Adam Brady is the Director of Publications & New Media for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center. Email him by CLICKING HERE.
Updated April 30 at 11:59 a.m.
We've spent more than enough time lamenting the fate of the 2007-08 Ducks, and I was inspired (by something I'll show you later on this page) to turn the focus on the astonishing fall from grace of their 2007 Stanley Cup Final opponent. As the old saying goes: When life gives you lemons, make ... fun of others. It might make you feel better. With that in mind, a few words on the Ottawa Senators.
Let's start way back in the fall, when the so-called Stanley Cup Hangover that struck the Ducks at the early part of this season had the complete opposite effect on the Sens. They won 13 of their first 14 games and immediately established themselves as the class of the league. But have you ever had too much to drink and woken up the next morning feeling surprisingly fine, then suddenly a splitting headache hits you around 2 in the afternoon?
Yeah, that's the "hangover" the Sens endured, and that afternoon hangover lasted into the following night and they threw up several times.
After that brilliant start to the year, the Senators had a collapse you could write books about. They won just 18 of their final 48 games after the New Year and barely qualified for the playoffs, where they were unceremoniously swept in the first round by Pittsburgh. (They were outscored 16-5 in the series, and it wasn't even that close.) They fired their head coach, John Paddock, in midseason and replaced him with last year's coach and this year's GM, Bryan Murray. And goalie Ray Emery, the darling of the '07 playoffs for Ottawa, the guy they signed to a three-year, $9.5 million contract last summer, is now about as welcome in that town as the bubonic plague. Emery showed up late for several practices, reportedly fought with teammates, and was mostly godawful in net. The Sens are desperately trying to deal him, and reportedly one of the teams they offered him to was the Kings. But the Kings turned them down. When the Kings say they don't want your goalie, that's a pretty bad sign.
So, why am I rehashing this? Because of this piece of video that was brought to my attention last night, the excruciatingly awkward pregame intro before the Sens took on the Pens in Game 3 in Ottawa. If there was a point that the Ottawa Senators hit rock bottom this season, this was it. The person on the Senators staff who came up with this idea, in addition to the people who approved it, should all be fired immediately. To quote the immortal Chandler Bing: That was one of the worst things ever. And not just on TV.
A couple of my favorite parts: The 14-second mark when the gladiator walks by Ray Emery and if you listen closely you can actually hear Emery mutter, "Get me the hell out of this town." Then there is the 1:54 mark, when the Ottawa crowd finally realizes this is the stupidest thing they've ever seen and they start booing, timed perfectly to the Senators finally heading onto the ice. I just have to know if they brought this back for Game 4. I'm guessing not.
Alright, let's move on to Ducks affairs, namely the signing of Ryan Carter. Granted, that's not the re-signing Ducks fans are holding their breaths for this offseason, but it's a great move. Carter brought stability and versatility to the team this season, filling in for Sammy Pahlsson and also playing a variety of roles. Plus he works his tail off and he's a very bright, good-natured guy. The fact that he'll be here for the next three years is definitely a good thing.
A couple of people have emailed asking for a list of the Ducks under contract to get an idea of who will be free agents and when. The best place for that is this site. How strange is it to see Corey Perry's spot on this list, near the bottom under the likes of Ryan Dingle, Gerald Coleman, and Darryl Bootland. Something tells me Perry will climb this list in a big way within the coming months.
And finally, this week's edition of Girly Song I'm Embarrassingly Enjoying A Lot Lately: "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis.
Updated April 28 at 5:15 p.m.
There are a couple of schools of thought on whether or not Ducks fans want the Stars to succeed in their Western Conference Semifinals matchup with San Jose. One thought is that we want the Stars to win because it will prove that the Ducks just ran into a very hot, very talented team and there wasn't a lot they could do about it. If the Stars go in and get smashed by the Sharks, then Ducks fans really start questioning just what the heck was going on in that first round.
Another mindset is that Ducks fans want the Stars to get downed by the Sharks, so we could take the "well, we would have lost in the second round anyway" approach. I actually had a co-worker throw that one at me as we walked along the dark, quiet streets from American Airlines Center back to our hotel about an hour after Game 6 ended. I didn't say it at the time, since he was already on the edge of a breakdown, but I couldn't disagree with that more.
This doesn't reflect on my like or dislike of the Stars, but I'd like to see them beat the Sharks. Heck, let them win the West. Let them win the Cup. (Okay, maybe not the Cup.) Either way, the better they play, the more I can take solace in the fact that the Ducks just ran into a buzzsaw in that first round. That takes the emphasis a little bit away from the lack of goal-scoring, that accused lack of passion, whatever. If the Stars continue to play well, if they beat the San Joses and the Detroits of the world, we could more easily convince ourselves that the better team won.
A close friend of mine subscribed to this mindset when we were in college, but in a personal way. He briefly dated a girl who was slightly overweight at the time. About a year later, she went on some kind of crazy diet (I think there were some now-banned substances involved) and lost a lot of weight. She looked great. My friend didn't hesitate to see this as a positive thing. He said it was like when your team loses early in the NCAA Tournament to a team that eventually makes the Final Four. It makes you feel better about your team. If they lost to a team that got crushed by 30 in the next round, how bad does that make your team look in comparison? By the same token, now he could point to Suddenly Skinny and say, "I dated that girl." The better she looked, the better he looked.
Then again, there is a whole other way to look at things. Let's say the Stars beat the Sharks, then maybe win the conference final, then maybe the Cup. Ducks fans could look at their road to the title and think we could have easily been on the same one. In other words, we could say, "If we had only beaten the Stars, we would have cruised the rest of the way, just like they did." All of it is enough to make your head spin.
Wait, here's one more reason to root for the Stars, or if not the Stars, anyone else who can beat the Sharks. Last year the Ducks became the first team from California in the history of the NHL to win the Stanley Cup. Do we really want someone doing it again just a year later? Remember when Denzel Washington became the first African-American to win the Best Actor Oscar? Imagine if Martin Lawrence had won it the very next year. It would water it down just a bit, wouldn't it?
Either way, the Stars continue to roll in this second round, and in much the same fashion as their takedown of Anaheim. They edged Sharks 2-1 in overtime of Game 1 and went on a third-period surge (sound familiar?) in Game 2 to win 5-2. And now they take a 2-0 series edge back to Dallas (sound familiar again?). I say keep it up, Stars.
Since we're obviously short on content this offseason, I am going to take the self-indulgent and possibly misguided approach to give a mini-review of one movie per week (maybe more). It could be something I saw in the theatre or on DVD or something normally underappreciated I have in my own collection. This week that movie is "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which was written by and stars Jason Segel of "How I Met Your Mother."
I can't recommend this movie enough. I absolutely loved it. It's very funny, very smart and hardly lets up for a minute (like many comedies tend to do). I wouldn't exactly call it a date movie, since there is some very awkward full frontal male nudity involving Segel in the first five minutes. In addition, two normally wholesome TV actresses -- the adorable Mila Kunis of "That '70s Show" and Kristen Bell of "Veronica Mars" and "Heroes" -- are each involved in somewhat graphic love scenes. Aside from that, and the somewhat distracting disparity in Kunis' skin tone from scene to scene, it was an extremely enjoyable moviegoing experience. Go see it immediately.
Updated April 25 at 1:10 p.m.
If you happened to pick up the L.A. Times today, try not to put too much stock in the headline above the Ducks story: DUCKS STILL IN SHOCK. If you didn't already know that the people who write the stories and the people who write the headlines are two different individuals, hopefully you know that now. I think that story was meant to run Wednesday morning, and the fact that it came out today is like running a story that says: HILLARY STILL IN THE RUNNING. (Oh wait, that's actually happening.)
I think it's safe to say that the "shock" has worn off the Ducks by now. Sure, they're disappointed about what happened. But they're professionals. They've moved on. I don't think we need to say much more than that.
I got an email from a colleague that pointed to an online story (that I won't link to since it's so unprofessionally written) that was a mean-spirited "eulogy" about the 2007-08 Ducks. That came out in a flurry of other anti-Ducks sentiments that includes a scathing piece in The Hockey News on Chris Pronger, that presents Pronger's career in front of a fictional judge and jury. (I'm sure the writer, Ken Campbell, thought this was cute, but it just comes off as sloppy, if you ask me.)
The anti-Ducks sentiment does get a little tiring, and it seems as if it is at its peak right now (and I'm not even mentioning the Contact Us emails I've glanced at this week). But I choose to look at it a different way. You'd hardly see any of it if the Ducks weren't winners, if they weren't champions. You don't read a lot of scornful diatribes on the Columbus Blue Jackets. So, I say bring it on. The day they stop talking about us is the day to get worried.
We've got another example of rampant attention paid to the Ducks in one of the top stories on the Toronto Maple Leafs website, entitled Burke Staying Put in Anaheim. Hmm, how is this a story on the Toronto site? He was never contacted by the Leafs, right? Guys, stay focused on who you do hire, not who you don't.
A co-worker (I won't mention his name to keep him out of trouble) just walked by my office on his way back from lunch and saw Corey Perry in the Team Store. He remarked, "Maybe he's buying Corey Perry Ducks jerseys. Might be his last chance."
Don't worry, people. Just a joke.
Speaking of Corey Perry, he and his awful hairstyle take some abuse in one of the two YouTube videos I came across the other day. It's a couple of FSN pieces that were done during the 2006-07 that I think you'll enjoy. One of them is on roommates on the road and the other is on Christmas gifts that each Ducks player should get. It's some funny stuff, especially the Rob Niedermayer parts. It's also a reminder of what a personality Shane O'Brien had while he was a rookie here.
And as long as we're on the topic of past Ducks, Michael Leighton used to be a goalie in the Ducks organization and he had a historic night that actually ended this morning. Leighton had 98 saves (not a typo) in a five-overtime playoff game for the Albany River Rats (continuing the tradition of awful minor league team names). Leighton still lost 3-2 in the longest game in AHL history, lasting 5 hours and 38 minutes. How many Kings fans do you think would have lasted in a game that went that long? Oh wait, Kings fans don't attend playoff games. Strike that.
And how about this? Leighton wasn't even given first star of the game. He got the second star. I was wondering what the guy who does the three stars at Honda Center (I know who it is, but I won't tell you) was doing in the offseason. Now we know.
Congrats to Chris Kunitz and Ryan Getzlaf, who were among the recent additions to Team Canada for the World Championships. A look at the roster reveals Getzlaf will wear the 51 he wore during his rookie season, in the purple and jade.
Last thing. The three Selke Award finalists (best defensive forward) were just named and Sammy Pahlsson wasn't one of them. That's understandable since he missed some significant time with injuries this year, but what isn't understandable is that Red Wings Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are in there for the first time (along with New Jersey's John Madden, a multiple-time nominee). Uh, guys. Are we forgetting what this award is supposed to be for? Zetterberg and Datsyuk are just-fine defensively, but with 43 and 31 goals, respectively, I'd hardly think of them as shutdown forwards. I will give it to Datsyuk that he led the league with 144 takeaways, but it still raises some eyebrows.
Wow. If I was worried about lack of blog content for the offseason, I'm doing okay so far. But wait until June. Or Monday for that matter. Hope everyone enjoys the weekend. I'll have to get used to the fact that I go into it with neither a game at Honda Center, nor a flight leaving for an opponent's city. I'm sure I'll get used to it.
Updated April 24 at 1:46 p.m.
I just wanted to take the time to comment on yesterday's major development. All I can really say about it is this:
I'll miss Carly Smithson. That giant arm tattoo and her husband's horrifying face tattoos? Not so much.
Oh yeah. And the Brian Burke thing. That was definitely a breath of fresh air yesterday. Although, it was slightly awkward when I wrote that I had a feeling he was staying and we announced it officially about a half hour later. I'll acknowledged that looked a little shady, kind of like Biff in "Back to the Future" getting ahold of that Sports Almanac from the future and creating an empire based entirely on sports betting. Okay, maybe it wasn't like that at all.
Doesn't matter. The bottom line is, he's staying and that's a very good thing for the Anaheim Ducks. And it's just another example of the impressive way this ownership does business. The "speculation" (a word used no less than 187 times during the conference call yesterday) was getting a little out of hand, especially once it spread to local media. So, Michael Schulman wanted to squash it quickly and that's what this announcement yesterday intended to do. Of course, the speculation about why and how Burke is remaining with the team is probably going to continue up north, but there is not much the Ducks can do about that. Regardless, he's in Anaheim for at least next season and we should all breathe a sigh of relief over that.
So, speaking of speculation, I want to offer mine on Scotty and Teemu and I promise this will be the last time I talk about those two for the rest of the offseason (yeah, right). My gut feeling on that? I honestly have no idea. Feels like a bit of déjà vu talking about this, but at least we know we won't be waiting as long as we did last year to find out what those two are doing. They don't want to do that again and we know Burkie doesn't want to do that again.
For the time being, there was some encouragement from both of their comments to media on the last day at Honda Center on Tuesday. Both of them indicated that they are far less fatigued right now than they were after playing into June last season. Teemu said "I really feel there is a lot of juice left" and Scotty offered this: "Right now, I feel quite good. Too good I guess, maybe I wasn’t playing hard enough." (That last sentence was said with a smile, by the way.)
Ducks fans have to feel a little confident by those quotes. It's at least something. There is no question that being just plain tired was a huge factor for both of those guys last year. Let's face it, waiting several months into the season wasn't necessarily the time it took for them to make up their minds. No one takes that long to make a decision. Yes, that was part of it. But in addition to that, they just needed some freakin' rest. This offseason? They're looking at five months. Five long months. And there is no question after watching them during their abbreviated seasons that they still have a lot of game left in them. And they're looking at a Ducks team that promises to be very good again next season.
That being said, they could both retire tomorrow. (And no, that doesn't mean there is an announcement coming.)
One last thing. The conference semifinals kick off tonight with Philly (congrats to Joffrey Lupul scoring the game-winner to help them advance) at Montreal and Colorado at Detroit. I've got to be honest, I don't think I'll be watching tonight. It's too soon. Watching the playoffs right now would be like watching your ex-girlfriend make out with another guy just four days after she dumps you.
Nope, can't do that.
Updated April 23 at 2:54 p.m.
I'm hesitant to sully the top of this page with some more thoughts, considering the incredible positive response I got from several fans for what I wrote Monday, a day after the Ducks' season ended. But my hand has been forced. Remember what I said about the Ducks leading the league in making news? Well, who would have thought it would happen again a day after the season ended with a first round exit. And who would have thought media outlets from Anaheim to Saskatchewan would be scrambling to their keyboards and teleprompters with the utterance of just three words:
"I don't know."
That was the line uttered twice in succession by Ducks Executive Vice President & General Manager Brian Burke during yesterday's season-closing press conference at Honda Center. As part of a lengthy opening statement that covered everything from the disappointing finish ("not an acceptable result"), the re-signing of Corey Perry ("our top priority") and even the Portland Pirates' involvement in the Calder Cup Playoffs. It wasn't until the tail end of the statement that he covered the topic on everyone's mind: Toronto's interest in hiring him as their GM.
Without even saying the words "Toronto" or "Maple Leafs," Burke made it clear that, "Not one team has asked, nor have I asked for permission to speak to any other NHL team at this time." He reiterated that he is still under contract for one more year in Anaheim and that he is currently in discussions with ownership about an extension. That seemed to clear things up a bit, until this bombshell. One reporter took it further several minutes later, asking Burke if he would be in Ducks training camp when it begins in September. He paused for a bit and quietly said this: "I don't know. I don't know."
You could almost feel the eyes get wider throughout the press room in the basement of Honda Center, as a few people quietly turned to glance at one another with that "What did he just say?" look on their faces. All that was missing was the bad '80s movie cliche of hearing a record scratch and the whole room going quiet. You could just see the headline going up on Canadian websites within minutes of it coming out of his mouth: BURKE ON RETURNING TO ANAHEIM: 'I DON'T KNOW'
So, where does that leave us? Yes, Burke is under contract for a year and you won't find a man in this league you can't count on more to honor that deal. Yes, the Ducks have a tremendous respect for the man, what he has brought to this organization and what he will undoubtedly keep bringing to it if he stays.
You've got to imagine it would be a semi-disaster if Burke were to leave the Ducks, if you combine that possibility with the uncertainty of Scotty and Teemu coming back, Perry resigning and everything else. And I know I speak for the rest of the staff here when I say we would be devastated to see Burkie go. He's a gruff guy, but there is something incredibly charming about that. I can't say enough good things about the guy. You've never met a more sincere, honest person in such a position of power. You never have any doubt as to how he feels about you, and he shows it in his own way. I'll give you an example:
During the early part of my tenure here, I had to ask him a quick question about our game program, and I kind of tip-toed my way into his large office on the executive level a floor above us. He quickly waved me in, answered the question in about 1/10th of the time it took me to ask it and I went on my way. But before I could get out the door, he said, "Hey, Adam." I turned around and with a furrowed brow he said, "This door is always open. Just f---ing come right in whenever you have anything for me." If you hadn't heard the actual words, it might have sounded like he was tearing into me. I nodded my head and left the office. It was one of the strangest encounters I've ever had with a boss, but I walked down that hall somehow feeling like a million bucks.
Later that season, Burke gathered every staffer into the Ducks locker room and very clearly explained to them the reasons for the trades the Ducks made at the deadline (when they traded Keith Carney and Sandis Ozolinsh and brought in Sean O'Donnell and Jeff Friesen). I remember wondering how many GMs would take the time to explain the deals the team made to every one on the staff, from the VPs to the entry-levelers.
There's no question an offer (which he insists hasn't come) from the Maple Leafs would be enticing to Burke. It's a chance to rebuild one of the signature franchises in the NHL, if not all of professional sports. It's a chance to be an icon in the epicenter of Canada, and Burke has never been the type of GM to cower from the attention. And while I won't comment on the dollar figures that are being thrown around by various news outlets, there is no doubt they would have a boatload of Canadian cash waiting for him.
That being said, I've got a gut feeling Burkie isn't going anywhere. Just trust me on this. He's made it clear he loves it here in Anaheim, that he loves working for the Samuelis (which he called "awesome" yesterday for the thousandth time) and first round exit or not, he's still got a very, very good team here. And it's a team that you know he's got his mind set on getting even better.
There's also the misconception that Burke would be lured by this whole King of Canada label, were he to take over the Leafs. It may be easy to forget, but Brian Burke isn't even Canadian. He's from Minnesota. He may have worked for several years in Vancouver, but he's an American.
So, could he go to Toronto? Sure, he could. It's an enticing offer. But I've got to think he's staying right here.
(I'll get into Scotty and Teemu's comments tomorrow.)
Update: He's staying.
Updated April 21 at 2:59 p.m. (back in Anaheim)
It's been a couple of hours since we arrived back at Honda Center and I've been finding excuses to do just about everything but write something for today. There is just so much to say, I'm not sure where to start.
It feels strange to not have a game coming up. That was easy to live with when it happened last year because we had plenty of Stanley Cup plans coming up.
But I just can’t help but feel it wasn’t meant to be for this year’s Ducks. With all that went on this year – the short offseason, the trip to London, the mid-season comebacks by 8 and 27, the injuries, the suspension, the constant reminder of how tough it is to repeat, the term "Cup hangover" used so often it gave us a real hangover – I just never felt this team was quite where it needed to be.
As good as this Ducks team looked on paper, especially defensively, they just didn’t have what that ’07 team did. To me, there is no question
By the way, how often do you have a playoff series go six games and not one of them is a one-goal game?
The Stars may not have a better group of players than the Ducks, but that group played better this series, and last night was a perfect example. As gratifying as it was to see Perry score that first goal (an eerie carbon copy of the one in Game 5), you just knew it wouldn’t be enough. You knew the Stars would come roaring back – it was just a matter of when. I’m sure I’m not the only person watching the game to hear that “uh oh” in my head when Ryan Carter took that penalty just 17 seconds into the third period. You just knew something was going to happen after that.
Of course, no one could have predicted that in 52 seconds the Ducks lead would vanish and the Stars would suddenly be on top. Watching that felt like watching a car crash about to happen and you have no control in stopping it.
Strangely enough, it wasn’t until Barnes scored to give
It was kind of a strange feeling, since obviously the thought had occurred to me after losses at home in Games 1 and 2 and became even more of a possibility when the Ducks went down 3 games to 1. But it really wasn’t until that two-goal lead that I got that sensation. I want to say it was almost like a punch in the stomach, but it’s harder than that to explain. It was this weird burst of emptiness, sort of a “What do we do now?” feeling.
Of course, that feeling was replaced by a jolt of fright, as that damn gunshot went off from the arena scoreboard and those damn green and yellow streamers fell from the rafters, even with 3.3 seconds still left in the game. Those same streamers, by the way, were dropped after the Stars won Game 4, which I thought was sort of a curious move. But it just further typifies the frustration that fan base has endured over the last few playoff seasons. And I think I’ve found a point where I’ve gained enough perspective to be slightly happy for them. But just slightly.
I’ve had several people ask me about the mood of the players after the game last night and as we traveled back to
The one thing that keeps popping into my head, one of the few positives from this, is that it makes us appreciate that Stanley Cup title even more. This losing first round battle with a very-good-at-the-right-time
And now, especially after this early departure from the postseason, I’m reminded just how lucky we were last year to experience something that very few people get to enjoy.
One group of fans out of 30 every year gets that taste of a championship, and some never have. Just look about an hour up the freeway from here. And look again another few hundred miles north.
This series is just another reminder of just how hard it is for teams to climb that mountain, something we might have taken for granted during that wonderful run last year. With the exception of a tough
Flying back to
Let’s face it, as good as this Ducks team is and as great as this organization has become, there is nothing to say that we could go the next 10 years without another Stanley Cup. That’s nothing derogatory about the Ducks. Even franchises like
It’s just so difficult to win four seven-game series against the best hockey teams in the world, each of them playing their guts out every night. We had a perfect example of that over the past week and a half. And it just makes me appreciate the fact that this team won a Cup last year all the more. We’ve been spoiled the past three seasons, first by advancing to the conference final, the Cup last year and even this year’s team that right now many of us is looking at as a disappointment. But the Ducks still had 102 standings points, which tied for fourth in the NHL, and they kept their season going longer than the majority of the teams in this league. No team in the last five seasons has won more playoff games and more playoff series than the Anaheim Ducks.
But it pretty nice to be able to say, as J.S. Giguere did last night, “Anything short of the Stanley Cup is a disappointment for this group.”
So, what do we do now? All we can do is look ahead to the next five months. What happens with this team? Does Scotty come back? Does Teemu? Does Brian Burke? Does Corey Perry get resigned? Doug Weight? Jonas Hiller? Brian Sutherby? Who gets traded? Who comes back next year better than they were this year? Who comes back worse? Who might have been playing hurt during this series?
For the team that by far leads the NHL in making news, it promises to be an interesting summer for the Ducks. And I’m only mentioning this because I’ve had a few people email me about this, but yes, I will continue Ducks Blog through the offseason. I doubt I will be posting every day (unless you think 300 words on the turkey sandwich I had for lunch is interesting reading). But you can be sure that I’ll find plenty of opportunities to share my thoughts – Ducks-related or otherwise. That includes tomorrow, when the Ducks will return to Honda Center to pack their things for the last time and we'll have some coverage of that on the site.
For now, feel free to spend the next few days lamenting the fate of the 2007-08 Anaheim Ducks. But don’t forget to appreciate the high hopes this team has forced all of us to expect, not only this year but for the next several years. For the time being, the Ducks are still the defending Stanley Cup champions. And for the last 10 months, that’s felt pretty good to say.
Updated April 21 at 3:46 a.m. (Dallas time)
I can't believe it's over.
Just look at the time above and know that I'm not really in a place right now where I can properly put in perspective the fact that the Ducks season just ended with a heartbreaking turn of events in Game 6. I think an actual gunshot would have been preferable to the fake one that came from the American Airlines Center scoreboard and preceded a storm of green and yellow streamers that dropped from the rafters following Mike Modano's empty net goal with 3.3 seconds left.
The talk among us tonight has included, among many other things, how much we've somehow taken for granted what it means to win a Stanley Cup title, how difficult it truly is and how anything less than that somehow feels empty, whether that's fair or not. Never has that been more evident than right now.
I'm looking forward to delving deeper into this, not to mention providing some thoughts on this Ducks season, this coming offseason and 2008-09. But for now, I will just tell you the Ducks are scheduled to head to the airport in Dallas early tomorrow morning, will land in Orange County at around 10:40 a.m. Pacific and then will head back to Honda Center. Any fans interested in meeting the team outside the arena and giving their final goodbyes to the 2007-08 Ducks are welcome to do that.
For now, it's goodnight from Dallas for one last time. Can't wait to get back home.
Updated April 20 at 7:04 p.m. (Dallas time)
Oh God, I’m becoming one of those people.
Before today, I hadn’t been all that superstitious when it came to this team, although I do have a few touches of superstition in my life. I’m constantly knocking on wood whenever I or someone else says something even remotely ominous – and it’s always twice. I don’t like when my TV or radio volume or my thermostat temp is anything but an even number.
But when it comes to the Ducks, I haven’t traditionally fallen into any superstitious traps. Until today.
I had my choice at the hotel this afternoon between a blue shirt/green tie combo or a white shirt/black & orange tie combo. But remembering that I wore an orange tie during Game 3 and a white shirt during Game 5, I had to go with that combo tonight.
We had our choice of tables in the press room today, but a fellow Ducks staffer and I made a point to find the one in the back corner, because that’s where we sat for Game 3. There are two kinds of cake in here, one red and one white. We had the white before Game 3, so you can guess what we went with tonight. Another co-worker made sure to grab a piece of the red cake, because he had that before Game 3, and he just did grab the last one.
Another co-worker made sure to grab a piece of the red cake, because he had that before Game 3, and he just did grab the last one.
And then there's this, which was brought to my attention by a reader named Randall. Six ducklings were rescued from a storm drain in Studio City yesterday. Game 6? Six Ducks on the ice at a time (at least when they haven't committed a penalty). Coincidence? Yeah, probably a coincidence.
Alright, we're getting close to starting this baby. If you're interested in the live game log, it's right here.
Updated April 20 at 11:58 a.m. (Dallas time)
The Ducks jumped on the ice for the morning skate a few minutes ago as they prepare for Game 6 back here tonight.
We noticed as we came into the arena that they have changed the giant Brenden Morrow banner to Mike Modano. That's a huge piece of news that you can only get right here.
Rob Niedermayer was not on the ice for the morning skate, so don't expect him in there tonight.
We can't quite hear what Randy Carlyle is saying to the team in this picture, but someone joked that it was: "Win or lose, practice at 11:30 tomorrow."
A few of us Ducks staffers went out to a bar just up the street from our team hotel to watch some playoff hockey and enjoy the karaoke that started up around 9:00. I probably shouldn't let one bar define a whole city, but never in my life have I seen such a mix of attractive girls and dorky guys. And most of the girls were wearing dresses. So, a message to Orange County single guys: Quit your job and move to Dallas. Immediately.
On another non-Ducks-related note, here is this week's edition of Things to Make You Feel Old.
I noticed that the Stars have a blog on their website written by radio show host Bob Sturm in which one of his thoughts is: Anyone else wonder if Todd Marchant’s slap shot off Stephane Robidas face was an accident? Professional hockey players can pick the top corner when they shoot at goal, so it would seem that they could also avoid a head when clearing the puck if they so desire. I am such a cynic.
Come on, Bob. Get serious. The puck was rolling when Marchant was trying to clear it out of there. I guess if that's true, then Trevor Daley accidentally sent the puck into the Anaheim bench with no one around him in the second period of Game 5.
But hey, I love a little hostility between teams. Can't wait for tonight.
Here is this morning's message on the dry erase board in the Ducks dressing room at American Airlines Center:
"If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse."
- Walt Disney
Updated April 19 at 10:28 a.m.
The sun came up this morning, the birds are chirping and the plane for Dallas is being gassed up.
The Anaheim Ducks have lived to fight another day.
After the Ducks repeatedly slapped their palms on the bottom of Teemu Selanne's metaphorical ketchup bottle to no avail in the Game 4 loss in Dallas, that ketchup essentially splatted all over the table last night. (My mom taught me to karate chop the neck of the bottle; that always works). The Ducks erupted for five goals, including some from your normal scorers (Perry, Getzlaf Selanne) and one from a rare scorer (O'Donnell), as well as an empty-netter from someone not named Rob Niedermayer (Marchant) to bounce back with a 5-2 victory they absolutely had to have.
And with the win, the Ducks have once again changed the complexion of this series as it heads back to Dallas, the pressure now squarely on the Stars.
I have to admit, I had my concerns about the level of energy of the Ducks fans, since the vibe in Honda Center seemed to be relatively subdued in the lead-up to the game. That started with the fans walking around the concourse all the way to the noticeable decrease in singing volume during the anthem. But I was pleasantly proven wrong once the puck dropped. The fans were as loud as they have been all series, seemingly urging the team on to make sure this wasn't the last time they saw them this season. And whether the Ducks fed off that or not, they came out with their own brand of energy that was in complete contrast to the level you would expect from a team that had just gone down 3-1 in the series and had arrived home at 2 a.m. the night before.
And who surprised us most of all? One Jean-Sebastien Giguere. With a few scattered calls of "Hiller" being bounced around Ducks land (especially in the second of back-to-backs), Giguere came out with by far his best effort of the series at a time when the Ducks needed him badly. I've said it before in this space, but the Ducks fortunes in this postseason will live and die with the play of their goaltender, and he virtually carried them on his back last night. Of course, he got some help by those five goals, but among those 40 saves he made were several huge ones. That included a few on one-timers and power play shots that seemed to be finding the net in the first three games of this go-round with the Stars.
I think it's safe to say Corey Perry is officially back. He made his presence felt with the two things that mark his game: goal-scoring (the first period icebreaker that slid through Turco's pads) and instigation (the slash he gave Turco behind the net that lit the match on a heavily penalized brawl with the Stars). Just before the game I was thoroughly enjoying being reminded of this Perry flashback ("Hey Pavel, you're gonna get it too..."), and that combined with last night's performance was a nice reminder of just how much we had missed Perry over the last six weeks.
So, things look much different for the Ducks down 3-2, as opposed to the outlook before last night's game. The team heads on a bus to the airport in just about a half hour from now. One win in Dallas tomorrow night and we're looking at a Game 7 back here in Anaheim. I keep thinking about that message flashed on the Honda Center video board during the pregame presentation last night: NOTHING IS OVER.
Never has that been more true than right now.
Updated April 18 at 7:04 p.m.
We're about a half an hour away from getting Game 5 started, as I just noticed that the Eastern Conference's 5 seed (New York) took down the 4 seed (New Jersey) in five games just a few minutes ago. Not sure if that's a bad sign or if it means nothing at all.
No word yet on who will be in net for the Ducks, but I'm reasonably certain it will be Giguere and I'm also pretty sure Rob Niedermayer won't make it back. Update: Giguere led the Ducks onto the ice for warmups, indicating he'll be in net.
Once again, for that live game log, where we'll have the lineups in about 15 minutes, CLICK HERE.
Updated April 18 at 12:38 p.m.
As I walked into work at Honda Center this morning, bleary-eyed from the less than five hours sleep I got last night, I passed by our receptionist, who might be the biggest Ducks fan of all of us. She was on a call, and as we made eye contact, we looked at each other with pursed lips and slow shakes of the head. But before I walked through the door to our offices, she put the call on hold to tell me something: "It's not over," she said, "until it's over."
I know, it's not exactly a ground-breaking slogan, not exactly Shakespearean. But you know what? She's right.
As bad as we're probably feeling about the Ducks' place in this series right now, it's not over. There is still a Game 5 to be played tonight, and if the Ducks win and send this thing back to Dallas ... well, much stranger things have happened.
J.S. Giguere, who lately has been almost poetic with his clarifyingly simplistic sound bites, offered this one after last night's crushing loss: “It’s a challenge, but the reality is we just have to win the next game and then focus on the next one after that. We can’t think about what it’s going to take to win the series. We have to think about what it’s going to take to win the next game.”
And that next game has snuck up on the Ducks, with a puck drop that comes about 17 hours after the team arrived back to their cars in the Honda Center parking lot in the wee hours of this morning. Of course, the Dallas Stars are in the exact same position, as they checked into their hotel at an ungodly hour as well.
As long as we're on the subject of fatigue, there has been some buzz about whether the Ducks will slip Jonas Hiller into the net with Giguere rarely playing on back-to-back nights. We have no official word from Randy Carlyle since neither the Ducks nor the Stars skated this morning (and even if Randy was here, he probably would indicate very little). But I would be very surprised to see anyone but Giguere back in there tonight. I think you go with the guy who got you here, the guy who was a huge reason this team is the defending Stanley Cup champs in the first place.
We also have no word at this point on the availability of Rob Niedermayer, who never did make the trip to Dallas while still suffering from concussion-like symptoms. The Ducks did make one move this morning, sending Bobby Ryan down to Portland to join the Pirates in their playoff series with Hartford. Ryan was a healthy scratch in the two games in Dallas.
By the way, guess who finally updated her blog? She's got her finger on the pulse of this thing!
It means very little at this point, but the Ducks are 6-4 in elimination games in their history, a stat that would look a lot better if it becomes 9-4 after a few days from now. I've already gotten a couple of emails from people flashing back to the Ducks-Calgary Flames series of '06, when the Ducks were down 3-2 after Game 5 in Calgary. That Ducks team, which was wearing the purple and jade, came back to win two straight pressure-filled games (including a 3-0 shocker in Calgary in Game 7). A good amount of the players on that team are of course still in Ducks uniforms.
No less than 20 teams in NHL history have come back from 3-1 deficits and won, five of them in the last six seasons alone. This wouldn't exactly be unprecedented stuff, folks.
But again, it's not about what the Ducks can do the rest of this series. It's about what they can do in Game 5. If they can find a way to shake off what happened last night and Dallas and bounce back tonight in their home rink, then we'll have plenty of time to start talking about the next two games.
For now, it's all about tonight. And you can bet the Honda Center faithful will make it rock in here. It's either going to be their last shot of the year to scream for this team, or their chance to push the Ducks into extending this series and putting the pressure back on the other guys.
Either way, it's not over. Not now.
Updated April 17 at 9:06 p.m. (Dallas time)
Just a devastating Game 4 loss for the Ducks, who just couldn't seem to get anything past Marty Turco until it was way too late. Give credit to Dallas. They played great tonight, just like they have for the better part of this series. We'll get into it more tomorrow.
For the time being, the Ducks unfortunately have some extra time to think about it, since we're delayed at Dallas' Love Field at least 45 minutes waiting for the charter plane to arrive. It's a pretty quiet Ducks team crowded inside this private terminal waiting for the flight. Meanwhile, it's raining with occasional flashes of lightning outside. (I guess when it rains, it pours.) About eight guys are crowded around a seemingly light-hearted game of cards. That's the 10-minute rule with this team you might have heard about before. Win or lose, you forget about it after 10 minutes and move on. That's what we're looking at here.
If all goes well, the team gets in at a little after midnight California time, then busses from Ontario Airport (since John Wayne has a curfew) back to Honda Center. Then they'll try and bounce back in this thing later that night.
Updated April 17 at 4:38 p.m. (Dallas time)
We're about a half an hour until puck drop and the Ducks and Stars are on the ice warming up. Dallas came out to AC/DC's "Back in Black" (wow, could have never seen that coming).
I took a walk a few minutes ago through the AT&T Plaza, which is the very cool courtyard area in front of American Airlines Arena. (This picture was snagged off a website. It's a little more crowded out there right now). Anyway, the courtyard was a lot like the Fun Sunday area at Honda Center, down the the giant inflatable Stars player. But this had one thing we ironically don't have at Honda Center. In one corner of the plaza was a makeshift beach volleyball court with women's professional players in very skimpy bikinis having a game. It was kind of a strange sight, but I couldn't look away.
Real quick, don't read too much into the recall of J.P. Levasseur that was just announced (and he arrived here this afternoon). The Ducks like to have three goalies for practice this time of year, and Mathieu Poitras had to go back to McGill University today.
We're getting closer and closer to Game 4. Once again, join me for the live game log if you like.
Updated April 17 at 1:26 p.m. (Dallas time)
Things were pretty low-key following Anaheim's morning skate at American Airlines Arena. There was of course no official word on whether Perry would play or not, but from what I understand, he has been cleared by the Ducks team doctor. Expect to see him in there tonight. Now, how many minutes he'll play is still up in the air, but he continues to look good on the ice and ready to go.
Randy Carlyle of course wouldn't confirm if Perry was playing or not, and either did Perry himself. Carlyle was asked about the possibility of using Jonas Hiller in Game 5, since the Ducks are forced to play on back-to-back nights. He didn't indicate whether he would or not, but reiterated that Hiller would be a viable option since he's proved himself already this season.
Other than that I don't have much, except for a nagging urge to get this game going. I can't wait to see how the Ducks come out tonight, and I can't tell you how important I think it will be for them to get on the board first.
I'll leave you with today's quote that was scrawled on the dry erase board by Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown:
This is not easy, this effort, day after day, week after week, to keep pushing. But it is essential. If it was easy, everyone would win. There can only be one winner in this war.
Updated April 16 at 6:12 p.m. (Dallas time)
Obviously the big news out of Ducks camp after today's practice at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Farmers Branch was the imminent return of Corey Perry, who by the looks of things in today's practice, appears ready to go. The sight of Perry playing with Getzlaf and May on that line, with Kunitz and Selanne surrounding Carter on the second line and Bertuzzi joining Weight on the fourth line was enticing, to say the least. To me, that has offensive potential written all over it. Then again, things could be completely different by the time the puck drops tomorrow night.
Just for fun, we shot a few minutes of video of today's practice, which you can view right here.
By the way, it was a little warmer in that rink today, compared to Monday. But that might have been because I wore a black sweater with a white undershirt under a black suit. Everyone said I looked like a priest.
Speaking of video, we have the second edition of Ducks TV in Dallas for you, which was shot at today’s practice and covers Perry’s return as well as a chat with one of the nicest guys in the world, Ducks assistant Newell Brown.
After practice, a couple of us stopped for sandwiches to go at a local establishment called Potbelly, and as if we haven’t seen these guys enough this week, about 15 Ducks were already sitting in there enjoying their lunches. I usually am hesitant to get food at places whose very name indicate what will happen to you if you eat there (Fatburger and Anaheim’s own Tummy Stuffers are also culprits, and I’m just waiting for a sandwich shop to be named Painful Stomach Cramps). Nevertheless, the Italian sandwich at Potbelly (something I’d somehow never order if I were at home) was incredible. I highly recommend it.
One last thing before the end of the day. I started travelling with the Ducks during the end of the regular season last year, since we wanted to cover the team's quest for its first Pacific Division crown. That first game was a game at Dallas in which the Ducks lost in a shootout. Since that time (I just figured this out today), the Ducks are 11-3 with me on the road with them, including 3-0 on that New York swing earlier this season and last night's game.
Coincidence? I don't ...
Yeah, I think it's a coincidence.
Updated April 16 at 9:48 a.m. (Dallas time)
And with that, ladies and gentleman, we've got ourselves a whole new series.
Last night's 4-2 Ducks victory in the Stars' building completely changed the face of these Western Conference Quarterfinals. Seemingly in a flash, the question went from "Will the Ducks be swept? Will there even be a Game 5 back at home?" to "Can the Ducks win this thing? Is there any reason why not?"
That flurry in the final period, when the Stars poured in two quick goals and threatened to make things even worse with that "four minutes of hell" power play, only slightly sullied the momentum that for all intents and purposes has swung drastically in Anaheim's direction. Prior to last night, the Ducks were shaking off the cobwebs built from two lackluster games and trying not to be swept, trying not to be just another defending Stanley Cup champion casualty. Now with just one win, who do you think the pressure is on now?
You could almost feel it in the arena last night, when half the sellout crowd booed the Stars off the ice following Anaheim's three-goal outburst. After first-round exits the past couple of playoffs, including repeated failings in their own rink, these people are almost waiting (almost expecting) this thing to happen again. When the Stars were in a bit of a freefall as the regular season wound down, a column headline in the local Star-Telegram newspaper boldly read: Stars already in postseason form. This morning, that same columnist, Jim Reeves, is writing about the Stars' "passive performance" and declaring it "hands the Ducks all the momentum heading into Game 4 here Thursday night." Meanwhile, Reeves also writes that all those fans wearing black last night were in "perfect mourning attire." But it's this line I kind of have a problem with: "Would there really have been anything wrong with the Stars putting a skate on the Ducks' throat and pushing down hard?" Uh, a little inappropriate, Jim?
Granted, the black-clad crowd that had the audacity to boo the Stars after one period came alive in the third, and practically willed them into climbing all the way back and tying it up. I think I speak for all Ducks fans out there when I say we might have given up a year of our lives during the second half of that third period.
While those three goals by Todd Marchant (welcome to the checking line, Todd), Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Pronger were huge, if not for a handful of major saves by Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the first part of the opening period, we might not even be having this conversation.
I had the strange sensation of sharing a car ride back to our hotel with Giguere last night, since both team busses had long since left. I had stayed late to finish up some work in the press box, while Giguere had gotten a well-deserved massage in the training room. As I wandered around our locker room looking for an exit and eventually cab, Jiggy told me he had called for a car from the hotel and offered me a lift. Just a half hour prior, I was among the horde of reporters crowding around Jiggy to get his on-the-record thoughts of the game. Now I was a fellow Ducks employee (albeit at a slightly different pay grade), and I had to resist the urge to say something like, "So, um, thanks for the saves."
I love how in the last couple of days, even into last night's postgame, Giguere has been one of several Ducks to have the word "confidence" thrown at him. He and several other Ducks have been asked about the importance of winning Game 3 to get back that confidence the team has about itself. And time and again Giguere has shaken his head at the question, insisting that confidence has never been a problem for a group that "was one of the best teams in the league after Christmas. There is no reason for us to not feel confident. I know I’ve got what it takes to be successful in this league and I know this team has what it takes."
They certainly showed that last night. And while I'd love to write more about that, I have to grab some coffee before I catch the bus for this afternoon's practice at the rink in Farmers Branch, one of the coldest spots in the Western Hemisphere.
Something tells me, with this series heading in a whole new direction, it might be just a little warmer today.
Updated April 15 at 7:16 p.m. (Dallas time)
We're just minutes away from finally getting Game 3 underway, as the Ducks and Stars warm up to what may be the worst music I've ever heard in my natural born life. Now I have another reason for wanting this game to get here quickly.
It's not exactly a piece of breaking news, but Corey Perry will not be in the lineup tonight. He apparently wants to get in there, but the doctors can't clear him yet. Thursday is a definite possibility. And in case any of you were wondering if someone besides Giguere would get the start in goal ... come on. Get serious.
I'll try and get a picture later of what it looks like in here with all the black shirts, which I didn't mention earlier are blank on the front, and the big "Believe" logo is on the back. We're only about half full at most right now.
I hope everybody enjoys the game. If you're interested in the live game log, CLICK HERE.
Updated April 15 at 2:14 p.m. (Dallas time)
There was nothing overly earth-shattering to emerge from this morning's skate at American Airlines Center, aside from the official announcement that we already feared was coming: Rob Niedermayer will not play tonight. Niedermayer's "concussion-like symptoms" (which sounds like something I've had on a typical Friday night) caused him to not even travel here from Orange County, though Randy Carlyle indicated yesterday that he would.
If you still have Game 2 on your DVR (though for sanity's sake, I hope you've deleted it), you can see where Niedermayer got hurt around the 12:22 mark in the third period. It was a check from Travis Moen on Brenden Morrow that drove Morrow into Niedermayer. Moen was asked about the play today and said he didn't remember it and had no indication "Bobby" got hurt on the play. Carlyle called the incident, "one for the books again," referring to this season's injuries that have included Ryan Carter fracturing a wrist from his arm going through a photographer's hole and Corey Perry suffering that thigh laceration from a goalie's skate cutting him. We'll see what Niedermayer's status is for Game 4, but expect Todd Marchant to fill the slot on that checking line tonight.
I'm not sure what we'll be looking at for line combinations tonight, though I can say that Bobby Ryan was among the four Ducks (with Perry, DiPenta and Bergeron) who stayed after school when the rest of the players had left the ice. That would seem to indicate that Ryan is among the scratches, but we'll see.
One change that could be significant is the possible pairing of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger on the blue line, as the two have been together in the last two days of practice. Although the two have been together on the penalty kill, they're rarely out there together during even-strength situations. We'll see if they're out there together tonight.
Here's something interesting that might give Ducks fans more faith about trying to get back in this series with two games in Dallas. Including yesterday's three playoff games, home teams have won just 12 of 22 games, a winning percentage of just .545. Last season, that figure was 44 of 80 (.550).
Mike Modano was asked about that yesterday and said, "The atmosphere away from the rink is different. Kids and family and friends and everybody in town. I think when you’re on the road, you’re together and your focus is on hockey.”
Tonight the Stars are handing out these black "Believe" t-shirts to every fan, which combined with many fans' preference to wear the team's home jerseys will mean that pretty much every fan in the building will be clad in black (aside from hopefully some orange shirts). Marty Turco was asked yesterday about it and admitted, “I think all goalies prefer white out, as long as the puck’s black. If it gets over [the edge of] the glass and above and beyond, it’s going to be a tough battle to see it. But both goalies are in the same predicament, so all’s fair. It should be interesting to see.”
Yes, Marty, all indications are that the puck will be black for Game 3.
J.S. Giguere was asked about it today after the skate and said, "I don't see it being a problem" and then laughed, "Although, maybe I can use it as an excuse."
On that note, I'm not sure how many Stars jerseys will be in the house tonight. Last night when we want to the Angels-Rangers game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, we were surprised at how few of the home fans wore Rangers gear. It was kind of strange.
On another note, it was a great ballpark, made even better by the seats we scored through an Angels contact (first three rows, right by the Angels dugout). Although, on a Monday night, the place was probably half-full (or is it half-empty?). At the end of one inning midway through the game, Casey Kotchman ran off the field and tossed me a ball. Having gotten a few balls at baseball games over the years, I decided to hand it to the teenager sitting next to me, since he had kind of been calling for it. I thought it was a nice gesture, but apparently he wasn't that impressed by it. Neither he nor his family sitting next to him even bothered uttering a "thank you." I should have taken it back.
Man, I'm ready to get this Game 3 going. Feels like it's taken forever to get here. I'll leave you with today's message that was scribbled on the dry erase board in Anaheim's small dressing room: It's a Vince Lombardi quote: "Physical strength will make the opponent weaken, and mental toughness will make him crack."
Let's hope that crack comes from the guys in black.
Updated April 14 at 3:28 p.m. (Dallas time)
It was an interesting day for the Ducks, which started with me approaching Brad May in the Starbucks attached to the team hotel and asking him if he was Mormon. Let me explain. A fan emailed me a couple of weeks ago after seeing Brad's car at a Ducks practice and noticing the license plate said "ALMA 611". Well, Alma 6:11 happens to be a verse in the Book of Mormon (believe me, I didn't know this until she sent the email). But when I asked Brad the question this morning, he was completely oblivious. He had no idea the license plate had any meaning. The car just came that way when he bought it.
The lesson from all this: Brad May is not Mormon.
The Ducks practiced this afternoon at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in the town of Farmers Branch. I spent most of the morning trying to figure out why "Farmers" doesn't have an apostrophe. Okay, not most of the morning; some of the morning. Yes, I'm that dorky. The StarCenter, while it is a fantastic, sprawling facility, may be one of the top three or four coldest places on the face of the earth. I understand that when you're standing close to a 200 foot x 80 foot sheet of ice, it tends to get a little chilly. But this was well beyond that. When the Ducks practice there again on Wednesday, I'll have to be a little more prepared. Like, prepared not to show up. (I'm kidding. Sort of.)
The StarCenter has two rinks on either side of a huge lobby, which actually contains an automated machine where you can buy Stars tickets (though it had technical difficulties when I tried it). Meanwhile, the team store has plenty of Stars items, including these slightly horrifying three-foot-tall bobbleheads of Marty Turco and Mike Modano. There was a loose puck rolling through the lobby during the practice, and the Turco bobblehead actually jumped out of the window display and played it along the boards.
The Ducks started their day heading out to the giant grassy area just outside the rink to kick the soccer ball around and stretch. If you were far enough away, they looked like a group of about two dozen little kids (see photo at left).
Once they hit the ice, the first few minutes of practice consisted of the team's occasional routine of the entire squad crowding onto the ice to scrimmage with wrong-handed sticks. In other words, the lefty shooters used righty sticks and vice versa. It definitely was a sight to see the Stanley Cup champs looking like a group of beer leaguers (please, no smart remarks comparing that to how the team looked in Games 1 and 2). And when someone would awkwardly score a goal, arms rose to the sky as if they had scored in a playoff game.
So, there is no doubt the Ducks remain loose despite their play so far in this series and the hill they have to climb. More on that in the feature posted earlier today. You can also read in that feature that Randy Carlyle continues to shuffle the forward lines, and that includes the usually stable checking line, which required a fill-in of Todd Marchant on a wing with the absence of Robbie Niedermayer. In case you missed it, Robbie's "upper body" injury caused him to not make the flight with the team yesterday. Again, he's scheduled to get here tonight and we'll see what his status is after the morning skate tomorrow.
By the way, still nothing new from Lauren Conrad's celebrity blog on the Ducks. Come on, LC, we're two games into this thing! Maybe she got scared off by all the comments posters who derided her for being a fan of both the Kings and Ducks.
We're supposed to have some video on the site a little bit later. Kent French (who objected to me calling him "The Poor Man's Seacrest" in this blog a few months ago) is in town and is putting together a special road edition of Ducks TV as we speak. So, stay tuned for that and look for new episodes over the next couple of days as well.
I'm headed out in an hour or so to join some fellow Ducks staffers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (that's the full name of it; sound familiar?) for the Rangers-Angels game. Yes, the Angels happen to be in town the same time as the Ducks, so how could we miss the opportunity to see them? I know that the park was pretty popular when it was among the first of the new ones to open, back in 1994, so I'm curious to see how it looks. I do remember that it was the site of Jim Morris' first major league game in the cool movie "The Rookie" with Dennis Quaid. So, should be a fun time tonight and a nice distraction from our constant thoughts about Game 3.
Speaking of that, in the spirit of cheering Ducks fans up with that Bryzgalov link the other day, I've got another one for you. I'd heard from an emailing fan that there is an usher at Honda Center who looks just like Chris Kunitz. I didn't think much of it until the usher himself, whose name is Derek, sent me an email with this picture of him and Kunitz at an autograph signing. Uncanny.
Back with much more tomorrow.
Updated April 13 at 6:04 p.m. (Dallas time)
Just a quick update before I begin work on my new book, entitled: Hot Towels and Ginger Ale: Things You Do On an Airplane That You Wouldn't Do Anywhere Else. There is a chapter in there on napping next to total strangers and another on using the bathroom in a 3-foot-by-3-foot space. Can't wait to get started.
Anyway, the Ducks arrived into the airport in Dallas just fine, but it was after that stage of the trip that things got a little rocky. The trip from the airport to the team hotel is supposed to take about 15 minutes, but this one was closer to 35 or 40. That's because the bus that Ducks staffers and broadcasters are on was following the bus the players and coaches ride, and the driver of that bus apparently had no idea where he was going. If you think that seems odd, since his only job was getting the team from the airport to the hotel, you would be correct. Things got even worse when our driver lost track of the bus in front of him, so now he was lost on his own. We first started to get suspicious when our driver made four consecutive left turns. That's never a good sign. At one point, I could have sworn we drove by the Astrodome, but I could be wrong.
Finally, we arrived at the hotel, where the team will remain for the week. They practice tomorrow at a rink in a place called Farmers Branch, which sounds more like a health food store than a city. Oh, and on the way to the elevator after we got our keys, I had a celebrity sighting: Steven Van Zandt from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band (remember they play at American Airlines Center tonight), who also played Silvio on "The Sopranos." I've got to believe Bruce is around here somewhere.
The team was in a relatively upbeat mood on the flight over, and they were accompanied by Corey Perry, though there is no real word on when he'll be okay to play. In the meantime, here are some always-scintillating photos of the players getting off the plane in Dallas.
Updated April 13 at 9:53 a.m.
If you're anything like me (and I hope, for your sake, you're not) you woke up this morning with these numbers dancing in your head:
For me, that was just the latest in a bouncing Superball of emotions I've felt in the last 15 hours or so. Here's a quick recap:
An hour before game time: Nagging eagerness. A slight nervous feeling in my stomach
Pregame video presentation (minutes before puck drop): Excited anticipation. Chills. Arm hair standing up
Dallas leads 1-0: Minor disappointment
Dallas leads 2-0: Major disappointment
Ducks cut the lead to 2-1 on a Teemu Selanne goal: Hope, building optimism
Ducks tie it 2-2 on a gorgeous Travis Moen goal: Elation and rising confidence
Ducks don't capitalize on two power plays in the earily part of the third: Slight frustration
Dallas takes a 3-2 lead on a Mike Modano power play goal: Displeasure, but still hope
Dallas takes a 4-2 lead on a Brad Richards goal: Slight despair, but still a glimmer of hope
Dallas takes a 5-2 lead on a Loui Eriksson goal: Misery
The clock hits zero and the Honda Center fans (those left in the building) rain boos: Even more misery
Beer No. 1 across the street: Feeling a little better, but still miserable
A reminder this morning that only 37 out of 280 teams have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a seven-game NHL playoff series: Even more miserable
Another reminder that one of those teams was the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes, which lost the first two games of their opening-round series at home to Montreal before winning four straight to take that series and the Stanley Cup: Rising hope
And with that hope, I'm getting on a bus in about a half an hour with the rest of the Ducks to head to Dallas, where we're looking at a new start to this series. Or as Scott Niedermayer put it last night: “At this point, you sort of have everything (emotionally), but we have to realize we still have life and two days here to regroup. Maybe that'll be good — get on the road and have a little change of scenery and go from there.”
No matter what the mood of the Ducks is when they get there, we'll be covering it with plenty of video (if our equipment works the way we hope it will). So, stay tuned for that.
And before I run out of here to make sure I'm not late for another bus on a Ducks road trip, I want to mention that I heard from a couple of sources that Ilya Bryzgalov was inexplicably among the sold-out crowd at Honda Center last night. With that in mind, it's as good a time as any to remind you that if you're feeling down about the condition of the Ducks ... hey, "That's hockey. It's only game. Why you haf to be mad?"
Updated April 12 at 5:48 p.m.
It's a little more than an hour before Game 2 and I have to admit my stomach is feeling it a bit. Strange sensation.
It was 95 degrees as I arrived at Honda Center this evening. Is that playoff hockey in Orange County or what?
Okay, last thing. A reader named Jason Guzman sent me an email last night with the following message:
My buddies and I just got back from watching a game at Fenway Park and during the 7th inning stretch they play "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond and the fans go crazy! My buddies and I are diehard ducks fans and the first thing we thought of was "Sweet Anaheim," so we decided to put together our own version. I think this would be great in the Jack Daniel's club after the game but what we were really thinking is playing it in the arena after a win (kind of like the Yankees play "New York New York"). We just sat there thinking how great it would be to have all the fans singing "Sweet Anaheim" after a win especially during the playoffs.
I have to admit, it might be slightly silly, but the song is pretty cool. Click here to play it. The lyrics are below:
Updated April 12 at 12:08 p.m.
We're about seven hours away from Game 2, which in my eyes can't get here fast enough. The curiosity of how the Ducks will respond and try to erase the memories of whatever happened Thursday night is intriguing, to say the least.
We've got comments from Doug Weight, Ryan Getzlaf and Randy Carlyle about tonight's game that were just posted a few minutes ago.
Carlyle was asked about the possibility of Weight being in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Game 1 (for the first time in his playoff life), as he was for two of the last three games of the regular season. Carlyle, in typical fashion, would only say, "He's an option."
I've commented a few times on how Randy's tendency to keep things close to the vest can be frustrating, and the media would like him to be more candid when it comes to lineups and injuries. Well, last night Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren reminded us to be careful what you wish for. This one might have been a little too candid. If you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of thousands of men across the country cringing. Thank goodness for this piece of news.
Following Carlyle's trend of mixing things up, especially when things have gone bad, I'd bet we see Weight in there tonight. He has skated with Kunitz and Selanne in the last couple of workouts, while Bertuzzi, Getzlaf and Ryan filled the top line. We'll see if that holds true tonight.
I would love to see Weight back in there tonight, no matter how much he may have struggled to get things going over the past couple of months. He's a guy who brings a veteran presence and a guy who has been through this playoff grind before (including that Cup with Carolina two seasons ago). Most importantly, he's a smart player, at a time when Anaheim needs all the smarts they can get.
Now let's get this thing started, huh?
Updated April 11 at 12:18 p.m.
No need to sugarcoat this one. That was bad. That was really bad.
With all the excitement and buildup that led up to this long-awaited commencement of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Ducks, last night I felt like a little kid who was looking forward to going to Disneyland for months, only to finally get there and find out it burned down.
Or maybe that's a bad analogy, since the pregame buildup and the first half of the first period packed all the excitement and energy you could want out of a playoff opener. But even some of the Ducks admitted that energy might have gone to their heads. “We might have been a little overaggressive in certain situations,” Ryan Getzlaf said. “We have to control our emotions a little bit...You get overexcited, I think, and try to do too much.”
That was part of the reason the Ducks committed five penalties in the second part of the period, starting with Travis Moen's elbow to the head of Matt Niskanen and followed by Brian Sutherby's cross-check in the back that knocked down Trevor Daley in front of the Dallas net. Both of those opened the gates to two Dallas power play goals and a 2-0 Stars lead that took the collective life out of the Honda Center crowd. Even the normally pacifistic Teemu Selanne got into the act (see photo at right), taking exception to a hit from Phillippe Boucher and scrapping with him before Todd Bertuzzi jumped into the fray. That led to a rumble in which those two and teammate Mathieu Schneider (and two Stars) took roughing minors and gave Dallas another man advantage. If not for some nice work by J.S. Giguere on that power play, the Stars could have added a third power play goal before the end of the period.
Speaking of Giguere, not the best night of his life and definitely a surprise for a guy with such a stellar playoff resume. At the same time, there was a lot to be asked of him since the guys in front of him played so much of the game undermanned. Selanne once again summed it up: "Too many stupid penalties," he said after the game, shaking his head. "One power-play goal is huge in a series like this. But we gave them four!"
And yes, you could blame those four on a penalty kill that wasn't reminiscent of the effective one the Ducks have employed over the past couple of months. But solely blaming the penalty kill is like wandering into a bad neighborhood and complaining about getting robbed. You've got to point the finger at what got you there. Or as Chris Pronger put it, "The first thing is not take as many penalties. That will cure what ails you."
This was exactly the problem that plagued Anaheim in a rocky first few months of the season, part of which led them to lead the NHL in penalty minutes for the second straight year. And while the team's discipline over the last month and a half was much more encouraging, last night was a terrible time for it to rear its ugly head again.
But don't overlook the fact that with all of the Ducks' shortcomings last night, Dallas played a very good hockey game. Their defense was incredibly stingy, Marty Turco was solid if not spectacular (though he admitted, "There were a couple of fortunate tips that hit me that I didn't see"), and they made the most of every opportunity the Ducks allowed them. No matter how much they stumbled near the end of the regular season, there is no denying this is a very good Dallas team.
And as much as we can point to the bad penalties or the power play goals, let's not also forget the Ducks didn't generate much offense after the first 11 minutes of the game. They outshot Dallas 8-2 in the opening half of the period, and only managed 15 more the entire rest of the game. Part of that can be attritubed to the energy (both physical and mental) that was drained from the team by all those power plays, but it goes without saying the Ducks are going to have to generate a lot more offense than what they managed in Game 1. (Corey Perry? How's that leg, buddy?)
And no, Ducks fans, it wasn't the officials that cost Anaheim this game. Sure, they may have missed a couple of calls, but to blame those guys for this one is silly.
But there is little need to focus on any of that anymore. All the Ducks can do now is forget about Game 1 and look ahead, or as Giguere said: “Doesn’t matter if we lost, 1-0, or 7-6. We have to move on.”
You could say that the home ice in this series the Ducks were craving for so long has now vanished. After all, the Ducks are now looking at a six-game series with three in Dallas and three at home. At the same time, having a potential Game 5 and Game 7 at Honda Center is certainly comforting.
And of course, the Ducks will be back at Honda Center on Saturday for a Game 2 they absolutely have to win. And you can guarantee that this team, with all the heart and all the pride that guided them a season ago, will come out for that one with a vengeance. Remember last year's conference final, when the Ducks came home after a dramatic Game 2 victory in Detroit, only to be drastically outplayed by the Wings in a 5-0 loss in Game 3? All the Ducks did after that was win 7 of their next 8 and take a little thing called the Stanley Cup. In other words, as much as it clearly looked like the wind was taken out of their sails in that game last night, this team doesn't lie down.
"There’s a reason why these games are best-of-seven," Selanne said last night. "Obviously, it was not pretty tonight, but we’ll come back tomorrow, work on a couple of things and go from there. I want to see a hungrier team on Saturday."
Said Getzlaf: "It's only Game 1. It's going to be a long series."
Let's hope so. Game 2 can't get here soon enough. And let's also hope this quote that was scrawled on the grease board in the Ducks locker room this morning proves prophetic:
"It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness."
Updated April 10 at 2:08 p.m.
We're mere hours away from Game 1 and I have to admit I'm pretty pumped up. I think I've been looking ahead to the playoffs for, oh, three or four months now, and I'm ready to get this thing started.
But apparently I'm in the minority with that sentiment. Just ask Marcia Smith of the O.C. Register, who pointed out in her column in this morning's paper the lack of buzz around Orange County for the Ducks. Among her evidence were interviews she did with fans at Angels Stadium, whom she claimed had no idea that playoffs were about to start (though she only quoted one).
I saw Marcia in the Ducks locker room yesterday, jockeying for position among a group of about two dozen reporters, a much larger number than the team routinely sees during the regular season.
Look, we get it. Despite the Stanley Cup, the sellout streak and everything else, hockey still has a ways to go around here. It's unfortunate, but we're still miles away from the fervor of cities like Montreal, Toronto or even Detroit for that matter. (Detroit, by the way, doesn't even sell out its playoff games.)
But that matters very little to me right now. You want to see some energy, Marcia? Some emotion? Drop by Honda Center tonight. You'll see more than 17,000 screaming fans. That's buzz for you.
By the way, fans. You still have a good chance of being part of that group of screaming fans, as additional tickets (including player holds) have been released for tonight's game and can be purchased through Ticketmaster or at the Honda Center box office. Get down here if you can. I think this is going to be a good one.
And if you are here, make sure to get here early enough to check out the pregame lights-out presentation. Should be a pretty cool one tonight. And you won't have to get here overly early to make sure you get a copy of the coveted Ducks Digest. We're printing almost twice as many of them for each game of the playoffs than we normally do for the regular season.
Continuing a trend of female columnists ruining Ducks fans' mornings, Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times doesn't think the Ducks will repeat.
Of course, the whole "repeating" thing is the furthest thing from the Ducks' minds right now, far overshadowed by the immediate task of winning this Game 1. Sean O'Donnell spoke for the rest of the team yesterday by saying, "To be honest with you, we don't even think about that stuff. What would it mean? It takes so much to focus on Game 1 that you can't really think about how hard it is to repeat or why no one has been able to do it. There's good teams out there, especially in the West. We're just trying to win that first game of round 1 right now."
We didn't get a great feel from the morning skate on what the lines will look like tonight (though I can say with the utmost confidence that the third line will be Moen-Pahlsson-Niedermayer). There is a strong possibility of Selanne-Carter-Kunitz on one line, but don't hold me to that. As usual, Randy Carlyle kept his combinations close to the vest. One reporter asked him in this morning's press conference whether Todd Marchant (who was out Sunday after taking a shot off his foot Saturday at L.A.) will be available to play. Carlyle looked at him and repeated one of his favorites: "You got to come to the warmup." You could almost hear the regular Ducks beat writers muttering under their breath, "Rookie."
I saw a question posted on the message board, wondering which anthem will be sung for tonight's game. You might recall that in the past the Ducks opted for God Bless America when Dallas was visiting because Stars fans classily yell "Stars!" during the two parts of the song when that lyric is sung. But at the beginning of this year, the Ducks decided to take the "to hell with them" mentality and stick with the Star Spangled Banner, no matter how much the Stars fans yell during the song. Feel free to drown them out by singing loudly tonight and Saturday night.
Despite the Ducks playing the first and last games of the regular season, they didn't open this year's playoffs, and last night had some intrigue around the league. After losing to hardly anybody over the last month and a half, the Sharks fell to Calgary 3-2, despite a gut-wrenching effort to tie it in the closing minute. Those two teams go at it again tonight, believe it or not. Also in the West, Colorado took down Minnesota in overtime in a battle of Northwest teams. Meanwhile, Ottawa continued its second-half freefall with a 4-0 trouncing at the hands of Pittsburgh. That came on the heels of Sens coach Bryan Murray accusing the Pens of tanking their regular season finale against Philly so they could play Ottawa instead of the Flyers in the first round. Whether that's true or not, can you blame them, Bryan?
We've added something new to the website that enhances the feature we had during the regular season in which you could download the Ducks schedule into your Outlook, Palm or Lotus Notes calendar. This new download of the Ducks playoff schedule, works the same way, but now with the use of a program called Infuzer, any changes or other messages we want to get out to the fans will automatically update in your calendar. Meanwhile, if and when the Ducks make the second round and beyond, it will also automatically update in your calendar once the schedule is finalized.
The Ducks can go a long way toward determining whether they make that second round starting tonight.
And I, for one, can't wait.
Updated April 9 at 2:24 p.m.
As if we didn't already know the playoffs are creeping closer and closer, here was the scene at Honda Center this morning.
Ah, yes. It's so on.
The Ducks practiced inside that very building this morning with yet another different line combination working for the entire session. We had Bertuzzi, Getzlaf and Marchant on one line, then Kunitz, Carter and Selanne on the other. The fourth line was a mix of Sutherby, Parros, May, Weight and Ryan.
Corey Perry, again in the raspberry (on second look, it might be cabernet) practice jersey, skated for a longer time today than he did yesterday at Anaheim Ice. Perry told reporters yesterday that his leg "felt great. That's why I stayed out and did a couple of drills with the team. If it continues to be like that, it could be quicker than everybody thinks."
Let's hope that's true. A revealing test will be if Perry steps on the bus when the Ducks head to the airport for Dallas this Sunday morning, since Perry himself has indicated he could be ready for Games 3 and 4 there.
The Stars have taken the surprising approach of practicing in Dallas today and flying out to Anaheim afterwards. They're scheduled to arrive here around 3:30 this afternoon, a little more than 24 hours before puck drop. It's a surprising approach for a team that has had a few days to get out here. Maybe the organization is worried about the players getting caught up in the thriving Anaheim nightlife, so they want them home as long as possible.
Eric Stephens has a story in the L.A. Times today about the physical style of the Ducks, and the Stars' plans to counter that. The story points out (for the thousandth time) that the Ducks led the NHL in penalty minutes, and how a key for them in this series and through the postseason is to stay disciplined and out of the penalty box. That was a huge problem in the first few months of this season, but you have to like Anaheim's ability to keep minor penalties to a minimum in the regular season's stretch run. As George Parros said, "I think we've been a more composed group in general since January. I think we've learned how to control ourselves. It's an emotional game and we'll have outbursts here and there. But I think we've done a pretty good job."
If the Stars were looking to send a message to the Ducks that they too can mix it up, they certainly did that in their regular season finale against San Jose. That game, between two teams you don't usually associate with physical shenanigans (especially in a relatively meaningless game), had a combined 105 penalty minutes in the first period and 160 overall. Among them were nine fighting majors, including one scrap between Joe Thornton (who drops the gloves about as often as Judi Dench) and Stars resident thug Steve Ott.
Ott was described in that same L.A. Times story by teammate Marty Turco this way: "They really do hate him and most of it is well-deserved." Ott himself commented on his style of play and his propensity for going after opposing players to try and lure them into committing penalties. "I'm not going to go after Brad May or George Parros," Ott said. "Getting their skill guys is the key."
Speaking of Parros, I thought this mural ESPN.com is using as part of their Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage was a little strange. With all due respect to our guy, does George Parros fighting with Andrew Peters of the Buffalo Sabres really say "playoffs" to you?
Dan Wood of the O.C. Register has a story today that touches on the fact that this will be the first postseason of the last three in which J.S. Giguere will actually play in Game 1. You may remember that two years ago a nagging groin injury kept him out of the beginning of that Calgary series. Last year, health issues with newborn son Maxime caused him to miss the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs, as Randy Carlyle kept a hot Ilya Bryzgalov in there for the first three games against Minnesota.
I'm one of the few people who feel like this season has seemed like it's gone on forever, but on the same hand (as Teemu Selanne would say), I felt like time has flown when I read that Giguere's son just had his first birthday last Friday.
I don't know if it's possible that Giguere has gotten enough credit for the season he's had this year, especially after signing a lucrative long-term deal in the offseason (and many Ducks fans remember the 2003-04 season he had after doing that the last time). Giguere went out and set franchise records for save percentage and goals against, and as Brian Burke said, "...it’s only the first year, but he earned every penny we paid him this year.”
That came in handy for a Ducks team that had trouble scoring goals all season long, and there isn't any indication that's going to change much this postseason (when goals are even harder to get). Giguere comes into these playoffs with an eye-opening career postseason record of 31-13, with a goals against average of 1.96. The Ducks will need him to stay on that pace, and I think their whole playoff destiny relies on what Jiggy does in net.
Moving on, today was the debut of the NHL's new online program, "The Hockey Show," which will air daily through the remainder of the postseason and is part of their new, sleek NHL Network Online. Take a look when you get some time. It's some pretty good stuff and will only get better. (Let's hope the same is true about the slightly goofy hosts.)
I've gotten a few emails in the last hour about this piece of news: Lauren Conrad of "The Hills" (and previously "Laguna Beach") is going to be a celebrity blogger for NHL.com, covering the Ducks, even though she lives in L.A. and is admitedly a Kings fan. But as she writes, "Since the Kings are out of it, I’ll adopt my fellow Orange County Anaheim Ducks as my team for the playoffs. Is there anything you guys think I should know as I watch the Ducks?"
Yikes. Um, no, Lauren. I think you've pretty much got them covered.
I have to admit I've had a little thing for "LC" ever since I got lured into watching "The Hills" with a certain girl with whom I spend a lot of time. Don't get me wrong, I think the show is usually ridiculous (especially during the parts where they're clearing "re-enacting" their "reality." But there's just something about it that draws me. I know, that combined with my "Before He Cheats" admission a few days ago is not boding well for me right now. So be it.
All that being said, the thought of Lauren taking on this assignment doesn't exactly get me pumped, and it's not just because I'll no longer be the best-looking person who blogs about the Ducks. At least I'll have an opening line if I ever run into her at Les Deux. In her slight defense, she's actually been to a Ducks game, which was captured in this picture from last year.
I love how a few people in the comments section below her blog actually took her up on her request of filling her in on the Ducks. One guy wrote: "The Ducks are the dirtiest team in the NHL You should vote for a team with class, such as LA, even though they didn’t make the playoffs."
And another: "Lauren, its not that easy. The first rule of hockey is that you do not root for whomever is convenient. You dont spend the first half of your blog loving the Kings and, then hey just because they didnt make the playoffs this year..Woo Hoo..Go Ducks. It is shameful."
Ouch. Good luck, Lauren. Let me know if you need any help. I'm just an hour away.
Updated April 8 at 5:11 p.m.
As you can see from Matt Vevoda's story we just posted on the site, the Ducks got back to practice today at Anaheim Ice in preparation for Game 1 (which is two days away, but right now that seems like an eternity). You could kind of tell that we're in the cusp of the playoffs with the increased media presence and the enlarged group of fans braving the Anaheim Ice chill to watch the Ducks skate.
Interestingly enough, the Ducks did some shuffling of the lines in practice today. Selanne, Getzlaf and Kunitz skated on the first line, Bertuzzi, Carter and Ryan teamed on the second line, with the third line same as its always been. Then they had Sutherby, May and Parros on the fourth line, with Marchant and Weight wearing the same colors as those three (meaning they could be on that line too). As Randy Carlyle reiterated, that doesn't indicate anything about Game 1 lines right now, but it is interesting.
To address the concerns of so many of you, Chris Pronger did skate today and looked just fine. In fact, there was no talk at all after the skate about him being hurt, even though he clearly left the ice in some pain on Sunday. Bottom line, don't worry about Prongs for Thursday.
Even more good news, Corey Perry participated in some drills with the team, which is really surprising if you saw the way he was limping around this place a couple of weeks ago. Nice to see that he's coming along well. There was talk not too long ago about him rejoining the lineup within the first round, rather than the original expectation that he wouldn't make it back until a potential second round. We'll just have to see.
If you don't believe me, someone shot video of Perry today and posted it on YouTube, and although he's moving fairly well, you can see some stiffness in that right leg. There is one bonus: He's wearing the new raspberry practice jersey.
Although, he is moving a little better than this hockey player. I've watched this three times and I still don't know what to make of it.
Today got off to a nice start as the Ducks continued a now-three-year tradition (since Brian Burke got here) of having a pancake breakfast as a special kick-off to the playoffs. I've put up two photos from the event. One is a group shot, and if you look under that red arrow, you can see me in mid-stuff-my-face mode. The other is of Burkie and Ducks execs Tim Ryan and Bob Wagner flapping some jacks (which were great, by the way) or at least posing that way.
Burkie spoke briefly to the staff, emphasizing that he didn't have much time because he was supposed to leave for Anaheim Ice to speak to the team at 10:30, and "Randy Carlyle is very anal about keeping on schedule." Burke spoke a bit about the excitement of the upcoming playoffs and pointed out that while last year's Ducks rolled over most everyone going into this time of year last season, it's been a different story with this year's team.
He brings up an interesting thought. While the feeling with the Ducks last year was that they were a likely candidate to roll far through the playoffs, you have to be unsure about exactly what this team can achieve this spring. Although, that's not exactly the feeling of our Ducks Poll participants, almost 50 percent of whom see a Stanley Cup repeat in
Partly because of American Airlines Arena's concert schedule, and partly because of Honda Center's, we're looking at a rare playoff back-to-back for Games 4 and 5 in this series. You wouldn't think Elton John could have much effect on a hockey game, but his Saturday show here is causing that squeeze. But you have to like Anaheim's chances in the second of a back-to-back at home, when the Stars will be staying in a hotel, while the Ducks will be in their own homes... with their wives ... and their kids ... who haven't seen Dad in five days.
Well, thank goodness we have a few single guys.
I was very sad to hear the Stars beat the Ducks in six games in the first round, while
We've put up this year's edition of Ducks Playoff Central, which for the rest of the postseason (as long as the Ducks are still in it) will be your place to find everything Ducks playoff-related. Already there are links to a series preview and some good features provided by NHL.com. We'll try to fill that page up in a major way in the coming days.
With the Ducks announcing their TV plans for the first round, I was very glad to see FSN Prime Ticket nabbed six of the possible seven games and KDOC getting the other one (Game 3). Looks like we won't have to worry about local fans being able to get Versus (and even if they do have it, trying to find it in their channel guide) until at least the next round.
One last thing. In case you missed it, the Ducks not only didn't move up the potential five spots they could have advanced with Edmonton's pick in the Draft Lottery, they actually fell a spot from 11th to 12th. But if it'll cheer you up, the Kings had the potential for the top spot (after just finishing second via tiebreaker to Tampa for the worst record in the league) and ended up with the No. 2 pick. Poor Kings ... even when their season's over they're still losing.
Updated April 7 at 4:36 p.m.
My apologies for not having anything today. My other duties with the Ducks have taken me away from the all-important blogging today (not to mention the all-important sleeping). I promise to get to more tomorrow, but let me package my thoughts from last night:
1. Nice win for the Ducks to end the regular season, even if it was fairly ugly and the first 40 minutes of that thing were about as interesting as a Memphis-Kansas NCAA championship game.
2. I was just as surprised as you were by the Stadium Lofts thing.
3. I'm not sure how hurt Pronger is. He seemed to be fine when he talked after the game, but he did miss the shirts-off-their-backs festivities to get medical attention. The Ducks practice tomorrow, when I'm sure we'll learn more.
4. Guess who scored the Ducks' first and last regulation goals of the season? That's right, none other than Bobby Ryan. (Thanks to "a fan in Philly" for pointing this out to me.)
5. Don't worry. The first round Ducks games are not only on TSN. We'll be announcing local TV listings any minute.
Again, back with much more tomorrow.
Updated April 6 at 10:57 a.m.
It's Sunday, so I don't want to exert myself too much, but I just want to make a quick note saying it was great to see the Ducks take that exhibition game at Staples Center yesterday afternoon. If you didn't catch my game log from yesterday, I beg you to take a look, because there were several interesting observations to be had during the day at Staples. I've made this joke before, but since the most recent items are at the top, you'll want to read from the bottom up, just like Kings fans read the conference standings.
It was great to see the major turnout of Ducks fans yesterday, as two whole sections behind the goal the Ducks shot at twice were dominated by black and gold jerseys and orange towels. It was a welcome sight. And I love the fact that every time Kings fans were yelling "Ducks suck!" the Anaheim fans were trying to cover it by yelling "Stanley Cup!" Speaking of those fans, reader Dale made an amusing little video diary that you'll want to check out. Good stuff.
How great was it to see Joe DiPenta sneak in a goal yesterday, his first of the year, and in just his third game since Dec. 14. This picture is definitely a keeper. And how does Joe D get rewarded? He's going to be a scratch tonight, partly because of Chris Pronger's return from suspension. DiPenta, Bergeron and Carter, along with the two goalies, were on the ice this morning, which indicates they won't be in the lineup tonight. Update (2:45 p.m.): On second thought, word just came in that Carter will be in the lineup tonight.
It's hard to believe that with the so-called "Stanley Cup hangover," all the injuries, all the bad streaks, the delayed returns of two semi-retired guys and all the rest, the Ducks still got to 100 points for the second straight year (the only two times they've done it in their history).
Now the Ducks have one more tuneup tonight against Phoenix, which of course is Fan Appreciation Night. Among the festivities will be the giveaway of the Honda Ridgeline, as the winners of the season-long video contest will try their keys to see who will drive away with it. Let's hope that unlike yesterday at Staples, one of the keys actually starts the car. (Boy, that was ugly.) Meanwhile, our winner of Anthem Idol from a month ago, Christina Reyes, will be belting out the song before the game. That should be pretty cool.
Updated April 5 at 12:32 p.m.
A little preview of the very low-key Freeway Face-Off check ceremony before it's aired on the pregame show in a little bit: Kings GM Dean Lombardi initially presented Brian Burke with a fake check made out to "Mighty Ducks" for $5,000, rather than the $50,000 it's supposed to be. And he told Burkie, "Congratulations on winning the Subway Series." Burkie at first looked a little confused before he figured out what was going on. Eventually the real check was presented. The trophy? It's apparently still in some guy's workshop, where I guess it's been the last six months.
Again, the Kings come out for warmups to the tune of The Ataris' cover of "The Boys of Summer." I noticed this last game here, and apparently it's a tradition. It still confuses me that a hockey team comes out to "Boys of Summer," but I said it last time: I guess it's because the Kings start thinking about their summer plans around December. Maybe if Green Day releases a single called "Looks Like Last Place Again" they'll switch warmup songs.
Look at what the Kings website has for its splash page right now. Guys, I know you've given up on the season, but don't you think this is a little premature? The Kings might be tempted to tank this one, since they are in a battle with Tampa right now for the No. 1 spot in the draft lottery.
In case you missed it, this game has been rendered relatively meaningless by the fact that Dallas lost 4-2 to Phoenix last night, which means the Ducks clinched home ice for the first round. But as far as having momentum going into the playoffs, this one and tomorrow's against Phoenix still hold some significance.
A look on the ice for warmups shows no Ryan Carter. J.S. Giguere was first out of the tunnel, indicating he'll get the start and Hiller will probably go tomorrow.
Join me for the live game log.
Updated April 5 at 11:47 a.m.
I just drove from Orange County to Staples Center in just under an hour, with not a hint of traffic. I feel like I got away with something, like walking out of a Best Buy with an iPod that I didn't pay for in my pocket. God bless driving to L.A. on a Saturday morning.
I'm sitting in the Staples Center press box, which isn't as cold as it has been in the past. They're playing "Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News on the P.A. system. I have a sudden urge to hop behind the wheel of a DeLorean and take it up to 88.
I've got a question: If you're listening to the radio on a long drive and you sing along (loudly) to the chorus of Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," do you have to surrender your Man Card, or is it just suspended for a month? I'm just asking. Someone want to get back to me on that?
Updated April 4 at 4:09 p.m.
I forgot to mention that I will be at Staples Center tomorrow to cover the game with a live game log and recap. That means that for the rest of the season we will have full coverage on the site, since the last regular season game is at home and I will again accompany the team throughout the playoffs.
Updated April 4 at 11:13 a.m.
Alright, things are really getting interesting now.
With Dallas' win last night in Phoenix, it became a virtual certainty the Ducks will face the Stars in the first round of the playoffs. Dallas pulled two points ahead of Colorado for the fifth spot, and the Avs are the only team that can catch the Stars. Now, even if Dallas loses both of its remaining two games in regulation and the Avs win their lone remaining game Sunday at Minnesota, the spot still belongs to the Stars. Here's why:
If that scenario should pan out, the Stars and Avs each have 95 points. The first tiebreaker is wins, and they would each have 44. The second tiebreaker is the season series, and they each won two games in regulation in that. So, the third tiebreaker is goal differential for the season. Right now, Dallas is +35 and Colorado is just +11. So, unless Dallas gets shut out in their next two games and the Avs beat Minny by something like 25-0, the spot belongs to the Stars.
Putting it another way: It's Ducks vs. Dallas in the first round.
But now the question is where that series will begin. The Ducks currently hold a three-point lead over the Stars, and we'll say it again: Any combination of two points gained by the Ducks in these last two games or lost by the Stars in their remaining two games gives Anaheim home ice, and thus Games 1 and 2 at Honda Center. Right now it's advantage Anaheim, but it's still a little scary.
Let's look at what the Stars face first. Tonight they go up against a Phoenix team that they beat last night in the desert, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and holding off a late Coyotes comeback. You've got to like Dallas' chances tonight against a Phoenix team that you'd think might be already making plans for the summer. Then again, in this league you never know (Exhibit A: The Kings beating the Sharks last night, 4-2). Dallas closes the season at home against the Sharks on Sunday a game that will be completed hours before Anaheim has its regular season finale at home against Phoenix. And while the Sharks have emerged to become the class of the West, if you saw them last night against the Kings, you've got to have the feeling they're sort of cruising into the postseason, just trying not to get anyone hurt.
The last thing in the world the Ducks want to do is rely on Dallas losing, so that turns the focus to Anaheim's final two games -- at Los Angeles tomorrow and at home against Phoenix on Sunday. While the Kings are wrapping up another brutal season in which they're tied for the worst record in the league, Saturday is their last game of the year. And you know they'd love nothing more than to stick it to the Ducks. That and the fact the game is at Staples means the Ducks will have their work cut out for them. Then you have the second of a back-to-back on Sunday against a Coyotes team with a certain goalie who would love nothing more than to beat his old teammates (once again).
In case you missed it, last night the playoff picture for the Western Conference was completed, as far as the eight teams to qualify. Vancouver lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Edmonton, as Dwayne Roloson was hypnotized into thinking it was 2006 again (maybe he listened to "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley before the game) and had 37 saves. That eliminated the Canucks from the playoffs, giving Calgary and Nashville the final two spots in the West.
Today is the fifth straight non-game day for the Ducks (they practice this afternoon at Anaheim Ice) going into those final two games on consecutive nights. We've said it before, but lord knows what the NHL schedule-makers were thinking this year. The scheduling quirks have been league-wide, not to mention Anaheim's February road trip that saw them play eight games in 14 nights, followed by seven straight at home.
“It is weird," Teemu Selanne said yesterday, "but I think it’s best when we don’t think about those things.”
Forgot to mention in the last two days that Chris Pronger had his protective mask off in the last couple of practices, which he was wearing for a broken jaw that right now seems like it happened ages ago. The last game of Pronger's suspension is Saturday, and he has said he'll be wearing the shield when he rejoins the lineup Sunday. He also said that he'd ideally like to lose it by the playoffs, but we'll see.
In case you didn't see it, the Ducks will be honored for their Freeway Face-Off title on the FSN West pregame show at 12:30 p.m. that leads into their game with the Kings. There will be the presentation of a giant check but no trophy, since it apparently isn't ready yet. It's perfectly understandable. I mean, the Freeway Face-Off was created back in October and six freakin' months isn't much time to have a trophy made.
Speaking of that Kings game, reader Kyle has informed me that the Ducks message boarders have organized a group of more than 100 fans who will make the trek up to the depths of hell (also known as L.A.) for the game, and will be sitting together in the 200 section at Staples. So, if you're at the game, look for them. Since they're message board people, they'll be the cynical ones in the arena. Well, the cynical ones wearing Ducks jerseys.
(I'm going to pay for that one, aren't I?)
For those not going to the game, you can still join other Ducks fans Saturday at the last-minute Official Watch Party at McMahon's RV in Irvine. I'm not sure if the game will be shown in an actual RV, but there's one way to find out.
Updated April 3 at 2:49 p.m.
The Ducks were back at it today at Anaheim Ice, with just two players (Brad May and George Parros) wearing the new raspberry practice jerseys (from our recollection). However, there was a hard-to-ignore different shade of red (more like a strawberry) coming from the pads of a third goaltender who took part in the workout today. Further investigation revealed it was 22-year-old Mathieu Poitras of Quebec and currently a goalie at McGill University in Montreal. Poitras, a protege of Ducks goaltending consultant Francois Allaire, was brought in because the Ducks wanted to have a third goalie in practice. However, they were against bringing J.S. Aubin back up because he is about to start the AHL playoffs in Portland, and the Ducks only have so many recalls they can use.
Said Randy Carlyle: "We feel that we need a third goalie for practice here as we go forward. All of our goaltenders under contract are still playing, so we’d have to burn a recall to bring one of them in. It doesn’t make sense at this point to burn a recall. It’s one of the things that are challenging when you have a minor league team that is still playing."
You'll recall (or maybe you won't) that Sebastien Caron was brought in around this time last year and stuck around long enough to get a day with the Stanley Cup. Poitras apparently had to ask for a delay on his finals at McGill to come to Anaheim. Here is a little more on him, and please click it so you can check out his sweet widow's peak. Eddie Munster, anyone?
The Ducks skated with some shuffled lines in practice, forming a second line of Chris Kunitz-Ryan Carter-Bobby Ryan and a fourth line of Todd Marchant-Doug Weight-Brian Sutherby. We'll see how that pans out when the Ducks get back to actual games on Saturday at Staples.
Word on the street is that if the Ducks hold on to their home-ice advantage status and get Dallas in the first round, Game 1 will be Thursday with Game 2 on Saturday, rather than Wednesday-Friday (which was the other possibility). The one-day delay for the start of the series seems likely because Dallas can't play at home until Tuesday because of conflicts at their arena on Sunday and Monday, as they're hosting Bruce Springsteen and then Bon Jovi on those nights. Sound familiar? Honda Center has those two shows for two nights each within the next week, starting with Bon Jovi on Friday and Saturday and then Bruce next Monday and Tuesday.
We'll get a better idea about whether the Ducks will face Dallas when the Stars battle the Coyotes at Phoenix tonight. Again, any combination of two points not gained by Dallas in this game and/or tomorrow night against the 'Yotes in Dallas clinches home ice for the Ducks. Of course, if Dallas finds a way to win both of those games, the Ducks can clinch it themselves with at least two points combined this weekend against L.A. and/or Phoenix.
The Stars are basically headng into the playoffs like a marathon runner who trips on a crack in the asphalt and then rolls across the finish line. They are hanging their hats on the four out of six points they gained on their just-ended California trip (just check out their website), but prior to that they dropped seven of eight.
Part of the reason for their struggles has been the absence of defenseman Sergei Zubov, who hasn't played since Jan. 17 with a sports hernia injury and had surgery in late February. I've never really understood that term, by the way. Does a "sports hernia" hurt any differently than if you injure your abdomen picking up a couch? Oh wait, here's the answer (thank you, Google ... yet again).
There was a little news on Zubov that I found interesting today. According to DallasStars.com, Stars coach Dave Tippett told the media that Zubov "had a procedure overseas to address lingering problems from a sports hernia injury and that it went well." It just said "overseas" and there were no specifics beyond that. I haven't heard anything that intentionally vague since "upper body injury." They're treating the location of Zubov's treatment like it's an upcoming celebrity wedding.
Speaking of misleading, this is one of the first times I've heard sports hernia as Zubov's injury. It was originally reported that he had a foot injury that he tried to play through, but ended up injuring his groin. Tippett was asked Tuesday which of the two were giving Zubov problems and he said, "All of the above."
There is also "no specific timetable for his return but the team hopes he will have a speedy recovery." I'm sure Ducks fans feel the exact same way.
We've put up a nice collection of all the A Closer Look and We Asked the Ducks features we've done this year in Ducks Digest. Since only a limited amount of Ducks fans get access to the magazine (by picking it up at Ducks home games), we thought those who hadn't seen this stuff might get a kick out of it. Plus, it gave us a chance to use this adorable picture of Sammy Pahlsson and Travis Moen on the home page.
Last thing, did you hear the great news?
Updated April 2 at 12:08 p.m.
You may not have noticed, but the future of the Ducks franchise just got slightly more secure last night. After six weeks of playing some of their best hockey of the year and making a charge for that last playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers were officially eliminated last night. Edmonton dropped a heartbreaker to rival Calgary, 3-2, when the Flames' Owen Nolan scored a goal with just 3:44 left in the third.
The loss ended the Oilers' playoff hopes and officially dropped them into the lottery for this year's NHL Entry Draft. And if you recall, the Ducks own Edmonton's first, second and third round selections in that draft as compensation for the Dustin Penner signing.
The NHL just announced that the drawing for the 14 lottery selections (which is a weighted system) will be held next Monday at 5 p.m. PT and televised on Versus in the U.S., TSN in Canada, streamed live on NHL.com and broadcast live on XM.
So, tune in for your chance to learn where the Ducks will be in position to select some players you've likely never heard of, but hopefully will in a couple of years.
In the never-could-have-seen-this-coming department, the Sharks somehow found a way to beat the Kings last night, 5-2 at HP Pavilion. That's the 18th win in the last 20 for San Jose, who is looking downright scary right now with the playoffs a week away.
Colorado last night clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 4-2 win in Vancouver. The Avs are currently tied for that fifth spot points-wise with Dallas, and each have 43 wins. But the Avs have just one game remaining (Sunday against Minnesota), while Dallas has three left. The Stars play two straight against Phoenix starting tomorrow, games that could clinch home ice for the Ducks. Any combination of two points not gained by the Stars in those games gives Anaheim home ice even before the Saturday game with the Kings.
The Ducks, by the way, have the day off today and will get back to practicing tomorrow. I was too busy focusing on the raspberry-colored practice jerseys yesterday to remember that Teemu Selanne caught a stick to the forehead during the least likely time possible. It was during the closing moments of practice, while the Ducks were skating around the strategically placed orange cones for conditioning. Selanne took a bump above his eye and could be seen repeatedly checking it for blood. He was pretty much over it by the time he got into the locker room at Anaheim Ice. Actually, by that time, he had something new that was bothering him, and that was the pasta that was put out for the team to eat for lunch. Apparently, not very tasty.
One last thing. Ramiele Malubay has got to go. Enough is enough.
Updated April 1 at 2:25 p.m.
The Ducks got back to practicing at Anaheim Ice after having yesterday off, with a couple of new wrinkles thrown in. Ryan Carter was back on the ice for the first time since breaking his wrist in hopes of possibly playing this weekend. We'll have more on that on the site later this afternoon. Carter, by the way, has switched numbers from 52 to 20, consistent with the team's tendency to give more stable players lower numbers. You'll remember that guys like Getzlaf (51 to 15), Perry (61 to 10) and Penner (76 to 17) also switched to lower numbers after their rookie seasons. Although, they made the switch in the offseason.
Meanwhile, another huge development in Ducks land. Defensemen today were wearing raspberry-colored practice jerseys, and will presumably do so for the rest of the year.
If you're looking into some other games tonight, here are a few storylines:
#1 Detroit Red Wings (idle) can clinch the Presidents' Trophy tonight:
* If San Jose gets one or no points against Los Angeles.
#3 Minnesota Wild (idle) can clinch the Northwest Division tonight:
* If Colorado gets one or no points against Vancouver and Calgary gets one or no points against Edmonton.
#6 Colorado Avalanche can clinch a Western Conference playoff berth tonight:
* If they beat Vancouver
* If they get one point against Vancouver and Nashville gets one or no points against St. Louis
* Nashville gets no points against St. Louis.
#7 Calgary Flames can clinch a Western Conference playoff berth tonight:
* If they beat Edmonton and Nashville gets no points against St. Louis.
Meanwhile, there is an outside chance that Colorado could slide into Dallas' fifth spot in the West, but the smart money is on Dallas staying where they are.