Adam Brady is the Director of Publications & New Media for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center. Email him by CLICKING HERE.
Updated Feb. 27 at 12:15 p.m.
Wow, that was bad.
That was really bad.
I suppose it was a tall task for the Ducks to face a Boston Bruins team that has the second-best record in the league, especially on a night when the Ducks traded away a mainstay that morning, tried to incorporate their new defenseman into that night's game and were forced to move one of their other defensemen to a forward spot. So, we could have seen it coming that the Ducks would have had a tough time scratching out a win on this night.
But 6-0? I don't think anybody saw that coming.
Yes, that's a very good Boston Bruins team the Ducks fell to last night, but
“It found a way to turn in their favor in a hurry, and we didn’t respond well to the adversity,” said Randy Carlyle. “That’s a first-place hockey club, and they played like it.”
Indeed, there's a reason why that team is 21-2-3 in their last 26 home games. Still, the Ducks did manage to throw 35 shots on net (to just 27 for
Things got a little out of hand late in the second period, when even Scott Niedermayer was guilty of letting out his frustrations. It started when Mike Brown picked a fight with Milan Lucic, and Lucic essentially crumpled up the fight code and lit it on fire by pounding on Brown while he was down on the ice and couldn't defend himself. (I didn't hear it myself, but word has it that Brent Severyn took some pretty passionate exception to that move during the radio broadcast.) I'm still not sure where the officials were during all of this, but Sheldon Brookbank had no choice but to jump in and defend his teammate, and he was inevitably given a game misconduct for being the third man in.
Less than a minute later, there was the normally mild-mannered Niedermayer (second time in the last week we've called him "normally mild-mannered) trying to rile up Marc Savard with a few cross checks to his back, before Savard had finally had enough and the two tangled. Scotty getting fired up and taking a guy on? Definitely a good thing. But that just shows how frustrating things were for the Ducks last night.
I was reminded last night just how much I miss Shawn Thornton, who quietly got away from the Ducks in the summer after helping them win the Cup. Thornton had a spirited fight with George Parros in the second period and since he was mic'd up for the night, viewers were able to hear some of his commentary during the game. At one point when Rob Niedermayer was checked into the wall in front of the Boston bench, you could hear Thornton yell to him, "How'd that feel, old man?"
That was one of the few smile-worthy moments for Ducks fans during that game, yet another turn in this rollercoaster ride (for lack of a more inventive metaphor) the team has put us on over the past few weeks. Consecutive wins over
Last night wasn't exactly a great way to show Ryan Whitney what his new team is made of, but Whitney said he felt immediately welcomed by the team. And playing next to Chris Pronger was the first time the 6-4 Whitney was paired with a guy taller than him. Pronger of course has the tinier head than Whitney, but definitely a little taller.
“That was pretty cool, to play with a guy like that,” Whitney said. “And Scott Niedermayer is a guy I grew up kind of idolizing. It’s funny. There aren’t many teams in the league that I don’t know one guy. I’ve played a little while now, and you meet guys, but I didn’t know anyone on this team. That was a little intimidating, but the guys were awesome. That helped out.”
We had previously mentioned that Whitney was coincidentally already in
And it just got nuttier as he was told late in the day that he would be in the lineup and he ended up enduring one of the more lopsided losses in Ducks history.
“I felt all right,” Whitney said. “I hadn’t skated in two or three days. So, to find out I was playing at 3:30 was a little weird, but it was still good to get on the ice. Now I’m real happy that I played and I got the game out of the way, even though it wasn’t too successful.”
Whitney wasn't part of the problem for the Ducks, as he played 24:19 (behind only Pronger's 25:42) and was only on the ice for one of the
“Obviously, it was pretty tough, but hopefully over the next few games and days, I get to know everyone and we start winning some games,” Whitney said. “With Selanne, Getzlaf, Perry and guys, they have guys who have won a Cup and have really kind of established themselves as superstars in this league. So it’s pretty exciting to come in here and meet the guys.”
You know what would be even more exciting? Winning with them. Let's hope that starts tomorrow afternoon in
- - -
I've already grown pretty tired of complaining about Paul Gaustad not getting punished for his head-to-head hit on Ryan Getzlaf on Tuesday night. But the fact that Bob Murray chimed in about it and went on to grumble about the way the NHL treats the Ducks versus other teams, deserves some mention.
“I don’t understand what’s going on in this league,”
"That is what has been going on, and I do not understand it,"
“Every time there’s a scrum, or every time one of our players gets hit in the head, it can’t be, ‘No, it’s not a suspension.’ I’m sorry. It just can’t be that way.”
- - -Our AHL affiliate, the Iowa Chops, is at it again. Apparently they have added some intermission entertainment called the Pork Bellies, a handful of overweight male season ticket holders who dance shirtless on the ice. They started dancing at games in the stands as a gag, but have upgraded to performing routines in front of the entire crowd. As if that weren't enough, they start their show by emerging from the back of a U-Haul.
Here are the Pork Bellies performing the Britney Spears song "Womanizer" during a game. There is word that producers from the "Ellen Degeneres Show" have caught word of these guys and have told the Chops that if this YouTube video gets more than 6,000 views, they'll have them on the show.
This isn't exactly as noble a cause as voting the Ducks into the All-Star Game, but go ahead and help them out.
Oh, and good luck getting that awful song out of your head for the rest of the afternoon.
Updated Feb. 26 at 1:14 p.m.
I was all set to write about tonight's game with the Boston Bruins and the Ducks' quest to win a third straight game for the first time since November, when something more pressing reared its head -- this morning's trade of Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi for Ryan Whitney.
And not long after the trade went down, my inbox filled up with reactions from fans, most of them not sunny. But let's face it, when you get rid of a guy who's been with the organization for the last four seasons and was part of the Cup team, you're generally going to get some resentment. But the fact that the Ducks are getting a player of Ryan Whitney's caliber makes the deal a lot more palatable.
Whitney is a big (6-4, 219) puck-moving defenseman who was a major reason for Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup Final last year. He addresses a major deficiency for the Ducks this season -- the ability to move the puck out of their zone and get it to their scorers up front. His strength is the transition game and his breakout passing, something the Ducks have desperately needed more of this year. Offseason foot surgery has limited him, as he didn't start the season until December 23 and has two goals and 13 points in just 28 games. But when he's healthy, he's one of the best puck-moving defensemen in the game.
Whitney has acknowledged it's taken him awhile to get comfortable after coming back from the injury, and it didn't help that he returned to a Penguins team that hasn't looked very good for several months. "I'm trying to be patient with it," he said of the injury a week and a half ago. "All I know is, I can look in the mirror and know I'm trying my hardest. It's not for lack of effort if I'm not playing well, but I came back at a time of the year when the team wasn't playing well. I'm working hard, our team's playing better and I feel like I'm getting in a groove."
Let's hope that groove happens soon for Whitney, who also provides a long-term answer for the Ducks blue line, since he's signed through 2012-13. This isn't a salary cap move, since Kunitz was a cap hit of $3.725 million a year and Whitney is averaging $4 million over the next four seasons.
It is admitedly tough to lose a player like Tangradi, a 20-year-old who was a second round pick in the 2007 draft and was among the Ducks' best forward prospects. His 87 points in 52 games for the Belleville Bulls ranked second in the Ontario Hockey League this season. But for the Ducks to get Whitney, they had to throw someone like Tangradi into the mix.
Not to disparage a guy on his way out of town, but while Kunitz is a very nice player, I never felt like he had the fire this season that he had in years past. He's a fine talent who certainly benefitted over the years from playing with All-Stars like Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (and he'll do it again in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin). But maybe at almost $4 million per year, the Ducks were looking for something more than the 16 goals and 19 assists they were getting from him in 62 games this year.
Still, Kunitz admitted this morning he was "a little shocked” when he heard the news of the trade. He was apparently pulled off the ice during the morning skate and put on the phone with Ducks Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations David McNab, who broke the news.“I knew from the situation that we’re all in, both trying to make the playoffs, just the way it is with the salary cap and space, I knew that was obviously factored in there, but yeah, I’m definitely shocked,” Kunitz said.
(Whether this trade is the first step in more moves for the Ducks before the deadline or this summer remains to be seen. But Ducks GM Bob Murray will be on a conference call with media later today and we'll have his comments for you as soon as it's over.)
Kunitz has been a hard-working guy who was a great story, a guy who was put on waivers twice during the 2005-06 season before becoming a mainstay in Anaheim and helping them win a title. But I can't help but feel like the Ducks got better today. At least ... I hope they did. But I'm telling you, you'll like Ryan Whitney. Just watch.
Of course, we probably won't realize that right away, since Whitney won't play tonight, despite the fact that he's coincidentally in Boston already. (UPDATE: Whitney now listed as a gametime decision for tonight.) Whitney, who grew up in Boston, had actually taken a leave from the Penguins to attend to a family matter there. He will be in attendance for tonight's game, but won't play.
Travis Moen is also not going to be available for the Ducks, since he hasn't made it back after heading to Orange County with his wife Amy for the birth of their son. That means the Ducks will be a forward short tonight, unless Steve Montador moves up to the wing, like he has previously this season.
That's not exactly great news for a Ducks team that already has its work cut out for it tonight, looking for its first three-game winning streak since (oh, my God) November 30. And it just so happens to be against a Bruins team that is just a point short of the Sharks for best record in the NHL. Granted, most of Boston's games have come against the Eastern Conference, and a Northeast Division that the Ducks have already gone 5-0 against (including the Buffalo victory two nights ago).
And the Bruins have proven very fallible of late, as their 6-1 victory two nights ago over visiting Florida was just their second win in the last eight games. They can relate to the Ducks' travels, since that Florida game was their first at home after a mostly miserable 13-day road trip. Still, the Bruins remain the top defensive team in the league (at least numbers-wise), giving up just 2.13 goals a game.
- - -
Just in case you missed the ghastly image of Ryan Getzlaf sneezing blood all over himself two nights ago, good news! It's on YouTube (thanks for reader Jason for letting me know). As much as Getzlaf's blood sneeze isn't compelling enough, check out the 1:00 mark, when you barely catch a shot of Randy Carlyle calling over George Parros on the Ducks bench. Since he had no intention of sending Parros onto the ice to start a fight in the closing seconds of the game (and thus risk a major fine for both Parros and himself), it seems as if Carlyle just wanted to talk Parros into some serious trash talking. And at the 1:10 mark, you see he gets his wish.
Getzlaf, by the way, will be in the lineup tonight, but will be wearing a shield to protect his broken nose.
Meanwhile, there was still some backlash yesterday about what led to the grossness -- Paul Gaustad's blindside hit on Getzlaf. Both Gaustad and Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff reacted to Randy Carlyle saying he had a problem with Gaustad leaving his feet to deliver a shoulder to Getzlaf's head. “I read his (Carlyle’s) comment that my shoulder hit him (Getzlaf) in the head, but if he watches the replay, our heads collided,” Gaustad said. “It’s unfortunate he got hurt. It caught me off guard a little bit. There was no intent to injure there. If you watch the replay, we both left our feet after the hit because we both collided. We hit and we were both in the air. I didn’t see him and he didn’t see me."
Ruff was a little more harsh: “I looked at it and I didn’t think he left his feet. I don’t know if Paul even saw him (Getzlaf). Paul turned into the play, and when I first saw it, I didn’t think it was much. Then I saw Getzlaf. They must have banged heads. If Paul would’ve saw him, do you think they would have banged heads? I don’t think so."
And here was my favorite part: “There’s an aggressive, dirty team that’s calling us dirty now. I like it.”
I like it too. I like it that people are still calling the Ducks aggressive and dirty. Seems to me, things were going a little better around here when we were aggressive and dirty.
Updated Feb. 26 at 9:41 a.m.
We'll be announcing officially in a few minutes that the Ducks have traded Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi to Pittsburgh for defenseman Ryan Whitney.
More on that later.
Updated Feb. 25 at 1:40 p.m.
There are two things I took from last night's 3-2 victory for the Ducks over the Buffalo Banana Slugs:
1. Huge road win for the Ducks, and one that has us thinking playoffs once again.
2. Ryan Getzlaf's blood sneeze at the end of the game was one of the most disturbing images I've seen on live TV in quite some time. (Although Sophia Loren at last Sunday's Oscars is a close second.)
For now, let's focus on the game itself, the ultimate "found a way to win" for the boys from Anaheim in which they got big goals from one guy (Todd Marchant) who hadn't scored in 44 games and another (Mike Brown) who hadn't scored since December 2 ... of 2007. (Interestingly enough, that was also 44 games ago for Brown, and it was just the second goal of his career.)
I have to admit, I had no idea Todd Marchant had gone so long without finding the net until it was mentioned after he netted this pretty shorthander with the help of a Chris Kunitz screen midway through the second period to give the Ducks a 2-1 lead. Marchant does so many little things that you hardly notice when he's gone so long without a goal. And even rarer than a Marchant goal is a shorthanded one for Anaheim, which now has only four on the season (there are five players in the league who have at least that many).
Speaking of the little things he does, Marchant played a big part in Brown's goal late in the second that gave the Ducks the all-important two-goal lead. Marchant won a battle for the puck in the corner with Jaroslav Spacek moments before Brown emerged from behind the net to sneak the puck through.
It was a great place to have a great game for Marchant, who grew up in Buffalo, frequently went to Sabres games as a kid and still goes back there in the offseasons. “I guess he must have fueled up on chicken wings or something because he was flying,” said Randy Carlyle.
Marchant, who probably doesn't frequently get asked what he had for dinner the night before a game, said he actually had chicken and pasta. But there were Buffalo wings waiting for him and the rest of the Ducks after the game. “I got ’em sitting right here, waiting to dig into ’em,” Marchant said while talking to the media. “Every time I come here, it’s a little extra special to play. It’s nice to put the puck in the net, too. More important, it’s nice to get the win.”
It's especially nice to get it in a building the Ducks hadn't won a game in since the Clinton administration. It had only been four games, but the Ducks hadn't won in Buffalo since New Year's Day of 1999.
Marchant and Brown's goals came in a second period in which, let's face it, the Ducks looked pretty awful in the early going. It was several minutes into that session before they actually possessed the puck in the Buffalo zone. There were fleeting moments of dumping it into the corner, but actually holding the puck and cycling it wasn't happening at all. Meanwhile, the Sabres were throwing plenty of rubber at J.S. Giguere.
Somehow the Ducks managed to bounce back and put 13 shots on net in the period, despite being outshot 20-4 over the game's first 26 minutes. The first of those four was Teemu Selanne's gorgeous move to the backhand just 1:10 into the game, a play that was made possible by a nice steal by Bobby Ryan just outside the blue line. (Haven't mentioned Bobby in a little while, so just had to get that in there.) That was the first indication the Ducks got a break when Patrick Lalime was thrown in net because of the long-term injury to Ryan Miller. Something tells me if the Sabres want to remain in the playoff hunt, they're going to have to make a move for another masked man before the trade deadline.
On the other side of the rink, Giguere was very good for the second straight game, and kept the Ducks in it when they couldn't get much going in the middle session. Things got a little scary when the Sabres converted on a 6-on-4 with 1:06 left, but the Ducks were able to hold Buffalo without a shot over the final minute.
That didn't mean there wasn't some, er, excitement in those final moments. Getzlaf took a questionable hit with a shoulder from Paul Gaustad with about 15 seconds left that gave Getzlaf a broken nose and a cut on the face. The hit was so severe, Gaustad was shaken up on the play as well. And the Versus cameras caught Getzlaf blowing a spatter of blood out of his nose all over his white jersey, effectively grossing out an entire national television audience.
Seconds after the game ended, my cell phone lit up with a call from my dad, and I expected to hear something like "Great game, huh?" or "The Ducks are back!" Instead, it went like this:
Dad: "How much do you think you guys could sell that jersey for?"
Getzlaf was still bleeding heavily after the game, and his face was swollen this morning, causing him to be held out of practice at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. “I feel okay,” Getzlaf said. “Obviously, the swelling and stuff, we’d like it to go down a little bit more, so I took the day off. Other than that, I feel pretty good. It’s more of an annoyance than it is anything, I guess. Just the vision and that kind of stuff.”
As far as tomorrow night's game goes? “I’ll be playing,” he said.
Bret Hedican, who played significant minutes last night after missing the previous two games with back spasms, also did not practice today. Randy Carlyle said he's day to day (aren't we all).
Last night Carlyle didn't seem too pleased with the hit on Getzlaf, which didn't draw a penalty. “That’s one that’s going to be looked at very closely because Gaustad left his feet and hit him with a shoulder, blindsided him,” Carlyle said. "He’s in the air after he hits him. So it was one of those that we’re going to have to take a look at.”
Speaking of penalties/not penalties, Corey Perry took a weird one early in the second period. When the referee announced over the PA that Perry got "two minutes for shooting the stick," the people I was watching the game with looked at each other completely puzzled, as if he had announced that Perry was getting "two minutes for making a mean face." Apparently, the terminology of the call was later changed to "throwing the stick," and it pertained to Perry using his own stick to sweep Giguere's lost stick back to him.
Seriously? That's a penalty? We've complained all year about the Ducks getting called for too many penalties. Little did we know they could be called for things we didn't even know were penalties. Stay tuned next game when Chris Kunitz gets two minutes for stepping onto the ice with the wrong foot.
Regardless, the Ducks got a very big road win that momentarily put them into the coveted eighth spot in the Western Conference. Actually, when the Ducks got on the plane after the game, they were in eighth. By the time they landed in Boston, they dropped back down to 10th. That's because Minnesota got a point from losing in a shootout to the Kings, and the Oilers beat Tampa Bay, so the Ducks, Wild, Oilers and Stars all have 65 points. But with the Ducks having played more games than all of them, they drop to 10th for the time being.
A win tomorrow night against the Bruins, the top team in the league, would be a nice way for the Ducks to keep climbing. That game isn't televised, but I'm trying to find a venue for an unofficial event for fans to gather and watch it on Center Ice. It could be a bar/restaurant. It could be my apartment. Stay tuned for that.
- - -
Travis Moen and his wife Amy welcomed a new baby boy late last night, weighing in at 8 lbs and 6 ozs. Both baby and mother are healthy, though they haven't come up with a name for the kid yet. Adam has a nice ring to it. Brady's not a bad first name either. Just mentioning. As long as they don't name it Moe.
- - -
Speaking of great names, congratulations to Adam Brown of the Kelowna Rockets, who was named the Canadian Hockey League's Goaltender of the Week yesterday. Brown posted a 2-0-0 record with a goals-against-average of 0.46 and a save percentage of .982 during the week ending Feb. 22. The 17-year-old rookie from Yorba Linda has a 17-4-0-1 record with two shutouts this season. His goals-against average of 2.01 and save percentage of .912 both rank among the best in the league.
Why do I mention it? Adam is the son of the one of the nicest guys in the world, Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown.
Updated Feb. 24 at 12:50 p.m.
You know, in some states being shipped to Detroit, Columbus and Buffalo over a span of five days is punishment for a felony. But here the Ducks are on step 3 of Hell's Voyage, facing their bitter rivals from upstate New York. They have to be bitter rivals, right? Otherwise, this wouldn't be the only Ducks game this season being aired on national TV.
Yes, even though it's easier to find a rerun of "Small Wonder" on your channel guide than it is to find Versus, this is technically a national TV game. And even though Anaheim-Buffalo doesn't exactly have a Jen-Angelina air of a fierce rivalry, at least we should be thankful that the NHL has actually acknowledged a Western Conference team for a Versus game. If you watch hockey on NBC on any given Sunday, you'd hardly know there were any teams west of Michigan.
And heck, if the last matchup between the Ducks and Sabres is any indication, maybe these two teams really are bitter foes. During Anaheim's 3-2 victory back on Feb. 2 at Honda Center, the teams threw punch after punch at each other, combining for 64 penalty minutes, three fights and 10-minute misconduct penalties for Travis Moen and Paul Gaustad.
(Moen, incidentally, won't have the opportunity for more fisticuffs tonight. He headed back to OC yesterday after his wife Amy went into labor with their first child.)
Because of that recent history of violence and the fact that both the Ducks and Sabres are clawing for their playoff lives, something tells me the Versus audience won't be disappointed in this one tonight.“It’s definitely a team we go to battle with,” Parros said. “If you want to take it to us physically, we’re going to push back. We’re expecting a similar type of game.”
Parros brawled with Buffalo tough guy Andrew Peters in the last game, while obnoxious defenseman Craig Rivet fought with virtually everyone on the Ducks roster. I think he took a shot at one of the Power Players at one point.
The Sabres are tied for seventh in the official conference of NBC (3-3-1 in their past seven), while the Ducks sit 10th in the West, as we speak. But the Sabres are in a bit of a panic mode right now, since super-goalie and mama-joke-expert Ryan Miller is out indefinitely after spraining his ankle Saturday while colliding with Rangers center Scott Gomez. That means Patrick Lalime takes his place, at least for tonight, looking to improve on his 2-7-1 record and 3.17 goals-against average. Lalime actually looked solid in that Feb. 2 game in Anaheim, saving 34 Ducks shots while taking the loss. The Ducks might also take advantage of the fact the Sabres are also missing their leading goal-scorer, Thomas Vanek, who sits out with a broken jaw.
The Ducks could likely see Bret Hedican back in the lineup tonight, after Hedican missed the last two games with back spasms. Hedican was on the ice for the skate this morning, and Randy Carlyle said he's a "warmup decision." Said Hedican yesterday, "I want to get back in there as soon as I can to help the team," he said. "I've played this game long enough to know how important these games are. You need experience in there."
As much as it might be good news for the Ducks to get Hedican back, that might spell bad news for Brian Salcido, and more to the point, the Salcido family. You might have seen on the telecast that mom Mary Ann was at the game Saturday in Columbus. Dad Frank, who missed Brian's first two NHL games over the weekend because he was coaching the Junior Kings in the state championships in San Jose, is in town for tonight's game. Dan Wood of the O.C. Register has a nice story on the family that he posted today.
As far as tonight, if you either don't have Versus or don't know if you don't have Versus, there is a Watch Party at Zito's Pizza in Anaheim tonight. It's a 4:00 start, so you might want to start casually mentioning to your workmates that you feel like you're coming down with something right about now.
(Note: This quote came before Comrie was traded to the Senators over the weekend. Something tells me Hil won't see as many of his games anymore.)
“I like to sit in the audience, you know I don’t sit up in a box or anything, and people started to know that I’m sitting there, and they’ll be like ‘Mike sucks!’ Or [they] try to rile me up,” Duff said. “And I’m like, ‘Hey, watch it! I’ll come up there, you know.’”
Later she added, “I try to not be that crazy girlfriend.”
Too late, sweetie.
Updated Feb. 23 at 1:03 p.m.
It wasn’t all that long ago that if you told me I’d be elated and relieved by a victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, I’d assume you were on whatever Joaquin Phoenix is currently taking.
But that’s exactly what we’re feeling after the Ducks bounced back from a not-all-that-unexpected Friday night loss in
Yet times have changed, and Anaheim entered Saturday's game on the outside of the playoff picture, having lost its last three in a row. Meanwhile, the Jackets were nestled into the sixth spot in the West, having won four of its last five. But it didn't look that way on the ice, and the Ducks certainly didn't look like a team playing the second game of a back-to-back, as they scored early and often on their way to a much-needed 5-2 victory.
The same Ducks team that went into the weekend having given up the game's first goal in 11 of the last 12, scored first against Detroit on Friday night (yeah, that didn't work out) and did it again Saturday against the Jackets (yeah, that did). In fact, the Ducks scored the first two goals of the game in Columbus to take a 2-0 lead through one. And even though the Jackets creeped back in the second, late goals by Chris Kunitz and Corey Perry all but put the game away.
But the big numbers on the scoreboard were probably the only positive ones for the Ducks on the night. You can look at that game in one of two ways: 1. The Ducks won but they really didn't play very well; or 2. The Ducks won despite not playing very well.
Remember the good old days when the Ducks would steal games on the road, even though they probably didn't look their best? I miss those times, and we saw a flash of that against the Jackets. The Ducks only managed 13 shots on goal the entire game, just five over the final two periods. In fact, they went to the penalty box as many times in the second and third than they shot the puck. That usually doesn't spell victory.
But somehow Anaheim manage to slip five of those by super-rookie Steve Mason, including the final one from Bobby Ryan, who's battling Mason for Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) honors. And Saturday's win was the first one in nine days for the Ducks.
(Hopefully when they announce the Calder winner at the NHL awards after this season, it looks a little something like this photo.)
Brendan Morrison, who had the second Ducks goal, said “I think it was probably one of our best team games that we’ve had in a while. Like our first period, I thought was great. Our battle level was high. Guys were winning the majority of the one-on-one battles, playing with an edge.”
And the Ducks were aggressive again, hitting like mad and getting into a handful of scraps with Columbus. “We talked about our identity as a team, getting back to how we used to play,” Corey Perry said. “That’s being physical, being first on the puck and playing strong defensively. Tonight, we did that. We were back five men in the defensive zone all the time. We took a few too many penalties, but our PK guys got it done.”
That PK was led by goalie J.S. Giguere, who was a surprise starter despite giving up five goals the night before in Detroit. It was the first time all year Randy Carlyle had called on Giguere on back-to-back nights and he explained that move thusly: “We described this as the most important game of the year, so are you going to not play your best people? It made the decision easy.”
If you ask me, that's a tremendous move by Carlyle, to re-instill the confidence the team has in Giguere, a guy who understandably hasn't had a lot of confidence in himself lately. “I’m just happy that Randy had enough confidence in me to give me the nod, and it was up to me to answer the bell," Giguere said. "Hopefully, I gave him the answer he wanted.”
Indeed he did, racking up 26 saves, more than half of them in the final period. The biggest was undoubtedly the one on Rick Nash midway through the third period, where a goal would have pulled the Jackets to within one. And not long after that save, Ryan came through to put the game on the shelf.
It was a monster win for Giguere, who gave up four unanswered the night before in Detroit in that loss, which was more a result of a Detroit team that looks near-unstoppable right now (especially at home), rather than any deficiencies in the Ducks' game.
Another notable feature of the Ducks-Jackets game was the first intermission interview GM Bob Murray did with Brian Hayward, in which Murray covered a number of topics that included his fielding of trade offers leading into the March 4 deadline. Most noteworthy was that he put to rest any doubts about the future of Randy Carlyle, despite the rash of teams dropping their coaches in mid-season (including Michel Therrien of Pittsburgh last week and Tom Renney of the Rangers this morning).
“Randy’s not going anywhere," Murray said. "If our players are thinking they’re going to use that as an excuse - because you know that’s what happens - well, the heck with that. They’re going to be a lot of players out of here before he’s out of here. He’s done a heck of a job … he’s not the problem.”
You can expect more from Murray in the next few days, including a twist on the State of the Franchise event, which we will be opening up to more season ticket holders than in the past via an interactive forum (and hopefully broadcast later for every fan to hear). More on that down the road.
- - -
Remember back in the '80s when Larry Bird and Dr. J got into a fight in a game between the Celtics and Sixers and it was a really big deal? I remember as a kid keeping the newspaper clipping, which included a photo of Dr. J choking Bird, for years. Well, we almost had the modern NHL version of that between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin over the weekend, as you can see in this video.
Alex, you're a heck of a talent, but you might want to work on your taunting skills. Was that a gorilla you were mimicking?
But his trash talk? Much better.
"What can I say about Crosby?" Ovechkin said. "He is a good player, but he talks too much. I play hard and if he wants to hit me, he can hit me, not talk to you guys about who plays cheap and who plays dirty. That's my game... If he doesn't like it, it's his problem."
Later on he added, "What, I can't play hard against him? What is he going to do, cry?"
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The 10 finalists for the "Oh, Say Can You Sing?" contest (run by the O.C. Register and the Ducks) have been announced. The winner will sing the anthem at the April 10 game against Dallas, the last regular season game of the year. Check out the finalists and the videos they submitted, and submit your votes. Our panel (which will include me, so I've been told), will take that into consideration when we audition these 10 and pick a winner next month.
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"Poor Man's Seacrest" did a nice job filling in for Josh Brewster on "Duck Calls" after the Detroit game Friday night. "Duck Calls" is the postgame show aired on AM 830 after every Ducks game. Although, he got a little desperate for guests to help him fill the time, as you can see from this segment he did with me.
Updated Feb. 20 at 4:16 p.m.
If you're interested, I'll be on with guest host Kent "Poor Man's Seacrest" French on Duck Calls, following tonight's game on AM 830 and www.am830.net (click the Listen Live button on the top right corner).
Updated Feb. 20 at 10:38 a.m.
If you're anywhere near my age, you probably grew up playing a video game called Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. It was a boxing game in which you had to win several fights against different boxers before earning the right to face the mighty Tyson. You started out with stiffs like Glass Joe, Don Flamenco and Bald Bull, each fighter a little bit better than the guy you faced before him. If you kept winning, you eventually got to face Tyson for the chance to defeat the game, and video game Tyson was just as hard to beat as the real Tyson in his prime.
Where am I going with this? Let's just say that as if this six-game road trip for the Ducks wasn't grueling enough, they're pretty much starting with Mike Tyson right away.
The Wings are closing in on the San Jose Sharks for the top spot in the Western Conference, having bounced back from an uncharacteristic five-game winless streak to go a daunting 7-1-1 since that time. Two nights ago, they scored five power play goals in demolishing Nashville, 6-2. They've beaten the Ducks two of three times this season, including Anaheim's last visit to Joe Louis Arena, where the Ducks are 3-20-3 all-time and 1-8-2 in their last 11 games. In that last win, the Wings outshot the Ducks 47-16, boosting their average shots on goal against Anaheim this season to 39.3. It's a team prepped for another long run through a postseason they haven't missed in 18 years.
God, I hate them.
For a Ducks team that has given up 12 goals in the last two games to the likes of Atlanta and Los Angeles, it almost looks like a death march into that awful building they call a hockey arena. But as much as this Ducks team has surprised us this year by losing games we thought they would win, maybe they also have the ability to win games they really should lose.
Don't they owe us that? Maybe not. But as much as the Ducks have played down to the level of their opponents so many times this season (notably in the last six weeks), they've also shown the ability to turn it on against the NHL's elite. Might be a good idea to get that going again tonight. (And there's an official Watch Party at ESPN Zone if you want to join other Ducks fans in finding out.)
|As promised, photos of Jonas Hiller's new mask|
You might remember that Pronger was suspended a game during the 2007 Western Conference Final for elbowing Tomas Holstrom in the head during Game 4 and knocking him cold. That, of course, is one of a few suspensions Pronger has had in his career, notably in the regular season, which led him to joke that reaching the 1,000-game plateau, “probably should have happened a while ago.”
Almost a decade before that elbow, Pronger had the scariest moment of his life during the 1998 conference semis at Joe Louis, when a puck to the chest caused his heart to stop and he was rushed to a local hospital.
“It’s funny how things play out,” Pronger said. “There’s a lot of history for me in Detroit, and certainly an opportunity to get it there is special. An Original Six team, Joe Louis ... It’s a nice place to have it.”
Nice? Yeah, we'll see about that.
Updated Feb. 19 at 12:53 p.m.
I was struggling to find the words to describe the depressing current state of the Anaheim Ducks, but it came to me in the aftermath of last night's maddening 4-3 loss to the visiting Kings. I was pecking away at my keyboard in a near-empty Honda Center press box when Ducks play-by-play guy John Ahlers walked by on his way out for the night.
"This team is too good," he said, "to be this bad."
And that's exactly it. How does a team with Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, etc., a team that won the Stanley Cup two seasons ago, a team that looked so good in consecutive wins over Calgary a week ago, how does that team lose two games they absolutely had to have against the likes of Atlanta and L.A.?
It's confounding. It's frustrating, and never more so than that loss last night, when the Ducks fought back to tie the game in the third, only to let it slip away. And to think a big reason for that was some ill-timed penalties by Scott Niedermayer -- well, those are words you don't think you'll use too often.
But there it was in the third, Niedermayer taking a slashing call that gave way to a power play goal that gave the Kings a 3-2 lead. And moments later, there was Niedermayer slamming into goalie Jonathan Quick behind the Kings net in what was a shocking lapse of judgment by the level-headed Ducks captain. “I was going down with quite a bit of speed,” Niedermayer said. “The puck was going behind the net. I don’t think I really ran him (Quick) over. I don’t know if our feet collided or what happened exactly. It was a stupid play. It wasn’t my intent. It happened.”
Forget the fact that in addition to the charging call the officials gave Niedermayer, they also inexplicably added a roughing penalty during the resulting fracas, even though Niedermayer did very little after the whistle aside from taking some punches to the face from Quick (who somehow wasn't penalized). That hardly matters, since the damage was already done from the charging call. With brother Rob already in the box, that gave the Kings a 5-on-3 in which Anze Kopitar gave L.A. an all-important two-goal lead that all but sealed the victory.
You could just feel the life sucked out of the building after that goal, and even though Chris Kunitz scored to pull the Ducks to within a goal with minutes left, they couldn't manage to find the net another time in the closing minutes. When that final horn sounded with the Ducks hopelessly trying to send the puck into the attacking zone ... well, it ranked up there with car alarms and 5:30 a.m. wakeup calls in the pantheon of Godawful noises.
So with the last night's disappointment fresh in their minds, the Ducks took off on their Road Trip from Hell early this morning -- destination do-or-die. With the NHL trade deadline coming one day after the Ducks finish this vital stretch of six road games in 13 days, you can't help but wonder which of these Ducks played their last game for the team in Honda Center last night. You can't help but wonder, of the guys on that plane this morning, which of them won't be on it when it comes home?
As much as I'm intrigued by these upcoming road games (and loving the early start times), there is a little part of me that wants to do a little Tivo fast-forward on them. I'm dying to jump ahead and find out just where the Ducks stand when this thing is over, because that will give us a fairly solid idea of where they stand for the rest of this season -- and possibly beyond. Six games in 13 nights, all against teams that -- if the season ended today -- would be in the playoffs. Daunting, I think is the word for it. And if we didn't already have an idea of what this team is made of, we'll be pretty certain about it after this.
(The Ducks will be making this trip with a slight shakeup in their already-shaky defensive corps, as the team just sent down Brett Festerling and brought up SoCal boy Brian Salcido.)
If the Ducks hope to play hockey beyond April 11, they pretty much have to win at least two-thirds of the remaining 23 games on their schedule. I'm guessing they need about 95 points to get the eighth seed in the Western Conference. That's 34 points over the final 23 games. This from a team that hasn't won three games in a row ... I can't believe this is true ... since the end of November.
“I think what we have to do is realize we have an opportunity and a challenge in front of us,” Scott Niedermayer said last night. “You can forget everything, what the plan was back in September. We just have to deal with what’s in front of us."
And about the road trip, he quietly said, “It’ll obviously be tough. We’re playing some good teams on the road, but maybe that’s what the doctor ordered. Get in, out, get together, just us against everybody else and see how it goes.”
Just like a kid waiting in line for a rollercoaster, I'm excited ... but also a little scared.
Updated Feb. 18 at 12:53 p.m.
Ducks-Kings is always an intriguing matchup, but this one tonight has got just a little more juice.
For the first time in years, both the Ducks and Kings are battling for their playoff lives this late in the season. The Ducks are one point back of the eighth slot, while the Kings are just four behind Anaheim after having gone 7-2-2 over their last 11 games. L.A. is looking to move three games over .500 this late in the season for the first time since their last game of 2005-06. The Ducks have beaten them three of five times (and can clinch the Freeway Face-Off title tonight), but L.A. got the best of them in their last matchup, Jan. 8 at Staples Center.
Personally, I kind of prefer it when the Kings are lousy. It's so much easier to make fun of them. And by the way, if somehow the Ducks miss the playoffs and the Kings make it? Just the thought makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.
Along with the fact that both teams are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture, they have something else in common: They both couldn't handle the juggernaut that is the Atlanta Thrashers. One night after the Ducks fell all over themselves in an 8-4 loss to the Thrashers, the Kings fell to them in a shootout Monday night, 7-6. That game was running on the TV in the Ducks locker room following the morning skate today.
All signs point to Jonas Hiller being in net tonight for the Ducks, especially after J.S. Giguere had a not-so-good showing last Sunday against Atlanta. Hiller has been ridiculously good against the Kings so far this season, winning two of his three starts with a 1.15 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. And he just received a new mask (we don't have pictures of it yet) that he'll likely debut tonight. It's not much different than the current very-cool one, but the Ducks logos on the chin area are modified.
(Ever write a couple of sentences and then realize that they're really pretty meaningless? Yeah, that just happened to me.)
It doesn't matter who the Ducks are playing, they need all the wins they can get, especially tonight. It's the last home game for Anaheim for the next 13 days, as they head out tomorrow morning for a six-game roadie that could very well make or break their season.
And it looks like they'll be enduring that road trip without Sammy Pahlsson, who was originally supposed to return this week from his viral infection, but isn't showing enough signs of recovery. In fact, it was revealed today that Pahlsson actually has mononucleosis and could miss two more weeks. Pahlsson is supposed to undergo medical exams each Tuesday until he receives medical clearance to return to the ice.
“We thought he’d have a better result from the tests,” Randy Carlyle said today. “We just have to wait. You can’t jeopardize a player’s health.”
Not good for the Ducks. Not good at all.
I'm glad he said it, so I can feel better about saying it myself. It's not so much that this team isn't showing the effort they need to win these games. It's that they're just not good enough right now. Will they suddenly be good enough over these last 24 games? Well, I can't wait to find out.
So, essentially what they're saying is: Not only do we not think that was an elbow to the head, but it was a phenomenal hit, eh?
Thanks, NHL. Much appreciated.
Updated Feb. 17 at 12:09 p.m.
Well, it happened.
As if last Sunday's gut-wrenchin 8-4 loss to the visiting Atlanta Thrashers wasn't demoralizing enough, the Ducks woke up this morning to find out the seemingly inevitable: They are no longer in the top eight in the Western Conference standings.
Edmonton won last night in Phoenix, Columbus got a point in a shootout loss to Dallas and Vancouver beat Montreal on Sunday. All three of those teams jumped to 62 points on the year (all with fewer games played than Anaheim) and Dallas has 63. The Ducks, meanwhile, are stuck at 61 and in ninth place in the West. They're two points ahead of Minnesota and four ahead of the Kings, both of which have played three fewer games than the Ducks.
Now that Columbus has climbed into the eighth spot, that means that all of the six teams the Ducks play on the upcoming road trip are currently in playoff position. That's just fantastic.
(By the way, Brad Richards of the Stars got hurt in that Columbus game and is rumored to miss 6 to 8 weeks. I hate to say it, but that might be a good thing for Anaheim.)
The Ducks had an extra-long practice session yesterday following Sunday night's loss, which was part of the reason Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger, Bobby Ryan and Rob Niedermayer were late to yesterday's very-cool rink launch ceremony at Corona Inline. Actually, Selanne and Ryan were just late because of that. Pronger was later and Niedermayer was much later because they were given faulty directions to the rink. I won't sell out the Ducks staffer who goofed, but Ryan had no problem calling out his name during the Q&A he and Selanne were doing with the several hundred fans in attendance while they waited for the other two to arrive.
The players were in good spirits as they answered questions, signed autographs and coached teams in the ceremonial first game. That was despite a practice that lasted almost two hours and a schlep to a city that most of the four had never been to in their lives (Ryan had actually roller-hockeyed there in the past). Pronger apologized to the crowd for being even later than the first-arriving Selanne and Ryan and remarked to the crowd, "If you saw the game last night, you can understand why practice went a little long today."
Nevertheless, Randy Carlyle insisted that the arduous skate was not meant as some sort of punishment. “I think it’s foolish to put players on the board and go exact revenge,” Carlyle said. “To me, it’s all about getting better and how we’re going to get better. Conditioning is a part of it but I think you have to work on your deficiencies and that’s the most important thing.
“They’re upset the way they played. I’m upset…everybody’s upset. If you go out there and put them on the wall and skate them, what are you accomplishing? To me it’s about correcting mistakes, playing better defensive hockey. Obviously you can’t play the way we played in the game.”
I have never been such a big Atlanta Thrashers fan as I was last night, when they battled the Kings at Staples Center less than 24 hours after dismantling the Ducks. The Thrashers responded by scoring seven more goals (including the shootout) in a 7-6 victory. Although, I have to admit, I forgot to watch the game until I saw the ESPN ticker reveal that it was tied 6-6 going into a shootout. I looked at my clock and it said 10:30 p.m., and I turned to the game just to confirm it was still actually going. I got there in time to see the Thrashers clinch it in the fourth round of the tiebreaker.
It's too bad I missed most of the game, because it was apparently a doozy. The Kings trailed 3-0 eight minutes into it and 6-3 early in the third, but fought back to tie it, thanks in part to Anze Kopitar scoring on a 6-on-4 with five seconds left in regulation. (Of course, the fact the Ducks couldn't manage to fight back from a 6-3 deficit Sunday night isn't lost on me.)
Even though the Kings got a point from sending the game to OT, somehow it made me feel a little better that the Thrashers beat them. If Atlanta had gone into Staples and gotten throttled, it would have made Sunday's loss even tougher to take. Now at least we can half-heartedly say the Ducks lost to a red-hot Thrashers team that somehow has managed to score 14 regulation goals in the last two nights. Maybe they've just been underachieving all season. Maybe they really are a marquee team.
Then again, maybe not.
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Carrie Underwood was in the house in Nashville last night to watch her boy Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators play the Preds. But, apparently she didn't want anyone to know that. Check out the ridiculous reaction when she was caught on camera in a suite.
I'm resisting the urge to respond with a "I-haven't-seen-a-girl-go-down-that-fast-since..." joke. Best to leave that one alone.
Updated Feb. 16 at 11:14 a.m.
Ever since the waning moments of last night's game, I've been racking my brain to try and figure out how to properly put into perspective this Ducks team getting trounced 8-4 by one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Atlanta Thrashers.
And frankly, I've got nothing.
So, best to leave it up to the guys on the ice last night for the home team.
Ryan Getzlaf: “We didn’t play with that emotion and character that we deserve in this locker room. We got embarrassed in our own building.”
Todd Marchant: “We should have had plenty of energy. Not that we didn’t have energy, we just didn’t channel it in the right direction. As a result, we walk away with an 8-4 loss at home to a team that, on paper, you should beat. We can’t fault anybody but ourselves. It’s the guys in here that went on the ice that didn’t do the job. At this time of the year, it’s tough to swallow."
Chris Pronger: “Now we’re back to the same old adage -- up and down like a yo-yo with our inconsistent play. We have to be more desperate. We have to be a team that is more determined. We have to act like it’s do-or-die, and we’re just not doing that.”
Scott Niedermayer: “Everything that you don’t want to happen happened. It’s a frustrating night to be a part of. I know I made my share of mistakes. Where it has to start is I have to be better, and we’ll go from there."
As good as the Ducks looked in their previous two games (both wins) over one of the best teams in the West, the Calgary Flames, this team hasn't given its fans the luxury of expecting great things when a seemingly far inferior team comes to town. And you had to feel last night that early in the game you'd have an indication whether the Ducks had come to play the same way they had in those previous two. And that's exactly when the Ducks showed that no, they hadn't.
They gave up the first goal of the game less than four minutes after the opening draw, the 10th time in the last 11 games they've gone down 1-0. And even though they got it back with a Teemu Selanne goal at 5:28, that was one of the few highlights of an awful opening 20. They gave up 19 attempts on goal in the period to an Atlanta team second-to-last in the Eastern Conference in shots per game. They took five straight penalties in the period, two of which set up the Thrashers on a 5-on-3 to start the second in which the ensuing goal was practically guaranteed.
And that goal opened the floodgates for three more in a matter of minutes (including one almost immediately after Jonas Hiller was subbed in for J.S. Giguere), which all but turned the lights out in Honda Center for the night. From a personal standpoint, I had my head in my hands, my elbows on the table and a look on my face like I had just witnessed an eleven-car pileup by, oh, midway through the second period.
Even when the Ducks had a glimmer of hope early in the third -- when Bobby Ryan scored a goal to pull Anaheim to within three goals and the Thrashers took a penalty soon after -- that resulted in disaster. Colin Stuart scored a shorthanded goal with a seemingly innocent shot following a Ducks power play turnover that pretty much summed up the rest of the night. Or if that didn't sum it up, how about when the Ducks were making a last-ditch effort with a power play and a pulled goalie in the closing minutes, and Niclas Havelid scoring an empty-net goal by simply sending the puck off the back boards and around the rink? That one gave the Thrashers eight goals, the most the Ducks have given up in a game since 2001.
Embarrassing? Sure. Depressing? Absolutely. Surprising? Unfortunately, not really.