Selanne's Greatness Takes On a Different Form
Friday, 10.28.2011 / 7:49 AM PT
Michael Jordan scored so many points, we sometimes forget he was one of the best defensive players in the game.
Hank Aaron hit so many home runs, we forget that he hit better than .300 for his career.
And so it goes for our own legend, Teemu Selanne, who has scored so many goals (six hundred forty at last count), we sometimes forget he can pass the puck pretty well too.
It wasn't just that Selanne had three assists last night in a gratifying 3-2 win in Minnesota (because let's face it, a hockey assist can come in many ways). It was one in particular that reminded us all why Selanne is so special.
Early in the third period, with the Ducks on the power play, Selanne got the puck down low in his patented spot at the bottom of the left wing circle. As soon as he looked toward the net, he saw Ryan Getzlaf sneaking in from the slot, and he floated a pass over sliding Wild defenseman Justin Falk to give Getzlaf and easy tap-in into a wide open net. Not only did he hover the puck high enough to get over Falk, but he got it to land like a butterfly right in front of Getzlaf.
It was one of those plays you couldn't truly appreciate until you saw it in slow-motion from an ice-level camera. Nine times out of 10, that pass hits Falk and the puck goes skittering away from danger. But in one flick of the wrists, Selanne was able to put a few feet of air under that puck, getting it just high enough to sneak it through to Getzlaf for the cash-in. Take a look:
That play was also a reminder of us just how much hockey is a game of fractions of an inch, and how the greats of the game find their way into those tiny spaces time and time again. That's pretty much what makes them great. Selanne has done it over and over again with wrists shots past a goalie who thought he was in good position. This time, he did it with a feed that created a very important goal for the Ducks in that win.
Selanne also set up the goal that made it 2-0 Ducks in the first period, prying the puck away from goalie Niklas Backstrom to set up Bobby Ryan with the chip-in. Selanne's three points last night gave him nine in his last six games. (By the way, he's 41. Not sure if you knew that.)
Two of those points were on the power play, a place Selanne has made much of his living the past 19 seasons, but not as much this year as his Ducks had struggled with man advantage in this young season. Entering last night, they were just 4 for 35. Last night, they converted twice, though it was in six opportunities, and they weren't able to put the game away on two different PP opportunities in the final five minutes. "We scored, that's improving," said Corey Perry bluntly. “We've still got work to do.”
But they did just enough to snap a surprising five-game losing streak in Minnesota's Xcel Energy Center. Getzlaf was asked about that streak after the game by Ducks TV guys John Ahlers and Brian Hayward. "To tell you the truth I had no idea about that. It's a lot easier if you don't know what's going on," he said with a laugh. Then he joked, "You guys have too much time to read, that's the problem."
Now the Ducks head to another building where they memorably lost their last game, Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, the site of last year's Game 6 loss that eliminated Anaheim from the postseason. Up until last night, that April 24 game marked the Predators' last win at home, as they lost three games there to Vancouver in the second round and their first three home games of the regular season. They finally won their first home game last night, 5-3 over Tampa.
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Ducks winger Jean-Francois Jacques has been a frequent flier on the so-called "Syracuse shuttle," having been sent back and forth to the Ducks' AHL affiliate in the past week. Jacques has simultaneously been playing for the Crunch, while also chipping away at the five-game suspension he was slapped with for instigating a fight in a preseason game vs. Vancouver. He's served three games so far.
Jacques and fellow winger Patrick Maroon, who played his first two career games on this trip, were both reassigned this morning, with the hopes of having them play in tonight's game between the Crunch and (Michael Scott's favorite team) Wilkes-Barre-Scranton. With the Ducks touring through the Midwest right now, it's easier to shuttle those players back and forth than if the team was in Orange County.
It's that type of issue that has team executives from the West meeting about a possible western division of the AHL, according to a story by Darren Dreger of TSN. According to Dreger:
Sources tell TSN several NHL western conference teams are involved in ongoing discussions to improve the geographic challenges some teams face in trying to develop their players from afar.
Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary attended a private meeting with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly earlier this month, where the group conceptually talked about the introduction of a western wing to the American Hockey League to ease the burden of travel on prospect players, as well as provide NHL teams with a more hands on approach in day to day development.
A Ducks affiliate in San Diego or Las Vegas? Yes, please.