him."
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Meanwhile, what the heck is going on with this guy's jersey last night? Is that a Mighty Ducks logo ironed onto an Oilers jersey?
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The Ducks may be out of the playoff picture, but there is still some intrigue in the Pacific Division, where the Sharks, Kings and Coyotes are all battling for the division title and third seed in the Western Conference.
After the Sharks beat the Kings, 6-5, in a shootout in LA last night (more on that in a sec), both teams have 94 points. But the Kings own the tiebreaker over San Jose based on ROW (regulation/overtime wins). The two teams play again in the regular season finale tomorrow night in San Jose. Meanwhile, Phoenix is one point back of them both and has games against St. Louis tonight and Minnesota tomorrow night. If they get three points in those two games, they take the division, the third seed and home ice in the first round.
Now, going back to last night's game, the Kings might have won it in regulation if the officials had seen what Ryan Clowe did late in the third period with the Kings on the power play. For some inexplicable reason, he reached onto the ice while still on the bench and touched the puck, disrupting a charge up the right wing by Jarret Stoll. The Kings went crazy when it happened, but somehow none of the four officials noticed it. A penalty would have given the Kings a two-man advantage. Take a look:
Honestly, if there is a more bizarre play this NHL season, I'd like to see it. And it was only topped by Clowe's reply to reporters when they asked him about it. "I have no idea what you guys are talking about," he said. "I'll have to see the video or something. Someone show me the video."
If the Ducks had snuck into the eighth spot, they would have likely faced the probable No. 1 seed Canucks, a team they seemed to have no trouble keeping up with last night. (They went 2-1-1 against Vancouver for, interestingly enough, the fourth straight season.)
Yes, they ultimately went down in a shootout and yes, they lost the lead three different times. But taking that team to a shootout in their building -- while chasing their go-to goalie in the second period -- showed once again how good this Ducks team can be (and could have been in this postseason).
Anaheim scored four times on 15 shots against Roberto Luongo, who has not enjoyed success against the Ducks in his career. He has a career 3.22 goal-against average against Anaheim, second-worst against any team, and his .894 save percentage vs. the Ducks is his worst career mark against a team. He had a 5.77 GAA in three games against Anaheim this season. And of course, there is this indelible moment in the '07 Playoffs.
Last night Luongo gave up goals to Perry, Smith-Pelly and Pelley (no, that's not confusing at all) and a mildly important one for Mr. Ryan Getzlaf.
The captain's wrist shot between Bobby Lu's wickets late in the first period gave him 10 goals in this mostly frustrating season. It was also the first time he sent the red light spinning since March 2.
“Yeah, I guess it’s gone,” Getzlaf told the OC Register, seemingly talking about a proverbial monkey on a proverbial back. “The other night at home, I felt like I was shooting the puck and couldn’t score if my life depended on it. Tonight was one of those where I kind of missed my shot. I think Lui was pretty [ticked] that I missed it as well.”
“That’s the new gameplan. Take a shot and shoot somewhere else, I guess.”Smith-Pelly's tap-in of a nice Bobby Ryan pass on the doorstep gave the Ducks a 4-2 lead that marked the end for Luongo. But the Ducks couldn't hold the lead and ultimately succumbed in the shootout when the 'Nucks scored on all three attempts against Jonas Hiller (who was reportedly heated afterwards).
The Ducks have a couple more chances to end this thing on a good note when they play the final two games at Edmonton tomorrow and finish 2011-12 on Saturday afternoon in Calgary.
The name bestowed upon the Ducks booster club -- Die Hards -- has never been more appropriate than it was over the weekend.
A group of about 50 of them took an overnight trip to Glendale to watch the Ducks play the Coyotes on Saturday night, and I was lucky enough to tag along with some other staff members from our Fan Development department.
Only for a bus trip to Phoenix could I justify waking up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, but there I was joining everyone else in the morning light at Honda Center to start the six-hour bus ride. And it was a ride made a little more palatable by the events planned by the FD guys, including Ducks trivia for prizes and a playing of the always-welcome 2007 Stanley Cup Champions DVD.
Once in Phoenix, we enjoyed pretty much everything but the final result of the game, a 4-0 loss in which the Ducks couldn't get any of their 44 shots past goalie Mike Smith. Before going into the arena, we were treated to a tailgate with a few passionate Coyotes fans, one of which had a sweet pair of tattoos on his calves (see below). After the game, all of the Die Hards were brought down to an area near the locker rooms, where they were able to see the Ducks on their way to the bus. Teemu Selanne and Bruce Boudreau were among the Ducks nice enough to stop and chat for a couple minutes and pose for pictures before heading out of town. Even Senator John McCain, who attended the game and visited the Coyotes locker room afterwards, stopped to say hello. (I posed for a picture with him, but my buddy's phone died right as he snapped the shot.)
That was followed by some postgame merriment in the Westgate bars and restaurants that surround the arena, then another six-hour trip back to Anaheim the next morning. Once there, the obvious thing to do was take in another Ducks game, as each member of the club got tickets to that night's home finale against the Oilers.
All in all, a great (though quick) trip and a great group of fans. Can't wait to do it all again next year.
A few photos from the trip:
An enthusiastic group at the start of the bus ride to Glendale.
Couldn't believe how many Ducks fans were in this Chester Fried/Taco Bell Express. What a coincidence!
Staffer Jason Cooper expertly hosting Ducks trivia.
"Coop" in front of our Glendale home for the night.
This guy loves his Yotes.
Our group at Jobing.com Arena, with the popular "Uncle Jody" in the foreground.
This t-shirt was shot from a cannon and fell into my lap. Power Players (and Die Hards members)
Erin and Fiona pose with it before giving it to a Coyotes fan.
Teemu poses with the Die Hards after the game.
Slightly less enthusiastic on the bus ride home.
Home sweet home.
|No caption necessary on this one.|
With exactly five minutes left in the Ducks' home finale, just before a faceoff in the Anaheim zone, Teemu Selanne was shown on the HondaVision -- first on the bench and then jumping on the ice for the draw. The image brought a spontaneous standing ovation from the overflow crowd of 17,266, many of whom were holding aloft signs pleading for Selanne to come back for (at least) one more year. Selanne's teammates took their cue, standing up on the bench and banging their sticks on the wall.
Here's what it looked like, although the video can't possibly do it justice. You had to be here to really take it in, to hear that seemingly neverending roar, to sense the goosebumps on your arms and, just maybe, feel a little moisture in your eyes.
"On the last play of the game, I have no idea where he came from," Ryan Getzlaf said with a shake of the head. "He came flying through the middle there. His skating ability and sense of the game is unmatched by a lot of people. I thought it was going to be his glory at the end of the game there."
In a nice move, linesman Derek Nansen waited to drop the puck while the cheers went on, and if Selanne himself hadn't tapped him on the rear with his stick, he might have never dropped it.
"It's unbelievable," said Selanne, who got another chance to feel the love from the fans when he was named first star of the game. "It's almost funny that they're chanting for an old guy like me. I've always had a very special relationship with the fans ... Obviously I'm going to have another tough decision to make again."
Said Devante Smith-Pelly, who was four months old when Selanne made his NHL debut, "I got goosebumps when they were chanting 'One More Year' for 'T.' It's amazing to see how loved he is."
It's only a shame that the moment came in the midst of a 2-1 loss to the Oilers in our last chance to see this year's Ducks at home. But in typical Selanne dramatic fashion, he appeared out of nowhere to come within inches of tying the game in the final seconds. With the Ducks net empty, Selanne picked up a bouncing puck at center ice, blazed down the left wing, got bumped in the circle and fired a desperation shot that goalie Devan Dubnyk turned away. It's probably good that he did though, or we'd be spending this morning trying to put the roof back on Honda Center.
If that last burst of speed showed anything though, it told us once again that Selanne is still at the top of his game ("I still feel great," he said). As it was, he did score Anaheim's only goal, in the first period. Actually, Teemu scored three goals in the first period -- but two were from the wrong Teemu. The Oilers' 21-year-old Finnish winger Teemu Hartikainen scored his first two of the season -- the first just 15 seconds into the game -- and that was all Edmonton needed, despite the Ducks outshooting them 33-15.
It is believed to be the first time in NHL history that two guys named Teemu scored in an NHL game. "Must be a good name," laughed Selanne. "I like that."
Selanne said he talked with Hartikainen a bit around the faceoff circle in the second period and added, "Obviously it's funny that most of the kids are really young. They could be my sons."
Yes, he'll be 42 (although he hardly looks it on the ice) this July 3, two days after he says he'll let all of us know his intentions for next season. But come on, he's gotta come back for one more year, right? Heck, why not five more?
"I really would love to give an answer," he said last night. "But obviously I decided already a long time ago that emotions go high and low during the season. You've got to get the right feeling. That has been happening for me in the summertime.
"When it's time to start pushing and working out and getting ready for the new year, that's the time you have to be ready. That's the time you have to decide if you're ready to push yourself. It's a long hard process."
And not too easy for us either, as we'll spend the next few months holding out hope. The hope that we can see this guy play in this building again. The hope that we can have more moments like the one we experienced last night.
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Here are some of the best tweets from last night (and click here for even more):
|Ryan is two goals away from joining a pretty exclusive club. "It’s not something I’m thinking a lot about, but being able to reach that point every year for the first four seasons of a career would be a really cool thing."|
If he gets two more goals, he will be one of two active NHL players to score 30 goals in each of their first four full seasons. The other? A guy named Alex Ovechkin.
In fact, only 15 guys in the history of the NHL have done it, many of which did it during an era when goals were easier to come by than they are today.
On the way to LAX for an afternoon team flight into Phoenix, I talked for a few minutes with BR about the significance of 30 and some other topics:
What does 30 goals mean to you?
It’s not something I’m thinking a lot about, but being able to reach that point every year for the first four seasons of a career would be a really cool thing. But it really hasn’t weighed on my mind too much during this last little stretch. I’m starting to think about it more and how nice it would be, but it’s really an afterthought.
Do you realize that Ovechkin is the only active guy who has done that?
I didn’t until you just told me. I always just thought it would be something nice to achieve. Personally myself, I wanted to hit 30 and then keep going and move on to higher numbers. That’s taken a backseat because of the year and the start we had. It would be a cool number to reach, especially to be listed with a guy like him.
You’ve been moving to different lines a little bit this season after skating for so long with Getz and Perry. How has that been for you?
Style-wise, I always meshed well with Getz and Pears, but the problem with our line is we all like to cycle the puck and hold onto it. We weren’t getting enough attack on the net. Sometimes things have got to change. Usually I go down and get different looks on different lines. I’ve always been okay with it and I’ve never really been upset or anything like that. I just try to embrace whoever I’m playing with. I think I’ve found something good with Bones (Nick Bonino) lately and maybe we’ll create our own little duo going forward.
It’s been a disappointing season for the team, but what kind of grade would you give your season individually?
Well, it’s obviously not going to be a passing grade, but I split the season mentally into two different parts, and that’s before Bruce and after Bruce. When Bruce came in, I was able to put the slow start and the losing attitude we were having for a little while behind me. I’ve just kind of embraced what he’s asked me to do and try to learn from it. I really like our relationship, and since Bruce has been here, I’ve come into my own a little bit. I’ve found some chemistry with Bones and we’ve been able to go on a little run. Before that it was an ultimate fail, and after that it’s gotten subtly better. What I’m looking at is setting it up for next year and looking for stuff to build off of at the end of this season.
How have the players responded to Bruce?
Bruce has come in and he moves mountains just by talking to the guys in the room. Everybody has embraced the system he’s brought in with him and it’s been a huge plus for us.
You never get used to it. You can say all the clichés that I’ve heard before, but it’s really tough, especially when you build a home somewhere and you finally have some roots. I try and leave everything at the rink and not take things home with me. You need to separate your personal life and your business life and just try and enjoy yourself outside the rink. But it’s not easy.
Several weeks ago, you talked about wanting to be the guy who steps up into a more prominent role if and when Teemu Selanne retires. Can you get into that a little bit?
A lot of people read too much into it and took it out of context. All I was saying is, Teemu is 41 and at a certain point, we have to prepare as a team for life after him. That could be finding a guy who can take that second-line role, filling it in with trades or draft or free agency or whatnot or creating a line that I can be the pivot point on and I can help bring guys along in that role. Teemu has done that for me, and other guys in the past. We have to be ready to do that at some point, and personally, I would love to do it. I think I’m ready to take on a bigger role and I’m ready to anchor a line. And I think I can really embrace the role he’s taken in the community.
What are the plans for the offseason?
I’m going to go over to Finland with the U.S team for the World Championships in May. Then when I get back from that, I’ll be packing up again for my place in Idaho and spend most of the summer there.
|"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.