|"Fellas, relax. I've done this 656 times."
The Anaheim Ducks are in the playoff race.
And how have they done it? How have they gotten to within six points of the eighth spot in the West after being 20 back as recently as six weeks ago? With an astonishing 14-2-3 sprint that has culminated with what has to be their most impressive road victory of the season, last night.
The Ducks didn't get into Pittsburgh until the early morning, hours after a heart-stopping 2-1 victory in Minnesota. They had to face a very good Penguins team that hadn't lost at home in the last six and hadn't lost to the Ducks there in 11 years. And Anaheim went down early on a beauty of a first period goal by Jordan Staal.
But that hardly discouraged these Ducks, whose defense and the still-scorching Jonas Hiller gave up nothing else the rest of the way, and Anaheim got all the scoring it needed from their usual suspects. Corey Perry, at the end of a long shift for him, undressed Zbynek Michalek before slipping a close-in shot past the previously infallible Marc-Andre Fleury. Then in the third, Matt Beleskey (also laboring at the end of a lengthy shift) made a gorgeous backhand pass on the rush to a barely-onside Teemu Selanne, who beat Fleury with a Selanne-esque backhand inside the near post. Said broadcaster John Ahlers of Beleskey, "He found enough energy to find The Flash!"
(I like that.)
“He’s in shape because it was about a three-minute shift,” Bruce Boudreau said. “I was yelling at him to get off. He positioned himself well and when he got the puck, he made a fabulous backhand pass.”
Added Beleskey: “I think I started losing oxygen and just blacked out for a while. It was good though.”
And of Selanne, Bruce Boudreau said, "There's a reason he's got a jillion goals in this league." Well, not quite a jillion, but the 656th of his career tied him for 12th all time with Brendan Shanahan.
Selanne was asked about the fact Boudreau kept him out of much of the victory in Minnesota the night before, including a good part of the third period. “I missed probably three shifts,” he said to the OC Register (check out more on that here). “That’s nothing. To be honest, I was dead tired for some reason. And it happens. A lot of times when you feel like that, it’s not the greatest place to be.
“This is about team effort. Everybody has done the job. That’s what makes this team special.”
Boudreau was clearly pumped with the win last night, as the TV cameras caught him shaking assistant coach Brad Lauer's hand on the bench, then promptly punching him in the arm (photo at right).
And the Ducks' heart in this one was never better exemplified than in the final seconds, as they nursed a one-goal lead and Toni Lydman went to a knee to sacrifice his body and block an Evgeni Malkin shot.
"This game was huge for us," Selanne said. "We got here at like 3 in the morning. They came out pretty hard and controlled the first period and then we got into the game. This team is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and even though we got behind we believed we could come back."
That's a world of difference for a Ducks team that once owned the worst road record in the league, but is now a remarkable 7-1-3 in the last 11 games away from home. Their 14-3-3 record since the new year is good for 31 standings points, tops in the NHL with Detroit. Anaheim may not be blowing anyone out lately, but its +20 goal differential since January 1 is also first in the league. The Ducks also returned to .500 (24-24-9) for the first time since October 30.
They're just six points now behind Phoenix in eighth (with the same number of games played now), but can't stop now. They need to keep rolling on this mammoth road trip that continues tomorrow night in New Jersey.
"The morale is high," Bobby Ryan told ESPN.com. "We're all realizing there could be something special that happens here for us this year."
|There's a puck in there somewhere.
The latest case in point came last night in Minnesota, when space on the Xcel Energy Center rink was at a minimum and it seemed virtually impossible for the Ducks to get a puck past goalie Josh Harding. Maybe in October-November-December the Ducks might have taken a 1-0 loss and chalked it up to a goalie standing on his head. But not these Ducks.
Instead, a struggling Niklas Hagman managed to force in a gargantuan goal eight minutes into the third period, Corey Perry did what Corey Perry does another four minutes later, and Jonas Hiller did the rest of the work in helping the Ducks hang on by the lightest of threads in the final moments.
The Ducks were 0-21-1 when trailing after two periods going into that game. The Wild, meanwhile, were 16-1-3 when leading after two.
You can't possibly put a price on Hagman's goal and its impact on that game, as well as this marathon road trip for Anaheim. After being denied by Harding right in front, Hagman stayed with the puck and somehow got a stick on it to trickle it deliciously over the stripe as he was knocked down.
"He managed to get a piece of [the first shot]," said Hagman, who hadn't scored since Jan. 18 and had been dropped to the fourth line. "I tried to whack at it but I think one of their guys lifted my stick. I thought it wasn't even going to go in. Just barely went over the line. But that's what it takes."
And it seemed to electrify the previously frustrated Ducks, who got the go-ahead goal from Perry a few minutes later on the rush, a shot that Harding would probably like back. That goal continued the "Hart winners on heart's day" trend that we mentioned yesterday. The last 11 reigning Hart Trophy winners have scored 12 goals on Valentine's Day. (And not for nothing, but Perry is starting to heat up just like he did in the final months of that MVP season. Perry had 28 goals through 56 games last season. He has 27 through 56 this season.)
That goal gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead they held onto through the nail-biting, stomach-churning final moments. The Ducks missed two chances to fill an empty net with Minnesota skating with an extra attacker, and Hiller and the other five Ducks survived a flurry around their net. Here's a look:
While Hiller came up big, it was the Ducks defense that deserves a ton of credit, as they made sure their goalie only saw 17 shots all night. And with that win the Ducks -- who now have the best goal differential (+19) in the NHL since Jan. 1 -- continued to make their charge into the playoff race. They're eight points behind eighth-place Phoenix, six if they can turn around and win another big one in Pittsburgh tonight.
It won't be easy. While the Ducks are playing the second of a back-to-back, the Pens haven't been in action since Sunday. And they've won six in a row at home, the two-year-old Consol Energy Center the Ducks will be seeing for the first time. The Pens are gripping onto the fifth spot in the East, despite the absence of Sidney Crosby (concussion) since December 5. the Penguins have only lost twice in regulation in their last 14 games. The Ducks have only lost twice in regulation in their last 18.
Should be a good one, and you can check it out with other fans on a huge screen in a cool setting at the official watch party at UltraLuxe Cinemas in Anaheim.
|Brother ... pitted against brother ... in the ultimate battle of attrition. (Or, just two Koivu brothers taking a face-off.)
Only problem is, Minnesota isn't in eighth place anymore.
The Wild, who were at one time near the top of the West through mid-December, and more recently gripping onto that last playoff spot in the conference, have hit a major slide as of late. After starting the season with a 20-7-3 record, they have gone 5-15-5 since, which includes an eight-game losing streak and their current three-game skid. They've fallen five points behind Phoenix in the eighth spot in the West. Meanwhile, a win tonight for the Ducks gets them to within eight points of that slot with a game in hand on the Coyotes.
"Just like us, they're a desperate hockey club that needs a win," Bruce Boudreau said this morning about the Wild. "I was just looking at the numbers, I think we were 16 points back of them when I first got here, and now we're five. It's a good chance to keep things going, and if things fall our way, we'll get a little closer."
Minnesota has been hurt by injuries and an inability to find the net. Including their 3-1 loss at home to Columbus last Saturday, they have scored just six goals in their last five games. Among the guys out for them tonight are winger Cal Clutterbuck, who has the rarely reported charley horse, suffered Saturday night. Also sidelined are Clayton Stoner (lower body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Guillaume Latendresse and Jarod Palmer (all out with concussion symptoms).
To make up for those injuries, winger Kris Foucault will make his debut for Minnesota tonight, the 39th skater and 13th rookie the Wild have suited up this season.
Minny will go with Josh Harding in net (for the first time since January 31) over No. 1 Niklas Backstrom, as Harding beat the Ducks 5-3 in the teams' last meeting, December 4 at Honda Center.
"I think our biggest challenge is to come out in the first period and surprise them, play the way we've been playing -- maybe 10 percent better than that," Boudreau said. "If we can come out and meet their push early, get the lead on them and frustrate them, I think it will be to our advantage."
Since it's Valentine's Day, here's a couple of things for you: The first 5,000 female fans through the gates at Xcel Energy Center tonight will get a free box of chocolates (congrats to their dates for being able to knock that one out).
And if you believe in this sort of thing, look for Corey Perry to continue the scoring run he got on Sunday in Columbus. According to The Score, the last 10 reigning Hart Trophy winners have scored 11 goals on Valentine's Day.
One of the great things about a road trip that covers the midwest and the east are puck drop times that come right around the time we're leaving work (or at least I think it's great). Tonight we get things started at 4:30 p.m. Pacific, and if you're not already getting the game on Prime Ticket, tonight's tilt will be aired on NBC Sports Network (the former Versus). Also, if you have DirecTV (I know I do), you can catch more of the games on this trip (and other NHL action) during a free trial of Center Ice going on now through the 19th.
That's how the weekend went for your Anaheim Ducks, who played well to get that point at Joe Louis Arena (though it was still agonizing that they didn't get two) and followed up with a relatively convincing victory in Columbus last night.
Corey Perry notched his second hat trick against the Blue Jackets this year (the last one coming last month) in a 5-3 victory that somewhat took the sting out of the missed opportunity in Detroit. Yes, the Ducks got a point in a place where few opponents do, but they oh-so-narrowly missed a chance to snap an 18-game home win streak by the Red Wings at JLA. (That streak, incidentally, started way back on November 20, a 5-0 victory against ... you guessed it ... Anaheim.)
Never was that close call more stomach-churning than during a rare 3-on-3 in the middle of overtime, when Cam Fowler looked poised to win the game on a breakaway, but his backhand clanged off the right post (2:10 mark of this video). That was just one of a number of missed opportunities for the Ducks, who went scoreless on seven power play opportunities. They also, it should be noted, killed off a death-defying Red Wings 5-on-3 in the final half-minute of OT. Detroit's 24 shots on the night were the fewest they've had at home all season.
But Anaheim's only goal was George Parros' in the first period, his first since scoring two against Florida in December of 2010. Another apparent goal by Niklas Hagman was waved off when officials determined Parros interfered with goalie Joey MacDonald.
And it was MacDonald who came up big in the all-important shootout, denying Perry and then Bobby Ryan, just minutes after Todd Bertuzzi gave Detroit the lead with a painfully slow approach to Jonas Hiller and a successful backhand.
"It was tough to watch that," said Parros. "We had a lot of opportunities. We certainly played hard. Just couldn't capitalize on some of them."You let a good team like that hang around, it'll burn you eventually. That's what happened tonight."But two nights later the Ducks left no doubt, despite the fact that a snowstorm delayed them to the point where they didn't arrive to their hotel in Columbus until a little after 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Perry's play was a big reason for the win, as his hat trick came on 11 shots, one short of the team record set three times by a guy named Kariya. Meanwhile, after that disappointing night in Detroit, the Ducks cashed in three times on the power play.
Yet Bruce Boudreau was more pleased with how the Ducks played in Detroit than how they did in Columbus. "It was a sloppy game," he said. "I told them to never complain about winning a game. If we want to continue to win on this trip we have to get more like we played in Detroit rather than [how] we played here."
Perry's triple gave him 26 goals on the season through 55 games. Last season he had 28 goals at that point -- on his way to 50.
Perry scoring goals in bunches in nothing new, but Lubomir Visnovsky getting into a fight certainly is. And Ducks fans had to be in disbelief at what they were seeing on their flatscreens when they saw Lubo get into it with Derick Brassard in the second period last night. Visnovsky and Brassard began throwing down in the middle of a pileup behind the Anaheim net, with Brassard getting the better of Visnovsky after his jersey went over his head. Here's some video, in which that young Jackets fan looks just as shocked as anybody that Lubo's fighting:
"Show the team something a little bit, you know," Visnovsky told the OC Register afterward. "It doesn't matter. We win the game. We needed two points. It's perfect for us. The team was a little bit laughing about me because they never seen me fight."Indeed, there is no record of Visnovsky ever fighting before on hockeyfights.com, but he said he's had five in his 11-year career, the last coming against Dustin Byfuglien while Lubo was with the Kings.
This time Visnovsky got five for fighting and another two for roughing, and was actually given a game misconduct for not having his jersey properly fastened to his pants. That left the Ducks a defenseman short for the rest of the game.
"I don't tie up the jersey because I never think I'm going to fight," Visnovsky said. "Maybe I start to tie it up."
It's doubtful he'll need to anytime soon, but Lubo still said he gave George Parros a little warning. "I told George, be careful for next season," he said. "I maybe take your job."
Retorted Parros to the OCR, "He can have it. I'll take his job. No problem with that switch."
The Ducks were able to get in some rare road practice time this morning in St. Paul, to get ready for the Wild tomorrow night. Here's more on that from Dan Wood.
Ducks prospect Emerson Etem is continuing to light it up in juniors, scoring his 50th and 51st goals yesterday (in just his 50th game) for Medicine Hat of the WHL. You can check out the 50th and 51st in this video, starting at around the 2:20 mark.
Etem is the first Medicine Hat Tigers player to score 50 games in a season since a guy named Joffrey Lupul had 56 in the 2001-02 campaign. Etem's also the first WHL player to score 50 goals in 50 or fewer appearances in a season since 2000-01.
The 19-year-old Etem, the Long Beach native who was taken 29th overall by the Ducks in the 2010 draft, was one of the last players to be left off the opening night roster for the Ducks out of training camp back in September. He was sent to to his junior team and is not eligible to be brought up by the Ducks this season. But he would again appear to again have a strong shot to make the team out of next season's camp.
"I got cut the last two years and it was disappointing," Etem told Yahoo! Sports. "It makes me want to make the team next year that much more. I think I'm ready for the NHL. It will be their decision, but I'm going to go to camp in great shape and be motivated to make the team."
This just in: Here's video of all 51 goals from this season so far, which today was tweeted by Etem himself.
|That's pretty much a star-studded faceoff.
Let's just hope when it's all over, we're calling it successful.
Your Anaheim Ducks are launching an eight-game, 15-day voyage that covers just over 7,700 miles and equals the longest uninterrupted road trip in team history (here's more on that). And if you can imagine running the first mile of a marathon up the stairs of the Rose Bowl, that's pretty much how the Ducks are starting this roadie.
Tonight (or this early evening if you're in Cali) they face the Detroit Red Wings, who are not only the typical Red Wings again (first in the West) but have put together a modest little EIGHTEEN-GAME WINNING STREAK at Joe Louis Arena. And it's not like that building isn't tough enough for the Ducks, who haven't won there since the 2009 playoffs (when Todd Marchant won it from the left wing in triple OT).
"Somebody's going to break it. Why not us? " Saku Koivu told the OC Register about that home streak. "A game like that and a challenge like that, it's going to be great for us starting the long road trip. "If we can get two points in that one, that's a heck of a start for our team. And I think if you want to make the playoffs, you're going to have to beat some teams that maybe you're not expected to win against."
Detroit is expected to go with Joey MacDonald in net, as Jimmy Howard recovers from a broken finger suffered in a shootout win over Vancouver on February 2. Ty Conklin was supposed to provide relief, but he was pulled for MacDonald the very next game, an overtime loss in Edmonton. MacDonald has started the last two and gone 1-1-0.
But no matter who is in net, Detroit continues to be Detroit. "You're talking about the elite of the elite," Boudreau said. "When you measure yourself, you measure yourself against the Detroit Red Wings. They're the best in the league and whether they won last year's Cup or didn't win last year's Cup, they're the measuring stick."
The Wings took down Anaheim 5-0 the last time these two teams played there, back on November 5. But as we all know, this is a much different Ducks team.
Anaheim is on an 11-2-2 run that absolutely has to maintain on this trip for the Ducks to have any hopes of postseason contention. Last night Phoenix edged Calgary to leap into the eighth spot with 60 points, 10 better than the Ducks. For the Ducks to stay afloat, they need to do some significant damage on a journey that, after tonight, takes them to Columbus, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina.
But while the road ahead is a long one, the focus for the Ducks is strictly on a tall task tonight. "We want to approach it as one day at a time," Boudreau said. "If you look at it as, Man, by the time we get to Carolina, we're going to be exhausted, then you'll probably be be exhausted tonight. If you look at it as, It's fun to play on the road and play in a great hockey city, then it will be good."
It's somewhat of a new experience for Boudreau after spending most of his NHL coaching career in the Eastern Conference, where road trips like these aren't common.
"I don't how I'm going to feel come the end of it because when you're in the East, you don't get trips like this," said Boudreau, who then flashed his vast knowledge of the rest of the NHL. "But looking around the league, Los Angeles is on a trip like this right now, Detroit just came back from a trip like this, San Jose is on a trip like this next week, Chicago is in the middle of a trip like this. What are we gonna do, cry about it? Let's just go do it."
(Heck, I know I'm pumped now.)
|It's not quite Tebowing, but it works just fine.
On a night when goals were at a premium -- with both Jonas Hiller and Carolina's Cam Ward doing what they do -- the Ducks could have been discouraged by a fluky Eric Staal goal that gave the Canes a 2-1 lead in the third. Instead, they came right back with a Saku Koivu rebound goal a minute and a half later, and a long overdue Perry goal in OT gave Anaheim a long overdue overtime victory.
A couple minutes into the extra session, Perry knocked down Jussi Jokinen behind the Carolina net, hopped on the loose puck and sent it across the ice to Sheldon Brookbank. He gave it right back to Perry, who pierced the net with a drilled one-timer that set the Honda Center crowd into pandemonium.
When Perry was asked about it later, he simply said. "They didn’t blow the whistle, so you keep playing. I found (Brookbank) coming late. He made a great play back to me."
It was the first goal in seven games for Perry and the first overtime victory in five tries for the Ducks this season.
"Right now we have the confidence that we can win those kind of games," said Hiller, who was solid with 31 saves. "To be twice a goal down and we come back, score and win in overtime. That's the difference right now. Two months ago we would have just lost the game.
"Now we just keep going, push even a little harder. You have to believe in being able to win those games. And right now everyone's believing. We found a way and that's what counts."
The win moved the Ducks to within eight points of MInnesota for the eighth spot in the West, thanks to an 11-2-2 run that's better than all but two teams in the NHL.
"It's a telltale sign of a team that won't quit," Bruce Boudreau said of getting that equalizing Koivu goal in the third. "And it's a telltale sign of a team that wants to win. This team has gone from five weeks ago when we were 20 points out of a playoff spot now to eight points."It's a team that's never stopped believing in themselves."
That belief will be tested on a critical eight-game, 15-day road trip the Ducks left for this morning. First stop is Detroit and Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings have won 18 in a row (more on that tomorrow).
"Until that last bell rings, whether they're eliminated or whether they're in," Boudreau said, "they're going to keep going."
- - -
In the wake of Ryan Getzlaf winning the Hardest Shot competition at last Saturday's Skills Showdown at 99.3 mph, and then reaching 102 at Tuesday's First Flight Field Trip, Bruce Boudreau was approached about a longtime topic -- trying to get Getzlaf to shoot the puck more.
"We've been telling him to shoot," Boudreau said. "Coaches long before me have been telling him to shoot. And we wish he'd shoot the puck more. But he is what he is. He's a pass-first guy. He's got a great touch when it comes to passing. He's going to do what he does."
Getzlaf has eight goals this season on 107 shots.
“He knows,” Boudreau continued. “You know what, it’s tough to argue when you’ve been a passer your whole life. And I know the feeling. You’re first option is to pass the puck and you’re looking for somebody to pass the puck to. You’re option to shoot is your last option.
“Whereas a shooter’s option is … Brett Hull would get it and he wouldn’t be looking to pass. He’s looking to shoot the puck. And then at the last moment, if somebody was open, he’d be passing. Ovechkin is the same way. He wants to shoot the puck and then if somebody’s open, he’ll pass it. But his first thing is to shoot it. Ryan’s first option is to pass. And it’s not a bad thing because he’s so good at it.”
|Had to dig through the black and white archives to find a photo from the last time the 'Canes played in Anaheim.
It's true: Thanks in part to a 10-2-2 run -- and the fact that Minnesota has gone 4-7-2 since the new year -- the Ducks can get within eight points of the eighth spot with a win against the Hurricanes tonight at Honda Center.
Carolina is 6-2-2 in its last 10, but still remains in last place in the Eastern Conference. “For the last five weeks, they’ve been playing real good hockey against anybody that they play,” said Bruce Boudreau. “In their division, nobody seems to want it. I think they’re like us that they believe. Everybody keeps losing and we keep winning, there’s a good shot that something good can happen.”
The Hurricanes haven't been to Honda Center since November 25, 2009, a date so long ago, in fact, that there are 10 Ducks in the lineup tonight who have never played Carolina at Honda Center. So long ago that Anaheim's defenseman on that night were Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, James Wisniewski, Nick Boynton, Steve Eminger and Brendan Mikkelson.
Meanwhile, the 'Canes are one of the few teams from the East the Ducks face twice this year, as Anaheim heads to Carolina later this month at the end of a daunting eight-game, 16-day road trip that starts Friday.
A big reason for Carolina's strong play as of late is veteran goalie Cam Ward. The 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is 6-3-2 with a 1.45 goals-against average in his last 11 starts. Ward will be in there again tonight.
"Cam Ward has given up eight goals in his last seven games or something ridiculous like that," said Boudreau, who faced Ward plenty as coach of the Capitals. "I've seen him like that when he gets on a roll and he's impossible to score against. It's like he has an invisible sheild behind him. So, it's going to be a tough game."
And it's the last chance to see the Ducks at home until February 26, so get your tickets. The first 10,000 fans in attendance receive a package of Ducks trading cards and if you have a Ducks sticker on your car in the parking lot, you could win an oversized autographed Teemu Selanne Topps card.
- - -
Boudreau was asked yesterday by Randy Youngman of the OC Register why he didn't use George Parros at some point during the eight-round shootout Anaheim ultimately won on Monday night vs. Calgary. It's not an outlandish question, considering that Parros won the Accuracy Shooting portion of the Skills Showdown on Saturday, by hitting all four corner targets on four shots. It's the second straight year he's done that.
Boudreau actually did call on Parros in the eighth rounds -- and he was promptly turned down.
"I told him (Parros) he was up next, and he said, 'No way!' " Boudreau said with a laugh. "He didn't wanna go."
Boudreau turned to Niklas Hagman instead, and we all know how well that turned out.
(P.S. I'm convinced that if I had a sweet playroom like that when I was a kid, my life would have gone in an entirely different direction.)
|"It was about time," Hiller said, "we finally win a shootout."
Hate it or love it, the shootout can be the ultimate in enjoyable agony, and last night was the epitome of that. It took eight excruciating rounds for the Ducks to earn an amazing 14th straight home victory against the Calgary Flames, dating way back to January 19, 2004. More importantly, it was a win Anaheim desperately had to have.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's an extra point to move up on teams," said Bobby Ryan, who had the first goal in the Ducks' 3-2 decision. "But I think that's the most critical shootout we've ever been in. You could feel it down the bench, that's for sure."
Not only that, it was Anaheim's first shootout win since Ryan won it for them way back on October 8 against the Rangers in Helsinki. Since then, the Ducks had gone 0-4 in the shootout and another 0-4 in overtime (including Calgary last month).
"Yeah, it was about time we finally win a shootout," said Jonas Hiller, who was a major reason they finally did. He stopped six of eight Calgary attempts, including a few that would have clinched it for the Flames. The Ducks couldn't breathe easy until he made a stop on Mikael Backlund, but had to reach behind his own body to shoo the trickling puck away from goal line. That more than made up for the fact the Ducks lost a 2-1 lead in the third period and dodged a couple of close calls in overtime. (They actually almost won it themselves in the extra period when a quick Teemu Selanne shot got under goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and hit the very inside of the far post.)
"We really needed those two points," Hiller said. "We really wanted it. It wasn't an easy game. I think both teams played really hard. You could see it out there. Both teams really wanted those points.One point more or less, especially in the situation we’re in, can be between having a chance to make the playoffs and being out of the playoffs. I knew it was really important. I really wanted it."
The Ducks only got in position to win on Hiller's save because of Niklas Hagman, Anaheim's eighth shooter on the night after only Ryan and Corey Perry had successful shootout bids. Hagman sprinted in on countryman and former Calgary teammate Kiprusoff, and waited just long enough to get the goaltender sprawling before lifting a wicked wrist shot past him.
"It's a goalie that I've practiced a lot against quite a bit," said Hagman, who played in Calgary from 2010 until he was acquired by the Ducks last fall. "I don't have that many moves. He knows my go-to moves. I tried to switch it up a little bit.
"I wanted to come with good speed and I wanted to shoot it. Luckily for me, he probably thought that I'm going to go with my backhand."
(Kiprusoff was going for his 300th career win and his first in Anaheim as a member of the Flames. He actually earned his second NHL win in what was then known as the Pond as a member Sharks on April 8, 2001. Since then he is 0-6-3 lifetime at Honda Center in the regular season.)
"We needed that one pretty bad," said Bruce Boudreau, whose Ducks pulled to within 10 points of a playoff spot. "I’m sure in the last 30 games there are going to be a lot of games like that around the league, which is what makes hockey so great."
And even if that gut-twisting overtime and shootout took a year off all of our lives, or at least made us lose a little bit of hair, maybe in the end it was all worth it. That, as well, is what makes hockey so great.
|This overtime win last March made it 13 in a row at home vs. Calgary.
Cam Fowler was just 12 years old and Teemu Selanne had less than 450 goals when the Flames last won in Anaheim a 5-1 victory on January 19, 2004. No one could have predicted it would be their last win here for the next eight years, although, that Calgary win ended a nine-game winless stretch that had dated back to January 13, 1999. (It's important to point out, also, that the Flames did take Game 3 of the first round series at the former Pond in 2006, a series the Ducks ultimately won in seven.)
To presume that lengthy streak has much to do with what will go on tonight is silly. After all, the only guy who played in that game who will also suit up tonight is Toni Lydman (and he was playing for Calgary at the time). Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, who will be in there for the Flames tonight, were actually both out with injuries in that '04 game.
So, as Jerry Seinfeld might say, it's really the Ducks' clothes that have dominated the Flames' laundry all these years.
"None of that stuff matters when it comes down to it," Ryan Getzlaf told the OC Register. "Every time you step on the ice (against them), it's usually a new team from year to year. We've got to make sure that we continue it."
Said Iginla to the Calgary Herald, "We go in with the mindset that we're due to win in there, right? As far as guys thinking, ‘Oh, we haven’t won there in forever.’ That’s not (true, except) for a few of us, you know what I mean? Other guys have only played three, two games in there (as Flames).”
So history means very little tonight, as both the Ducks and Flames could desperately use a win -- though Anaheim is a bit more desperate than Calgary. The Ducks know their margin for error is dwindling by the day, after losing last Wednesday to the Stars and getting only a point against the Blue Jackets last Friday. Anaheim is 12 points back of Minnesota in the eighth spot, with five teams between them and that plateau. That includes these Flames, who are four points back.
"We're in that position," Bruce Boudreau said yesterday. "We've just got to play one game at a time. You can't look at the big things because it'll be overwhelming if you look at the whole picture."
This morning, for the second straight day, Matt Beleskey skated with the second line while Niklas Hagman was moved to the fourth unit. The combos looked like this: