Adam Brady is the Director of Publications & New Media for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center. Email him by CLICKING HERE.
Updated November 30 at 3:04 p.m.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com has a nice story on George Parros' line of 'Stache Gear, which by the way, has accounted for $7,500 in sales since Friday's launch, with all proceeds going to the Childhood Leukemia Foundation and Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids. Due to high demand, more 'Stache Gear products are being ordered for the Team Store at Honda Center.
LeBrun's story includes this nice comment from George: "Hey, we live a fortunate life. I think it's important that you give back any way you can, whether it's a straight donation in the charity you believe in, or whether it's getting people involved. The way things have gone, I've been able to get people involved and it's been fun. There's a connection with fans and there's some cool stories."
Updated November 30 at 10:23 a.m.
I'm not normally an "at least we got a point" kind of guy. To me, a loss is a loss. But after watching last night's game with the Coyotes ... hey, at least we got a point.
It certainly didn't seem the Ducks would get even that after they played a less-than-satisfying third period that saw their tenuous 1-0 lead turn into a 2-1 deficit. But Bobby Ryan's tip-in goal (2:10 point of Ducks TV) with less than two minutes left was a breath of fresh air and forced overtime -- getting the Ducks that aforementioned point. But as loud as the Honda Center crowd was when that puck hit nylon, they were just as noticeably silent when James Vandermeer spoiled the party with the game-winner 1:18 into OT.
But hey, at least we got a point.
The Ducks were left answering questions about their struggles with closing out games in the third period, with a lost lead in the Tampa Bay overtime win and letting Calgary get within a goal late still fresh on reporters minds. But interestingly enough, last night was just the second time the Ducks have lost when carrying a lead into the third period (8-0-2). "It's definitely not fatigue, if you've seen our practices," Ryan said. "It’s a mental thing. We’ve had meetings and talked about it. We’ve tried to go about it in different ways. Everybody just needs to realize that we can’t sit back. We have to go out and play the same way we did in the second."
Said J.S. Giguere, who played a mostly solid game again, "The whole key to our game is getting your legs going. A team that's down 1-0 in the third, you know is going to skate so you've got to match their intensity. We didn't do that. We just kind of let them come and they managed to score a couple of goals. We can't do that. We have to learn from that. But we need to accept the point and move on."
Ryan's goal that earned that point came off a redirect of a Nick Boynton shot from the point, but it's important to note that Corey Perry sent the puck back to Boynton and earned the second assist on the goal. That gave Perry points in 18 straight games, still tops in the NHL and a new franchise record (breaking Selanne's old mark from 1999).
So the Ducks have their modest three-game winning streak snapped and play the Kings tomorrow to wrap up a seven-game homestand in which they're a satisfying 4-1-1 so far (more on that game tomorrow).
Chris, a wide receiver, had two catches for 15 yards in the game. Ryan learned about the finish soon after getting back to the locker room following the Ducks' loss. "I'm not too happy about that right now," he said. "Later on today, I'll talk to him. Obviously, I feel for those guys, too."
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Calder apparently has no problems with his vision and is supposed to miss two to four weeks.
Pretty eerie, right?
Updated November 28 at 12:22 p.m.
Faithful readers of this space know it takes something pretty special to get me to fill it on the weekend. So when the Ducks knock off the league's hottest team on a Friday afternoon -- a seemingly certain sign they really are turning this thing around -- I'd say that definitely qualified as special.
There is no arguing that yesterday's 3-0 Ducks victory over a Blackhawks team that was riding an eight-game winning streak was the biggest victory of this season. After all, that Chicago fire recently included in-your-face victories against a couple of pretty good teams -- 7-1 over the Flames and, most recently, 7-2 over the Sharks ... in San Jose, no less. But it was the Ducks who looked like the better team yesterday (still training myself not to instinctively write last night), keeping that vaunted Chicago offense in check and scoring three timely power play goals.
Two of those came courtesy of Teemu Selanne and one came from a somewhat unlikely source in Nick Boynton, who said, "You get lucky once in awhile." And those three goals came against a Chicago penalty kill that ranks second in the NHL and scored three shorthanded goals ... in that San Jose game alone.
But while those Ducks PP goals were huge, it was the defense that really sparkled last night, which might be why Boynton, J.S. Giguere and Ryan Getzlaf were given the three stars last night. With a crowd of reporters around Selanne in the Ducks locker room, at one point Getzlaf leaned over and loudly asked Teemu how he felt about not getting one of those stars.
"That's okay," Selanne said with a smile. "Getzy's mom's in town."
Giguere was the brightest star on the afternoon for Anaheim, stopping all 28 Chicago shots for his first shutout in more than a year. And after all he's been through the past two seasons, how cool was it after the game when Giguere was being interviewed by Kent French for TV and he couldn't even finish his sentence because the crowd roar was too loud? Goosebumps, baby.
"This is the type of effort we need to beat those good teams," Giguere later said in the relative quiet of the locker room. "We always need a consistent effort like that. Hopefully, we are a better team now because of the losses we had."
There is little doubt about that after what the Ducks did yesterday, their fourth win in the last five (the one defeat coming after a very good effort against those Sharks). And there is something about those day-after-Thanksgiving afternoon games that agree with the Ducks. Yesterday's win made them 3-0-1 as hosts on Black Friday since the lockout and 6-1-3 all time. They've beaten Chicago four times out of five in those games.
And while Selanne's comment on Getzy getting his star earned a laugh, it was this quote that I liked best. "We were talking that this is going to be a good test for us," Selanne said. "They beat San Jose like the Sharks had no business in that game. So we said, 'You know what? We have been playing good now too so let's see how good we can be.'"
We saw the answer yesterday afternoon. And that's something we can all be thankful for.
Updated November 25 at 2:34 p.m.
The Ducks, having an up-and-down season after capturing the Stanley Cup a few seasons ago and having playoff success last year, have nothing on their opponent tonight.
The Carolina Hurricanes, 2006 Stanley Cup champions and a 2009 Eastern Conference finalist, come into Anaheim tonight in last place in the Eastern Conference at 5-13-5 and are still looking for a road win after dropping their first 11. They also had a 14-game losing streak going earlier this month before snapping it with a shootout win against Minnesota.
But just like the Ducks, the Hurricanes are hoping they're turning it around a bit as of late. Since that brutal streak, they've won three of their last four, an overtime loss in Montreal being they're only misstep. Meanwhile, they're expected to get back Eric Staal tonight from an "upper-body" injury, which O.C. Register columnist Mark Whicker cleverly wrote, narrows it down to anything between dandruff and congestive heart failure. (Dammit, I wish I had thought of that one first.)
“They’re a desperate team, just like we are,” J.S. Giguere said yesterday of the 'Canes. “They have been playing really well as of late. I’ve watched a couple of their games lately, and they play well. They’re shooting the puck well and they’re creating shots … At this point in time, we can’t take any team lightly.”
It's expected that Giguere will get the nod in goal tonight after a strong 41-save performance in beating Calgary here on Monday, since Randy Carlyle has employed a win-and-you're-in approach to his goalies. “It’s Randy’s decision at this point,” Giguere said. “I think he also told us that if we win then we’ll keep trying, but you never know.”
Giguere yesterday gave credit to goaltending consultant Pete Peeters, who has been working with the two Ducks goalies on coming out of the net more. You could see Giguere took that to heart Monday night, notably in stopping the three Flames shootout attempts. "Sometimes you forget when you're in a slump, and you need to be reminded," said Giguere.
Peeters was in pads during yesterday's practice at Anaheim Ice and stayed behind with Jonas Hiller well after the rest of the team left the ice. He said of his tips to both goalies, "Basically it's making sure that we're having the proper depth in the crease when we're facing a rush or an in-zone play. That we're far enough on top of the crease or are in the crease without taking ourselves out of a play, being able to put pressure on the play with good depth in the net."
Most Ducks fans don't know a whole lot about Peeters, but a good amount found out a lot more when he took part in a Q&A with Corey Perry last night at 949 Roller Hockey Center in Irvine (click here for the very well-written story). Peeters was extremely engaging in telling stories about his goaltending days, which included the Vezina Trophy in 1983 and a dumbfounding 35-game unbeaten streak during his first full season, with Philadelphia in 1979-80.
Back to yesterday's practice, which had its lighthearted moments. For part of the session, the Ducks played two-on-two hockey with the wrong ends of their sticks. "You can't always be doom and gloom when you come to work," Carlyle said. When you don't have the success that you feel you're capable of, then you're always trying to push for more. You're criticizing and analyzing, and all that stuff can be draining on you. When you have some success, you've got to lighten it up and feel good about yourself."
After the Ducks left the ice, there were still a few Selannes out there knocking the puck around -- Teemu's sons Eemil and Eetu. (At least I think it was those two. I can never tell which are which). One of them was in the locker room sitting in one of the stalls when he looked over and saw Corey Perry doing a TV interview. Perry was wearing a pair of undershorts that were dripping with a combination of sweat and water. With the camera still rolling, the kid yelled to Perry, "Are you peeing???"
Perry finished the interview and looked completely bewildered. "This is what happens when you work hard on the ice, bud," he told the kid.
Perry, by the way, isn't among the top 5 most effusive Ducks, but he too was excellent during that Q&A with Peeters. At one point he was asked by a young player how many fights he had been in and he said, "I've been in a couple. Probably 10 in my career." Host Brian Hayward came back with, "How many did you start?" and Perry quickly retorted, "That's not what he asked." He was asked about the tangle he got in the night before with Miikka Kirprusoff, who threw a punch at Perry down on the ice after Perry was pushed and bowled over him. "It wasn't my fault," Perry said with a smirk. "It never is."
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If you haven't watched the video yet, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Evgeny Artyukhin talked yesterday about their newly formed second line, which apparently came at Selanne's request to Carlyle. Selanne had some good comments about the speedy Artyukhin, including: "I have never seen that fast a guy in my life. He's 260 pounds and he's a machine.
"I call him Mr. Incredible because he doesn't even know how fast and strong he is. He's one of those guys that when he touches something and breaks it, he doesn't realize how strong he is."
The normally stoic Artyukhin laughed when he heard of Selanne's nickname. "I like it," he said. "The guys give me a lot of nicknames. Last year in Tampa, I got 'Animal.' I like this one better."
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Definitely worth a read.
Updated November 24 at 11:29 a.m.
They have these Life Expectancy Calculator websites now that try their best to determine just how long you'll live. They ask you to answer questions about your age, medical history, smoking and drinking frequency, etc. I imagine if they had the question, "Are you a fan of the 2009-10 Anaheim Ducks?" and you answered "Yes" it would automatically subtract one year off your life.
Thankfully, and mercifully, Teemu Selanne came through in the shootout with his patented skid-to-a-stop-and-shoot move and J.S. Giguere withstood all three Calgary attempts to seal the 3-2 victory. (Great photo to the right of the two shootout heroes, by the way, which also offers a look at Giguere's slightly changed mask.)
You could sense the joyous relief in Giguere in the way he threw his stick in the air to celebrate that win, not only because it made up for the heartbreak of that late goal, but because it was his first victory since last March 24. And he earned it, with 41 saves, many of them coming as he firmly held his ground when Calgary forwards pounded away at the puck from point blank. Two of them came on Curtis Glencross breakaways after Glencross converted one in the first period. I've never been a big three stars guy, but how good was it to see a Ducks goalie skating out to center ice after being named the No. 1 star of the game? It got even better when Giguere had to pause to answer an on-air question from Kent French because the roar from the crowd was way too loud.
“It’s been so long,” Giguere said. “ Feels good to win.”
clean up the rebound off a quick Perry shot.
The celebration of that goal was captured in one of those rare times when the caption is actually IN the photo (see right).
The assist for Perry gave him a very impressive 15 straight games with a point, most in the NHL this season and two short of Selanne's club record. Getzlaf's goal right afterward was set up by Ryan Whitney, who at Randy Carlyle's request appears to be shooting the puck a lot more. Whitney fired a slap shot that bounced in front off Miikka Kiprusoff and Getzlaf swept it in with the backhand.
And once again, the victory continued a trend of bewildering dominance for the Ducks at home against an always-good Calgary team. Last night's win was the 10th straight for Anaheim over the Flames at Honda Center. And thankfully the Ducks didn't succumb to the momentum Calgary might have built by that Iginla goal out of nowhere. “The bench was pretty quiet, to tell you the truth,” Carlyle said.
The same could have been said for most of the crowd in that building, but they got very loud again when Selanne flicked in that shootout goal and even louder when Glencross' shootout attempt smacked hard against the glass.
So let's take a little inventory of the Ducks on this homestand so far: victory over Tampa, tight loss to very-good San Jose and a well-played win over Calgary. And that win pulled the Ducks out of the Western Conference cellar. It's not a lot, but it's definitely a start for a Ducks team that is looking to turn things around, and can't afford many stumbles along the way.
"If it would have gone the other way around, it would have been a pretty big blow to our team," Giguere said last night. "But we found a way to stick with it and kept our head up high."
Ducks fans heads, which certainly had dropped on that Iginla goal, were ultimately held high as well. Their hearts? Well, maybe just a little bit worn out.
But in this case, it was well worth it.
Updated November 23 at 2:14 p.m.
You can't help but feel that, if not for the difference of a couple of inches, we'd have a whole different outlook on the Ducks' weekend.
It's the couple of inches between Todd Marchant scoring on that beautiful breakaway or ringing the post with his backhander (2:48 mark of this video), which would have given Anaheim a precious 3-2 lead over the Sharks in the third.
Or, a minute and a half later, it's the half-inch between Jonas Hiller getting his stick on the puck Joe Thornton shot from the wing and what actually happened -- it diving into the top corner of the net for the eventual game-winner.
You can agonize over those, but then again, when isn't hockey a game of inches? When isn't any sport?
Regardless, it was a tough loss to take for a Ducks team that played a pretty solid hockey game throughout, but just couldn't quite get it done against their bitter rivals. And the Ducks were pointing to their inability to clear the puck, just after Teemu Selanne escaped the box following a successful penalty kill, that led to the Thornton dagger.
“It came down to one turnover and one mistake,” said James Wisniewski, whose first goal of the season was a big one for Anaheim in the second. “And it could have just as easily happened to them as to us. I thought we played very well. If we keep doing that, we’re going to turn this thing around.”
You can't help but agree with him, because the Ducks did play a very strong hockey game against a San Jose team that doesn't do a whole lot of losing from October through early April. And Wisniewski was one of a handful of Ducks -- including Steve Eminger and Saku Koivu -- who came back to play that game after being uncertainties with various ailments.
Joffrey Lupul, who was out with back spasms, unfortunately will again be unable to go when the Ducks face the Flames here tonight. Calgary's 5-2 victory two night's ago in L.A. (on the strength of a Jarome Iginla hat trick) improved them to an impressive 7-1-2 on the road. Remarkably, they've lost nine in a row at Honda Center, the last coming in February on a Scott Niedermayer OT winner that was referenced in this space last Friday. It's a nice streak of home dominance over a Calgary team that is among the four in the Western Conference that have made the playoffs each of the past four seasons -- along with the Ducks, Detroit and San Jose.
Of course, those nine straight wins came from Ducks teams that were in a little better place than this team finds itself in right now. But Randy Carlyle said that he hopes that this window of seven straight every-other-day home games will help the team build a rhythm. “We’ve had stretches where you’d only play one game every three or four days,” Carlyle said. “And it really was difficult to drag yourself mentally because we were underachieving. And we just didn’t seem to be able to get our game together by practicing. For whatever reason. Now we’re in a stretch where we have to play well. We have to have success as a group.”
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George Parros had another good blog post on the L.A. Times website, which came a day after the Thursday win over Tampa Bay. Among the highlights:
We have so much talent on our team and we all knew we were underachieving. A popular phrase that we have around the locker room is, "Don't get too high with the highs and too low with the lows."
On MacGregor Sharp's NHL debut: Unfortunately for Sharpy, he lost the linemate lottery and played on my line, which tends to reduce a player's chances of recording a point. I think he will be around for a bit so we are going to work on that, though.
You've got to love hockey players. I'm not too sure Parros had a lot of contact with MacGregor Sharp prior to last week, but the kid's already got a nickname (of course, you wouldn't lose too much money betting it would be "Sharpy"). Something tells me yelling "MacGregor" at a guy out on the ice or across the locker room isn't really an option.
Updated November 20 at 2:51 p.m.
So much has changed with the Anaheim Ducks over the past few seasons, but there is one thing that has remained blissfully constant:
Overtime is Scotty's time.
There was some form of those words uttered in overtime last night at Honda Center, when a Ryan Malone cross-checking penalty just 11 seconds into the extra session set Anaheim up on a 4-on-3 advantage. Scott Niedermayer owns that situation, and he showed it again when he snapped a shot top shelf to give the Ducks a much-needed 4-3 victory over the Lightning. The goal added to Niedermayer's NHL career record for OT goals by a defenseman, giving him a remarkable 13 in his lifetime.
The goal came as the Ducks were seemingly just trying to get a feel for what the defense was giving them, as Ryan Getzlaf appeared poised to drop the puck to Niedermayer, but paused just a beat so he could take Tampa's Jeff Halpern with him. That gave Niedermayer just enough space to fire a quick shot from the high slot that got some help from a Corey Perry screen before darting into the top corner of the cage. In fact, the shot came qo quickly that on this video highlight, you can hear the (still-goateed) John Ahlers rush the words out: "Niedermayerscores!"
And Niedermayer was sure to acknowledge both those guys when he rehashed the goal in live TV. "Getz made a great play to bring the guy with him and it left me alone in the slot. Perrs made a great screen and I just had to get it where the goalie wasn't, and I was able to do it.”
The delight in that goal helped somewhat wipe away the dread of the Ducks giving up the three-goal lead they had nicely built over the first 27 (there's that number again) minutes. Teemu Selanne put the Ducks on the board on an easy one-timer off a great feed across the crease by Getzlaf. (Honestly, there's aren't too many guys in this game who see the man and get him the puck like Getzlaf.) Then 12 minutes later it was almost the exact same play with those two guys flip-flopped, as Selanne fed Getzlaf for the tally. In both instances, Perry started the play by sending the puck down low, assists that extended his points streak to 13 games, no less than best in the league this year.
And you can't say enough about the Bobby Ryan goal that made it 3-0, since he seemingly did it with one eye open (maybe a slight exaggeration). The high stick that gave the Ducks a four-minute power play happened to cut Ryan above the right eye. He got the cut looked at, hopped out onto the ice, fired a wrist shot from the left wing off the twine, then got right back to the pine to get the cut closed up.
But like a bolt of lightning (my apologies), Tampa Bay got back in it with two scores in a span of 18 seconds. That latter was a highlight-reeler, as Steven Stamkos (a healthy scratch here a year ago), was able to bat in his own rebound out of the air while spilling to the ice on his rear.
Tampa Bay ultimately knotted it up on a goal that, I honestly didn't realize until just now, was credited to Ryan Malone. For the last 17 hours, I thought the goal belonged to Martin St. Louis, who tagged a slap shot from the point, but apparently officials later ruled that Malone tipped it past Jonas Hiller in front.
Either way, it was a heartbreaker for the Ducks after building that lead, but they were able to stay strong and make sure that was the extent of the damage. That was despite the fact they were missing Steve Eminger (who didn't suit up with back spasms) and lost James Wisniewski in the first period after he was hit in the foot with a shot (more on Wisniewski's seemingly improving status on the site later today).
"We showed some resiliency," said Ryan, that cut above his eye still looking pretty ugly. "In the past, we would have let those three goals really go to our heart and that would have been a time of self-destruction for us."
Hiller was clearly relieved that the Ducks pulled that one out. "One shot," Hiller said, "can make the difference between feeling great and feeling terrible.”
Well said. I'm one Ducks fan who was feeling pretty terrible about going to overtime after feeling like this one was in the books. But that Niedermayer goal? Felt pretty great.
And back to Scotty's record for a second. Just in case you don't think the players pay attention to such things, today after practice, Todd Marchant overheard people talking about the goal and he said, "What is that, 13 for him now?" Of course, you may recall that Marchant had a close look at the two Niedermayer scored in a span of a month last year against Calgary and Vancouver (those two in 3-on-3 situations). Remember these eerily similar celebration shots from those two games?
vs. Calgary on Feb. 11
vs. Vancouver on March 11
Those two were Nos. 11 and 12 in Niedermayer's Hall-of-Fame career, and the 13th couldn't have come at a better time for the Ducks, who desperately needed these two points to start this critical seven-game homestand.
“It wasn’t always pretty but that’s what we need right now,” Hiller said. ”Just win somehow. Nobody’s asking how we won tomorrow. You take those two points and just keeping building our confidence.”
The Ducks face a tough test tomorrow night against San Jose, a game for which a large group of Sharks fans are making a bus trip down from the Bay Area for the game (and apparently planning some dastardly deeds). If you happen to run into any of these teal-clad people at Honda Center tomorrow night, show them what good fans we have here, while also remaining cordial and classy. Just politely remind them what happened here last spring. They may have forgotten.
Updated November 19 at 3:14 p.m.
Hard to believe it, but it's been 12 days since the Ducks last played at Honda Center, but not so hard to fathom when you consider how much has changed in that window of time. When the Ducks flew out of Anaheim, they did so with the lift of two straight home wins and a clear sign that things were turning around after a tough first month.
Almost two weeks later, they bring home just one standings point on a road trip that saw them go 0-3-1 against four likely playoff teams, and are now hoping the upcoming seven-game homestand can turn things around.
"We have seven games at home coming up and these are going to be huge for our team," said J.S. Giguere during a lengthy chat with reporters yesterday. "We need to make a stand here. We can reset ourselves back. If we can put some wins together here, then we’ll be able to put ourselves in the position that we can fight for a playoff spot."
But Giguere clarified that the Ducks can't look past the first step in this stretch. "Just one game, it takes one game," he said. "We’re not that far off. One game, one win and then your whole perspective can change and you move forward with confidence. Our focus should really be on trying to get that win [tonight]. It’s a big game for us."
A big one, indeed, and it comes against at Tampa Bay team that is fairing pretty well of late. The Lightning have earned points in each of their last six games, including a 4-1 win Monday in Phoenix in which Mike Smith had 30 saves. Smith figures to be in net again tonight for the Lightning, though no word on who will get the start for the Ducks.
Steven Stamkos has come a heck of a long way for the Lightning. Last year, you might recall that the highly touted 2008 top draft pick got his first healthy scratch of the season against the Ducks in a January game here, after a rocky start to his rookie season. That's not likely to happen again tonight, as he's now leading the team with 13 goals and 21 points.
The Ducks have had to do some shuffling with the injuries to Saku Koivu and Ryan Carter, which includes the recall of MacGregor Sharp, which sounds like a great name for a wealthy character in my next screenplay. Sharp should be in the lineup tonight, especially since the Ducks sent center Erik Christensen to Manitoba of the AHL for condtioning purposes.
While the top line figures to remain intact, the Ducks have been skating in practice with a second line of Evgeny Artyukhin (playing his former team tonight), Petteri Nokelainen and Teemu Selanne. Kyle Calder, another new Duck, has been paired with Todd Marchant and Joffrey Lupul.
We'll see what the Ducks come out with tonight, but either way, this team needs a heck of a homestand. And Chapter 1 comes tonight.
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Now, here's where you come in. So far the Ducks are leading this thing with 53 points (though it's still early), and while they jumped out to a large lead early, votes are slowing down and more people are becoming aware of the site since it was linked to on NHL.com. So, Ducks fans, pay a visit to the site and blow this thing up for the Ducks. Or at least visit the site to read a couple of great "guest blogs" describing why it's so great to be an Anaheim Ducks fan. Especially with the team having a bumpy road so far this season, it's a nice reminder of just how fun it is to love this team.
Updated November 19 at 9:43 a.m.
Marcia Smith of the O.C. Register has a fantastic story in today's edition on the Ducks' reputation for giving back to the community. Among her gracious remarks:
Their efforts, many of which happen when the cameras are off and the media aren't around, should give us pause the next time we think that professional athletes don't share themselves, their time or their money.
The Ducks care. They aren't too good to be true.And ...
This might sound too syrupy for the jaded sports fan who believes that pros are merely selfish millionaires who live in gated fortresses, drive black-windowed luxury cars and do good deeds for the photo op and the public-relations boost.
The Ducks aren't those guys. Nobody has to tell the Ducks to show their hearts. Kindness isn't required in their NHL contracts.
They happily volunteer for these events – as a team.
Updated November 18 at 4:44 p.m.
No blog today since I wrote something on J.S. Giguere's take on the state of the Ducks, but I had to share this priceless video I just discovered this afternoon.
The jump-into-the-glass move popularized by Alex Ovechkin and occasionally duplicated by our own Bobby Ryan is one of the cooler goal celebrations in hockey, but this is what happens when it goes horribly wrong. (My sincere apologies for the musical accompaniment of this thing, truly one of the more annoying songs in pop music history.)
The player's name is Henrik Andersen, an 18-year old winger who was celebrating his first goal of the year for Leksand of the Swedish Tier 2 league. Thankfully, he was not hurt. Well, not physically at least.
Updated November 17 at 2:58 p.m.
Your first indication that the Anaheim Ducks aren't too pleased with themselves right now was the scheduling of a noon practice today at Honda Center. Typically when a team arrives back in town around 1:30 a.m. coming off a four-game jaunt through the East Coast, a day off is in order. But the results of that trip, concluding with that 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh last night, a practice day was in order. The Ducks had a day off Sunday in which Randy Carlyle had one-on-one meetings with every player, but the Ducks ended up doing a lot of the things that have plagued them during this stretch in losing to the Penguins the next evening.
Carlyle said he chose to skate the team today, "for two reasons, one we didn’t skate Sunday. We had one-on-one meetings on Sunday and then played. I felt with our schedule that is coming, we’re going to play every second day pretty well here as we go, that we should try to get on the ice as much as possible to try to improve our overall execution level. That first and foremost was missing from last night. It wasn’t where it needs to be in the last three-four games and that has been frustrating for everybody."
Carlyle said the one thing he hasn't had a problem with is the team's work ethic. "The effort is fine," he said. "I don’t think that this group has ever cheated us on effort. At times, it’s a mental focus of, Am I going in the right direction or wondering where I’m going. Those are confusing at times."
The glaring problem for the Ducks in last night's loss was turning over the puck, and it ultimately led to an early deficit from which they couldn't recover. That, according to Scott Niedermayer today, is a concern, but fixable. "The biggest thing is you look at the giveaways," he said. "Those should be pretty easy to correct. There are good players in this league that are going to make plays. Things are going to happen even when you’re doing your job, but to give them opportunities is tough. That is the easiest thing to correct."
Leave it to Todd Marchant to put the most cerebral spin on the state of the Ducks. Here were his comments before the team headed back to Cali last night:
“Hey, we’re not the only team that’s been through a situation like this. And I’m sure that everybody in this dressing room at some time in their career, at whatever level it’s been, has been in a situation like this. I’ve been on teams like this before. It’s never easy. It almost seems like there’s never any light at the end of the tunnel. But there is. You look at the schedule. We’re 19 games in. There is time. There’s time to turn this around. We have the people, we have the personnel, we have the talent. We’ve got the work ethic. We’ve got the character in this room to do it. It’s just a question of everyone doing it.
"We’re taking two steps backward but we haven’t been able to get that one step, two steps, three steps forward and kind of move in the right direction. We’ve got to start with one step. Start with a solid game Thursday night and move forward.”
That Thursday night game (against Tampa Bay) is the first of seven straight at home, three against division rivals. Here's hoping the Ducks can find a way to turn that first step into a nice little sprint.
Updated November 16 at 1:48 p.m.
It's pretty dangerous to bandy about the term "must-win" in the middle of November, but tonight's bout with the Pittsburgh Penguins looms pretty large for the Anaheim Ducks right about now.
Following weekend games in Columbus and Detroit in which the Ducks could only salvage one standings point (shootout loss against the Jackets), the Ducks would love to have this one in Pittsburgh to seal off this demanding four-game trip. A win tonight would give the Ducks just a little more confidence coming back to Orange County, where Thursday they kick off a mammoth seven-game home stretch that Anaheim badly needs to take advantage of to get on track as we reach the quarter poll of this season.
Another reason the Ducks need to take this one tonight? They're catching the defending champs at time when they are badly banged up, with defenseman Alex Goligoski recently joining the list of injured defensemen that already includes Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik. Only two d-men -- Jay McKee and Mark Eaton -- from the opening night roster are in the lineup tonight.
Meanwhile, Chris Kunitz becomes the third former Duck on this trip to be unable to face his former team, as he's out a couple of weeks for a lower body injury. He's among a group of wounded forwards that includes Tyler Kennedy and Max Talbot.
No word yet on whether the Ducks will have Saku Koivu (strained groin) or Ryan Carter (bruised foot) back tonight, though Carter's return appears more likely since Carlyle commented after the Detroit loss that he thought Carter might have played that night.
For Pittsburgh, Evgeni Malkin is one previously injured forward (he missed the Pens' 4-3 win in Anaheim two weeks ago) who is back. But even his return hasn't helped Pittsburgh snap an unenviable string of 28 straight power plays without scoring. The Ducks, who have had some PP trouble of their own this season, had two power play goals in that wild third period Saturday in Detroit. The Ducks tied that game up three times in the third period, only to allow the Wings to bounce back each time. They got themselves into a trading-chances situation with a Detroit team you just can't do that against, and the Wings prevailed in a wild and wooly period that saw eight combined goals.
It will be interesting to see if the Ducks stay with Jonas Hiller in net tonight or go with J.S. Giguere, who looked solid in regulation Friday at Columbus, only to fall in the shootout.
Either way, the Ducks badly need this one tonight and start finding ways to turn things around. “It’s really hard,” Ryan Getzlaf said. “Especially in this league (where) there’s so many good teams. We’re playing a lot of them right now. I think that’s kind of the mindset we need to change. We need to find ways to win instead of finding ways to lose."
Meanwhile, the latest edition of George Parros' blog on the L.A. Times site is slightly outdated since it came at the start of the Ducks' trip, but he offers some insight about how much he loves the road:
There are not too many crammed bus trips anymore, especially for us West Coast teams. Now we have the luxury of a private plane, where Getzy, Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry and I have a regular euchre game. It’s a far cry from eating Domino's pizza every night and sleeping on the shoulder of the guy next to you, or underneath the seats on a sticky, soda-covered bus floor.
Perry and I are teammates and so far this trip, we are up a few games on the Finnish Flash and his partner. Sometimes the guys sitting at the card table next to us will join in for a big game of Schnarples, but mostly they just sleep, listen to music or watch movies like everyone else on the plane.
Am I the only one who has never heard of those two card games? Just another way George Parros is smarter than I am.
Updated November 13 at 1:24 p.m.
We're just a couple hours away from Ducks-Blue Jackets, two teams with a little something in common -- they're both not happy with themselves right now.
Anaheim's momentum from two straight home wins was halted Wednesday night with a disappointing 3-1 loss at New Jersey in which the Ducks went 0 for 6 on the power play. Columbus, meanwhile, endured a rough 9-1 defeat at home to Detroit that same night, a game that Randy Carlyle predicts will have them "looking for revenge."
Last year's Calder Trophy winner, goalie Steve Mason, gave up a jaw-dropping eight goals to the Wings that night, and Dan Wood reports from Columbus that backup Mathieu Garon (a former King) will get the nod tonight, according to coach Ken Hitchcock.
The Ducks have their own goalie shuffling to consider, as J.S. Giguere is available if needed, in the first of a back-to-back. (The Ducks play in Detroit tomorrow night.) Giguere, of course, hasn't played since the Ducks last faced the Jackets, a 6-4 loss on October 24 at Honda Center in which Giguere left in the third after re-aggravating that groin strain.
“He’s healthy and he’s had some good days of practice,” said Carlyle of Giguere. “So we’ll just have to wait and see when we feel the time is right and we’ll put him in the net.”
Giguere expressed that he was ready to go when he talked to reporters this morning. “I’ve gotten better over the last week,” he said. “There’s not much more I can do off the ice at this point. I need to go in there and I’m very confident it’s going to be good.”
Carlyle put it simply when asked what his expectations were of Giguere. "Stop the puck,” he said. “That’s all it is. I don’t care if you stop 10 or you stop 200. Bottom line is stop the puck. Give us a chance. And that’s what we ask of our goaltenders.”
Whether Giguere is in net or not remains a game-time decision, as is the status of banged-up centers Saku Koivu and Ryan Carter. Koivu missed the New Jersey game on Wednesday because of a strained groin, while Carter hurt his foot again (this time the right) after taking a shot off it yesterday.
The Jackets have some injury troubles of their own. Samuel Pahlsson is out with an elbow injury, another former Duck too injured to face his old mates (Rob Niedermayer was out Wednesday night). Left winger Raffi Torres, second on the team behind Rick Nash in goals, was hit in the mouth with a puck in that bad loss Wednesday night. He lost some teeth and, according to the Columbus Dispatch, "damaged the area of the mouth that connects the teeth with the upper jaw bone."
Yeesh. That sounds slightly uncomfortable.
By the way, speaking of former Ducks, Drew Miller was placed on waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this week and got picked up by the Red Wings. He debuted last night and played on a line with another former Duck, Brad May. Miller is expected to be in the lineup for Ducks-Wings tomorrow night.
But that's tomorrow. Tonight looms large for a Ducks team that needs a good road trip right now, one that started off on a bad note with that loss in NJ. How do they respond? How do the Jackets respond? Can't wait to leave here early and find out.
Updated November 12 at 4:54 p.m.
Today's live chat was a lot of fun, and definitely went beyond my expectations. So thank you to everyone who took part. If you're interested in a transcript, here it is.
Updated November 12 at 11:58 a.m.
Ducks Blog went dark yesterday because I got stuck with a last-minute invitation to play with three fellow Ducks staffers in an Angels Foundation Golf Tournament at Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Coast. Soon after we arrived at the tournament, we were informed that our fifth in the group would be none other than former Angels second baseman Bobby Grich. It doesn't get any more surreal than that, considering I still remember being a 13-year-old boy watching Grich win Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS against the Red Sox with a single. Now I was playing golf with him.
But the coolness of an impending round of golf with an Angels legend soon turned to edginess for the three Ducks guys and I when we realized that Grich (close to a scratch golfer) was interested in actually winning the event. Usually when we play in these tournaments, we're more concerned with where our next beer is coming from, not our next birdie. Lucky for us, our group found a way to get hot in the scramble format (take the best shot of the five until you hole out) and we managed to birdie the first 12 holes in a row. Just to put that in perspective, this wasn't like USA over USSR in the 1980 Olympics. This was more like Team USA's sisters beating the Russians winning that game. Granted, there were a couple of experienced players in that group (myself included), but the gap between our worst shot on each hole and our best one was gargantuan. The fact that we finished at 15-under-par and only lost out on first place in a tiebreaker was nothing short of miraculous.
One of the highlights came after one of our guys stuck an approach shot to within six feet, causing the affable Grich to raise both fists in the air -- just like he did after that game-winning hit in '86. Of course, he didn't intentionally re-create it, but I managed to flash back to that moment of being a 13-year-old watching that pose from the cheap seats in left field. It doesn't get any cooler than that.
And it was at the reception following the tournament -- in a room full of Angels alums like Rod Carew, Jim Abbott, Chuck Finley and Dave Winfield -- that I was able to catch a tough 3-1 Ducks loss in New Jersey. The Ducks were given ample opportunity to nab a win from a very good Devils team, but came up empty on six power play opportunities. “We just didn’t adjust well to what they were doing with their penalty kill,” said Scott Niedermayer, playing against his former team for just the second time back in New Jersey since joining the Ducks. “They dictated it and we forced plays. That doesn’t work. We needed one on the power play for sure.”
Meanwhile, the Ducks were punched in the gut by a huge shorthanded insurance goal by Zach Parise with just 12.7 left in the second, with the Ducks just moments away from going into the third trailing by just a goal. Parise was able to get behind the Anaheim defense and forced in the goal after an initial save by Jonas Hiller.
Anaheim's only dent in Martin Brodeur's armor came from -- who else? -- Corey Perry, who was able to easily punch in a rebound off a Bobby Ryan shot.
It was the sixth straight win for the Devils, despite the fact that they're pretty banged up right now, with Brian Rolston (undisclosed ailment), Johnny Oduya (lower body), Paul Martin (broken forearm), Jay Pandolfo (shoulder) and Dean McAmmond (undisclosed illness) missing the game. Also, an upper-body injury to Rob Niedermayer kept him from being able to face his former mates.
The Ducks were also surprisingly without a big piece, as Saku Koivu missed his first game of the season after suffering a lower-body injury during the morning skate. He was replaced in the lineup by Erik Christensen. “He tried to go,” Carlyle said of Koivu, who tried to go in the warm-up, but couldn't do it. “He had a tweak here this morning which surprised me. I thought he was fine. Come game time, he couldn’t go.”
Koivu said "I hope so" when asked if the injury was minor. We'll hope to have more on that later today.
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Of the comment that appeared in yesterday's paper and quickly spread to other outlets, Giguere said, “It didn’t come out exactly the way I wanted. I just wanted to say that I’m not done. I still want to play. I still want to battle and have fun.
“Let’s be clear on one thing. I’m not about to retire. I was being a little sarcastic about that. But I’m not going to just sit on the bench and collect my money. I want to play. Hopefully, I’ll figure out a way to make it happen.”
Updated November 10 at 4:10 p.m.
In lieu of a blog post today, I've written this feature on the upcoming Ducks road trip, which also includes video comments from Randy Carlyle and players. (More on the road trip coming up on the home page later),
I also want to announce that we're looking into doing player/coach live chats on the website using a provider called Cover It Live. Just to try it out, I'm going to do a live chat with readers/Ducks fans on Thursday at 2 p.m. Pacific. So if you'd like to take part and ask me questions about the Ducks or other topics, you can do so right here. For now, you can use that page to set yourself up with an email reminder of the event. And if you happen to miss the chat, you can return to that page to take a look at a transcript.
I'll remind people again over the next two days. Hope to see a few of you on Thursday.
Updated November 9 at 12:52 p.m.
It's a doozy of a road trip the Ducks face over the next week, but at least they're doing it with some momentum on their side. Anaheim's 4-3 victory Saturday night over a good Coyotes team -- a game that ended up precariously closer than it originally looked -- was a good sign for a team that looks like it might be on the road to recovery.
But that road is now faced with four straight pretty formidably obstacles in New Jersey, Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh over a six-game stretch. But before we look ahead, let's look back, to that victory Saturday night that marked just the second time the Ducks have won two in a row in this young season.
The Ducks looked like world-beaters in stockpiling four straight goals to jump out to a seemingly comfortable lead early in the third period. The first three came from guys you expect -- Selanne, Perry, Ryan -- but the fourth was just the second of the year from banger Mike Brown. And it was even more ironic that it became the game-winner.
That's because in the middle of the third period, as Randy Carlyle said, "we went out and gave them life. It was almost like we stood around and watched them skate." Indeed, the Ducks didn't forecheck like they did so effectively in the first two periods, and this Coyotes team is too strong not to take advantage. Just as we were asking around to see when the Ducks' last back-to-back regular season shutouts were, a Ryan Getzlaf turnover in his own end led directly to a Keith Yandle goal, and Scottie Upshall backhanded home a beauty just 38 seconds later. (Interestingly enough, the last back-to-back shutouts for the Ducks came in the 2006 playoffs by the guy at the other end of the rink Saturday night, Ilya Bryzgalov.)
Shane Doan's power play rebound came with 5:24 left, and all of a sudden we had a hockey game. Thankfully, the Ducks buckled down over the closing stretch and hung on to that much-needed victory. And while the defense and goaltending over those tense closing moments came through, let's not forget about the offense that built that lead against a goalie who hasn't given up much this season.
Ilya Bryzgalov entered Saturday night having given up and average of fewer than two goals a game, and he was very tough exactly a week earlier in the 3-2 shootout loss in the desert. But the Ducks were able to beat him on a few beauties in this one, starting early when Teemu Selanne redirected a Scott Niedermayer pass on the power play 2:49 into the game. (Always special when that combination hooks up.) And Niedermayer had another pretty pass to set Bobby Ryan up down the right wing, where Ryan's snap shot couldn't have been more perfect, just eluding Bryzalov before tinging off the inside of the far post. (Got to love Brian Hayward's "Oh MY!" reaction to that shot.)
Another great pass, this one from Getzlaf, set up Corey Perry for what seems like his 43rd goal in the last couple of weeks, as he controlled the puck and lifted it top shelf in a hurry. And then there was Brown, who surprised everyone (notably a mostly motionless Bryz) by whipping the puck on net right off a Todd Marchant faceoff win.
Brown, who has quickly become one of those Sammy Pahlsson-type, relatively unsung fan favorites, has two goals this season, both of them game-winners. He was asked if he remembers the last time that happened this early in the season and he joked, "I can’t remember the last time I had two goals.” (He actually had two for the Ducks last year, and guess what? They were both game-winners.)
The Ducks took yesterday off, holding their team Halloween party last night, and today they have a late practice at 3:30 p.m. They won't fly out of here until tomorrow morning, when they start this upcoming test at New Jersey on Wednesday night. It's a trip Carlyle has admitted, "isn't a picnic we're going on." But James Wisniewski, who loomed large Saturday night in his first game back off suspension, says it's coming at a good time.
"It's a tough road trip, four games in six days," Wiz said. "I think that might be a good thing for us because of how well we’re playing …To go on the road and pump out four games and see what we can do.”
Updated November 6 at 1:48 p.m.
The 4-0 win last night over the Predators was satisfying enough, but even more encouraging was how the Ducks pulled it off. So many things that haven't quite been clicking this year ... clicked. Just like we all hoped they would before the season started.
By his own admission, Jonas Hiller hasn't found the consistency that made him a playoff hero last spring. But last night he was flawless, pitching his first shutout of the season while stopping 40 Nashville shots.
That highly anticipated chemistry between Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, which Selanne said, "has been so close to start clicking and it hasn’t really [clicked] the way we wanted it to,” was in fine fashion last night. Both of Selanne's goals were assisted by Koivu, including this beauty eight minutes into the third that paved the way for Anaheim to break the game open. After spotting Selanne out of the corner of his eye, Koivu made a sick backhand pass to the charging countrymate, and Selanne did the rest. And after it went through, you could almost see the elation on Selanne's face that the two connected on such a pretty goal.
But wait, there was more long-time-coming moments in that game. Todd Marchant, who had probably the biggest Ducks goal in last year's playoffs -- the Game 2 overtime winner in Detroit -- finally got his first of the season less than two minutes after Selanne's. And it was a Todd Marchant-type goal, as he set it up with a monster hit on David Legwand, which gave Marchant room to plant himself in front of the goal and take a pass from Petteri Nokelainen.
Today Marchant said about the long-awaited breakthrough, "It's like the anvil's off my back there. There’s just something that doesn’t get old about scoring a goal. I don’t score a lot of them, but when I do, it’s a great feeling.”
Bobby Ryan happens to score a lot, and his fifth of the season turned it into a rout, but the score people saw on the Sportscenter ticker hardly exemplified how tight that game was for the first 48 minutes. Selanne's goal in the first was the extent of the scoring in the first two periods, and the Ducks handed Nashville four power plays in the second (the last of which was mostly served in the third). But the Ducks defense, and especially Hiller, ensured there was no damage done.
So, a very nice win for the Ducks, and remarkably it made them 13-0-3 in their last 16 against the Preds at home. The Ducks can only hope this one provides a similar spark to another victory over the Preds late last season. Anaheim went into that March 18 game at Honda Center in a rut and a long way from a playoff spot. A 4-3 win in overtime launched them on a 10-3-1 run to end the regular season.
Last night the "Ducks" got another big victory (though far less meaningful) on the Honda Center ice after the Nashville game. A team of Ducks employees (the Double-Minor Ducks) beat a team of Broadcom employees (the Broadcom Bullies, which actually had a female goaltender), 11-6. I stood behind the bench for the third period of that game, and since I was still wearing my game night suit, some in the crowd may have thought I was a coach. But I'm sure that allusion quickly went out the door when I started texting in the middle of the game.
George Parros writes about his summer wedding and his mustache in the latest edition of his blog on the L.A. Times website. A few highlights:
- My wife and I made sure to put our own stamp on the weekend event. I decided to have a barbershop quartet perform before the ceremony. I have always loved that stuff -- maybe it’s from watching too much “Family Guy.”
- The funny part about the whole thing was that I got to spend my honeymoon at Anaheim ICE for training camp. I am going to assume that it ranks as one of the worst honeymoons all time!
- I have said before that I believe the mustache is the physical embodiment of all that is manly.
Parros mentions that backup goalie Justin Pogge is growing a mustache for a good cause right now. I got a look at it today after practice. It's a perfect example of the mustache not necessarily being a good look on everybody.
Updated November 5 at 2:43 p.m.
The Nashville Predators aren't quite the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Ducks still have their work cut out for them tonight as they hope their continued improvement translates into some Ws.
Nashville comes into town with a 6-6-1 record that has them 12th in the Western Conference, but they're hot as of late thanks in great part to their goaltender. Pekka Rinne may sound like something that goes great with a fine marinara sauce, but he's the second-year Nashville netminder who is virtually carrying the Preds right now. He's undefeated in his last three, with a gaudy 0.76 goals-against average and .968 save percentage. He'll likely be between the red pipes tonight as the Preds embark on a swing through California.
The Preds are also seeing the return of previously injured forwards Jason Arnott and Jordin Tootoo (who hasn't played yet this season) tonight, but they are missing their best defenseman in Shea Weber. The former All-Star suffered a foot injury while blocking a shot last Saturday against Dallas (Nashville's last game) and is supposed to miss 1-2 weeks. Fellow team leading scorer J.P. Dumont is also out after suffering an "upper-body" injury in practice on Tuesday.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are missing James Wisniewski as he serves the second game in his two-game suspension, and J.S. Giguere continues to be out with that groin strain. The Ducks could certainly use a big night out of Jonas Hiller, who admits that he's "trying to find consistency right now. I’m working on that. Hopefully I can pretty much go out there every night and play on the same level.”
Said Randy Carlyle of Hiller, "He’s given us a chance in some games and I think there’s some goals that he would like to say that he’s played poorly or would have liked to have them back in some situations. I think he’s in between on some of them."
Let's hope for tonight that history means a darn thing, because the Ducks have scored at least a point in 19 of 20 all-time home games against Nashville, going a whopping 16-1-3. They are also 12-0-3 in their last 15 at home against the Preds.
- Do you have any kids that bother you too much since you're a blogger?
Kids? No. Adults? Sometimes.
- This is my happiest day of my life.
- Thanks for signing our books and for coming to our class. I hope you don't get fired.
Yeah, me too.
- Thank you for teaching us when you get in trouble you go to the penalty box.
True, but sometimes it's a bad call.
- Has Jiggy or Todd ever got in the penalty box?
Well, not Jiggy.
- Thank you for wasting your time to come to our classroom.
Did I say "wasting"?
- Does it feel fun to be the Ducks blob?
I know I've put on a couple of pounds, but that was kind of harsh.
That's right, the Karate Kid is 48 years old.
I'm not kidding.
Updated November 4 at 3:14 p.m.
The Anaheim Ducks are struggling to find their way, while the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins are unquestionably the best team in the league's first month. But you could hardly sense a difference between the team's on the ice last night at Honda Center.
The constantly improving Ducks went toe-to-toe with a Pittsburgh team that still has yet to lose a road game this year, but the Ducks were ultimately done in by a couple of quick Pens goals and -- let's face it -- some lucky breaks for the Penguins as Anaheim tried desperately to tie it late.
On at least two occasions with the Ducks looking to tie it in the last five minutes, the Penguins escaped from what look to be certain Ducks goals. The first came when Saku Koivu (who already had a big goal in the period) had a wide open net as the puck slid to him following a Teemu Selanne shot attempt. But Koivu's one-timer wasn't high enough and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had to be as surprised as anyone when he found the puck in his glove.
And about a minute and a half later, with Fleury drawn way out of position by a scramble in front of him, Scott Niedermayer looked to have a guaranteed goal until "one of their players made a sliding save on me."
One of their players? Niedermayer is so focused out there, I actually believe he didn't know who it was, but it was Sidney Crosby who alertly slid on his side in front of the empty net and blocked Niedermayer's shot. On a night when Crosby was effectively kept off the scoresheet and held to two shots by the Ducks defense, he still managed to be the hero of the game.
But it was his teammates on this incredibly deep Pens team (Jordan Staal a third-line center? Really?) that did the scoring last night, none more damaging than during that flurry in the third where the two teams combined for three goals in 1:18. Sandwiched in between the two Penguins goals was the second of the year from Koivu to briefly tie the game. Both of the Penguins daggers -- by Alex Goligoski and Pascal Dupuis -- came on slap shots from the point of which Jonas HIller said, "I have to do a better job finding the puck on those goals."
The Ducks did so much right, it was gut-wrenching to walk away from that game without a standings point. Even without the suspended James Wisniewski, they managed to thwart all six Penguins power-play chances. A Ducks team that has rarely outshot an opponent this year maintained a 29-27 advantage over the Pens. And Corey Perry ... ah yes, Corey Perry ... was brilliant once again, opening the scoring early in the first and potting a big one near the end of the second to make it 2-2 going into the third.
The Blonde Bomber could hardly be hotter right now, with six goals in the last four games, and putting on a performance last night that had Crosby pumping his tires and labeling him a potential Olympic teammate.
Unfortunately, Perry's heroics weren't enough, and while it was another sign the Ducks may be on the rise, Captain Niedermayer bluntly said that was the furthest thing from his mind.
"I'm done thinking about that, really," he said. "We need to try and win some games. We should have won tonight."
When I was growing up in Orange County, and attending a high school that actually had a surf team, I could have never imagined that there would ever be high school ice hockey around here. But with the support of the Ducks, JSerra High in San Juan Capistrano debuted its ice hockey program last fall, playing mostly club teams. Last September 26, they played another high school for the first time, facing off with Santa Margarita. The game also matched some former Ducks, as JSerra is coached by Dave Karpa (1995-98) and assisted by Guy Hebert (1993-2001), while Santa Margarita's head coach is Craig Johnson (2003-04).
The always-good Jeff Miller of the O.C. Register details that "trailblazing" game between the two teams in this story that ran today.
Updated November 3 at 1:48 p.m.
That 7-2 win last Friday over Vancouver was phenomenal and the defensive effort in the 3-2 shootout loss to Phoenix the next night was encouraging, but the Ducks will truly know where they are when they take on the defending champs here tonight.
It's not just that the Pittsburgh Penguins happen to be the guys most recently etched into the Stanley Cup, but they also just happen to be the hottest team in hockey in the season's first month They're on top of the Eastern Conference with an 11-3-0 record and haven't lost on the road in six tries.
But it's a Penguins team we haven't seen around these parts too often. In the last three years, Miley Cyrus has been at Honda Center twice. The Penguins? Zero. The last time they were here was a 3-2 overtime victory for the Ducks almost three years ago today (November 6), while the Ducks were in the middle of the best start in NHL history at the time.
Not only do the Penguins not get out to California that often, they haven't fared well when they've been here. In the last 10 years, they are a shocking 1-13 at the Ducks, Kings and Sharks. Of course, many of those games involved some not-very-good Penguins teams, which is a far cry from the group they're trotting out now. And they're doing it so far this year without Maxime Talbot, a huge force in the postseason who hasn't played a game yet while nursing a repaired shoulder, and Sergei Gonchar, who has a broken left wrist. Last year's Conn Smythe winner Evgeni Malkin has missed the last two games with a bad shoulder and won't be in there tonight.
So the Penguins would have some excuse to be trudging through the so-called Stanley Cup hangover, but they've refused. (Meanwhile, the team they vanquished in Game 7 of the Final, the Detroit Red Wings, are a middling 5-4-3 right now.)
"I feel like we've been pushing harder as players than we were last year. There isn't a sign of complacency," said Pens coach Dan Bylsma, the former Mighty Duck who returns to Anaheim for the first time since taking over as head coach last February. "If anything, it's there needs to be maybe a little bit of relaxing about how hard we push this early on."
(I think a good time to relax would be on a Tuesday night in Anaheim, at the start of a four-game road swing, but maybe that's just me.)
It's not just a matchup between two of the last three champions that makes this one intriguing. It's Bylsma against his old team. It's Ryan Whitney and Chris Kunitz (guys who were traded for each other last February) against their old mates. It's Ryan Getzlaf against Sidney Crosby, likely Olympic teammates and two of the biggest names in the game. It's Crosby against Bobby Ryan, the top two picks in the 2005 draft.
With all that in mind, and the fact that it's the defending champs in town, Getzlaf was asked yesterday if the team gets a little more pumped up for this game. “We’re at a point in our year where we need to get excited every night,” he said. “These last two games we’ve taken a lot of steps forward with the way we want to play. We’ll continue that (tonight).”
Erik Christensen, placed on waivers yesterday morning, officially cleared this morning. He remains on the active roster for now, and whether or not he'll be reassigned to the AHL has yet to be determined.
Christensen talked to reporters yesterday about being waived and said, "It’s disheartening. I’ve had a tough couple of years trying to find my game.”
The winger has been struggling the past two years with shoulder problems, and a June surgery caused him to miss most of this preseason. But on a team deep at the center position, and in a style he wasn't used to, Christensen has struggled to find a fit in Anaheim so far. “Coming here, Randy stressed a certain style,” Christensen said. “I came in here trying to show that I was healthy and trying to show that I could be more physical - what he likes to call stopping progression. That’s the sort of thing that doesn’t come naturally, so I have to kind of step out of my comfort zone and start finishing people off.”
About the possibility of spending some time in the minors, he said, “Maybe it’s a good thing to take a step back and re-evaluate my career. I have to find a way to get some goals, to get that feeling of being a goal scorer again. I haven’t had that feeling in a long, long time.”
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Updated November 2 at 1:34 p.m.
There are those who think the term "moral victory" is just another word for "loss," but there was a lot to like while the Ducks got edged in a shootout on Saturday against the Coyotes. Despite leaving Jobing.com Arena with just a point, the Ducks put together one of their better efforts of the year, a positive considering it came on the second night of a back-to-back. And Randy Carlyle even made the case that the team's output was better than it had been the night before in a 7-2 rout of Vancouver at home.
“We played better tonight than we did last night from a coaching standpoint,” Carlyle said. “We did more of the little things that we need to do more consistently. You could tell that our confidence level was much higher than it has been.”
And as someone mentioned to me earlier this morning, "these aren't your grandfather's Phoenix Coyotes." It's a much stronger team than the one Anaheim has won 20 of 30 against since the lockout, and it's been one of the early surprises in the NHL considering all the organization has been through with the sale of the team. Head coach Dave Tippett (formerly of Dallas) has transformed the Yotes into a defensive stalwart so far, as they won a franchise record nine games in October and rank first in the league in goals against (a jaw-dropping 1.92 per game).
The Ducks, meanwhile, pretty much matched Phoenix's defense on Saturday night, and for the first time in a long time, earned significantly more power play opportunities than the opposition (7 to 2). But the Ducks couldn't get a lot past Ilya Bryzgalov, who always seems to get up when he plays his former team. That was never more evident than in the shootout, when he stonewalled Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne (something I witnessed at a Halloween party while standing next to Magnum P.I., Paulie Bleaker from "Juno" and Captain America). And Jonas Hiller allowed a lone shootout conversion to Radim Vrbata to take a rare shootout loss -- he's 8-3-0 lifetime, including a defeat in a 13-rounder to Vancouver exactly a year ago on Halloween night.
Vernon Fiddler, who 18 seconds after Selanne took the lead with a goal, scored one that sent the game to overtime, said of the Ducks, "It was one of those games where you think you should be winning, but they kept hanging on, and hanging on. We knew they played [Friday night], so we wanted to keep going on them and wear them down."
The good news for Anaheim was, they never did wear down in a game that became extremely physical after James Wisniewski blasted Phoenix captain Shane Doan with a forearm in the first period. Doan was noticeably shaken up but only missed a shift and he later challenged Wisniewski to a fight early in the second period in a rare spot on the ice -- right in front of the net. Doan was able to get on top of Wisniewski as they both fell to the ice, and threw in an extra punch to the body after they were down.
“If somebody hit me hard and I wanted to go and ask him to fight, I hope he’d respect me and do that as well,” Wisniewski said. “I kind of saw it coming.”
Meanwhile, Wisniewski is the subject of a very cool feature by Jeff Miller in the O.C. Register in which he focuses on Wiz's grit and his bravado following his sushi-making victory in that event last month at RA Sushi. A sample: "Yeah, there was some talking going on, but that was just jealousy," Wisniewski said. "I had some pretty good competition from Koivu and Brown. Niedermayer should probably just stick to hockey."