Adam Brady is the Director of Publications & New Media for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center. Email him by CLICKING HERE.
Updated Nov. 29 at 11:24 a.m.
I don't know whether it was the after-effects of the two different Thanksgiving meals at two different homes I endured on Thursday or the lack of entertainment value on the Honda Center ice, but I was in dire need of a nap yesterday afternoon. The Ducks' 1-0 sleepwalk over the visiting Blackhawks wasn't exactly the DVD you'd show someone if you were trying to get them interested in hockey. But a win's a win, a shutout's a shutout, and let's not let their own lack of goal-scoring overshadow the Ducks' strong defense and goaltending in that game.
Jonas Hiller was outstanding, as he continues to show that bad game against Washington 10 days ago was mostly a fluke. Jo-Nasty (I'm trying in vain to make that nickname stick) made all the saves he needed to make in earning his second shutout in the last four games (and second of his NHL career). Of course, he got a little bit of help, as the Hawks had a few looks at open nets, only to throw up on themselves each time. Most notable was on a power play (one of only two the Ducks allowed) in the second period, when Dave Bolland had nearly the entire net in front of him, only to shoot it wide. Later that day, one of Bolland's teammates greeted him with arms wide open to give him a consoling hug, and he accidentally walked right past him.
“They had two or three open nets, and they missed all of them,” Hiller said. “All I did was try to put something there so the player has to think where he is going to shoot, and doesn’t have all of the empty net. Sometimes that’s enough to make him miss the net. Sometimes you have to be lucky, but I always say that to be lucky, you have to fight for it. That’s what the whole team did.”
No word on if Hiller was smiling during that comment, but my guess is he was. Again, you couldn't wipe the big goofy grin off his face when he was interviewed by Kent French on TV after he was named No. 1 star (where was Getzlaf in the three stars, by the way?). Here's hoping we establish a new rule that Hiller must be interviewed after each Ducks win. Whether he starts in net or not. Heck, whether they win or not.
As good as Hiller was, he might have had to keep it going in overtime if Ryan Getzlaf didn't somehow find the net with 4:41 left in the second period. Getzlaf's goal came after he flat-out whiffed on a one-timer try off a nice Perry feed. But he had the presence to stay with the puck and backhand it through several guys, rather than just the one who was in front of him on the initial attempt.
That was it for the scoring on a day when both teams seemed to be affected by the afternoon start and were on cruise control for most of it. Or, as Randy Carlyle said, “I don’t think both teams executed to the level both coaches would be happy with. We got a goal and they didn’t. We’ll take it and move forward.”
I imagine when Carlyle saw the universally beloved "The Dark Knight" last summer, he came out of the theatre saying something like, "I think from the standpoint of being entertained, I think I was. In the end, the action scenes were to the level they needed to be, and I think Heath Ledger did what he needed to do to give himself a chance to win an Oscar. I take it as an enjoyable film and move forward."
The Ducks move forward right to a three-game road trip that starts tomorrow in Carolina (North Carolina? South Carolina? The Carolinas? Raleigh?). They will have J.S. Giguere rejoining them for that game, though Hiller will be in net again. The Ducks sent down David LeNeveu and brought up Brett Festerling, who will also be available for that game.
Unfortunately, you'll just have to trust Steve Carroll and Brent Severyn on AM 830 (or listen on this website) that Hiller will be in there, since the game is not televised by either the Ducks or the Hurricanes.
It should be mentioned Brian Burke is officially no longer a Duck, as he was announced as GM of the Maple Leafs today. You can check out his press conference here, in which he led with some nice things to say about Anaheim.
Last thing: A buddy of mine named Aaron whom I grew up playing baseball with has a son who plays for the Aliso Viejo Eagles with Scott Niedermayer's son, Jackson. Last Wednesday at Anaheim Ice, they were playing the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, who have Teemu Selanne's son, Levi. The Eagles won 6-3 in the opening round of a tournament called Thanksgiving Fest. The highlight of the game was in the third period when Niedermayer and Selanne each went to the penalty box at the same time. (By the way, while Levi appears to be a Teemu Selanne fan based on his jersey number, Jackson seems to prefer Ryan Getzlaf.) Here's a photo of the two of them and the proud dads:
Updated Nov. 26 at 1:56 p.m.
I'll keep things relatively short since I'm working on a feature on Nathan McIver that will be posted on the website later. Yes, that cry-like face and propensity to fight in the opening seven seconds of a game intrigued me. Plus, I had yet to hear him utter a word before today.
Speaking of guys who don't talk a lot, greatest-Duck-of-all-time Sammy Pahlsson was the guest on Ducks Weekly on XM Satellite Radio yesterday. No, the interview didn't last 45 seconds. It was actually the host asking several questions, followed by silence on the other end of the phone line.
As is often the case when Randy Carlyle gives the previous day off, the Ducks went at it hard in today's practice at Anaheim Ice. They were on the ice for longer than normal, followed by a long session of skating around thick tires placed at either end of the rink. But that hard skate didn't sully the mood of the team, especially the forwards who were clearly into a practice-ending drill where they took shots from the circle trying to hit the inside of the crossbar. When Todd Marchant sent a water bottle flying off the top of the cage, they reacted like he had just scored the tying goal in an actual game.
Noticeably absent from the practice were a few Ducks: J.S. Giguere, Bobby Ryan and Brett Festerling. Giguere has headed home to Montreal for family reasons. He will miss Friday's game and is scheduled to return on Saturday. The Ducks will probably bring a goalie up from Iowa, but Carlyle was not certain who that goalie will be and how they are going to manage it with the salary cap situation.
Meanwhile, Bobby Ryan and Brett Festerling left yesterday morning for temporary reassignment to Bakersfield, the second time they've been sent there so the Ducks can save a little bit of salary cap money. They'll both be back for practice tomorrow.
Lastly, I was quickly informed through several emails that I made a mistake yesterday in saying that Canadians don't celebrate Thanksgiving. I should have clarified that they don't celebrate American Thanksgiving. The holiday in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday in October to (according to Wikipedia) "give thanks at the close of the harvest season." As opposed to American Thanksgiving, which celebrates the spending of time with extended family members you really didn't care to see, eating way more than you needed to eat and watching the Detroit Lions play football on a weekday afternoon before falling asleep on the couch.
With that in mind, I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
Except for the Canadians.
Updated Nov. 25 at 1:24 p.m.
This wasn't exactly the old Colorado Avalanche the Ducks took down last night, but it was still a very satisfying win for a team that has been having trouble finding its footing in its own barn this year. Granted, Colorado was without Joe Sakic, winger Wojtek Wolski and defenseman Adam Foote, but the victory still packs a punch for Anaheim. This is what good teams, teams that are hoping to win a Cup, do in games they should win at home: They leave no doubt. The Ducks jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Colorado, and even when the Avs found a glimmer of hope with a goal in the third period, Anaheim smashed that into smithereens with another Teemu Selanne power play strike.
And when we say the Ducks got into it early last night, we don't just mean the two first-period goals by Selanne and Chris Kunitz. Nathan McIver took Travis Moen's lead from Friday night and fought Cody McLeod just seven seconds into the game. This is what we know about McIver in his time with the Ducks: He doesn't talk. And he often has a look on his face like he's crying. But as we found out last night, he's a tough cookie, drilling McLeod with several hard rights (and taking a few himself) before the two ran out of gas.
Maybe this will be a new trend for the fightin' Ducks, as they've fought in the first few seconds of two of their last three games. Maybe they can take it a little further by dropping the gloves during the anthem (I think right around "bombs burting in air"). Or maybe something more like this.
Either way, the Ducks looked more like the team that has rarely lost at Honda Center the past couple of seasons. “That’s the way we need to play, especially at home,” J.S. Giguere said. “There’s no games that are flawless, but tonight was as close as any game we’ve played. The second period, I thought, was our best period all year. We controlled play, spent most of the period in their zone. When you do that, things are going to go your way."
Indeed, for most of the night the Ducks did the things that have made them champions: They forechecked like crazy, they gave the Avs few solid chances, and when shots did get on net, their goaltender made the stops. Just as satisfying, the Ducks didn't sit back on their heels after getting out to that 2-0 lead in the first period. Instead, they did everything they could to put their foot on Colorado's neck.
Pronger rocketed one home 6:51 into the second period after the puck slid right to him off the side boards. Then when Colorado got a slightly fluky deflection goal by Ian Laperriere early in the third, the Ducks squashed Colorado's hope by limiting them to few chances from that point on. And Selanne's second power play goal of the night -- a gorgeous one-timer off a Scott Niedermayer feed -- put the proverbial nail in the proverbial coffin. (It's plays like that one that give us that frequent reminder how lucky we are to be able to watch those two continue to play this game better than practically everyone around them.)
But it was more than just those two who shined last night. Giguere had a relatively unsung performance that deserved some praise, especially for a guy who has had his ups and downs this campaign and has a young Swiss backup breathing down his neck. It was his first win since a Nov. 4 shutout of the Kings. “I’ve forbid myself lately to get mad,” said Giguere. “I just want to keep moving ahead. Slowly you have to approach the game. You have to stay positive.
The same goes for Brendan Morrison, who a game after being a healthy scratch in Dallas, had a nice assist from behind the net on Kunitz's goal in the first. Kunitz, on that goal, had the presence of mind to recognize that former Duck Rusland Salei was screening his own goaltender (Peter Budaj) and somehow squeezed the puck between the near post and Budaj's arm. Bobby Ryan didn't get on the scoreboard but had three shots, two hits and a takeaway as he worked his tail off on every shift.
By the way, when are we changing Bobby Ryan's number from 54 to, say, 9? That would serve two purposes: 1. Maintain the Ducks' trend of giving their seemingly permanent young guys lower numbers; and 2. Give a big "Up yours, PK" to Paul Kariya.
The Ducks were rewarded with a day off from practice today, but they'll be back at it tomorrow to get ready for that post-turkey matinee with the Blackhawks. It's nice they head into Thanksgiving with a win, but then again, Canadians don't celebrate Thanksgiving.
Forgot to mention it earlier in the week, but the Kings revealed their new third jerseys last Saturday night in their game against the Avs. The uniforms themselves are, admitedly, pretty slick. The crest? Snoozeville. In fact, maybe there should be a "B" on the left and an "H" to the right of that "LA" lettering.
They once again reaffirm my theory that third jerseys are like deleted scenes on DVDs: There's usually a reason you've never seen them before. But according to the title of this video, celebs love the new jerseys -- although they never actually say they do. One thing we do learn from the video: Christopher Mintz-Passe didn't have to do a lot of acting when he played a geek in "Superbad."
I haven't been this shocked since I found out last night that Spencer and Heidi eloped, but the Toronto Star is reporting that Brian Burke is set to become the next president and general manager of the Maples Leafs right now. "With only a few final details to be sorted out," the story says, "none of which are viewed as deal-breakers, the deal is all but done." The deal reportedly includes the rest of this season and a five-year contract that takes effect in next season. Speculation is that Burke will double the approximately $1.4 million he made per year with the Ducks.
Burke is in the Boston area for his daughter's bridal shower (he must feel real comfortable attending that) on Friday, so the story says, "That sets the stage for the Leafs to introduce him as their new hockey czar on Saturday."
"Hockey czar?" Seriously? You sure you don't prefer "king"? Or "emperor"? Or maybe "God'?
On that note, if you want a good laugh, read the reader comments at the bottom of the article. Here's one (unedited):
Tucked in the bottom of the article is the report that Dave Nonis is expected to join Burke in the Toronto front office. Bye bye, Dave. We hardly knew ya. You almost spent less time in Anaheim than Ken Klee.
Last thing: Our new favorite artist, Good Kyle, let me know he put together another graphic novel depicting the Ducks' game at St. Louis last Friday. Click it to see the larger version.
Here's hoping Kyle keeps 'em coming.
Updated Nov. 24 at 12:34 p.m.
It feels odd having a game here on a Monday night (and not easy considering I just got back from a booze-and-gambling-fueled weekend in Vegas). The Ducks have only one other Monday home game the entire season, and only five Monday games overall. And this one comes on the heels of an action-packed weekend that started with a fight and ended with a goalpost ting and a shootout victory.
Let's shuttle back to that Friday night game in St. Louis, a game where the finish of regulation was almost as nutty as the start, when Travis Moen and B.J. Crombeen dropped the gloves immediately after the opening faceoff. The etiquette of hockey fighting never ceases to amuse, and Moen's description of what started it only contributed to that phenomenon. “I’ve been trying to get in [a fight] for a while," Moen said. "I think he was kind of itching for it, so he just gave me the nod off the draw. He asked me if I wanted to go, and I said ‘Yeah, why not?’”
That game ended in disappointing fashion for a Ducks team that had dominated the Blues at home back on Nov. 5, and St. Louis was playing without several injured regulars (including Andy McDonald and Paul Kariya). But then again, the Ducks were lucky to even get one point out of the game, when Scott Niedermayer somehow pushed the puck through a livid Manny Legace. Just about two seconds earlier, the goalie had Corey Perry on top of him after Perry got pushed in the traffic around the net. How they didn't call Perry for goalie interference (even though he was pushed into Legace), I'll never know. But the Blues got the justice they probably thought they deserved when Lee Stempniak won it in overtime, shooting the puck around Chris Pronger, who he used as a shield to blind J.S. Giguere.
Today the Blues promptly thanked Stempniak for that overtime goal by trading him to Toronto for center Alexander Steen and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (who owns the NHL record for last name with most consecutive vowels and most vowels overall). No word, by the way, on if Brian Burke was called to approve that deal.
Saturday night in Dallas was another game that went to extra time when it probably shouldn't have. Corey Perry's goal late in the second period should have given the Ducks a 2-1 lead, but video review determined that the goal was off its moorings when the puck went through. As if Ducks fans didn't resent Marty Turco enough, I'm sure just a few of them thought Turco intentionally knocked the goal off when times got tough.
Pronger definitely did. "They’re going to claim he’s sliding to make the save, when everybody knows he’s sliding into the post to knock it off,” Pronger said. “Yeah, he’s trying to make a save, but if he happens to knock it off, that’s part of goaltending."
But again, justice was served in extra time (this time the shootout) and it was Turco who was victimized. After Jonas Hiller saved two out of three Dallas attempts, Ryan Getzlaf approached Turco with the same speed as someone leisurely skating in Rockefeller Center. Then with a sudden burst, he charged toward the net before snapping a shot that clanged off the post before crossing the stripe.
Not forgotten in the late dramatics was the tremendous showing by Jonas Hiller, who was on the hot seat a bit after being pulled midway through that loss to Washington last Wednesday. Hiller was incredibly sharp in the unfriendly confines of American Airlines Arena in Dallas, with 31 saves, including six in overtime. And just like in that 13-round marathon against Vancouver on Halloween, he hung tough in the shootout. “Last game was tough for me,” Hiller said. “It was not like I felt I played bad. It was just bad luck in the beginning. It’s part of the game. Sometimes it happens, but what counts is how you react. You’re always judged on the next game you play.”
Actually, you're judged on the last game you play, but we'll excuse Jo-nasty on this one.
It was a nice way to end the weekend trip, but the Ducks still left a lot to be desired in this one. They gave the Stars seven power play chances, including two 5-on-3s. But the Ducks killers kept the puck away from the net on both occasions, notably on the last 5-on-3 in the third period, which lasted 1:22 with both Pronger and Niedermayer in the penalty box.
I love that Dan Wood, in his O.C. Register blog, asked the two of them what they talked about in the box over that time. Said Niedermayer, “I don’t talk. I find it’s my best policy not to talk when I’m in there. He might have said something about the calls, but other than that …” Pronger confirmed that, admitting, “All I said was, ‘Sweet call, Bud.’” I believe that, considering Pronger ends nearly every sentence with "Bud" (probably not when he's talking to his wife though).
Another significant part of that game was the healthy scratching of Brendan Morrison, the first time he had been handed down such a fate since 2000 when he was with New Jersey. “I have to be better," Morrison himself admitted. "It’s been a long time since I’ve been a healthy scratch … It doesn’t sit well. I’m sad about it. The day you’re not upset that you’re not in the lineup then you shouldn’t be playing the game. It’s a long season, but I need to get going here.” Randy Carlyle said he thought Morrison has been "a half step off right now" and decided Ryan Carter and Todd Marchant were better options, as Morrison still seems to be slightly sluggish after recovering from ACL surgery.
Time will tell if Morrison is back in there when the Ducks take on Colorado tonight in another should-win game. Although, the "should-wins" haven't exactly been turning into "did-win"s for Anaheim lately. The Ducks are 6-1-1 against Colorado here the past four seasons, and are going up against a 9-10-0 Avs team that's 27th in the league with just 2.37 goals per game. If the Ducks want to hold them off, they might want to do it in regulation or OT. Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Kings was the eighth straight shootout win for Colorado.
Last thing: The entire Ducks team has signed a 27-liter Charles Krug wine bottle that is being auctioned off at Morton's The Steakhouse in Anaheim to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The winning bid also wins Morton's dinner for eight people in their own home. Bidding concludes on Dec. 31, 2008, and the bottle is on display at Morton’s so guests can take a look at it before submitting a bid. They can also bid by phone at (714) 621-0101. The bottle weighs 100 pounds and is equivalent to 36 standard bottles, or 180 glasses, of wine.
Reminds me a little of my weekend.
Updated Nov. 21 at 1:13 p.m.
Brian Sutherby's out a couple of days and Francois Beauchemin's out for an eternity, but that's nothing compared with the calamities facing tonight's opponent, the St. Louis Blues. (I was going to joke that they're more like the St. Louis Black and Blues, but that would be really stupid, wouldn't it?)
Any fans hoping to catch former Ducks Paul Kariya and Andy McDonald facing their old team tonight are out of luck, since both little guys won't be out there. Kariya, you might remember, left in the middle of Anaheim's 5-2 victory on Nov. 5 at Honda Center when he took a puck off the foot. And although he hasn't played in a game since, the reason is actually a hip flexor that's giving him trouble. Meanwhile, Andy McDonald is going to miss at least two months after breaking his leg against Montreal last Sunday.
Those two are among the staggering six regular players the Blues are missing tonight. And when you consider the Ducks utterly dominated the Blues in that game in Anaheim, and that the Ducks seem to play better on the road, if they can't win this one ...
... let's change the subject.
Dan Wood of the O.C. Register reports that the Ducks were whooping and hollering during the morning skate in St. Louis whenever anyone scored a goal or did anything positive. That may have been in response to Randy Carlyle's observation that the team has gotten relatively quiet during this rough stretch. “That’s not a good sign because we’re a pretty vocal group," Carlyle said after Wednesday night's loss. "We’ve gotten quiet and it seems we get down on ourselves, for whatever reason. That has to change.”
Hard to believe that a team that has Chris Pronger, Teemu Selanne, Todd Marchant, and Brad May could ever be accused of being too quiet. But apparently the Ducks have been modeling themselves after Sammy Pahlsson as of late.
As if we weren't feeling bad enough about the loss to Washington on Wednesday night, the Caps got smoked by the Kings, 5-2 last night. Granted, the Caps were playing the second game in a back-to-back, but that doesn't make feel all that much better.
George Parros was the subject of a great feature by Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union-Tribune that profiles George's friendship with Padres pitcher and fellow Princeton alum Chris Young (who was at the game Wednesday night). Among the entertaining portions of the story was Parros' recounting of his fight with Washington's Donald Brashear that night: “He was reluctant to fight, obviously, 'cause they were on the road and he didn't want to give away any of that momentum,” Parros said of Brashear. “He said we weren't going to fight and I'm like, 'I understand, but I'm going to make it look like I'm asking you anyway, so everyone knows.' ” You'll recall that Parros repaid the favor of Brashear taking him up on the invitation by landing several blows to the back of Brashear's head. (Of course, anything hitting Brashear's head is preferable to Marty McSorley's stick.)
Also revealed in the story is the fact that Young's teammate Brian Giles greets Parros with a "naked hug" everytime Parros pays a visit to the team. "It's happened every time I go down there,” Parros said. “I'm going to start going down there in a rubber body suit.”
Last thing before I run out of here to get a jump on the drive to Vegas for the weekend:
The entertaining Battle of California blog prides itself on its homemade illustrations, and I got a kick out of this one it posted to commemorate the changing of the guard here in Anaheim. Click the photo if you want more background.
That blog has also frequently referenced the work of an artist named Kyle, whose work often includes very impressive Ducks-themed comics. His latest work was done after Bobby Ryan's game two nights ago, a takeoff of the frequently-seen Barack Obama poster. I love this:
If you want to take a look at the other comics (or "graphic novels") Kyle has done, take a look. They're fantastic.
Updated Nov. 20 at 12:06 p.m.
Bobby Ryan, Bobby Ryan, Bobby Ryan...
That's the mantra you might want to try repeating to tolerate last night's head-shaking 6-4 loss to the visiting Washington Capitals. Young Ryan was one of the few bright spots for a Ducks team that took a nauseating 10 minor penalties and gave up three power play goals. Two of those came during a three-goal Caps spree over the first 7:13 of the game that left the Ducks in a major hole they never crawled out of.
Bobby Ryan, Bobby Ryan, Bobby Ryan...
The hooks, the interferences and the slashes were bad enough, but the Ducks hit absolute rock bottom with 5:29 left in the game. Having just gotten a power play goal from Teemu Selanne to pull within two goals and looking to make a last-ditch effort to get back in the game, the Ducks inexplicably had six skaters in the attacking zone and got whistled for too many men. That, for all intents and purposes, is where any hopes for Anaheim died.
Randy Carlyle voiced his frustration about the penalties after the game, saying, "You don’t give yourself a chance to get back in the game if you’re going to take four or five minor (penalties) per period. We’ve only talked about it about 250 million times. Obviously, we have to resort to some drastic measures. We’re going to continue to make changes and consider lineup changes if that’s going to continue. There are options."
Bobby Ryan, Bobby Ryan, Bobby Ryan...
So, on the bright side, how about Bobby Ryan? The kid had a sparkling night in just his second game since being called up from Iowa, scoring two goals (tying a team rookie record) and assisting on another. Meanwhile, there were at least two more occasions where he gave linemate Corey Perry picture-perfect feeds around the net, only to see Perry have the puck slip off his stick. And as it that wasn't enough, he showed that he's not a player to mess around with, when he got into a scrap with three Washington players after the whistle for the too many men penalty. Whether Alex Ovechkin meant for it to happen or not, he was essentially holding Ryan back to allow teammate John Erskine to throw some shots at Ryan's head. Ryan was clearly not pleased, going after Ovechkin and jawing at him even more as he headed to the box for roughing. That drew a well-deserved chant of "Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!" from the Honda Center crowd.
It just occurred to me recently, is "Bobby Ryan" not the coolest name in hockey? If you were going to write a screenplay about a hockey player or even a quarterback, don't you think you'd name the character "Bobby Ryan"?
And Ryan even kept his composure during the postgame, dismissing his own personal good game and focusing on the team's performance. “Ultimately," he said. "That game was an embarrassment. Individually it's nice to put up points, get your feet under you, and start to feel comfortable with the guys you're playing with. All that doesn't mean a whole lot when you're losing a game you should have won."
It was actually a very entertaining game if you ... you know ... didn't care about the Ducks actually winning. In addition to Ryan's heroics and his legit chances at a hat trick in the closing minutes of the game, there was the wizardry of Alex Ovechkin. Even when he wasn't scoring his one goal and assisting on three others, he was again a pleasure to watch. He's the kind of player who if you knew nothing about the NHL, you could see him out there and know he was the best player on either team. In two career games at Honda Center, he has seven points, including a hat trick in their last visit back in January of 2006. It's certainly not desirable that both those games resulted in Ducks losses, but it's nice that the changes in the NHL schedule allow Ducks fans to see the likes of Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Eastern Conference a little more often.
Ovechkin even bounced back last night from the kind of injury that made any man watching the game make a face like they had just tasted something sour. Steve Montador accidentally stuck Ovechkin in a ... um ... very sensitive spot, causing Ovechkin to keel over in obvious pain for several minutes and still take very deep breaths when he eventually got to the bench. He did manage to return a few minutes later. So, it's been an interesting week for Montador, who in the last couple of days has broken the nose of a pro skateboarder and nailed the reigning league MVP in the ... pucks.
Even with all that entertainment, last night was tough to watch, and it certainly was in sharp contrast to the defensive effort the Ducks had shown three nights prior in a shutout of the Kings. (Then again, that was the Kings, not the Southeast Division leading Caps.) Then again, it's hard to put the onus on the Ducks defense when so many goals were scored while the Ducks were trying to kill penalties. Anaheim is at a dismal 79.1 percent rate on the penalty kill, 77.1 percent at home.
“We’re fighting it, obviously, on the PK,” Scott Niedermayer said. “We haven’t found an answer yet. I’m kind of out of ideas at this point."
That's not exactly instilling confidence, nor is this comment from Carlyle: “I’m very disappointed in our group. I think they’re disappointed with themselves. We have to find a way. As I said to them after, it’s not going to come from anywhere but in there. We have to reach back, accept responsibility for how we played, make some changes and play a higher level of game. It’s going to get tougher. It’s not going to get easier.”
That starts right now, as they left this morning for a quick roadie that includes a date at St. Louis tomorrow night and Dallas on Saturday. Those back-to-backs will likely ensure the Ducks will have J.S. Giguere in net for one of them and Jonas Hiller for the other. Hiller, who has been so solid in net for the Ducks over the past year, was not on his game last night. And while you could make a case he wasn't to blame for those three early goals, he was nonetheless pulled for Giguere very early last night. It will be very interesting to see how he responds in his next chance, which again should be this weekend.
We haven't gotten word on the extent of Brian Sutherby's injury, after Sutherby left the game last night in the second period with a leg injury. Meanwhile, Francois Beauchemin had successful surgery today to repair the torn ACL in his left knee and is still looking to miss six months. But again, the one positive that has come out of that very unfortunate injury?
Bobby Ryan, Bobby Ryan, Bobby Ryan...
Updated Nov. 19 at 12:43 p.m.
You know it's going to be a good day when you're woken up by Kings hottie Heidi Androl.
No, it's not what you think (okay, you probably weren't thinking that at all). Her voice was the first thing I heard this morning because I have the Adam Carolla Show on my clock radio, and Heidi was doing her weekly taped piece about the Kings when the alarm went off at 7:45 this morning. So, in actuality, having to start the day hearing about what's going on with the Kings is a pretty lousy way to start the day. Guess you can take the good with the bad on that one.
(And this happened in the same week in which Jamie-Lynn Sigler (a.k.a. Meadow Soprano) guested on two of my favorite TV shows -- "Entourage" and 'How I Met Your Mother." Seriously, is someone trying to make my head explode?)
Either way, it should be a good one tonight with the Capitals in town for the first time since January 2006, when Alex Ovechkin had a hat trick in a Caps overtime win. That was so long ago, I didn't remember that Ovechkin scored on the only three shots he took, until he mentioned that when he was interviewed here after practice yesterday. I thought it was pretty impressive that he remembered that, until I looked at the stats from that game and he actually had four shots (three in regulation and the fourth in OT to kill the then-Mighty Ducks).
That's not the only thing I took from that interview. How phenomenal is this hat he's wearing, leaving no doubt as to his uniform number? If the Caps aren't selling those in their team store, they're missing a golden opportunity.
By the way, looking again at the stats for that game, you know who led all forwards in time on ice that night? How about then-Washington center Brian Sutherby?
Mark Whicker has a nice feature on Ovechkin in today's O.C. Register that paints a portrait of Ovechkin's unabashed joy for the game. I enjoyed this quote from former Ducks and current Cap Sergei Fedorov on Ovechkin: "I enjoy a lot of things about him," Fedorov said. "He's got great speed, he's got a crazy, crazy shot. He kills penalties, he's on the power play. And he likes to play physical. There haven't been any players who score that way and yet are so physical. At least not from Russia."
All signs point to Robbie Niedermayer's healthy scratchedness lasting just that one game and him being in there tonight. Niedermayer was not among the held-after-class skaters this morning (instead it was Ryan Carter, Nathan McIver and Brad Larsen) and he left the locker room smiling. Also among the last to leave the ice with those three was J.S. Giguere, which would seem to indicate Jonas Hiller is getting the nod again tonight.
Regardless, Jiggy seemed to be in a fine mood when I talked to him in the locker room this morning, since the Canadiens had asked us to get some quotes from him on goalie Patrick Roy, whose number is being retired in Montreal this weekend. I've never seen him laugh so hard as when he was telling a story of playing golf with Roy when Jiggy was just 17 years old: "We had the same agent and we had a tournament with all the guys in the agency. He’s pretty competitive, so he was betting against the other foursomes, a bunch of guys who were in the NHL at the time. There was pretty big money out there and I was playing in his group and I’m a terrible golfer. He was so mad at first, trying to tell me where to hit the ball. I was just a lost cause and he eventually realized there was nothing he could do about it."
Our resident professional skaterboarder/rock vocalist/blogger Mike V got his nose broken by Ducks defenseman Steve Montador yesterday. Check out the story in Mike V's latest blog post.
The web guy from the Atlanta Thrashers is a friend, so I almost hesitate to do this but take a look at this video the Thrashers put together and tell me this isn't the worst thing you've ever seen in your life. Apparently the Thrashers decided it was a good idea to present last Friday night's Keys to the Game by using a guy doing a particularly awful impression of Ron Burgundy from "Anchorman." I can't figure out why a guy in Atlanta is doing an impression of a San Diego news anchor with a fake Canadian accent. Please, please tell me they didn't put that up on the video board before the game. Honestly, I can't figure out why that team has only made the playoffs once in its lifetime.
By the way, if you're looking at that video, try to resist the urge to watch the bikini-clad Blue Crew girl video bios. I definitely stayed away from them, so I certainly don't know that Blue Crewer Jami sings a gut-wrenching few bars of "Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood in her segment.
Just like the strict policy I mentioned yesterday about posting pictures of Ducks fans in Antarctica, I hold the same policy about running photos of people who get married in Ducks jerseys. A reader named Allison sent this photo of her and her new husband's Ducks-themed wedding from the first of this month.
Now that's true love.
Of the Ducks, I mean.
Updated Nov. 18 at 4:08 p.m.
There aren't a ton of guys around here who have been with the team since its inception, and today one of them got a nice promotion. David McNab, who as assistant GM was the team's go-to guy for salary cap dealings and contract negotiations, was boosted to Senior VP of Hockey Operations and GM of the Iowa Chops.
While McNab will spend more time in Des Moines (again, this was a promotion), thankfully for the Ducks his day-to-day duties won't change. He had been and remains an invaluable guy on the hockey operations side, especially for a team that is constantly figuring out how to stay under that salary cap number.
And example of that came yesterday when the Ducks sent Bobby Ryan and Brett Festerling to Bakersfield in order to save $12,000 in salary cap room, only to bring them back up in time for today's practice. It's a little complicated, but pro-rated over the course of this season, that could save the Ducks between $50,000 and $60,000 and give them a little more wiggle room at the trade deadline (March 4). It wasn't the most enticing option for the two players -- hey, spend the day in Bakersfield and don't make your NHL salary for a day -- but it was a move to give the Ducks options if they need them.
For more on McNab, we ran a feature in Ducks Digest on him last year, which covers both his obsession with Diet Coke and his role in not only salary cap maneuvering, but bringing in guys like Kunitz, McDonald and Penner. As much as he loves those guys, I'm sure he's taking it hard that Penner is being blasted by his own coach in Edmonton and McDonald just broke his left leg and is out two months.
Curtis Zupke of the O.C Register made his way to Robbie Niedermayer after practice today and asked him about being a healthy scratch for the first time in his Ducks career. “I think any time we have a losing streak, there’s going to be changes,” Niedermayer said. “He’s not happy with the way I’m playing.” Zupke points out that Todd Marchant was a healthy scratch for a game last year, as was Kent Huskins this year. But while that lasted just a game, I expect the same for Niedermayer, since Carlyle seemingly did it as a wakeup call for a guy he didn't think was giving the Ducks everything he could.
But then again, what do I know?
There's a nice Q&A with Ryan Getzlaf on the ESPN.com website in which, among other things, Getzlaf is asked who he thinks the team to beat for the Stanley Cup is right now. "The Ducks," he says. "Our confidence is unbelievable right now." He also reveals that he loves the weather so much in Orange County that, "I drive in a convertible to the rink every day." How much did that piss off his buddies back home in Regina (giggle, giggle), Saskatchewan?
As the love for Jonas Hiller grows, I got an email from a reader (and self-proclaimed "huge fan of Jonas Hiller for quite some time") Sasha, who somehow got ahold of this photo. I couldn't resist running it.
Seriously, Jonas, you couldn't make it to the locker room before you gobbled down that pizza? Couldn't take the pads off?
A couple of co-workers of mine emailed to not only admit they were watching "Dancing with the Stars" last night, but that Ducks d-man Bret Hedican was on camera, sitting in the front row with his wife Kristi Yamaguchi. Bret may be on there tonight, since apparently Kristi is performing again. Yes, "Dancing with the Stars" is one of the few embarrassingly girls shows I don't watch, although I will admit I caught it when Adam Carolla was on it last season -- partly for Carolla and partly for his partner.
I have a strict rule, that when I'm sent a picture of a Ducks fan in Antarctica, I run it in the blog. A reader named Don sent me an email today about his friend and fellow season ticket holder Paul Bower who is living there while working temporarily as an electrician. According to friend Don, it was an "opportunity he couldn't pass up" and he left just after the season began in October. He'll be back in March. Because it’s summertime down there, the temperature can average as high as 30 degrees because there is 24-hour sunlight," Don writes. "The sun does not rise and set during the Antarctic summer, but instead travels in a circle just above the horizon."
Apparently Paul follows the Ducks through this website and often emails buddy Don during the games.
Last thing: If you're not already checking out the segments of "The Element" we periodically post on the site, you really should be. There are a couple of them we've posted this week that are outstanding.
If you watched the telecast for Sunday's game you may have already seen the segment that followed the Ducks to a local shooting range. I love how Corey Perry edges Chris Pronger in their mini-tournament and Sammy Pahlsson notes how it will be dealing with Perry's ego after that victory. "It's gonna be hard," he says quietly, "but it's probably better than having Pronger win it."
Just as priceless is Todd Marchant's son Tim interviewing a handful of Ducks players in the locker room, the second such time "The Element" has had him to that. George Parros is asked who the oldest player on the team is and he estimates that Todd Marchant is "45 or 50." Scott Niedermayer is asked what makes him a good hockey player and he says, "Am I a good hockey player? Thanks, bud." Tim asks a few players, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how good a hockey player is my dad?" Getzlaf, with a straight face says, "We'll give him a 6."
The only part I had a problem with was when Niedermayer told Tim, "You're an excellent reporter. The best I've ever been asked questions by."
Not cool, dude.
Updated Nov. 17 at 1:54 p.m.
There is plenty to cover today, not the least of which is a satisfying 2-0 victory by the Ducks over a Kings team that had been playing some decent hockey over the past couple of weeks. And the timing was perfect for an Anaheim team that had just lost Francois Beauchemin for the season. (Actually, it's technically six months, and I took some pleasure last night in telling a couple of Kings staffers that he'll "be back in time for the Stanley Cup Final.")
Regardless, the absence of Beauchemin means that guys like Kent Huskins and Bret Hedican have to play more minutes, and last night they made the most of them. Huskins' hard shot off goalie Erik Ersberg set up Corey Perry for the first goal of the game in the second period. Then Hedican gave the Ducks invaluable insurance with his self-described "Phil Niekro knuckleball" shot, as he blasted a rolling puck inside the post for his first goal as a Duck. Hedican's reaction to the goal was topped by the smile he couldn't wipe off his face minutes later when he was back on the bench. Something tells me Bret Hedican is pretty happy to be here.
That goal was more than enough for Jonas Hiller, whose 29 saves included a couple of spectacular ones, notably this ridiculous kick-away on what looked like a sure Kyle Calder goal. “I was a little lucky on that one,” Hiller said, “because I don’t like giving up the rebound.”
That's good to know.
It was just another in a long line of spectacular games for the increasingly confident Hiller, who had that infectuous smile going yet again when he was interviewed on FSN Prime after the game. It was the first career shutout for the likeable Hiller, though certainly not the last. And now's as good a time as any to link to one of the many Jonas Hiller tributes on YouTube. My Swiss is a little shaky, so I can kind of tell he's saying "My name is Jonas Hiller" in the beginning, but the rest is beyond me.
As I write this, I'm realizing Hiller isn't perfect. He just walked down the hallway outside my office with a buddy of his, in a t-shirt, baggy shorts and hair that looks like it hasn't seen a comb in days. Thirty seconds later, he passed by again giggling with his buddy, as they both realized they went completely the wrong way to get to the hockey ops offices upstairs.
Time will tell whether Randy Carlyle has a problem on his hands, as J.S. Giguere has been up and down the last flew games, while Hiller has been mostly brilliant. “Every time I say this, I see the smiles come out, but really I talk about the goaltending being 1-A and 1-B and that’s what we’re trying to get to,” Randy Carlyle said after the game. “That was an NHL-quality performance tonight.”
And it was exactly what the Ducks needed after losing one of their top time on ice guys in Beauchemin, and already having a hard time keeping the puck out of the net lately. The team that is built on defense had given up more goals coming into last night's game than all but three teams.
To paraphrase the old saying, "When a door closes, a window opens" (I'm not going to the more religious version of that), and that's certainly the case with Beauchemin's injury. As much of an impact as it has on the Ducks, it gives them the cap room to finally bring in Bobby Ryan (not to mention promising Brett Festerling). Ryan looked a little shaky on the first couple of shifts last night, but got into a groove playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. That's a line combination that appears pretty mouth-watering if it stays intact for the rest of this year -- and maybe even beyond. “As far as I’m concerned, it could be a line for years," Ryan said last night. "I would love to be part of that, obviously, but we’ll see how it goes.”
In addition, having Ryan on that line allows Chris Kunitz to drop down to the second line and play with Teemu Selanne, a wing pairing that was firmly in place during the '07 Cup run.
But Carlyle proved last night he holds little sentimentality for line pairings that led the Ducks to the Cup, let alone one that's been in place for the past three seasons. Rob Niedermayer was a healthy scratch last night for what was probably his first time in Anaheim, and maybe the first time in his career. Niedermayer was unavailable for comment, but Carlyle had something to say about it. "I think there is more we can get from him and I told him so," Carlyle said. "We're having one-on-one meetings with players [Monday] and I'll tell him again."
That was practically a compliment compared to the rip job Oilers coach Craig MacTavish laid on former Duck (did I need to mention that) Dustin Penner after Penner was a healthy scratch last Saturday and MacTavish said he won't play tonight against Detroit. "He's not competitive enough or fit enough to help us, so why put him back in? He's never been fit enough to help us," MacTavish told the Edmonton Sun. "We signed him to be a top-two line player and that's kind of where it ended. The difference was we thought the contract was a starting point, and he's viewed it as a finish line."
He wasn't finished: "What we've seen is inconsistency, we need him to be a better player. You can't just continue to throw gratuitous ice time at a guy that is that inconsistent. Something's got to change."
And there's more: "It's been one thing after another. I can't watch it for - certainly not another two and-a-half years."
That's a shame, especially since it's actually another 3 1/2 years left on Penner's contract. (By the way, Penner led the team in goals last year.) And to add insult to injury, the story on TSN's website misspelled Penner's first name in the lead as "Dunstin," as in "Dun" playing in Edmonton. Hmm, I wonder what Brian Burke was talking about two summers ago when he said the Oilers overpaid for Penner.
Our hearts go out to all the victims in the recent fires, which have obviously hit close to home here with evacuations and homes that have been destroyed. Notably, Ducks team doctor Dr. Craig Milhouse (one of the greatest guys we've got around here), lost his Yorba Linda home on Saturday. He was back on the job for yesterday's game, as detailed in this nice piece in the L.A. Times by Helene Elliott. Randy Youngman of the O.C. Register also covered it in his column.
Back to last night's game, I rewatched some of the telecast to see how they revamped the "Rinkside View" and, for the most part, I liked what I saw. Using some of those rinkside cameras at the appropriate points seems to work, while still using the center ice camera for the majority of the action. There were times when the use of the camera behind the goal gave a great perspective, and at times it provided a feel of what the goalie is looking at when the puck is being cycled in front of him.
I also liked the move of having Brian Hayward behind the bench, although he admitted he wasn't at liberty to repeat anything he may have seen or heard on the bench. The idea of putting a mic on Travis Moen was well-intentioned, but I thought it could have been carried out a little better. As much as I like Moen, there are definitely Ducks -- like George Parros or Brad May or Corey Perry -- who are chattier on the ice and would be better candidates. For example, how much would you give to see exactly what led Parros and Raitis Ivanans to drop the gloves in the first period? From what I could tell fast-forwarding through the game last night, they only showed clips of Moen audio once, though they showed a few more during the postgame. Unfortunately, they didn't have a camera assigned to him, so you heard some of his reactions while the video was of someone else. Even still, that little bit of Moen was great.
So, it looks like the NHL's strategy to make it easier than ever to vote your favorite players to the All-Star Game has backfired a bit. Montreal Canadiens fans have apparently banded together to hack the system using an application called Greasemonkey that allows them to auto-vote for all the Canadiens multiple times. Here are the instructions that were was posted on the Canadiens message board. Responded NHL spokesman Gary Meaghar: "I don't want to jump to conclusions at this point. There is some indication that something has happened ... I'm not at a point where I can say definitively that something has taken place."
Oh, you can't? Take a look at the current vote leaders in the Eastern Conference and you be the judge.
Updated Nov. 15 at 11:43 a.m.
It's not every night that you'll hear Scott Niedermayer openly questioning a decision he made on the ice at a crucial time, but that's exactly what happened in the wake of Anaheim's 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Predators. The Ducks clawed back twice from deficits (including one halfway through the third period) to send the game to an extra session. But a rare turnover by Niedermayer led directly to Nashville's winning goal 2:17 into OT. As you see here, Scotty ... well, better let him describe it:
“They were coming with some speed down the side. I went in behind Kent [Huskins], got the puck and probably should have kept it going, as opposed to putting it back, where everybody was. That led to some trouble. That probably would have been the best thing to do -- keep it going the way it was and get out of trouble.”
As it was, the puck went right to Jason Arnott, who made an impressive backhand feed that Dan Hamhuis hammered home from the slot for his first goal of the season.
But as much as Niedermayer is the first to admit he should have gone a different way with that puck, if it wasn't for him, the Ducks might not have forced overtime at all. Niedermayer was taking over minutes for the injured Francois Beauchemin (more on that later) when he skated with the puck behind the Nashville net to indirectly set up Ryan Getzlaf's tying goal in the third. And if it wasn't for Preds goalie Dan Ellis making several big stops down the stretch, the Ducks might have ridden that momentum to a win. Although, it wasn't as if they exactly earned it last night, as a few mistakes (both in the penalty and turnover genre) led to Nashville's goals. And as has been the trend the last few games, the Ducks let Nashville spend so much time in their zone the Preds might as well have been looking for leasing options.
As it is, the Ducks are now questioning themselves again, just a little more than a week after they were riding high. Brendan Morrison did pick up a nice goal in the first, just his second of the year and second in three games. (If you check out the video, please excuse the Nashville announcer for calling him "Todd Marchant.") And it was Morrison who was lamenting the team's play in the last few games.
“We’re scoring enough goals but we’re not being as assertive as we have to be in our zone," he said. "We have to sharpen up there. I think at times we’re a little passive. We’re kind of stick-checking instead of going in. You don’t have to cream a guy, just rub him out and eliminate him from the play. Right now, we turn and, as soon as we turn, they jump right back into the play and it’s a continuous cycle. You’re just chasing the puck, and it tires you out. We have to spend less time in our zone.”
And Niedermayer had a few things to add: "Some shifts are good, and then it seems some shifts, one mistake leads to another, and leads to another. The way we play, the way most teams play, if there’s one mistake, everyone’s ready, in position. You can correct for that, but one after another leads to trouble."
The Ducks will have a shot at getting back on track against the suddenly-hot (as much as I hate to admit it) Kings, who are looking for their fifth straight win tonight against these very same Preds. The Kings won twice in three days this week over the Stars, which makes Anaheim's 5-2 loss to Dallas look that much worse.
It will be a big one for the Ducks to try and get back on track, but there is a good chance they'll be doing it without defenseman Francois Beauchemin. Not long before that tying Getzlaf goal, Beauchemin took a hit from Scott Nichol after releasing the puck, headed gingerly off the ice and didn't return. He received treatment after the game and he's getting an MRI around 3:00 today. We'll have updates on that when they arrive.
Update at 2:11 p.m.: Not good, but at least we get Bobby Ryan
On another note, we had some technical difficulties with the RSS feed I set up for this blog. So, if you're still interested and have some type of RSS reader (in Facebook or MySpace or Google Desktop, or wherever), you can now subscribe to this blog by using the address of this page (http://ducks.nhl.com/ext/DucksBlog.xml). Every time I post something new, it will be fed to your RSS reader. Just click the alert and it will send you here.
Updated Nov. 14 at 2:15 p.m.
It's a good thing the Ducks are finally back to playing some hockey, not just because we've missed having some games around here, but because too much nutty stuff happens when the Ducks have time off. The Ducks couldn't resist being on the NHL ticker in the midst of four days off from playing games, so they made a GM change in the middle of it. It's just the latest in a long stretch of news-making moves the Ducks have launched when they have nothing else going on. A sampling, going back to '05:
- Samuelis buy the team, hire Burke and he hires Carlyle
- Ducks sign Niedermayer
- Ducks sign Selanne
- Ducks change uniform colors and logo
- Ducks trade for Pronger
- Ducks lose Penner; Burke calls Edmonton nasty names
- Ducks sign Bertuzzi and Schneider
- Edmonton calls Burke nasty names
So it's a huge relief the Ducks can get back to playing some games, as they take on Nashville in Game 1 of the Bob Murray era. (Speaking of that, the Ducks officially informed the NHL today that other teams have permission to talk to Brian Burke about employment. They'll just have to wait for a call back in between house visits in the greater Toronto area.)
The visiting Predators are seemingly more like prey as they come into this one sporting a 2-6-1 road record. But after dropping three straight on their current six-game road trip, they somehow beat the unbeatable Tuesday night in San Jose. Despite looking like they were done after going down 2-0 late in the second period, the Preds clawed back to take the Sharks down 4-3 in overtime. They were helped a bit by goalie Dan Ellis, who saved 54 of a jaw-dropping 57 shots.
Turns out this is a big one tonight for the Ducks, who are battling a two-game losing streak that seems like it was ages ago at this point. Nevertheless, they've had plenty of time for rest and reflection to try and get back to the team that won eight out of nine.
The key tonight for the Ducks will be how quickly they can get going, after not having any game experience the entire week. While the rest was nice, some rustiness might be an issue. The only Duck not to take part in the optional skate this morning was Sammy Pahlsson, so he had plenty of energy to do some talking.
“Everybody should feel better after some time off, but you get a little off the game, I think,” Pahlsson said. “It’s hard to be ready from the beginning. Usually it takes a little time to get going. I think we just have to prepare a little bit more than we usually do — maybe try to get your head into it right away.”
Among those on the ice this morning was Brad Larsen (who has yet to play for the Ducks while recovering from sports hernia surgery) and Brad May. Larsen is still at least two weeks away, according to Randy Carlyle, but May says he's ready to go right now after missing six games with a sprained knee. It's just a matter of Carlyle deciding to put him out there and also determining who to scratch instead. Carlyle was his usual self today, acknowledging that May is an option, "but we have a decision to make." Said May, “I’m definitely ready to go. I feel pretty good.”
Good news for the handful of you who objected to the "Rinkside View" telecasts, as FSN has said they will make adjustments starting with the next one. Sunday's Ducks-Kings games at Honda Center was scheduled to get the "Rinkside" treatment since it's one of the HD games on the Ducks schedule. But FSN has indicated it will return to the traditional center-ice camera look, with cuts to rinkside cameras at the appropriate times. Meanwhile, that robotic camera behind the net will only be used on power plays.
“We’ve heard the fan base loud and clear,” said Steve Simpson, senior vice president and general manager of FSN and Prime Ticket. “It’s a work in progress,” Simpson said. “We do listen to our fans and care what they think.”
I'll take some credit for that, since I forwarded every last email I got from pleading fans. No? No credit? Alright, fair enough.
Breaking news out of Tampa Bay: The Barry Melrose experiment is over. The Lightning decided 16 bad games was enough, and canned Melrose after a 5-7-4 start. Nice patience, guys, especially for a team that's leaning heavily on a rookie (Steven Stamkos) and about a half dozen other new acquisitions.
"This was a tough decision to make," general manager Brian Lawton said. "Barry is a good man and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish him nothing but success. However, the results were unacceptable and the players have to understand that we need to be better. Hopefully this change helps push them."
In other words, "We wish him nothing but success ... Just not here."
The quick-trigger move reminds me of the quote Brian Burke had about Randy Carlyle when the Ducks got off to their lousy start this season, which made it into the recent They Said It section in Sports Illustrated: "Randy Carlyle is as safe as a baby in a car seat in a Hummer."
Unfortunately for Melrose, turns out he was as safe as that same baby if it were riding on the hood. Rumor has it Monster.com has asked to use some of the footage from this NHL.com spot for a new commercial.
Here's a sneak peak at the Sharks' new third jersey. Big surprise, it's black. Along those same lines (or "on same hand"), the Kings will be springing their new third jersey on Nov. 22, strangely enough at exactly 7:34 p.m., according to this video. I love how Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar kind of awkwardly admit they've seen the jersey but they're terrified to say too much. "I've seen it and I think it's pretty cool," Kopitar says. "But I can't really tell anything about it."
Updated Nov. 13 at 3:43 p.m.
In a few minutes from now, every Ducks and Honda Center employee will be urged to leave the building in an orderly fashion, not panic and not hurt each other as they exit.
No, it's not because Brian Burke is no longer the GM of the Anaheim Ducks. It's because we have a mandatory earthquake drill coming up at 4 p.m. I definitely think it would be easier to handle an earthquake if you knew precisely when it was coming. In retrospect, if I knew a real quake was hitting Orange County at 4 p.m. on Nov. 13, I would be standing at a craps table at Mandalay Bay right about now.
So that they can judge how we would respond in such a situation, we are supposed to behave as if a real earthquake is occuring during this drill. So, if Brian Burke is here, I assume he'll be heading swiftly out of here muttering, "Screw this, I'm moving to Toronto."
Then again, maybe Toronto isn't an automatic for Burkie. Scott Burnside of ESPN.com lists several other possible destinations, including Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida. All I know is, he's not going to be here, and that's still a shame.
By the way, somebody remind me that the next time I'm thinking about calling out the message board posters (like yesterday), to instead just stab myself in the eye with a pair of scissors. Sheesh.
I didn't get a chance to mention it yesterday because it was overshadowed by some bigger news, but I joined several Ducks staffers as well as Samuel Pahlsson, Corey Perry and Ryan Carter at Walter Knott Elementary School for Reading is the Goal Day. The event started with a school-wide assembly in which the three players alternated reading from a book called Brady Brady and the Great Rink. Apparently there are a series of Brady Brady hockey-themed children's books and despite the fact my last name is Brady and I work in hockey, I had no idea they existed. Then again, I don't exactly keep up with the children's book scene.
On the positive side, my baby nephew's name is Brady (though his last name is not), and I have Christmas gifts for him for at least the next six years.
Anyway, each player took turns reading in front of the school while the other two held up the pictures. It was amusing watching each of them read to the kids, especially Sammy Pahlsson, who isn't really one for the talking. After the reading session, the three sat down for a question-and-answer session in which they were asked what they liked to do in their spare time. Pahlsson said he likes to spend time with his family, and Perry said pretty much the same thing (even though he's single). But Carter sheepishly admitted, "I like to play to play video games and eat. And sleep."
Here are some photos from the event
After the assembly, several Ducks staffers headed to different classrooms to read to kids. I chose (of course) another Brady Brady book called Brady Brady and the Singing Tree. In addition to the name, part of the reason I chose it was because the cover had a blurb that read, "Brady Brady knows having FUN is what it's all about! -- Chris Pronger of the St. Louis Blues."
Since we can never get enough of Bryz, here is a bizarre commercial the Coyotes are running to promote their tickets. Apparently this character named Pierre is in a series of ads for the team. But I love how Bryz says, "Hey, thanks, Pierrrruh!"
Okay, gotta get ready to rumble. Back with more tomorrow.
Updated Nov. 12 at 5:26 p.m.
It's a tough day for the Anaheim Ducks, but it's one we kind of saw coming.
Remember when the speculation we heard months ago that Brian Burke was being courted as the next General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs seemed ludicrous? Over time, when more rumors were being reported and Burke himself became more noncommittal, this day we're facing today became more and more possible. The Ducks had an offer on the table for months to extend Burke's contract, and the longer he went without accepting, the more pressure it put on ownership to finally make this move.
So Brian Burke's stepping down as the Executive Vice President & General Manager signifies the end of an era for the Anaheim Ducks. And while it had its ups and downs, there is no denying that Burke is a major reason the 2006-07 Ducks have their names on that Stanley Cup.
Though Burke himself will admit that he inherited much of that championship team, there is no arguing that under his watch, the team brought in guys like Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger, among many others. Sure, some might say Niedermayer (who wanted to play with his brother) and Selanne (who wanted to be a Duck again) would have come here anyway. But they wouldn't have blindly joined a team where they didn't trust the GM, where they didn't get a reasonable financial offer, where they didn't see a plan in place to win. Brian Burke brought that.
And here's what else happened on Burke's watch:
It didn't make as many headlines as the Niedermayer and Selanne acquisitions, but he traded for Travis Moen that same summer. He made a dramatic trade of Sergei Fedorov soon after the 2005-06 season started, bringing in a then-little-known defenseman named Francois Beauchemin. A week later the Ducks picked up Todd Marchant off waivers. They had been forced to let Chris Kunitz go, then when he became available again, they snatched him back up. They picked up Sean O'Donnell at the trade deadline.
The team had already established itself as a Cup contender when Burke traded for Pronger over the summer of '06, when Pronger had asked the Oilers to let him go. A month into the season, he traded for an enforcer that most Ducks fans hadn’t heard of at the time, a guy named George Parros. That spring, the Ducks made few waves when among a bevy of high-profile trade deadline deals,
It’s not just the players Burke brought in, but the players he assured would stay for a long time. He re-signed valuable Cup run guys like Giguere, Getzlaf, Perry, Beauchemin, Pahlsson, Kunitz, May, Moen, Huskins and Parros to contract extensions.
He gave Niedermayer and Selanne all the time they needed a season ago to decide whether they wanted to come back, ensuring that he at least had their services for part of last season.
And it was those same players who two summers ago forced Burke into a couple of the deals that did not work out for the best. He signed free agents Todd Bertuzzi and Mathieu Schneider to hefty contracts while he waited for Niedermayer and Selanne to decide, only to have to cut ties with both guys in undesirable fashion. (The Ducks are still paying for part of Bertuzzi’s contract in a buyout and Schneider was traded for less than market value.)
Burke made the tough decision to trade fan favorite Andy McDonald for Doug Weight (among others) to fit Niedermayer in under the salary cap when he returned mid-season. And that deal backfired when Weight underperformed and the Ducks parted ways with him soon after last season ended. That same season, backup goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was let go via waivers when Burke couldn’t swing a deal for him.
The jury remains out on Bobby Ryan, the first draft pick during the Burke regime, as Ryan continues to shine a level below the NHL, unable to play with the Ducks because of more salary cap issues. And center Brendan Morrison, acquired as a free agent last summer, has yet to return to his past form after recovering from knee surgery -- though we’re just 17 games into his first season in
No general manager is perfect, a reality that is more and more prevalent in the salary cap era of the NHL when GMs are forced to move so many puzzle pieces around to fit them under the league maximum. But Brian Burke was as perfect as the Anaheim Ducks could have wanted him to be in his 3 1/2 years at the helm.
Outside the player dealings was the perfect public centerpiece for this organization during his era, a team that prided itself on its tough, no-nonsense approach. A team that cared about nothing else but winning that championship. How many guys said they wanted to come here or stay here longer because of the respect they had for the GM?
Teemu Selanne said the way Burke waited on his decision to come back and play last year was "unbelievable. I don’t think you see that very often. You don’t see that kind of loyalty between GMs and players. He knew exactly what the player wants. Obviously, that’s why everybody wants to play for Brian. It’s a dream come true as a player because he’s ready to do whatever it takes to make the players happy.”
Of course, even the brazen Burke, the man who never shied away from media attention, is the first to admit this: As much as he built this team into contenders and eventually champions, he didn’t do it himself. Every move Burke made came with the blessing and advice of guys like Bob Murray and Assistant GM David McNab. And now
“The players aren’t Brian’s players. They’re not my players. They’re our players," said Murray today. "That’s why it’s a natural transition. I don’t see any problems whatsoever. We see the game pretty much the same way.”
So there is little question the organization is in good hands with
Even when he’s gone – whether that’s in the coming days or the coming months – I’ll always have memories of dealing with Burkie. There was the time he yelled at me for not realizing that “my door is always open,” somehow simultaneously yelling at me while also making me like him more. There was the time he called me into his office one morning last summer, calmly asking me if I had written something about him calling the Oilers a certain name, knowing full well that I misguidedly had done just that. (He quietly asked me not to do anything like that again.) And a few weeks later on my birthday, he shook my hand firmly, looked me right in the eye and said, “Happy birthday, Adam … what are ya gonna f--- up to celebrate?”
I'll also remember this. In what might be his last press conference as a member of the Ducks, Burke arrived in a white collared shirt, blue jeans and Nike sandles.
We waited to announce anything here until the players could be told, but it still leaked out through other news outlets. In fact, some Ducks players were watching TV on stationary bikes at the arena today when the report scrolled across the news crawl. Well, that's one way to get the news that your boss is leaving.
There was a somber mood among the Ducks staffers at Honda Center today, as many crowded into that press conference room for an announcement that they could only pretend was a surprise. It isn’t every day Ducks employees leave their desks for a few minutes to check out a press conference down the hall, so you knew this one was big. And as if they weren’t going to miss Burke enough, the guy who constantly made every Ducks staffer feel important concluded his words by looking a few of them in the eye and thanking them for being there. That was the very last thing he said before he walked off that stage.
In the hours after today’s announcement, I couldn’t resist taking a peek at the message boards, to try and get a sense of the fans’ reaction to today’s events. Naturally, mixed in with those looking at this as doomsday, there are fans who actually have the audacity to say they’re glad to see Burke go. It’s usually people with short memories, those pointing to the failed free agent experiments, the moves that saw some of the favorite Ducks leave town or Burke’s vagueness about his own future. Their points are made without much thought to the circumstances surrounding any of those deals. But frankly, none of that matters. Here’s what does:
Brian Burke brought us a Stanley Cup.
Let me say that again: He brought us a Stanley Cup.
And I, for one, am going to miss the hell out of him.
Updated Nov. 11 at 4:17 p.m.
With the Ducks not having played since Sunday and not having a game until Friday, I've been racking my brain for the last couple of hours to come up with something to write for today. And here's what I came up with:
So, in the absence of any original thought, I can at least point you to some decent writing elsewhere. The always-outstanding Marcia Smith has written a very nice story on the Operation Homefront festivities held by the Ducks over the weekend. I'm also glad they used the photo of Ryan Carter leading the Pledge of Allegiance with 5-year-old Dillon Daniel. Carter was chosen to lead it as one of the Americans on the team, and to be put on the spot as the closest thing to a rookie the Ducks have. But word was he couldn't remember the whole thing, so he dragged Dillon up on the stage with him. Carter kneeling next to the boy while he recited it perfectly in his squeaky voice was really a cool moment.
I've also scoured the Ducks message board for material, only to find topics I refuse to comment on for obvious reasons. In brief: Jiggy's inconsistent, Morrison's got to go, Jonas Hiller is pronounced "YO-nas" not "JOE-nas," the guy who brings the giant posters into the arena can't do it anymore, Rinkside View is not going away, Kristi Yamaguchi jinxed the Ducks by attending hubby's games last weekend, and one fan thinks he killed the Ducks's chances on Sunday because he bought gas on the way to the game instead of after it (I'm not kidding).
How I can't dedicate 500 words to each of those topics, I'll never know.
A couple people emailed me a link to this page on the ESPN The Magazine website of home movies shot by George Parros during a trip to Dallas during last year's playoffs. It's really not much to look at, except that Sammy Pahlsson is his usual chatty self. Even Parros doesn't even know how to hold a conversation with him. At the end of the video, you can hear George saying, "Sammy? ... Yo, man. You're Swedish."
The Stars are at the Kings tonight if you feel like watching some hockey in the Ducks' absence. Although, picking a team to root for in that game is like picking between hospital food or prison food. Or choosing sides in a fight between Frank Caliendo and Randy Jackson. Or picking a favorite between the "SAAAAAAAAAAAVED ... BYYYYYY ... ZEEEEEEEEEEERRRO" commercial or that incessantly replayed DirecTV one where Christie Brinkley recreates the swimming pool scene from "Vacation." Or ...
Okay, that's enough.
I was scanning the Stars website to get a preview of the game and I somehow came across their page for the Planet Tan Ice Girls. I'm only going to say this once. Next time someone is thinking of emailing us complaining that the Power Players are too scantily clad, I beg you to take a look at the photo galleries on that page. Notably, Hillary, Meagan and ... aw hell, all of them. Man, they take their cheerleading seriously in Dallas, don't they?
Updated Nov. 10 at 1:57 p.m.
It's often said that the great thing about hockey is that when things go wrong, you usually are able to come back and redeem yourself a couple of nights later. Unfortunately, that's not the case for the Anaheim Ducks right now, who have to wait five days to try and bounce back from the events of this past weekend.
Last night's surprising loss to the not-very-good Florida Panthers, was the unpleasant closer to a weekend that kicked off with an equally unappetizing defeat to the visiting Dallas Stars. Both teams walked into Honda Center with records that ranked them among the worst in the league, but there were two different scenarios in place for these two games. In Dallas’ case, we knew they were better than their record showed. In Florida’s case, they really are that bad. After all, they had lost six in a row, including a 4-1 trouncing the night before at Phoenix and two nights before they lost to the Kings.
But that sure didn't show last night in a game where the Ducks certainly didn’t look their best, but still threw 45 shots at backup goalie Craig Anderson. Sometimes there isn’t much you can do when you’re playing a team you know you should beat, but their goalie stands on his head all night. (Just ask the four teams who faced the Ducks in the 2003 playoffs.) And that’s exactly what Anderson did last night, making stop after stop – some routine and some spectacular like this one on Ryan Getzlaf.
Amazingly, Getzlaf, who the past few games has seemed to pass up more shots than he’s taken, had 11 shots last night. His previous career high was six.
Anderson wasn’t the only opposing player who shined on the Honda Center stage, as the Ducks were in an incredibly charitable mood the entire weekend (even on Saturday -- more on that later). David Booth, a guy with 32 career goals to his name, had his first career hat trick last night for the Panthers. Two nights prior, the Ducks also gave up a hat trick to Mark Parrish, who had just signed with the Stars as a free agent last Wednesday.
By the way, somebody needs to explain to me how a guy like Parrish didn’t get signed by any team until a month into the season. He had 16 goals last year in just 66 games and you’re telling me there isn’t another team in the league that would have welcomed him in for just the $500,000 Dallas signed him for? There's got to be something there I'm not catching.
The two weekend losses dropped the Ducks to a head-scratching 4-5-1 at Honda Center this year. Last season the Ducks were incredibly tough to beat at home, going 28-9-4, and they were 80-25-18 at Honda Center over the past three seasons.
J.S. Giguere, who wasn’t his sharpest over the past couple of games and threw his stick in frustration after being pulled midway through the Dallas game, once again provided the incredibly thoughtful comment. “It’s unacceptable to play like that in front of our fans,” he said. “We’ve been pretty successful on the road. We need to find a way to be focused and have that same determination when we play at home. Our fans deserve that. They come here and support us in big numbers. At the price they pay for tickets, they deserve a team that will work hard.”
So now the Ducks have a few days without games to try and return to the winning ways that saw them go 10 straight without a regulation loss before Friday’s fiasco. Randy Carlyle gave the team today and tomorrow off from practice (and I decided to follow suit, as I write this at home in a t-shirt, basketball shorts and frighteningly uncombed hair.)
It’s about time the Ducks got a break like this, since they had played more games (17 in just 32 days) than any team in the league besides the Rangers. And the timing of the break is ideal. If the Ducks were still winning like they were, they’d want to keep the momentum going. Now after these two losses, four days of rest and contemplation is a good thing.
Said Giguere, “It’s nice to rest for a couple of days. Just take a step back from hockey, enjoy time with your family and don’t think about the game for a couple of days.”
Of course, Carlyle had some suggestions for ways to spend the time off. “We feel this time is important for them to get rest, get their heads free of hockey for 48 hours,” Carlyle said. ”Clean the garage and kiss your wife.”
Just make sure not to mix those two things up.
Curtis Zupke of the O.C. Register has written a blog post on their site about the status of Rinkside View for Ducks and Kings games. I’m sure you understand, as a Ducks employee I’m not going to comment on the whole thing … anymore. But I can at least point you to the story.
Let’s end on a positive note, so I can go back to thinking about finally getting in the shower. You may have noticed that the Ducks hosted military families from Operation Homefront over the weekend. Just seeing George Parros tumble down a bounce house slide is cool enough, but all of Saturday' afternoon's private event was incredibly cool. Just as cool was this email I got over the weekend from a retired soldier named Jeff. Here's a sampling of it:
I’m probably not your usual Ducks fan, If it wasn’t for my grandson, I wouldn’t know anything about hockey. I’m retired military (21 years, retired in '91) and not only did I not spend enough quality time with my kids, but I didn’t spend time with them at all. I’m one of the lucky ones; most people I knew didn’t even have a family left when it was all over.
I’ve met two U.S. Presidents, a Secretary of State, a couple of Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Colin Powell when he was the 5th Corp Commander. I’ve been part of the most powerful military in history. And I’ve served in some of the more elite units in the military.
I say all this because the only thing I’ve learned from all of this is that no one’s better than anyone else and it’s not worth getting to the top if there’s no one else there. I’m not a “fan” of anyone or anything. Meeting “famous” people or getting autographs is the LAST thing I’d think of doing.
But! I get completely stupid when it comes to meeting the Ducks. You see, it’s not for me, it’s for my grandson. I’m so lucky to have him! It doesn’t make up for the time I didn’t have with my children but being able to share his youth in a way that I never did with my kids is priceless. So whenever I get a chance to do something with him that involves the Ducks, it’s really special. My grandson met Kunitz, Penner, Getzlaf and May at Oak Creek Golf Club the year they won the Cup. They were so nice to him it actually sent chills up my spine. Then when the Ducks had their golf outing at the Creek, Brad May saw my grandson and remembered him from the year before. Now, that’s cool.
Anyway, I know this is rambling but I just wanted the Ducks organization to know that they’ve touched more military than just the families that were able to attend Operation Homefront.
Updated Nov. 7 at 2:24 p.m.
Normally if the Ducks were gettiing set to face a 4-6-2 team, there wouldn't be reason to be any more pumped up for this game than any other. But the Ducks have the Dallas Stars tonight, and memories of last season's ouster in the first round of the playoffs are still plenty fresh.
"Any time it's the team that knocked you out of the playoffs there are not going to be fond memories," Rob Niedermayer said. That seems to be the feeling for most of the Ducks, though J.S. Giguere offered a dissenting opinion. “I, for one, forgot about last year,” Giguere said yesterday. “It’s long gone. Tomorrow’s a new day, and
That's certainly one way to look at things, especially because this Dallas team isn't resembling the one that eliminated the Ducks and advanced to the Western Conference Finals. The Stars are seriously struggling, and are coming off a 5-1 loss to Boston and a 5-2 defeat to Chicago over the weekend.
A fights-a-plenty defeat to Boston last Saturday, which stangely enough was their last game, led to some serious sniping among the Stars in the media, of all places. Not a big surprise, world class annoyances Sean Avery and Steve Ott tried everything they could to goad the Bruins into retaliatory penalties (as seen here). There were two occasions during the game where Ott delivered a harsh hit and was challenged to fight by Boston players, but refused. Interestingly enough, the Bruins players on both occasions were former Ducks -- Shawn Thornton and Shane Hnidy. Plus, the Bruins accused Ott of going after their players' knees on a couple of occassions.
Meanwhile, the two idiots also got into it with the referees and the Boston fans, and all of it led Stars veteran Mike Modano to take out his frustrations in front of the gathering media. "Tonight, it was idiotic and stupid," Modano said. "It was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen. If that’s what we’re going for, then they need to find me an office job."
He went on: “It was dumb penalties, dumb situations, that’s kind of been the trend all season There’s no mental toughness. We’re allowing the refs to get involved in the game and spending more energy on them than the details of winning the game.'’
And then there was this from goalie Marty Turco, who lately has been looking nothing like the guy who shut the Ducks down for so much of that playoff series last year. Turco enters this game with a monstrous 4.34 goals-against average and a save percentage of just .837. But apparenty he has his theories of why he's having such a tough time. “From my perspective, it just seems like all of the time I’ve got guys trying to be goalies, going after pucks," Turco said. "We need guys to take men and give us the lanes to see. It’s getting old, and it’s disheartening. I don’t know if it’s pressing and the need to feel they need to do everything out there. It just doesn’t work, it’s a team game and we need to play like a team. … I don’t see these shots, I don’t have a chance to see anything.'’
Then Turco put a little of it on himself: “I don’t know, it might come down to a trust issue. I haven’t played great, so maybe they don’t trust me to make the saves. That, I can actually believe.'’ Turco will likely be in there tonight, and might find some confidence in the fact he was 4-2 with a 1.85 goals-against average against the Ducks in the regular season last year.
Courtesy of the Ducks message board, look for this sign in the crowd if you're at Honda Center tonight.
Unfortunately, the Stars can't turn to former backup Mike Smith, who was traded last year in the deal that brought Brad Richards to Dallas. The only reason I mention him is because last night he got into a little brawl with Aaron Voros of the New York Rangers. Watch the second half of this video and notice how Smith keeps taking shots at the screening Voros' back, while making the occasional save in between. I love it.
Back to the Stars, part of the reason for their struggles is that they've been without top defenseman Sergei Zubov and dangerous winger Jere Lehtinen, each of whom haven't played the entire season. They are likely to make their season debuts tonight against the Ducks, as is winger Mark Parrish. The former Minnesota Wild guy just signed with the Stars on Tuesday after spending all of last summer and the first month of this season as a free agent.
The Stars could certainly use the help since they're 21st in the league in goals and last in goals against (why am I enjoying writing that so much?). You know who's tied for first in goals? That's right, your Anaheim Ducks (though they've also played more games than all but one team).
Anaheim will probably have George Parros in there tonight for the first time since enduring a scratched cornea a week ago against the Canucks and needing six stitches in his eyelid. Parros is still a gametime decision, according to Randy Carlyle, and if he's on the ice he'll be wearing a visor. Parros was asked after practice how he felt wearing the thing for the first time in his pro career and he said, "It's just a little warmer, that's all."
I would imagine Parros wouldn't be a good candidate to throw down with either of the two Dallas pests in his current condition. Brad May would be another guy likely to want to go with either of them, but he's not supposed to be in there tonight as he continues to heal from that sprained knee.
Mark Whicker of the O.C. Register has written in his blog that he'd like fans to come up with a nickname for the on-fire top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz. So far, the comments at the bottom of the blog have been scarce, but some fans came up with "The PacKaGe" because it uses the first initials in their last names. (Kind of like the old "PPG" line of Getzlaf, Perry and Penner.) One fan named "Bambi" wrote in the comments: "
I'll bet you do, sweetie.
Congratulations are in order to the guys who put together "The Element" TV show that airs locally as well as on our website. Last night they won a PRISM Award, given by the Public Relations Society of America Los Angeles Area Chapter. About 15 of us took a bus up to the Hilton in L.A. for the ceremony. The highlight came when they announced "The Element" as a winner and one of the editors of the show -- who'd had a couple of cocktails -- shouted, "THAT ... JUST ... HAPPENED!" For an idea of where his inspiration for that line came from, take a look at this clip from "Talladega Nights". Granted, the room was loud enough so that not many people beyond our table heard him, but nonetheless, trash talk at an awards ceremony is always golden.
Mark Whicker of the O.C. Register has written in his blog that he'd like fans to come up with a nickname for the on-fire top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz. So far, the comments at the bottom of the blog have been scarce, but some fans came up with "The PacKaGe" because it uses the first initials in their last names. (Kind of like the old "PPG" line of Getzlaf, Perry and Penner.) One fan named "Bambi" wrote in the comments: "I like 'the BIG Package'"
I can't get this stupid commercial jingle out of my head, and if you watch sports at all, you've heard it too about a thousand times. And since misery loves company, I'm passing it on to you, dear reader:
Saaaaaaaaaaaaved byyyyyyyyy zeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeero. Saved by zero! Saved by zero!
Updated Nov. 6 at 3:46 p.m.
If there were any concerns about the Ducks after they sleepwalked through a fortunate 1-0 overtime victory over the Kings two nights ago, it's safe to say they were squashed last night. If the Ducks are a top-level team in the NHL right now, they did what top-level teams typically do when they're playing a team that isn't up to their level -- they squashed them.
The Ducks played terrific hockey from the first drop of the puck through the closing horn in dismantling the visiting Blues 5-2 and taking their eighth game in the last nine. I know it's a big "if," but it's amusing to think that if the Ducks had found the net somewhere near the end of that 13-round shootout with Vancouver a week ago and won that game, they'd be riding a nine-game winning streak right now. The franchise record for consecutive wins is seven.
But there's no need to get greedy, especially after the good feelings provided by that win last night. Granted, it wasn't a complete domination, as the Blues twice fought back quickly to erase Ducks leads. But thanks again to top-scorers Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne, the Ducks left little doubt from early in the second period to the finish. Each of the three found the net, Getzlaf doing it twice, despite his resistance to put the puck on net for much of the night.
I mentioned in the game log last night that Getzlaf passed up more shots than a Mormon at an Irish wake, and found the net on the only two he took the whole night. The first was that pretty one-timer off an even prettier Corey Perry pass through the slot in the second period. The last was that awe-inspiring, 190-foot goal in which he sent the puck flying from the extended goal line, landed it just over the St. Louis blueline and watched it skitter into the middle of the net.
A co-worker pointed out that Getzlaf's tendency to be a little too unselfish almost underlines the confidence he and the rest of that line of Perry and Chris Kunitz have going right now. Getzlaf, who seems to be able to do just about anything with a hockey puck he wants, knows he can be patient with it because ultimately a golden opportunity will open up. And so many times over these last several games, he's been right.
Meanwhile, if you had predicted two weeks ago that Getzlaf would be tied for the league lead in points right now (with 18), somebody might have asked you when you thought his 10-point game was gonna be. But the guy who just 15 days ago was sitting in a dentist chair with just one point to his name is now sitting at the top of the NHL head with a guy named Evgeni Malkin. I'm not much of a projection math guy, but Getzy was on pace for between 11 and 12 points for the season at that time. Now? Just over 98.
By the way, Getzlaf was a guest on the "Loose Cannons" show on AM 570 this afternoon. Take a listen.
So, it's happy times in Ducks land, but coach Randy Carlyle is doing his job in not letting anyone get too high on this team. I enjoyed it yesterday when he was asked by an out-of-town reporter what the secret to the Ducks' resurgence has been. Carlyle didn't t point to the play of the top line or improved defense or goaltending. He simply said, "Effort. They thought they were working hard in the first few games, but they really weren't."
Today, Carlyle was quick to point out that although the improvement is palpable, the team isn't anywhere near where he thinks it should be. He reminded everyone that the Ducks are still the most penalized team in the league (and they took five minors last night) and still have a tendency to take long periods of time off. (Tuesday night in L.A. was a good example, when they seemingly took a whole 60 minutes off.)
"I think if you ask every coach, there’s peaks and valleys in the game that you’d like to improve on and I’d like to improve on our work ethic," Carlyle said. "We can move our feet more. When we’re moving our feet consistently, we’re a hard team to play against. And I don’t think you can say that we’ve done that for 60 full minutes yet.”Let's not forget the Ducks have done all of this the last few games without two of their grittier forwards (George Parros and Brad May) and a defenseman (Steve Montador) playing forward. But the Ducks got good news from both Parros and May in the last 24 hours. Parros was actually cleared to play last night, but Carlyle elected to scratch him (not literally). He's eligible to play tomorrow night against Dallas, but will be wearing a visor to protect his eye for the next week. (Only on the ice, by the way. Although, can you think of a Duck who would look better with an eye patch than Parros?)
Meanwhile, May has recovered much more quickly from his knee injury than was expected when he sprained it back on Oct. 29 against Detroit. May was supposed to miss at least two weeks, but there he was in practice today and Carlyle said, "He looked very good." May is listed as a game-time decision for tomorrow night.
We have exclusive video of the Kings' intrasquad scrimmage practice from today. If you don't watch the whole video, as least fast-forward to the 1:54 mark when a couple of players get frisky and decide to square off.
Last thing: I've had several requests over time to provide an RSS feed for this blog, so that people can be alerted every time I post something. Because this page isn't set up like a typical blog page, it hasn't been conducive to RSS feeds. But I've figured out a way to do it that only requires a few seconds more work on my part. So, if you have some type of RSS reader (in Facebook or MySpace or Google Desktop, or wherever), you can now subscribe to this blog by using the address of this page (http://ducksblogbyadambrady.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default). Every time I post something new, it will be fed to your RSS reader. Just click the alert and it will send you here.
Updated Nov. 5 at 1:44 p.m.
That wasn't exactly a masterpiece last night, but it was yet another example of just how far the Ducks have come. The last time they went into Staples Center and didn't play up to their potential, they were squashed 6-3. Last night? They were able to ride on the back of goalie J.S. Giguere and barely squeeze out a 1-0 victory in overtime.
You certainly woudn't show a tape of that game if you were trying to convince someone why hockey is a great game, and I'm not just saying that because the Rinkside View was in full effect again. (Rumor has it the Ducks are killing it for their future HD telecasts, but don't quote me on that.) The game itself was a bit of a snoozer, and not just because there weren't any goals scored through the first 60 minutes. The atmosphere of Staples Center last night made a community college library look like Lallapalooza in comparison. The crowd of about 11,000 (though 14,327 was reported) never got much louder than when the election results were posted or when a "Ducks suck!" chant was egged on by that drum-beating mascot Bailey. (By the way, someone tell Bailey that there are other sections in the arena where he can beat that drum. Does it have to be just the one in front of the press box?) The only other noticeable volume was from the handful of drunk fans we could hear from the press box screaming at their Kings to get something going. If you want more detail on all of that, check out the game log from last night.
The action on the ice seemed to be reflective of the mood in the seats, since the Ducks looked to be in cruise control most of the night. Meanwhile, the Kings continue to save their best for when the Ducks come to town, though Kings fans have to wonder why they can't turn it up like that the other 76 games of the year. And as much as this Ducks team has played up to the level of the competition (witness wins against the Sharks, Canadiens, Wings, etc.) they played down to it for the most part last night.
That's not to say that 26-year-old goalie Erik Ersberg didn't make things hard on the Ducks, saving 26 shots as he continues to look like the team's goalie of the future. Although, I can't figure out why he's not their goalie of the present, since he was mostly solid in 14 games near the end of last year, and their alternative is Jason LaBarbera. Last night Ersberg shuts out one of the hottest teams in hockey and he gets this from coach Terry Murray: "I liked him a lot. This certainly earns him another chance." Then when he was asked if that would be in the next game, he said, "I'm going to have to think about that one."
You do that, Coach. Let us know what you decide.
Chris Pronger's take on last night's game: "I would say that was not our best game, but it wasn’t as bad as we played in here last time. We did enough to win, but that’s not good enough for this group,” Pronger said. “We have to obviously play a lot better at home against
The Blues come in here not having played since a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh last Saturday. They've gone in the complete opposite direction of the Ducks, as they've lost four of their last five after opening the season 4-1-0. And while the election ended yesterday, it's still taking its toll on the Blues. Remember how goalie Manny Legace hurt his left hip a couple weeks ago when he tripped over a carpet put out for Sarah Palin before she dropped the ceremonial first puck? It's apparently still bothering Legace, who is on the trip with the Blues, but is questionable tonight. We'll probably likely see backup Chris Mason, who three weeks ago had an emergency appendectomy. Mason has yet to win this year.
There is still no word on whether George Parros will be back in there tonight, as he's still a little bothered by that eye injury and spent the entire game last night sitting next to me in the press box. He did take part in the Ducks' optional morning skate (I opted not to skate) and is getting the eye looked at again this afternoon.
“He’s very close,” Randy Carlyle said. “Obviously, the swelling has gone down. It depends on what the doctor sees internally in the eye, whether he can play or not.”
Part of the issue is that Parros is uncomfortable wearing the visor that he'd probably have to put on for at least the first couple of games.
As good as the Ducks have looked over the past couple of weeks, it's almost easy to forget about Bobby Ryan, who leads the Iowa Chops in scoring with six goals and six assists in 11 games. Bobby appeared on XM Radio's Hockey This Morning show with Scott Laughlin, and admitted that he sometimes checks the internet to see if there are trade rumors involving him. “It’s not so much flattering as it is frustrating when the team that drafted you is considering leaving you,” Ryan said. Also: "It’s ultimately a trade that doesn’t mean you didn’t perform up to the task that you were supposed to in one city, But if I were to go to a team that was rebuilding, a team that wanted young guys that were ready to play and I was able to be a guy that they looked upon, that would be incredible for me. Like I said before, it’s something you kind of put on the back burner, so you always have to pay attention and listen up.”
It doesn't take much to sense the frustration in Ryan, since he clearly is ready to jump up from the AHL and the Ducks are handcuffed in that respect right now. Here's hoping there is some resolution soon for the kid, and here's hoping that somehow it can be pulled off in Anaheim.
Meanwhile, the frustration continues for offseason acquisition Brendan Morrison, who still only has one point in 14 games for the Ducks this season. Morrison's lack of offense was exemplified last night, when with a little more than six minutes left in regulation, he was looking at an open net after a nice Selanne feed and fired it way over the crossbar. Morrison is still apparently recovering from the offseason ACL surgery he had, which seems to have limited the speed and spring that was once a pillar of his game.
“If the team wasn’t doing that well, I’d probably be on suicide watch,” Morrison said earlier in the week. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to get going here. My leg feels strong, but for whatever reason, I feel like on the ice I don’t have that explosiveness that’s been there in the past, where I could out-skate guys or beat guys to pucks. Right now, mentally I want to do it, but physically I’m not able to. Talking to people who have been through this and people that have rehabbed it, they say it’ll come, but it takes a while.”Oh, I almost forgot. As much as it's a nice honor for the Ducks to get four players on the ballot for the NHL All-Star Game, you could easily make a case that there should be two more. While Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlaf and Giguere are on there, conspicuous by their absence are Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry.
I'm not sure when the NHL decides to finalize the ballot, though the fact that they're starting voting on Nov. 12 for a game held Jan. 25 probably indicates that it's too soon. The NHL is like those people who put up Christmas decorations the day after Halloween. If they did put together the ballot prior to the season starting (which seems ludicrous) that might explain why they left off Selanne, who was a free agent until just before training camp. But it certainly doesn't explain the Perry oversight, especially since Perry played in the All-Star Game last year.
Incidentally, Perry is tied for fourth in the NHL with 15 points, while Selanne is tied for fifth with eight goals and leads the league with seven power play goals. And, oh yeah, he's also one of the greatest active players in the history of the NHL. But why should that matter?
Six players on the ballot wouldn't be unprecedented, since the Red Wings have six, and so do the host Canadiens. Let's not get too riled up over it, though. While Selanne might have had a chance, Perry probably wouldn't have gotten voted in by the fans over the other superstar forwards on the ballot. Still, it would have been nice to have them on there. I guess Ducks fans will just have to live with writing them in -- or texting them in, which is available for the first time. Or, if they keep up the pace they're currently on, they'll have a good chance to be named to the team by the league. That's what happened last year for Perry, Niedermayer, Pronger and Getzlaf.
Updated Nov. 4 at 12:47 p.m.
Remember three weeks ago when an 0-2 Ducks team headed up to L.A. in desperate need of their first win of the season and were trounced 6-3 at Staples Center?
Yeah, neither do I.
You see, I've decided to look at that game like I look at the movie Rocky V. It's such a monstrosity, it's just best to pretend it never happened. After all, that was a different Ducks team that showed up for that game on Oct. 14. Sure, the players were the same, but it certainly wasn't the same team that has now won six of its last seven and is arguably the hottest group in the NHL right now.
Meanwhile, the Kings are right where we thought they'd be, as that win over the Ducks (which never happened) is one of only three they have this season (3-6-1). They have taken their spot at the bottom of the Western Conference, as Kings fans resume their normal routine of reading the sports page upside down so they can see their team on top of the standings.
Even though that game never happened, there is a foggy memory of Teemu Selanne throwing in a junk breakaway goal in the third period. Through the Ducks' first six games this year, that measly goal was the only one Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry had scored all season. Now, after 13 games, they have combined for 14 goals and 38 points.
There's another reason for the Ducks' magical turnaround that we haven't really discussed recently, and that's Chris Pronger's facial hair. You may recall that Pronger started growing a beard sometime near the end of the summer, and stuck with it into the start of the regular season. Here's Pronger during that Kings game that never happened:
After the Ducks lost the next game to Edmonton to fall to 0-4, Pronger shaved the thing off that night. Here's Pronger one night later against San Jose:
And you'll recall the Ducks won that game 4-0 for their first victory of the season. Since that time, Pronger has remained clean-shaven and the Ducks have won six of eight games and earned standings points in all but one.
And let's take this thing back even further. During the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, nearly the entire Anaheim Ducks team grew playoff beards that reached scary proportions as the team played 21 postseason games that forced almost two full months of facial hair growth. But Pronger? Stayed clean-shaven the entire playoff run, and by the end of it all, here's how he looked:
I'm just sayin'.
Moving on, our favorite former goaltender is up to his usual charming antics in Phoenix. Bryz was relegated to backup duty for two games late last month and was asked if he was anxious to get back in net as a starter. Here was his response: "Three-hundred Spartans," he said, apparently referring to the movie 300. "We go to the Hot Gate, we march, brothers, fathers, we march. 'Give them nothing, but take from them everything' ... King Leonidas."
Again, I'll be up at Staples Center tonight to take in the fesitivities if anyone is interested in following the live game log. If you catch the game on TV tonight, it's on FSN West, so you might want to mute the sound and listen to the radio broadcast on AM 830 to avoid having to sit through 2 1/2 hours of the Kings announcers.
And don't forget to vote today. And if you do vote, make sure you vote for ...
C'mon. I'm stupid, but I'm not that stupid.
Updated Nov. 3 at 1:04 p.m.
As much as Friday night's 13 combined goals and 13 shootout rounds might have been more thrill-inducing, last night's 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames was a lot closer to true Ducks hockey. Granted, 36 shots on goal isn't exactly a defensive shutdown, but the Ducks locked down the Flames when they had to, clinging to a one-goal lead over the final 18 minutes to pull off the win.
Meanwhile, J.S. Giguere was much closer to the J.S. Giguere who won four straight starts on that road trip and not the guy who looked out of sorts in the Friday night goalapalooza. Among Giguere's 34 stops were several big ones when the Ducks needed it, as he didn't let anything through after Todd Bertuzzi pulled Calgary to within 3-2 with 18:20 left in the third period.
There was a smattering of boos from the Honda Center crowd when Bertuzzi scored that goal, though not after he originally put it through. They didn't come until PA announcer Mike Carlucci announced Bertuzzi as the goal-scorer. It certainly wasn't a unanimous decision to boo him -- certainly not as loud as the "Ref, you [stink]" chant after the Corey Perry goalie interference call -- but it was audible nonetheless.
Bertuzzi got close to whipping in the tying goal a couple of minutes later, and I think we're all pretty glad that didn't happen.
Giguere spoke afterward about that being a prototypical Ducks win. “It’s nice to score some goals and be offensive, but we still need to play a good game defensively," he said. "That’s more our type of game, a 3-2 win. This is our team. These are the types of games that we need to play consistently.”
I can't stop getting a kick out of the fact that this Ducks team that was 1-5-0 at one point and had so many fans ready to jump ship, is now 7-5-1 and has taken 13 of the last 14 standings points. And for the most part, Anaheim's wins are nothing to sneeze at (by the way, where the hell did that expression come from?) The Ducks handed San Jose one of its only two losses this season. The win over Detroit at Honda Center was also one of only two they've taken in regulation this year, and the Wings were 5-0 on the road at the time. Montreal has lost just one in regulation this season -- to the Ducks last week. And of course, Calgary was on a six-game winning streak before coming to town last night.
It's still hard to believe, but that was the eighth straight home win against Calgary, which hasn't won at Honda Center since January of '04. That's the second-longest home winning streak against one team in club history. And it's not like it's come against the Blue Jackets or Coyotes of the world. It happens to be against a Flames team that's consistently good year after year.
There was an incredibly scary moment last night when Kent Huskins got tangled with Calgary's David Moss as Moss was shooting the puck from the right wing, and Huskins slammed face first into the boards. You could swing a stick as hard as you could against that board and not come up with a SMACK louder than the one Huskins' face made. And while he took some time to get up, he was eventually helped off the ice. Remarkably, he came back in the second period and was on the ice for Ryan Carter's eventual game-winner.
“I knew it was a good sign that I could remember the entire play,” Huskins said. “It was just kind of a fluke thing where our legs kind of got tangled up, and I just ended up in a pretty bad spot going straight for the boards. I couldn’t get my arms up in time to brace myself.”
Huskins got away with just a headache and some stitches, although he didn't know how many. “There are a lot of things, some pretty bad scenarios, that could have happened in a situation like that,” he said. “I’ll take a few stitches, for sure, over the alternative. I feel pretty lucky that that’s all that happened."
Steve Montador did a nice job filling in on the fourth line with Brian Sutherby and Todd Marchant, making up for the absences of Brad May and George Parros. Like Huskins, Parros escaped anything more serious after being struck in the eye on Friday night and only has a scratched cornea. And while he wanted to play last night, he was held out while the swelling in the eye area continues to go down. If it subsides enough, he'll be good to go tomorrow night -- though possibly with a visor.
The Ducks' Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne got a nice honor from the NHL, as they were collectively named First Star of the Week, the first time the league has given that award to more than one player. Teemu will be on a conference call with reporters later this afternoon and we'll have that for you.
Speaking of Getzlaf, if you want a decent look at the two front teeth he has missing, fast-forward to the 4:07 mark on last night's Ducks TV. You might recall that Getzlaf had to miss last Tuesday's win over Toronto because he had an abscessed tooth that required some serious dental work on the morning of the game. Getzlaf had experienced trouble in the area over the last few years, but it really acted up when he took a stick to the mouth at L.A. in the second game of the year. Incidentally, Getzlaf went to the dentist with just two points in six games. Since his procedure, he has four goals and nine assists in six games, and hasn't gone a game without a point since.
And to think, all I get out of a visit to the dentist is some pain, slobbering and a firm grasp on the latest issue of Ladies Home Journal.
You may have seen the rumors that the Ducks might be interested in signing former Toronto captain Mats Sundin, who continues to wait for the right offer to lure him back on the ice. The chances of the Ducks bringing in Sundin seem pretty remote, considering Anaheim is around $900,000 under the salary cap as we speak and Sundin is being offered a whole lot more than that. In fact, there are some reports the Canucks are dangling $20 million over two years. There has been speculation that for the Ducks to pull in Sundin, they would deal Chris Kunitz, who averages $3.725 million over the next four seasons. Frankly, the idea of dealing Kunitz to get Sundin for what probably amounts to just this season is pretty unappealing. Aside from the fact that Kunitz is already a perfect fit in the Anaheim system, the Ducks are looking at some trouble with impending free agents after this year as it is. Kunitz is among a core group of Ducks signed for the long term (his deal runs through 2011-12).
Brian Burke was inevitably asked about the rumors and he ... had no comment.
Along those same lines, I am opting to refrain from comment on this vintage video of Randy Carlyle, which was shot after he had joined the Penguins in 1980 (thanks to reader David for sending this). All I can say is it has to be the first TV segment in NHL history that depicts a player moving furniture into his house (and it's beautiful furniture).
Updated Nov. 2 at 9:43 a.m.
Frequent readers of this blog are aware of my typical disdain for writing anything on the weekend, but after what happened Friday night, I didn't want my next post to be overshadowed by whatever goes on tonight against Calgary. At the rate things are going after that kooky 7-6 shootout loss to Vancouver, Emilio Estevez might jump on the ice and score a goal for the Ducks tonight.
Also, I jumped out of bed this morning thinking it was 9:45 and when I discovered it was only 8:45 because of Daylight Savings, I figured I should do something productive with that extra hour.
That Friday night extravaganza was one of the few games where the Ducks lose and you almost don't seem to mind. They clearly weren't at their best, especially in that bizarre second period when a combined seven goals were scored. The four straight Vancouver netted to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead were partly the result of a J.S. Giguere who certainly wasn't as sharp as he's been the past week and a half. And replacement Jonas HIller didn't fair that much better when he was put in after the third Canucks goal of the period. Hiller let one through not long after he took his spot in the crease and the game looked to be at the point where fans were considering heading out to get some trick-or-treating in.
But somehow the Ducks were motivated to make a charge, throwing in three goals in a head-spinning span of 1:40 (not a Ducks record but certainly inspiring). And down again late in the third period, the Ducks pretty much willed the tying goal in. Soon after Hiller sprinted to the bench for an extra attacker, Corey Perry forced the puck between Robert Luongo and the right post, almost like squeezing a nerf ball through a key hole.
Forcing that game into overtime almost made the shootout loss one of those "Eh, whaddya gonna do?" moments. Hiller looked nearly unbeatable in those 13 marathon rounds, and it was only a matter of time before somebody got one through after 21 straight shooters came up empty. (Ironically enough, three of the first four shooters converted their attempts). It looked like Travis Moen was going to break through when he clearly beat Luongo, but rang it loudly off the post. And five attempts later, Alex Burrows wristed it past Hiller on the glove side.
Hiller didn't seem to bothered by the loss, if his time with reporters was any indication. Fast-forward to the 3:07 mark on Ducks TV and you'll see what I mean. He's positively giddy.
In case you're wondering, the 13 rounds was not an NHL record, as the Rangers and Capitals went 15 in 2005, the first year of the shootout in the NHL. Interestingly enough, that shootout ended when Marek Malik, a defenseman with two goals that whole season, shot it from between his legs to win it.
By the way, if you're looking to see a sampling of some of the Halloween costumes at Honda Center on Friday night, the O.C. Register captured a few of them.
I'm usually not a big fan of the "Well, we got a point at least" mentality. But I couldn't help walking out of Honda Center on Friday night feeling exactly that way. Although, if the Ducks hadn't come into that thing riding a five-game winning streak, I might have felt differently.
George Parros' eye injury that he suffered Friday night is not serious and he should be back in the lineup soon. That might not be tonight though, and because of cap issues the Ducks have not called anyone up from Iowa. That means we could see defenseman Steve Montador put on his forward hat and play on the fourth line with Todd Marchant and Brian Sutherby.
Montador, who played some forward with Florida last season, skated on that line at pracitce yesterday. Ryan Carter was with Teemu Selanne and Brendan Morrison.
The Ducks look to get back to their winning ways tonight against a Calgary team that has had a similar path as Anaheim's this season. The Flames started 1-3-1, but have reeled off six straight, including a 3-2 win last night against the Kings.
It's hard to believe, but the Flames haven't beaten the Ducks at Honda Center since it was called the Arrowhead Pond. Or to be exact, since January 19, 2004. And remember how tough Miikka Kiprusoff was in that tense 2006 playoff series? Yeah, that was a long time ago. Kipper was 1-3 with a 4.02 goals against average versus the Ducks last season. But he's riding a hot streak coming into this one with a 1.40 GAA and .952 save percentage in his past five games. That included the win last night against the Kings, so we'll see if he's in there again tonight or if the Flames go with 25-year-old Curtis McElhinney. The last time the Ducks faced a goalie trying to go back-to-back nights (two nights ago), the Ducks threw six goals past him.
Just as important as it is for the Ducks to shut down the Flames, it's equally vital that Anaheim keeps Todd Bertuzzi quiet. If he scores a goal against the Ducks while they're still paying $2.67 million of his salary over the next two years (after the buyout in the offseason) ... well, that wouldn't feel too good. It would be like watching your ex-girlfriend make out with another guy while wearing the $500 bracelet you bought her for her birthday.
It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Bert gets tonight from the Ducks faithful, considering the relatively disappointing one season he had in Anaheim. Plus, he took a couple shots during his press conference after signing with Calgary. You might remember him saying, “In Anaheim I thought it was going to be a good opportunity but I just didn't fit into the mode there with ice time - playing 10 to 12 minutes a game, it's kind of hard to perform."
You might also remember Bertuzzi actually averaged 16:27 of ice time last season. Not for nothing, but this year he's averaging 20:32 and he already has six goals, after he had 14 all last year for Anaheim. Bertuzzi also said when he got to Calgary, "Here you can't go five or 10 games without a point without anyone noticing and there you can go under the radar a little bit."
Oh, believe me, we noticed. And we'll see just how much tonight.