POSTED ON Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 4:59 PM
Bill Simmons of ESPN.com and the new Grantland website wrote a piece recently on the NBA lockout, noting that he's given up his Clippers season tickets and bought Kings tickets instead. Now, while I can't endorse that choice over the Ducks (granted, he does live in LA), I did enjoy his take on why hockey is so entertaining:
I realized something during last night's Kings-Blues game: I have never not enjoyed myself at an NHL game. I mean, what's not to love? It's a sport with the best in-game format (long period, long break, long period, long break, long period, go home), best regular-season in-game wrinkle (the shootout), best secretly awesome moment (any fight), highest percentage of "most likable players" (hands down), and highest percentage of "true fans in attendance" of the four major sports (indisputable). They fixed many of the sport's problems, made it better, and now we're here.
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This video that was shot for the NHL Premiere game in Helsinki recently debuted in-arena at Honda Center and it's a beauty. My favorite part is how the script requires the players to say "Hey..." before they try "Pass me the puck" in Finnish. And, no surprise, George Parros shines in this thing.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.19.2011 / 2:33 PM
The most welcome sight during the Ducks' return to practice this afternoon was not the practice itself, but what went on afterwards. There was Francois Beauchemin, surrounded by about a half dozen reporters in the Ducks locker room, talking and laughing about the incident in San Jose that could have turned disastrous.
For those of us who were watching at the time it was a horrifying site -- Beauchemin taking a 90 mile-per-hour Dan Boyle slap shot to the face, going down in a heap then being helped off the ice with blood pouring from his head onto the sheet of ice. But thanks to the visor that Beauchemin wears full-time (and frankly, every hockey player should) what could have been a catastophe instead ended up being 10-12 stitches to the cut above Beauchemin's left eye. And the tough-as-nails defenseman was back out on the ice with four minutes left in the game, playing a major role in the Ducks hanging on for a 3-2 win over the Sharks. At one point late in the third, with Dan Ellis scrambling to get back in position, Beauchemin guarded the left post and kicked away a puck that could have led to the tying goal.
Beauchemin told the story of the puck incident today, starting with what he saw on the play. "All I could see was the puck coming 90 miles an hour and I didn't have time to react and move away," he said. "It hit my visor and I just went down. In that fraction of a second you have time to think, Oh my God. Did something bad happen? Is my eye okay?
"I took my helmet off and opened my eyes and I could see. I had time to worry about my eye for like a fraction of a second. As soon as I opened my eyes, I was able to see. I saw blood coming down but I knew it wasn't bad."
See, that's a hockey player for you. A cut above your eye from a speeding puck can be considered "not bad." For Beauchemin, the focus was on getting right back out there. "I knew it was 3-2 and there wasn't much time left," he said. "I think when I went in there was eight or nine minnutes left. I knew there was a timeout after the 6-minute mark, so I told the doc, 'Let's hurry up and get me back out there.'"
One reporter mentioned that there was a rumor that Beauchemin actually ran down the tunnel to get back in the game. "Who said that?" he laughed, acknowledging it was true. " Yeah, I wanted to hurry up and get back before they started to play again. Sometimes the play goes 2 or 3 minutes without a timeout."
But before he could do that, the doctor attending to Beauchemin had to run him through a sequence of tests to determine if he had a concussion. "They asked me some pretty hard questions, like saying the months of the year backwards," Beauchemin said with a chuckle. "That was the first one they did. I was like, 'Come on, give me an easier one than that.' I actually missed March.
"After that he asked me who we played last, where we were, what was the score, what time the game was. I told him we played St. Louis and won 4-3 last night at home. He asked what happened before the play, and I said I was battling in front and it was a D-to-D one-timer. I remembered everything, no headaches, nothing. When the doctor told me it was just a cut, and I felt alright, I knew I just needed to get stitched up and go back out there. There were no broken bones or pain at all."
Of course, this isn't the first time that the toughness of the guy some call "Boom Boom" has gone down in Ducks lore. There was the fight with Jarome Iginla in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, a fight Beauchemin won decidedly to (as many believe) turn the tide of that series. Ironically enough, it was Beauchemin who took off his visor for that fight and encouraged Iginla to do the same.
There was the fight Beauchemin won decidedly over Tomas Kopecky of the Red Wings in Game 4 of an extremely tense playoff series with the Red Wings in 2009.
And there was this one that isn't as well known, against Minnestoa in the first round of the Cup run in 2007. Beauchemin took a deflected puck to the face in Game 3 of that series, suffering a cracked jaw, an inch-long gash on the right side of his chin (a scar you can still see today) and a lost tooth. He had a plate surgically inserted into his jaw on a Monday, missed Game 4 the next day and was back for Game 5 another two days later with a clear protective wraparound facemask.
Not only did he play a game-high 28:32 in that game and take four shots on goal, but he got into this scrap with Marian Gaborik after a whistle. The scuffle turned into a shoving match, but escalated when Beauchemin went after Gaborik for throwing a punch at his head.
It's that kind of toughness -- not to mention a rocket of a slapshot -- that has made Beauchemin so esteemed by fans, teammates and coaches during two separate runs with the Ducks.
And after fearing the worst when that hairy moment went down Monday night, it's awfully encouraging to see him left with only with a few stitches and a heck of a good story.
POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.18.2011 / 9:39 AM
When you care about your hockey team -- I mean, truly care -- your typical big game is more than just 2 1/2 hours of sporting entertainment. It's varying levels of fear, angst and nervousness that only dissipates when that final horn sounds and your goalie is being patted on the helmet by his teammates. It starts all over again the next time your team plays, and yet we willingly accept this constant tension -- even relish it -- because that's what it means to be a fan. I haven't done the research on this, but I'm fairly certain being a die-hard hockey fan takes at least a year off your life in the long run. And that's a trade we're willing to make.
Last night was one of those times when a Ducks fan's torment was heightened for a variety of reasons. The Ducks were playing their first Stateside road game of the season, less than 24 hours after a big home win, against a bitter rival that we hate to lose to, in a building full of screaming teal-clad fans that make HP Pavilion one of the hardest places to win in. And they were doing it behind backup Dan Ellis, seeing his first action of the season after playing behind a so-far-outstanding Jonas Hiller.
Any tension was slightly eased when the Ducks leapt to a 2-0 lead through one period thanks to the heroics of Teemu Selanne and his first two goals of the year. But the Sharks being the Sharks, there was little doubt they would find a way to get back in the game. And they did, cutting the lead in half in the second period on a goal that deflected off Bobby Ryan's leg.
We went through that same swing of emotions in the third. Corey Perry reminded us why he's the MVP when he made space for himself, spun and whipped a ridiculous slingshot into the far top corner. Then Brent Burns brought that nervousness right back by nailing a one-timer to make it a one-goal game.
That led to nine minutes of abject dread that the Sharks would find a way to tie the game, as they constantly circled the Ducks net like ... well, like sharks. And it was just before that time that we all experienced a fear of a different kind -- one that has nothing to do with winning and losing. A Dan Boyle slap shot struck Francois Beauchemin in the visor, causing a compression cut that forced him to scramble off the ice with his head down, blood pouring out as trainer Tim Clarke helped him off the ice with a towel covering the cut. The scary moment had fans (Ducks or otherwise) simultaneously hoping he was okay, while also thinking, Thank goodness he wears a visor.
But Beauchemin ultimately quelled our fears in a couple of ways, returning to the game with a few stitches with about four minutes left, and playing a major role in the Ducks holding on to that oh-so-slim lead and pulling off a tension-filled victory. Of course, Dan Ellis could be credited for much of that, as 15 of his 41 saves came in that tumultuous third period when it seemed almost certain the Sharks would tie it. And the Burns goal in the third was the only one he gave up that actually came off a Sharks stick.
“You don't want to be the guy that loses a little bit of a streak,” Ellis told the OC Register afterward. "In the same way, when you are on a little bit of a losing streak, you want to be the guy to snap it a little bit. You take pride in those opportunities.”
Come Friday night against Dallas, the Ducks' streak will be on the line again, as they go for a fifth straight against another division rival. And, of course, we'll be blissfully anxious all over again.
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By the way, the chemistry-themed intro to Ducks telecasts on Prime Ticket is kind of cool. If you haven't seen it yet (or even if you have), here it is below. I can confirm that Teemu's eyes actually do that (48-second mark). No special effects were added.
POSTED ON Monday, 10.17.2011 / 11:09 AM
|You've gotta feel good about Ducks hockey right now.
(Yes, I know it's cheesy to post a picture of my own nephew, but I'm doing it anyway.)
You know what? This team looks pretty good.
It's still early yet -- very early, in fact -- but let's not let that ruin our joy. The Ducks win when they score, and they win when they don't score. The win when the RPG line gets shut down, and they win when they explode for a typically big night. They win with the power play, and they win without the power play.
Last night, in a convincing 4-2 victory over the Blues at Honda Center, the Ducks had all of those things. And here's something else they have: a 3-1-0 record that marks the best four-game start since the Cup season. It's also the fewest goals (7) they've ever allowed in their first four games.
Friday night, in a 1-0 shutout of the Sharks in the electric home opener the Ducks reached another milestone. That win combined with the 2-1 shootout victory in Stockholm marked the first time in franchise history that Anaheim had won two straight games while only scoring one goal in each (thanks to OCR's Randy Youngman for providing that stat). It's a tribute to a stingy defense, but it's not exactly what you'd expect of a team with Perry, Ryan, Getzlaf, Selanne, Visnovsky and a power play that tied for second in the NHL last year.
You knew it was only a matter of time before the goals -- as Selanne might say -- came splatting out like ketchup from a stubborn bottle after a few beats on the bottom. And what better night than Corey Perry Night for Perry and his top-line playmates to come alive? Perry had a goal, Ryan had two and Getzlaf had two assists and they all contributed to a power play that had come into the night 0 for 13 on the season.
The Ducks technically had only one power play goal, but two others came just as the power play had expired or shortly after. Ryan's goal just 2:20 into the game came at the exact second that the Nikita Nikitin (now that's a name) holding minor died, as he punched in a hard rebound off a Francois Beauchemin slapper. And another rocket by "Boom Boom" earned the Ducks a second goal early in the third, just seconds after Jason Arnott's high-sticking penalty ran out. It was the first time this season the Ducks had scored two in a game.
After that, the Ducks completely drowned their order of fries (it's a metaphor; go with it) and kept pouring it on. They got their first official power play goal of the season when Perry and those magical hands tipped in a floating puck off a Selanne one-timer that he didn't strike squarely. Then Ryan getting his second goal on a beautiful pickup of a pinballing puck and wristing a shot that just trickled behind the previously sharp Jaroslav Halak.
And the way Jonas Hiller has been playing (how's 1.71 GAA and .931 SV% work for you?) behind that very solid Ducks D, you had to feel like this one was pretty much over. And it was, despite a Steen goal halfway through the third that hardly made the crowd of 14,555 squirm in their seats.
So, a solid weekend for the Ducks, aside from one glaring incident on Friday night against San Jose. Winger Jason Blake got accidentally cut by a skate blade by Brent Burns in the third period, suffering a severe laceration above the left wrist and will miss three months.
The Ducks, who have moved Brandon McMillan into that second-line winger spot for now, move on without him. That continues tonight in a rematch with the Sharks (a mildly surprising 1-2-0 to start the year) under the roof of what promises to be a loud HP Pavilion. That's about as intriguing a road game for the Ducks as you're going to get as early as October 17, and we should savor this one, since the Ducks and Sharks won't face each other again until December 26.
Yeah, I know it's early, but for a team that's had notoriously bad Octobers, a 3-1-0 start to the season feels a bit like Christmas already.
POSTED ON Friday, 10.14.2011 / 2:35 PM
We're mere hours away from one of the coolest nights this place sees all year, but this one packs just a little more buzz than your typical Ducks home opener.
Because of their jaunt through Scandinavia for the first two games of the season, it's the first Stateside game of the regular season for the Ducks. And because of the much-needed rest they were granted in the afterglow of that trip, it's the first Ducks hockey game of any kind in six days. And oh, by the way, the teal is in the building.
That rest, while very important for the team in the long run, had been tough for Ducks fans to endure. We're ready for some more hockey, dammit, and we're finally getting it back tonight.
There's all the hustle and bustle of opening night among the staff here at Honda Center as well. A minute ago I asked our building operations guy for a new lightbulb, since the one in my office burned out. He looked at me like I asked him for a unicorn to ride around the arena. (I'm thinking I'll get that lightbulb on Monday).
It wouldn't be a Ducks home opener without some pomp and circumstance. Fans are already arriving for the "Miller Lite Blue Carpet," which will include live music and Ducks player arrivals. Those suit-clad Ducks will stop for interviews, sign a few autographs, shake a few hands, maybe kiss a few babies. (We'll have photos and video of it later, but follow along on our Twitter page as well.)
Once inside, you'll be handed a brand new Ducks Digest (I had to get that plug in)with a couple of pretty important Ducks on the cover. You'll find new and different food, including the Burger Bistro and Outlaw's Smokehouse (I can tell you firsthand that the brisket sandwich with cole slaw on it is fantastic.)
When those Ducks hit the ice for the warmup, you'll notice them wearing a special "24" patch in honor or Ruslan Salei.
And then of course there is a hockey game, a very important hockey game against one of the Ducks' more reviled opponents. (It's true that familiarity breeds contempt, as this is the first of six meetings between the Ducks and Sharks this season, not to mention the two in the preseason.)
Despite the fact their last game was in Phoenix, the Sharks have gotten the same amount of gamedays off as the Ducks have, not having played since beating the Coyotes 6-3. For the second straight game, they will be without their starting goalie (in other words they'll be anti-Antti Niemi) as he recovers from having a cyst removed from his knee. Meanwhile, traditional backup Antero Niittymaki (I definitely copied and pasted that name for fear of misspelling it) is out a few more months following hip surgery.
The Ducks, on the other hand, got some good news in the injury realm, as Toni Lydman is expected to be in the lineup tonight. Lydman hasn't played at all as he comes back from a May surgery to repair a torn labrum, but has been cleared for contact for the past several days now. “He will in all likelihood play tonight,” Randy Carlyle said this morning. ”I haven’t talked to him since he got off the ice. I haven’t been made aware there was any setbacks. We were going along the premise that he would be available to us if everything was fine this morning. That hasn’t changed.”
If he's in there, expect him to be paired (as he was for most of last year) with Lubomir Visnovsky, with Cam Fowler likely playing with Francois Beauchemin again.
Tonight is also the first chance for the home crowd to see the top line of Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan and that second line of Selanne, Koivu and Blake, with both groups looking to get something going after having a quiet two games in Europe. That fascinating unit line of Gordon, Smith-Pelly and Cogliano will likely be together again, and will all be going through something else together -- their first home openers as Ducks.
I stopped Cogliano in the locker room today and asked him if the players feel the same kind of buzz for a home opener that the fans feel. "For sure," he said. "You start your first game here, you want to show yourself well and have a good game. It's going to be exciting. It's something new for me. I'm not used to a home opener here and seeing how the fans react. I can tell there is excitement for the season and they know there is a good team here.
"It's San Jose on a Friday night, so it's even a little more exciting. It's going to be a good night."
Glad we're in agreement on that.
POSTED ON Thursday, 10.13.2011 / 2:02 PM
The Ducks have had enough faith in Devante Smith-Pelly to not only give him a spot in the opening night roster but to so far slot him at winger on an increasingly intriguing third forward line. The 19-year-old who played his last three junior seasons in Mississauga of the OHL has meshed well with two linemates – Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon – who are also playing their first regular season games in a Ducks uniform. (For lack of a better term right now, let’s call it the New Guy Line.) The three combined on Anaheim’s only goal in the 2-1 shootout victory over the Rangers last Saturday in Stockholm, with Smith-Pelly’s hustle springing loose a puck that Gordon was able to toss in front to a crashing Cogliano.
Although he was drafted by the Ducks in 2010 and went through his first training camp later that year as an 18-year-old, it occurred to me that I really haven’t had much contact with the likeable Smith-Pelly other than a quick handshake. So after practice today at Honda Center, with Smith-Pelly's first regular season NHL home opener a day away, I re-introduced myself.
He responded with, "Hey, I'm Devante," which really wasn't necessary.
We sat down for a quick chat about how things are going in Anaheim (and Europe, for that matter) so far.
You said recently that even though you were a longshot to make the team out of camp last year as an 18-year-old, you were disappointed when you were sent back to juniors.
Yeah, anytime you come into camp, your goal is to make the team. It was pretty unrealistic for me to play at 18, but when I was sent back, I was pretty disappointed. I wanted to make sure I had a good season and make sure I put myself in position to make the team the following year.
What’s different this year from last year?
I think it’s me just being a year older, a little more mature, a little bigger and stronger. I just know what to expect. Last year I came in here and kind of maybe dipped my toe in, rather than going full in. This year I knew what to expect, what the coaches expected of me. All I had to worry about was that kind of stuff instead of everything else.
As was the case with Cam Fowler last year, Smith-Pelly is too young to be sent to the AHL, so if he is sent down, it would be to his junior team and the Ducks would lose him for the rest of the season. If the Ducks release him before his 10th NHL game, this season wouldn’t count against the Ducks as a first full season of his contract.
How much do you think about that 10-game mark?
I talked to Bob Murray yesterday and he said the 9-game mark or 10-game mark doesn’t really matter. It’s not really me looking at the 9-game mark to impress. If I want to stay here the whole year, I’m going to have to play well the whole year. It was good for him to kind of make sure I knew that rather than me kind of assuming that I could play well in those nine games and then have to shut it down.
Do you feel pretty comfortable playing with Cogliano and Gordon so far?
We’ve been together a little while now and we’re starting to click and create some chemistry. It was a little hard at the start with Gordon being a right winger, and a couple times he came over to my side. We’ve worked that stuff out, and we’re three guys who click together and our styles complement each other. Hopefully we can continue this.
What’s your living situation right now?
Right now I’m just at the hotel down the street. It’s alright. I have no roommate, just kind of hanging out. I bought an Xbox a little while ago and I’ve been doing that.
I'm a PS3 guy.
Nah, Xbox is better. I play NHL, Madden.
Are you in the current NHL game? I think you are.
Well, I don’t have the online in the hotel, so I can’t download the new roster. I should probably figure that out though.
What else have you been doing?
I’m just doing my own thing in my room, texting Mace (Maxime Macenauer) or Gordon or anyone else who’s there, Mac (Brandon McMillan) or Guenin. We’re all there. We go for dinner or hang out, but mostly I’m in my room just relaxing and doing my own thing.
How messy is that room?
It was a lot messier before we went to Finland, but the maid cleaned it up when we were gone. I haven’t really unpacked yet. I just kind of left all my stuff in my suitcase. Right now it’s looking pretty clean.
At least with hotel life you have a maid and room service.
Oh yeah. I’ve probably had room service 20 days straight now, so I’m definitely taking advantage of that.
How is Orange County different from Mississuaga?
The biggest difference is it’s October and it’s not freezing here. It’s just a suburb of Toronto, a decent-sized community about 20 minutes from Toronto. It’s a lot like I guess Anaheim or Newport Beach without the beach part. The main difference is definitely the weather. Yesterday was so hot, it was probably the hottest day since I’ve been here. I talked to my mom last night and she said it was freezing back home. I don’t miss that at all.
Have you been down to the beach at all?
We’ve been a couple times. Mostly since we came back from Finland it’s been guys trying to get back to the routine. Guys get back from the rink and we make a plan to go do something and everybody just kind of falls asleep. Right now we’re just kind of relaxing.
What was the coolest thing about Finland?
I’d have to say being on Teemu’s boat and going to Sauna Island. It was amazing. I never even imagined anything like that. His boat is amazing.
Is there a point where you’re standing on Teemu Selanne’s yacht, headed to an island in Finland and wondering, What the heck am I doing here?
[Laughs] Yeah. There were a couple of times where I just thought to myself, I never, ever thought I’d be able to do these things. It was all pretty cool.
And of the two of us, the one who said, "Thanks a lot. I appreciate it" when we were done talking? That was Smith-Pelly.
POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.11.2011 / 2:22 PM
The table in the hallway outside the Ducks locker room -- which usually is topped with a container of coffee, stacks of fresh paper cups and piles of sheets containing the latest news clippings -- sits virtually empty. And that can only mean one thing: No practice today.
The Ducks hit the ice yesterday -- a day after returning from their jaunt through Finland and Sweden -- but were given the day off today. It's a last modicum of rest for a Ducks team that, starting with the home opener Friday night, will play three games in four nights (this time in arenas they've seen before.)
“They are tired,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “You can see it.”
Carlyle, who originally planned to give the team yesterday off and get back to practice Stateside today, had a change of heart after conferring with Captain Getzlaf. “He thought it was better if we skated today and then took tomorrow off,” Carlyle said. “We made the adjustment, we have that ability in this building and I thought it was probably a better move than taking today off. It was good to get them back out there.”
The Ducks have their first game in the States against the Sharks here on Friday night, an evening that will have the traditional glitz and glamour of a Ducks home opener. The usual red carpet will be transformed into the Miller Lite Blue Carpet, where fans can watch the players arriving between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. before going inside for the game. Sunday night is Corey Perry Night, as Perry will be honored for his Hart Trophy-winning season, and all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative poster (as they enter Honda Center) and puck (as they exit).
One thing the Ducks might have this weekend (according to Carlyle) that they didn't have in Europe is the services of Toni Lydman, arguably their best shutdown defenseman last year. Lydman, who continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, has yet to play at all this season, but saw a specialist in LA yesterday. His possible return is a tantalizing prospect for a Ducks defense that even without him was able to hold the Rangers to just 15 shots in that 2-1 victory Saturday in Stockholm.
Meanwhile, d-man Kurtis Foster is still recovering from having that wire removed from his thigh and was described by Carlyle as "rusty" but “very close to being ready to play some games.” Foster's only ice time with the Ducks so far is a few minutes in the exhibition against Jokerit last Tuesday.
Anaheim made a trade with Colorado for defenseman Kyle Cumiskey -- which sent prospect Jake Newton and a 2013 seventh-round pick to the Avs -- with Cumiskey being sent to Syracuse today. Cumiskey is an enticing pickup for the Ducks, as he's played NHL 132 games and led Avs defensemen with seven goals in 61 games two seasons ago. he also played for Team Canada in the World Championships last year. The 5-10, 185-pounder suffered a concussion last year that limited him to just 18 games.
"He’s a very, very quick puck-moving defenseman," Carlyle said. "At some point, I’m sure you’ll see him here. I don’t know when. Right now, we’ve got lots of defensemen so it’s tough.”
Like Cumiskey, goalie Jeff Deslauriers was also sent to the Crunch, after joining the Ducks for their Euro trip, since they were permitted to carry three goalies. The Ducks caught a break when Deslauriers passed through waivers before his assignment, as the former Oiler promises to be a very strong third option in net.
POSTED ON Monday, 10.10.2011 / 11:03 AM
It happened 5,600 miles away from Anaheim, but the feeling reverberated through Ducks fans from Orange County to Stockholm:
Stor lättnad. (That's Swedish for great relief.)
When Bobby Ryan slipped that unintentional changeup by nearly unbeatable Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout, and minutes later Jonas Hiller splayed out to deny Artem Anisimov, our biggest fear -- that the Ducks would leave this Euro trip without a win -- were assuaged. The Ducks, after suffering a 4-1 defeat the night before in Finland, pulled off a 2-1 victory that had to make that long flight back to Cali so much sweeter.
Hiller, playing a second straight night only faced 15 shots in regulation and overtime, saving 14 of them and earning his first win since (wait for it) February 13. In the shootout, his stop on Anisimov came just after a beauty of a kick save on Zuccarello (two names, by the way, that get you a ton of points in Words with Friends).
Lundqvist, meanwhile, denied a pretty decent first three in Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne, and it's no coincidence that the only thing the Ducks were able to get by him in the shootout was a shot that definitely didn't go as planned. Ryan, looking to go low glove with the shot, didn't get much of the puck, and the unexpected change of speed fooled Lundqvist enough to get between his leg pads.
“I’m going to label that a fortunate miss,” said Ryan, who had a guilty smile on his face as he headed back to the bench. “I’ll take that lucky break any day ... I think if I would have hit my mark I would have missed because he was already there.”
Lunqvist's 27 saves included a could of stops from point blank on what appeared to be sure Ducks goals, including this robbery on Ryan himself in the second period after a great Getzlaf feed. And Hiller was perfect until a potentially heartbreaking goal from Brad Richards tied the game 1-1 with 2:15 left.
But just as they had done for the rest of the game, the Ducks defense (despite still missing Toni Lydman) shut down the Rangers for the rest of the way, and Hiller did the work on his own in the shootout.
Anaheim's long regulation goal came courtesy of the exciting third line of Andrew Gordon, Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly (we need a name for this line ASAP). After an errant Gordon pass on the rush, both he and DSP chased the loose puck down in the corner, with Gordon unexpectedly sending it in front, where Cogliano punched it in.
First goal as a Duck for Cogliano, first point as an NHLer for DSP, and for Gordon, further validation for the Ducks giving him a chance out of training camp.
The game wasn't a pretty one by any means, with the Rangers and Ducks combining for 19 penalties, 12 of those in the first period alone. All of those penalties could have been partly credited to two tired teams, especially the Ducks, who spent a whirlwind week in Finland before moving over to Stockholm for this game, and arriving at their hotels at 3 a.m. One of the penalties we don't mind, however, was a beauty of a fight won by George Parros over Michael Rupp in that first period.
Parros, according to OC Register writer Jeff Miller, was among the first off the plane when the Ducks landed back in LAX (after two flights totalling nearly nearly 13 hours) at around 6:30 a.m. yesterday morning, tending to his wife Tiffany, who gave birth two twins (Lola and James) last week. The Ducks were mercifully given the rest of Sunday off, but are back at it today at Honda Center to get ready for their first game in the States -- the home opener vs. San Jose on Friday night.
“I would say (we’re) ready to get home, huge,” Ryan said. “It was a great trip…it was a cool thing. But it doesn’t always necessarily put you in the best chance to win. This team is happy to have had the opportunity, but happy to go home, as well.”
POSTED ON Friday, 10.07.2011 / 12:48 PM
The last few Ducks season-openers have reminded me a lot of the last season of Entourage. You eagerly look forward to them for such a long time -- only to end up disappointed.
For the fifth straight year, our giddy anticipation of the start of the season was mildly spoiled by a rough loss in the very first game. This morning's 4-1 defeat to the Sabres in Helsinki was, oddly enough, the fourth such losing score for Anaheim in those last five season openers (the 4-0 loss in Detroit last year being the only outlier).
What little the Ducks were able to get going on the attack and the power play (where they were 0 for 5) was thwarted by goalie Ryan Miller, who not unexpectedly had a very strong opening game. Anaheim actually outshot the Sabres 30-25 (including 11-0 in the third) but not enough of those shots posed a viable threat to Miller, and Nate Guenin's goal in the second period was all the Ducks got.
Meanwhile, the Ducks' coverage down low was not sharp, making things tough on Jonas Hiller. That was a major reason for Buffalo's four goals in the first two periods (two on the power play from Thomas Vanek, who had nine shots), which all but put the game away.
The good news? Three of those previous four seasons ended much better than they started -- with a trip to the playoffs. There's 81 more left, starting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. against the Rangers in Stockholm.
POSTED ON Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 4:06 PM
Eighteen hours away.
Eighteen hours from the moment we've been waiting for all summer.
Eighteen hours from the ignition of the 2011-12 season, when the Ducks drop the puck in Helsinki against the Buffalo Sabres and we begin to find the answers to so many questions.
- Can Jonas Hiller, who hasn't played a regular season game since a rough outing against Nashville way back on March 24, return to the form that made him the Western Conference's best goalie in the first half of last season?
- Can Corey Perry be as good as he was last year? Can his RPG line be just as good, or even better?
- Can that veteran unit of Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Jason Blake once again defy their ages (41, 36 and 38) and be a productive second line?
- Can the entirely brand new grouping of Andrew Gordon, Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly provide that third line scoring the Ducks have been in search of so long?
- Will the Ducks defense -- made up of a core of guys (Visnovsky, Beauchemin, Fowler, Sbisa, Brookbank and soon Lydman) who return from last year's team -- be the force the Ducks need it to be?
- Will the few new guys on this roster -- Cogliano, Gordon, DSP, Kurtis Foster -- provide a spark?
- Can the Ducks shake the trend of slow starts that has plagued them each of the past four seasons?
- Can a team composed of nearly the same makeup that springboarded to a fourth-place finish in the West do it again?
Most of all, when they drop that puck eighteen hours from now, at just a few minutes after 10 a.m. in California, will any of these questions really matter at first? Most of us will just be thinking one thing: Ducks hockey is back.
Kind of brings new meaning to the words "good morning," doesn't it?