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(All times Pacific unless otherwise noted.)
Updated December 29 at 12:34 p.m.
Whether you want to chalk it up to Monday's player meetings or not, the bottom line last night was the Ducks did so many of the things they've felt were lacking during their recent doldrums.
You want better starts? How's a 3-0 lead after one period?
You want passion? How about 17 blocked shots? How about killing a 5-on-3 midway through the third, and another later in the period while gripping onto a two-goal lead?
You want reestablishment of the team's identity? How about a forecheck that never quit all night?
All of it melded into a 3-1 victory in Phoenix the Ducks desperately needed, putting an end to what was ultimately a rocky seven-game road stretch. But while there was a lot to like about last night's win over the division rival Coyotes, it was hardly pretty. "We're very fortunate," Randy Carlyle said, "to get out of here with two [points]."
Indeed they were, and they were actually fortunate to finish the first period up 3-0. With all the Ducks did right in that period around the Phoenix net (three goals in their first seven shots), they still turned the puck over a few times and were able to dodge some bullets thanks to Jonas Hiller. That was never more evident than just 30 seconds into the game, when an Anaheim giveaway led to a 2-on-none rush in which Hiller made a great pad save on Lee Stempniak and the rebound thankfully went under Ray Whitney's stick. If the Coyotes score there, things could have been a lot different last night.
Instead, the Ducks were the ones who took control early. Luca Sbisa slapped through his first career NHL goal (hard to believe) 4:38 into the game, and less than four minutes later, Joffrey Lupul broke out of a mini slump with his fourth goal in 12 games this season. Lupul slyly created some room for himself with a move on Ed Jovanovski and roofed it past a stunned Ilya Brygalov. In fact, it took a surprisingly lengthy replay review to confirm that Lupul's shot had actually touched twine, with a jostled water bottle ultimately being one of the determining factors that it was indeed a goal.
While the Ducks were able to cover their turnovers in the period, it was a bad Coyotes giveaway that led to Corey Perry's goal that made it 3-0. Perry picked off a Sami Lepisto clearing attempt and quickly wristed it past Bryz for his 20th goal of the year (tied for third in the league, by the way.)
That would turn out to be all the scoring the Ducks would need, but that doesn't mean things weren't interesting over the final 40 minutes. And as is typical in Ducks-Coyotes games, it was Shane Doan who drew so much of the attention. (In addition to the 28 career goals he has against Anaheim, he also delivered a hit on Cam Fowler back on October 17 that resulted in a broken nose for Fowler.)
About four and a half minutes into the second last night, Doan's shot from the low right wing deflected off Cam Fowler's stick and hit Ryan Getzlaf (who doesn't wear a visor) in the forehead. The result was a deep cut that left a lot of blood on the ice as Getzlaf skated off with the help of trainer Tim Clark. Doan, in a classy move, was the first guy feverishly motioning for help after Getzlaf went down.
Getzlaf got stitches and did not return to the game. He also wasn't on the ice for today's practice and we will have more of an update on his status later. "He's got an upper body injury," Carlyle said with a laugh after the game, drawing even more giggles from the scrum of reporters. "Isn't that what they say?
"He got a puck in the forehead and he's got stitches. The number of them I can't tell you, but we just thought it was a risk to put him back in. I was told by the trainers he wasn't coming back."
And it was Doan who got Phoenix's only goal later in the period, on the first of two 5-on-3s for the Coyotes. The next came halfway through the third period, but the Ducks were able to deny Phoenix -- as they did on another power play in the closing minutes -- thanks to the work of Hiller and the Ducks defense. "At the end everyone was playing well and sacrificing for the team," Hiller said. Andreas Lilja was among those giving up the body the most, as he was credited with seven of those 17 blocked shots in the game, four on that last two-man advantage. "I think he had more saves than myself," Hiller said.
Lilja put it bluntly when he said, "I'm happy they shoot at me because that means it's not coming to the net. I do whatever I can. Some people score goals. That’s my job. Block them.”
Sbisa, in addition to his scoring contribution, led the team with four hits and later addressed that lack of passion that was talked about in those player meetings. “That was a big issue on our team,” he told the OC Register. “Even the fans, everyone could really tell if we were ready for the game or not. There were certain games where we just had a lack of passion.
“That’s a big issue and we addressed that. I think we found a way now to get over that. Sometimes when you’re tired or whatever, it’s harder to go out and play right from the first [few] minutes. But we’ve got to find a way and I think we did today.”
But the Ducks can further show what they took from those talks in the coming days and weeks, starting with Friday night's New Year's Eve tilt with the Flyers, a game that will mark halfway point of the season. That's the first of six straight home games in a manageable 13 days, a time when things might even out a little more between the Ducks and the rest of the league as far as number of games played.
Lilja, remaining blunt last night, said, "We've got to realize now what time of year it is. We need to put some wins up because otherwise we're not going to play come April."
Updated December 28 at 12:38 p.m.
It's the kind of thing that happens a few times a season, and after what happened to the Ducks on Sunday night in at Staples Center, there was no better time than the present.
In the wake of an ugly 4-1 loss to the Kings, the Ducks jetted from L.A. to Glendale a day ahead of tonight's bout with the Coyotes. First thing yesterday morning (and also after that day's practice), Randy Carlyle met with each Duck one by one in the team hotel to try and figure out what's going on with this team. There were no excuses Sunday night, when the Ducks gave up four goals (including three unanswered) in the second period to their bitter rivals. Fatigue, a concern on that feverish road trip through the East Coast, wasn't a factor since the Ducks had four days off around the holiday. Instead, Carlyle chalked it up to a lack of desire.
“It’s always disappointing when you don’t have the necessary passion to have success – it’s as simple as that,” Carlyle told reporters. “We talked about it. We’ve had conversation about it. We’re continually talking with our players today about it. Sometimes it takes an awakening.”
Teemu Selanne said that after the hot-and-cold trip and the Kings defeat, “The timing is perfect. I know there are a lot of players that would like to say something but they’re just a little shy or for whatever reason they don’t want to say anything in front of everybody. I think it’s really good."
Carlyle was of course not specific about what was talked about with whom, but he did say that he got "some interesting feedback. They’ve heard a few things that I’ve had to say, questioning them in a couple of areas we deem are unacceptable. We’ll formulate a plan together and do that here in the next 24 hours.”
Within that time frame is tonight's game against another Pacific Division rival, the Phoenix Coyotes. The Yotes are the one team behind the Ducks in the Pacific Division standings right now, though they've played (wait, this can't be right) five fewer games. Ilya Bryzgalov, who always plays the Ducks tough, is expected to be in net tonight after missing a few games with an undisclosed upper body injury.
But right now, it's not so much about the opponent as it is about the Ducks, and it will be interesting to see how they come out tonight in Glendale.
"You have to play this game with heart and passion,” Ryan Getzlaf said. “If you don’t, teams will walk all over you. I think [tonight] is going to be a good time for us to get back on the horse.”
- - -
I'm not normally a big "look how cute my sister's kids are" kind of guy, but I had to share this video from my holiday visit with her family up in Davis. (By the way, my dad and I drove the seven hours from there to Staples Center on Sunday, only to be rewarded with that game. Did I mention I completely forgot a suit and my laptop on this trip and had to have a fellow staffer bring them to me?)
Anyway, check out my four-year-old niece, who knows I always appreciate a good goal celebration. I'm trying to work on getting one of the Ducks to mimic this in a future game.
And then my two-year-old nephew, who happens to be named Brady, tried to get into the act. My favorite part is my niece in the background urging him to, "Talk, Brady, talk!"
Updated December 22 at 11:20 a.m.
Isn't it ironic that the one game not televised this season turned out to be one we probably didn't want to see anyway?
Last night's rough 5-2 loss in Buffalo wasn't seen live by most Ducks fans (unless they had Center Ice and lived in Canada, in which they could watch the in-arena feed with Buffalo radio), and it was probably for the best. That way, we can almost pretend it didn't happen -- a disappointing ending to a five-game East Coast trip that had its good moments, but overall was just plain confusing.
After all, the Ducks beat a good (despite their losing streak) Washington team, then turned around and lose to the NHL-worst Islanders. They beat a pretty good Boston team, then follow that up with a loss to 10th-place Buffalo. So what's the deal? Teemu Selanne seemed to have an idea.
"It was pretty simple," Selanne told the OC Register. "We just ran out of gas. Mentally. Physically. Obviously you hate to use that as an excuse. It's a fact. Five games in seven nights? I don't know anybody who can survive from that."
If fatigue was already a factor, the Ducks didn't get much help last night when Jason Blake was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for driving Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta into the wall with 6:24 left in the first. That left the Ducks a forward short for the rest of the contest, not to mention the fact that the Sabres capitalized on the lenghty power play to make it 3-0. (There are probably a thousand things easier to do in this league than making up a three-goal deficit against Ryan Miller.)
Ryan Getzlaf tried something a little different to get his team going after digging that hole, picking a fight with Buffalo center Cody McCormick right off the opening draw of the second period, which led directly to another bout between Kyle Chipchura and Paul Gaustad. (By the way, is it just me or does Buffalo's play-by-play guy sound exactly like Mr. Lebowski?)
The move by Getzlaf was shades of a similar tactic he pulled on the opening faceoff of Game 6 in 2009 against the Sharks, a game the Ducks would go on to win to clinch that series.
“That’s all part of the motivation thing and trying to get involved in the game,” Getzlaf said. “I thought it relatively worked, for a couple of minutes anyway. We just weren’t able to get back from the deficit that we were at.”
Instead, Anaheim ultimately went down 4-0 and didn't get on the board until Corey Perry struck twice on the power play in the third period. Lost in the anticlimax of those two goals was the fact that Perry continues his quiet awesomeness, notching three goals and six points on the five-game Eastern swing, putting him third in the league in goals and fourth in points. (I'm betting you didn't know that.)
Last night's loss was a tough way to end a road jaunt that had its good moments. But a 2-3-0 trip isn't the worst thing in the world, especially for a team that could use this upcoming holiday break, having played an NHL-high 38 games.
The Ducks winged back to Orange County in the middle of last night, and won't be back on the ice until Sunday, when they have a 9 a.m. skate in Anaheim to get ready for their game with the Kings at Staples Center.
Updated December 21 at 12:14 p.m.
All it took was a quick glance at the TV screen to notice that things were different last night for the Anaheim Ducks, and thankfully the way they played hockey was distinctive as well.
The Ducks -- appearing on national TV (Versus) for the only time this year and wearing their third jerseys on the road -- did something against the Bruins that they weren't able to do in their two previous games on this trip. In frustrating defeats at the Islanders and at Carolina the Ducks got off to bad starts and ran out of time trying to dig themselves out. But last night in Boston, it was the Ducks who put the Bruins away early and never looked back -- thanks in great part to the heroics of Jonas Hiller.
In picking up his second shutout of the season, Hiller deflected, kick saved, bodied, knocked down, gloved and covered 45 Boston shots -- including 36 in the last two periods. "Jonas was in a zone and really stole the show," said Bobby Ryan, artfully cramming two cliches into one sentence. Hiller, in typical goalie fashion, was quick to give credit to the guys in front of him.
"At the end, it was a team effort," he told reporters. "If we play like that every single game, with guys out there blocking shots, we've got a good chance to win."
On the other end of the rink, the Ducks had about half as many shots as the Bruins, but they made theirs count in a major way. Rookie Brandon McMillan, who in his limited time with the big club has done so many admirable things that never appear up in the box score, got some numbers to show for it last night. McMillan got his second career goal and his second career assist, with the goal coming six minutes into the first period on a play set up by Luca Sbisa's first assist as a Duck (hard to believe). Sbisa launched a cannon of a slap shot from the left point that was blocked in front, and McMillan was in the right spot to chip it in.
The next period, McMillan started a rush that ultimately resulted in Teemu Selanne waiting patiently for a wrister off of goalie Tim Thomas, but Lubomir Visnovsky hammered home the rebound. McMillan didn't get the assist there, but he did on the Ducks' third goal, a shortie later in the third period that Corey Perry earned by bullying his way to the net and making a quick drag move to beat Thomas. (The Bs goalie, by the way, came into the night with a ridiculous 1.65 goals-against average.)
McMillan benefited a bit by being placed on the second line with Selanne and Saku Koivu. "The kid has worked hard," Randy Carlyle said, "and he got an opportunity."
The difference in the game, really, was that all three Ducks goals came off rebounds, while the Ducks defense made sure that Hiller usually didn't have to make a second save. Carlyle specifically lauded the play of Andy Sutton and Andrea Lilja, who he said, "played one of their best games of the year for us." And the quick start was equally huge for Anaheim as it was damaging for Boston, which is a shocking 4-10-4 when the other team scores first. That means they're 13-1-0 when they score first.
Tonight the Ducks go from national TV to (unfortunately) no TV, as their game tonight in Buffalo falls in the exclusive Versus broadcasting window and won't be televised by either team in the U.S. (Highlights, taken off the in-house arena feed, will be available on AnaheimDucks.com after the game.)
It's yet another scenario where the Ducks play the second of a back-to-back against a rested opponent, as the Sabres haven't suited up since last Saturday. That's the ninth time this year the Ducks have played the second of a back-to-back against a team with 2+ days rest -- by far leading the league, according to STATS, INC. (see December 17 blog post). The Sabres, by the way, are 13-16-4 and 12th in the Eastern Conference, while Anaheim pulled into sixth in the West last night. However, they've still played at least three more games than anyone else in the conference.
Ironically enough, it's sunny in Buffalo right now, while it's pouring rain in Orange County. Okay, it is 24 degrees in Buffalo, but still.
Nick Bonino, who was struck in the foot by a shot early in the third period last night and did not return, is questionable for tonight with a deep bone bruise. When Carlyle was asked last night if he would recall someone to take Bonino's place, he said, "Syracuse is only two hours down the road from Buffalo … if we can get a snowmobile there to get him.” Well, the method of delivery has not been disclosed, but the Ducks did recall Josh Green this morning.
Updated December 17 at 11:37 a.m.
I couldn't help but think of the old "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" crack when it came to last night's 3-2 Ducks loss on Long Island. I mean, is it overly optimistic to say that other than a span of 99 seconds, the Ducks looked good in that game?
It might be, and it doesn't hide the fact that last night's defeat to an Islanders team that had dropped 20 of its previous 21 was incredibly frustrating. And it's disappointing coming off the high of a good road win against a Washington team that's much better than its current losing streak indicated.
"It's wasted points, as far as I'm concerned," Randy Carlyle told reporters. "It's a wasted opportunity. We had an emotional win last night in Washington ... and we didn't play 60 minutes of hockey. That's the disappointing part."
Yet despite the shock of that three-goal blitz by the Isles in the first period, you couldn't help but think the Ducks would find a way to get back in the game. That happened just a minute and a half into the third period, when former Islander Jason Blake backhanded in a rebound off a Cam Fowler shot. That put the Ducks just a goal behind with most of the third still left to play, and with an Isles team that you just knew would be on its heels trying to hold on for a rare win, it seemed the tying goal was inevitable.
Unfortunately, it never came, even though the Ducks dominated play in that third period. Heck, they dominated play for most of the game -- except for that dreadful 99 seconds.
If the Ducks looked sluggish during that stretch, it's possibly because they were playing the second of a back-to-back against a team that hadn't been in action since Monday. Sure, it may sound like an excuse, but it's part of a somewhat alarming trend that was illustrated during last night's broadcast.
This year the Ducks have played the second game of a back-to-back against a team with 2 or more days of rest eight times. That may not seem like much, until you learn that the two teams tied for second in that stat are the Lightning and the Flyers. You know how many times it's happened to them? Three.
Last year, that happened to the Ducks four times all season. Meanwhile, nine of the 30 NHL teams have not had to play a single game in that circumstance this year.
The Ducks, by the way, are 3-3-2 in that situation, while the whole league is 18-18-4 (as of yesterday). Just saying.
Regardless of the scheduling, losing to a last-place team is never easy to swallow. And Blake's postgame quote is one to live by. "We have to forget about it," he said, "and move on."
Meanwhile, let us move on to this, a Happy Holidays message from the Ducks and Honda Center:
Updated December 16 at 2:37 p.m.
Now that, Ryan Getzlaf, that is why we want you to shoot the puck more.
The Ducks captain last night demonstrated how deadly his not-often-used shot can be when he whipped a wicked wrist shot through with a minute left in overtime to give the Ducks a satisfying 2-1 victory in Washington. Getzlaf somehow was able to sneak the puck past goalie Semyon Varlamov on the near side, a snipe that became even more impressive with each repeated viewing (and there were a few). And he got the shot off by creating a ton of room for himself, spinning away from Capitals defenseman John Carlson, with Carlson looking completely bewildered as he watched the puck whistle past him and his goalie.
Getzlaf, who is sixth on the Ducks with 60 shots this year, said to reporters afterward, “It’s been something that I’ve been doing a little more in the last few games. And I’ve been able to capitalize on a few.”
Capital-ize? Get it? Totally intentional, I'm sure.
In addition to getting the game-winner, Getzlaf also blatantly thwarted what looked like a certain Caps goal with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first period. Following an Andreas Lilja turnover, Brooks Laich's wide open shot from the slot snuck under Hiller and began to trickle towards the stripe. Just before it crossed, Getzlaf swooped in behind Hiller and swept it out of harm's way. Go to the 1-minute mark on this video and listen to the Caps announcer, and the crowd, sound like they think it's a goal.
That wasn't the only help Hiller got last night as Alex Ovechkin clanged one off the crossbar on a breakaway early in the second period. But as the old saying goes, "I'd rather be lucky than good," and Hiller was both last night. Sixteen of his 31 saves came in a first period in which Washington came out of the gates looking like a team desperate to snap its uncharacteristic losing streak. Instead, that streak reached seven games, a skid that was partly chronicled last night on the outstanding premiere of 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic on HBO. Seriously, even if you don't have HBO, find a way to watch this thing. It's mesmerizing, and I couldn't help thinking that HBO viewers who weren't already hockey fans, became hockey fans last night. There's no way you watch that and don't watch the Winter Classic. Here's a write-up on the Puck Daddy blog on episode 1.
Back to the Ducks, who like last night are taking on another team in a bit of a funk. Okay, a big funk. The Islanders have lost six in a row and 20 of their last 21 (including a 1-0 defeat in Anaheim last month) and have just 15 points on the season. For the Ducks, a team that had an awful time on the road in the first month, it's a chance to win their fourth in the last five in the white unis (they're 4-1-3 in their last eight).
Anaheim faces the second game of a back-to-back against a team that hasn't played since Monday, a scheduling trend for the Ducks this season that, when looked at more closely, will absolutely shock you. (I'm obligated not to print it until it's shown on the broadcast tonight, so stay tuned for that.)
If the Ducks get at least a point tonight -- although we're certainly hoping for double that -- it will be their first six-game road point streak since a seven-game run (7-0-0) way back in 2006.
Updated December 15 at 12:48 p.m.
With all due respect to the East Coast and all the wonderful cities therein, I much prefer it out here. The weather aside (it's 60 degrees in Anaheim right now; 23 in New York, by the way), it's just easier to be a sports fan out here.
Sunday NFL games start at 10 a.m., rather than having to wait until 1:00, like they do back east. Monday Night Football starts at 5:30, rather than waiting until 8:30 for a game that might not get done before midnight. And there aren't any NHL games that start too late to stay up for, like the Ducks, Kings, Canucks, Sharks games that don't drop the puck until 10:05 p.m. Eastern and don't finish until around 12:30 a.m. (can you imagine?).
And with all due respect to the NHL's Eastern Conference, I think our conference is better. To wit, three of the last four Stanley Cup Champions have come from the Western Conference (although Detroit is actually in the Eastern time zone). And for the last several years, the competition for playoff spots has seemingly been tighter in the West. Look no further than last season, when Anaheim's 89 points were only good enough for 11th in the Western Conference. In the East, the Ducks would have been seventh. (That's pretty significant when you consider the seventh-place team, Philadelphia, went all the way to the Final last year.)
It's happening again this season, as there is remarkably a two-point gap between the third-place Canucks (tied with the Ducks with 36 points) and the 11th-place Blue Jackets. In the East, the difference between eighth place (Tampa) and ninth (Ottawa) is seven points.
Again, the Ducks present a good example: After beating Minnesota on Sunday night, Anaheim vaulted from fourth to second in the Pacific Division race and from ninth to fourth in the conference. You sneeze in this conference and you move a half dozen spots.
More evidence of the dominance of the West -- the discrepancy in records when conference teams play each other, and in intraconference games. This according to USA Today yesterday: When the current top eight in the East have played the current bottom seven teams this season, the top teams have won 44 more times than they have lost. The bottom teams in the West, meanwhile, have provided more competition against the top. The San Jose Sharks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings are plus-.500 against their conference, and the Blues and Calgary Flames are slightly below. The current top eight have 13 more wins than losses against the current bottom seven.
Here's what they say about records against the other conference: Most of the bottom seven Western teams are padding their numbers by beating up on the East. All but the Flames and Wild have plus-.500 records against the East. The other five are a combined 29-12-2 against Eastern teams. In the East's bottom seven, only the Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres have winning records against the West.
Once again, look no further than our guys, who are an impressive 5-1-1 against the East this season. That includes wins over some pretty decent clubs -- Philadelphia (first in the East), Pittsburgh (fourth), and Tampa Bay (eighth).
Why do we bring this up? Because Anaheim opens a seven-game road trip in a few hours in Washington D.C., the first of five straight games in seven days against Eastern Conference teams. Those Capitals are a good illustration of the East's disparity of parity (if you will) when compared to the West. The Caps have lost six games in a row, during which they've been outscored 23-8, and they STILL lead the Southeast Division by two over the Thrashers. (Try that mess in the Pacific and you'll be in the cellar in no time.) The Caps lost 7-0 to the Rangers in their last game, Sunday night in New York.
"It's just a moment in our life right now," Alex Ovechkin told the Washington Post about the streak. "Right now we are losing. We just have to forget about it. We just have to forget about the losing and remember how to win."
Sounds simple enough.
The Ducks, meanwhile, know they're not facing a bad hockey club, just one that's frustrated and anxious to make the inevitable turnaround. “We know we’re going to see an angry hockey club,” Randy Carlyle told reporters yesterday. “And they’re going to try and make a statement in their building. We know that."
The Ducks will have to make their statement without Teemu Selanne (strained groin), who went through a full practice yesterday (in which he told the OC Register he went at "80 percent") but is out for tonight. Selanne, who missed his seventh game out of the last 11 Sunday vs. the Wild, skated after most of the team had headed to the locker room this morning, and Carlyle announced that he would not be in the lineup tonight.
Saku Koivu, on the other hand is listed as "probable" after flying out a day later than the rest of the team as he recovers from the flu that kept him out Sunday as well. Koivu said he's “Better, good – ready to go” after the morning skate. “It was pretty bad,” Koivu said, thankfully sparing the details. “I didn’t feel well enough on Sunday. I needed some time off. It was a good thing we had two days, the Monday, Tuesday off – long travel, but no games.The Caps and Penguins will be featured in what looks like a very cool show, 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, which premieres tonight on HBO. So, if you're out West, you can watch Ducks-Caps at 4:00, follow that with 24/7 at 7:00, then watch some more hockey (or whatever else you want to watch) at 8:00.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a tough one for me. I haven’t really done anything the last couple of days, but I’ll slowly get back in.”
P.S. This one of NHL.com's Blackberry Game of the Night, in which they predict a Ducks victory.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a tough one for me. I haven’t really done anything the last couple of days, but I’ll slowly get back in.”
P.S. This one of NHL.com's Blackberry Game of the Night, in which they predict a Ducks victory.
God bless you, West Coast.
Updated December 13 at 10:53 a.m.
It usually takes something pretty special to compete with a hat trick, and in the wake of last night's incredibly enjoyable 6-2 win over the Minnesota Wild, it wasn't Corey Perry's three goals that most people were talking about.
Instead it was Bobby Ryan's goal with 2:34 left in the second period that he -- no big deal -- SCORED WITH SOMEONE ELSE'S STICK.
Here's how it all went down: Mikko Koivu lost his stick in the corner of the Minnesota end while trying to avoid a collision with Corey Perry. Seconds later, he passed Bobby Ryan near the middle of the ice and snatched Ryan's stick right out of his hands. Somehow, no penalty was called, and Koivu used Ryan's stick to try and get the puck out of that same corner of the rink. (Ryan, meanwhile, tried to do the same with just his skates.) After the puck came out, Ryan picked up Koivu's stick from the ice, which Minnesota's Antti Miettinen had for some reason nudged toward the scrum in the corner.
"We got in a battle, and somehow Mikko got my stick," Ryan told Fox Sports North during a second intermission interview. "I saw his there, so I thought I'd pick it up and entertain myself."
Soon, we were all entertained, as Toni Lydman fired a shot from the right wing that rebounded off Niklas Backstrom right to Ryan, who punched the puck in with Koivu's stick. And, oh by the way, Koivu is a lefthanded shot, so Ryan forehanded it in with the backhand side of the stick. (Since I'm already a huge Bobby Ryan fan anyway, you can imagine my head pretty much exploded after this.)
While it's usually preferable to show highlights with our announcers, Minnesota's guys seem to be the only people in the arena (outside the ones in the rink) who knew what was going on the whole time:
You can see Ryan holding up the stick immediately after scoring the goal, and when he was asked about it, he told reporters, "He was complaining about it. “I just said you took mine right out of my hands in the corner. Finders keepers, I guess. I’ll take yours. … Same number, different hands.”
And while it may have looked like he was taunting Koivu, he insisted after the game that he was just showing the stick to an equally amused Perry."I hope they don't take it as taunting," Ryan said on the radio postgame show (which you can listen to here). "I had no intention of doing that. I was just trying to show Perry what I found. He was making fun of me about not being able to score, and I just wanted to show him I could do it lefthanded."
There was also talk about whether what Ryan did was even legal, and he said even the officials weren't entirely sure. "They explained to the coaches on the other side and myself that there was no rule for it and it's something they've never seen before," he said. "So, I think we all decided, Let's drop the puck and keep rolling. I was standing at center ice pushing them in that direction too."
Ryan's unique goal was just part of a monster night for the RPG line (a season-high 11 points combined), led by Perry's first career hat trick. And it wasn't just your everyday hat trick, as Perry got one at even strength (19 seconds into the first period), one shorthanded (the penalty shot 14:19 into the second period) and one on the power play (with 4:13 left in the game).
Getzlaf, who was also looking for a hat trick on that late power play, joked that "We were both going to go for it. I said there’s not a chance that I’m going to pass to him. When you get out on the ice, the right situation there was I had to move the puck. Pears was fortunate enough to be on the other side of that.”
Perry posed with the three pucks after the game, sporting the cut on his cheek he sustained on a Nick Schultz high stick with a minute left in the second (Perry said the swelling made him look "like a chipmunk"). And if there is anything that represents the combination of Perry's grit and his ability to score in bunches, it's this photo.
After 16 two-goal games in his career, Perry said this one was a relief. "It’s been a long time coming and it is pretty special," he said. "When you have a lot of two-goal games, that hat trick feels nice. There were a lot of guys in here that helped with that tonight. It’s something I won’t forget. That is for sure."
And it helped contribute to a nice offensive explosion for a Ducks team missing two key ingredients in Teemu Selanne (groin) and Saku Koivu (flu). Both players joined the team this morning for the mammoth seven-game road trip, as did Todd Marchant, who took a puck in the face in the third period last night, but received stitches and is fine. (In fact, he was laughing along as son Tim did some holiday-themed interviews in the locker room, which should be airing this week.)
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In case you haven't seen it yet, we've aired the latest Ducks Dedication commercial, with Bobby Ryan finding a unique way to sharpen a pencil in a first grade class.
- - -Helene Elliott has a fantastic story that ran in yesterday's L.A. Times about Cam Fowler living in the Niedermayers' home. Two quotes in there stand out: Fowler saying, "It feels a little weird for me sometimes, having a Hall of Fame guy take my car in for an oil change or something like that, but that's just the kind of guy that he is." And oldest son Logan cracking, "It kind of stinks for me. I liked being the oldest."
Updated December 10 at 2:53 p.m.
It's really a head-shaking stat when you think about it -- the Ducks have beaten the Calgary Flames 11 times in a row in Anaheim in the regular season. To put that in perspective, the last time the Flames won in this arena, Cam Fowler was 12 years old. Most of the world hadn't heard of Facebook. Or Barack Obama. Or Taylor Swift. Or the iPhone. Penicillin hadn't even been invented yet. (Okay, I can't back that last one up.)
The date of that last Calgary win was January 19, 2004 -- ironically, a 5-1 blowout by the Flames. The only player on the Ducks roster then who is still here now was Joffrey Lupul (and he left and came back). And get this -- that win by the Flames was the first at Honda Center (then known as the Pond, of course) since January 13, 1999. Think about that. Cam Fowler was ... okay, you get the point.
Tonight the Ducks will look to make it 12 straight, two nights after they let a win slip away up in Vancouver. The Flames are pretty much feeling the same way after losing a tight one 2-1 up in L.A. last night (read the somewhat harsh recap from the Calgary Herald). Calgary was going for its second straight win, something it hasn't done since October 26. (Cam Fowler was just 18. He's 19 now.)
As a result, Calgary is just one point better than the bottom spot in the Western Conference, six points behind the Ducks, who have played two more games. In fact, in what seems like we've heard this one before, the Ducks have played more games (31) than every other team in the National Hockey League. And it doesn't look like they'll have much of a break anytime soon, as they play Sunday vs. Minnesota then hit the road, where, starting on the 15th they play five games in seven days.
Aaron Voros was placed on IR today with a fractured orbital bone suffered in his fight with Kevin Bieska early in that Vancouver game. So, the Ducks are bringin' Sexy back (as I've officially reached my team-imposed limit on pop culture references). In other words, Dan Sexton was recalled from Syracuse and is on his way into town (for what is like the fifth or sixth cross-country flight he's made in the last couple of weeks). That makes his status for tonight in doubt, as is the case for Teemu Selanne, who didn't play the overtime in Vancouver and didn't skate this morning with that tweaked groin.
Curtis McElhinney, on the other hand, is available tonight after taking that puck to the mask in the third period in Vancouver and leaving the game with blood pouring from his face. McElhinney had stitches applied to the cut above his right eye, which you can see in video, where he talks about his injury this photo. You can also watch him and other Ducks talk about tonight's game by clicking here.
Speaking of tonight's game -- and every Ducks home game -- you can read my live game log (updated at the end of each period) by downloading the Ducks mobile app for your iPhone, Droid or Blackberry. Not to mention, there is a lot more content to enjoy on there, like live game updates, videos, photos, news, and an exclusive pregame and postgame show. Here's more information on the app.
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Remember that we're giving away free Ducks t-shirts this Sunday against Minnesota, where we'll also be premiering the next Ducks Dedication commercial, starring Bobby Ryan and a classroom full of first-graders. Click here to get tickets.
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Thanks in great part to my insistence, the Power Players swimsuit calendar is now available for purchase online, and would make the perfect gift for the Ducks fan in your life. Or the person who enjoys swimsuit calendars. Click here to get yours.
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order the Ducks Holiday Pack -- including the fleece blanket with sleeves, beanie hat, water bottle and an autographed item. (Cutout of Bobby Ryan's face and Ducks towel not included.)
Updated December 9 at 12:23 p.m.
Two nights ago in Edmonton, the frustration of losing a two-goal lead in the third period was muffled by the elation of Cam Fowler winning it for the Ducks in the shootout. Last night in Vancouver, there were no such one-on-one heroics, and the loss of another late lead is the memory that lingers.
Big picture, getting three out of four points on a back-to-back trip through two Canadian cities looks fantastic. Look a little closer and you can't help but feel like it should have been a perfect four for four.
After last night's 5-4 loss to the Canucks -- in which the Ducks came up empty in their three shootout attempts and Vancouver's Jeff Tambellini had the only goal -- Randy Carlyle decided to go glass half full. "The positive is three out of four," Carlyle said. "It's the facts. You stated one fact that we gave up two two-goal leads. I said we've got three out of a possible four points."
Yet even Carlyle couldn't help but be frustrated with the fact the Ducks didn't finish that game in regulation, and it was the nature of the tying goal that had Ducks fans pulling their hair out. Ryan Kesler's goal with 21.5 seconds remaining (with Roberto Luongo pulled for an extra attacker) was the flukiest of goals. As Kesler fought for the puck with Ryan Getzlaf to the left of the Anaheim net, Kesler fell to his knees and threw the puck on net with a backhand, somehow slipping it behind Jonas Hiller as it clicked off his stick and got over the stripe.
And the only reason Hiller was in there was because of a gruesome (but thankfully not major) injury to Curtis McElhinney, who was having a nice night before he took a hard Christian Ehrhoff slapshot off the mask with a little more than seven minutes remaining. McElhinney immediately started bleeding profusely from the face, and had no chance to manage the rebound, which Daniel Sedin easly poured in to pull Vancouver within a goal. (Let's just say that some people thought the whistle should have blown after McElhinney went down.)
McElhinney was ultimately determined to have a cut on his forehead, which was stitched up and he flew back with the team to Orange County.
Just like Tuesday night's shootout win helped erase the memories of what led to the extra sessions, last night's loss made it easy to forget a couple of cool moments for the Ducks. One was Joffrey Lupul tying the game 2-2 midway through the second period on a one-timer off a Todd Marchant feed. The goal came exactly one year to the day after Lupul's last goal, a December 8 game against Dallas that would prove to be his last of the season. (That game also happened to be the one Dan Sexton helped win with the first two goals of his career.)
There was another big goal for Cam Fowler, whose point shot came off Luongo and glanced into the net off Alex Edler's thigh to make it 4-2 Ducks. (The announcer says Marchant got it on this video, but replays showed it never touched another Duck after Fowler.)
There was Teemu Selanne once again proving his incredible worth, giving the Ducks a one-goal lead with seconds remaining in the middle session on what, despite him being 40, still might be the quickest wrist shot in the game.
And let's also not forget about the fact the Ducks bounced back from giving up two Vancouver goals in an eyebrow-raising 11 seconds to trail 2-1 in the first period.
So, despite the fact that the two points -- and four on this two-game Canadian cruise -- would have been more desirable (and certainly reasonable), there was a lot to like about last night. The Ducks, who got back to Orange County in the dead of night, took today off from practice, and will be back at it tomorrow for Calgary at Honda Center.
Updated December 8 at 12:12 p.m.
Just when it didn't seem possible for Ducks fans to adore Cam Fowler any more, he went ahead and won a game for us.
Fowler, in the 10th round of what had become an excruciatingly tense shootout last night in Edmonton, skated down the right edge of the clean-ice lane and fired a wrist shot that honestly couldn't have been more perfect. It rang the inside of the right post and rattled into the other side of the net, causing Fowler to pump his right fist and flash that infectious smile as he skated toward teammates who quickly poured off the bench. (Ironically, the first one to greet the team's youngest player was the team's oldest -- Teemu Selanne.)
"I wanted to shoot," Fowler told reporters afterward. "I didn't want to risk putting a move on because Khabibulin had already made some really nice saves on guys that have way better moves than me. I thought my best chance was to go in and pick a spot. Luckily it found the back of the net."
As often as Fowler has impressed so far this year -- defying the fact that he only just turned 19 a few days ago -- it's usually for stuff not quite as boisterous as a game-winning shootout goal. It's typically for things like making smart decisions, being patient with the puck, skating it out of the defensive zone, taking it away from attacking opponents -- basically doing what it takes to win hockey games. (Very similar to what his landlord did for years.) “We’ve talked about him and talked about him,” Randy Carlyle said of Fowler. "When you assess the way he plays out there and the things that he does, he makes things look pretty easy.”
And a couple of hockey experts took notice last night on Twitter, well before the shootout, essentially revealing they haven't seen much of Fowler this year since Ducks game typically start so late on the East Coast. Bob McKenzie of TSN: As others have noted, Cam Fowler is a terrific talent on the ANA blueline. He should turn out to be a tremendous draft day bargain. Wow. And ESPN.com's EJ Hradek: Ducks Cam Fowler it's hard to figure how he dropped to 12. He can play!
Taking a second to stop patting Fowler on the back, it's important to remember he wouldn't have had the opportunity to step up in round 10 if not for the heroics of Jonas Hiller, who turned away 9 of 10 Edmonton shootout attempts. One of those, from Andrew Cogliano in the ninth round, ricocheted off the post, but looked so close to being a goal that the goal horn in Rexall Place mistakenly went off. And you had to feel good for Joffrey Palindrome (stole that line from a friend), the former Oiler in his second game back after a year out, who scored the first goal of the shootout with a beautiful deke move to the forehand that befuddled Nikolai Khabibulin (who otherwise was masterful in the tiebreaker).
By the way, what does it say about the Anaheim talent at forward that their leading scorer the past two years, Bobby Ryan, went seventh (seventh) in the shootout order?
The dramatics of that shootout win made it easy to forget the Ducks probably shouldn't have been in that position in the first place. After working hard to establish a 2-0 lead -- their first goals after a seven-period drought -- they gave up two goals in a window of three minutes to give it up, the latter a power play goal by Dustin Penner on a shot that Hiller usually stops. But as Carlyle always says, "You don't critique a win," and ... well, he actually said that exact same thing last night: "We're not going to critique a win from our standpoint," Carlyle said. "After being shut out two games in a row, it was nice to get a couple."
One of those came from Selanne, a guy who despite his somewhat optimistic outlook during the morning skate (see yesterday's blog), seemed like a longshot to be in the lineup as he continues to nurse that sore groin. But he once again proved his tremendous worth to the Ducks (1-4-0 this year when he's out) with a huge insurance goal 6:32 into the third. After Andy Sutton's slap shot from a few steps in from the blue line created a rebound in front, Selanne effortlessly swept it in with the backhand.
Saku Koivu, who had the first goal of the game in the second period, looked like a cinch to end it with 40 seconds left in OT, after he took a feed from Fowler on a 3-on-1 rush, but Khabibulin forced him to fire it wide. That would have been Fowler's second assist on the night, but instead it set the stage for him to win it himself.
“Two points are on the line,” Fowler told the OC Register. “’I don’t obviously get a chance to go one-on-one with the goalie very often. I think I just have to be thankful to being able to give our team two points and kind of boost our morale around here. That’s really all I’m happy about.”
I think we're all happy about that, and even happier that Fowler was the one to make it happen.
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Continuing the Fowler lovefest, take a look at the quick video we shot with him the other day to promo the t-shirt giveaway on Sunday vs. the Wild at Honda Center. (Props to Luca Sbisa for the hairstyling.) I'm thinking the goofy grin makes it.
Updated December 1 at 12:43 p.m.
In the last four years, Miley Cyrus has played Honda Center twice. So have the Jonas Brothers. The Florida Panthers? Just once.
But the Panthers are back tonight for the first time since November of 2008 to start a rare West Coast swing, as the Ducks look to spoil their trip with a third straight win and a continued climb up the standings. The Panthers, meanwhile, have been up and down (5-5-0) in their last 10 games, and haven't been in action since breaking a three-game skid Saturday night in Tampa Bay.
The Panthers are at the bottom of the NHL in power play percentage (the Ducks are ninth), having converted just 5 of 78 chances this year, and (I hesitate to even write this) are 0 for their last 37. Yet, they're still pretty good at even strength, part of the reason they match the Ducks in goals per game at 2.54.
It's December 1, meaning the end of a month of November that was pretty kooky for the Ducks, in which they won six in a row, then lost six in a row, then won two in a row. It was a month the Ducks started well out of the Pacific Division race. But thanks to those wins, and the fact the Kings settled down a bit, the Ducks enter December just two points back of the top spot in a cluster in which just three points separates first from last (owned right now by, of all teams, L.A. and San Jose).
It was also a November in which 15 Ducks wore moustaches for the entire month (in honor of "Movember"), and they all gathered for a group shot yesterday before presumably shaving them off (that is, everyone except George Parros).
Here's the photo (click it for a larger version):
The group awarded prizes for the best moustaches, as Sheldon Brookbank took first place and was awarded this awful '70s-style "leather" jacket. Kyle Chipchura was awarded second place and received full-sized clippers, while Todd Marchant got travel-sized clippers for third. There was no mention of a prize for last place, but poor Cam Fowler just didn't seem to be able to get anything going. "Obviously facial hair," Fowler says in this entertaining video on the OC Register site, "isn't my forte." (Also in the video, Teemu Selanne proclaims Perry's attempt at a moustache the worst, adding, "He's blonde, so you can't even see it." Selanne also says on the video about his own attempt, "Every time I look in the mirror I laugh."
A couple of other notes about this photo. Andreas Lilja looks eerily like Josh Brolin in "No Country for Old Men." Apparently, Curtis McElhinney is the only Duck who bothers to wear a shirt with buttons when he leaves the rink. And speaking of clothes, you can't see it in the photo, but Nick Bonino's t-shirt reads, "The Moustache is the Key to This Outfit."
Here's a video of some of the guys we put together as well:
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Joffrey Lupul, who plays his third game in Syracuse this Friday, sat down for a seemingly very relaxed interview with someone who looks like he could be my younger brother, Crunch broadcaster Jason Lockhart. Watch it, and an interview with Matt Beleskey (who could maybe use a new shirt) on the Crunch Facebook page.
Bobby Ryan talks about drinking a glass of red wine and playing the guitar, among other things, in this interview on NHL Live! (exclamation point required) from yesterday.
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Updated November 30 at 10:48 a.m.
There are wins, there are satisfying wins and then there are Damn, that felt good wins. Last night's 2-0 triumph over the Kings would certainly qualify as the latter.
It wasn't just that it was a second straight victory for the Ducks, or that it came over a bitter divisional rival, but that it happened in an electric, sold-out Honda Center in which the boisterous gaggle of Kings fans who made the trip from L.A. had little to cheer about.
Jonas Hiller helped make sure of that, looking brilliant in net as he stopped all 27 Kings shots for his first shutout of the year (seventh of his career). And while most of Hiller's stops came as a result of good positioning, he flashed some athleticism on unquestionably his biggest save of the night. Anze Kopitar was left with a wide open shot from point blank after the Ducks turned it over behind the Anaheim net, but Hiller lunged to snatch the puck with the glove and protect the 1-0 lead. That brought the home crowd to its feet for the loudest non-goal roar of the night, as Kopitar looked to the sky in frustration.
“It was kind of a bangbang play,” Hiller said. “I don’t know how he came in front of the net. He was just there. I saw him and I just tried to come out a little at him. It was just kind of a reaction thing, reading off his blade. I was probably a little lucky.”
And as it seems to go so often in this game (see below in Ducks vs. Phoenix from Saturday night), the Ducks got a goal of their own just moments after narrowly avoiding giving one up. Following a Kings turnover, Jason Blake and Teemu Selanne raced to a 2-on-1, with Selanne feeding Blake for the top-shelfer, a mammoth insurance goal with 2 1/2 minutes left. (Selanne was playing his first game after missing the last three with a groin strain, and was flying as usual.)
From there, the Ducks laid out to protect Hiller's shutout until the final horn, something Randy Carlyle took note of. "The true display was at the end of the game," he said, "when people that were on the ice were sacrificing their bodies to block shots and get into shooting lanes to protect that shutout for Jonas Hiller."
It wasn't just Hiller who deserved credit for that shutout, as props need to go to the entire Ducks defense, which kept a lot of potential shots from ever getting to Hiller throughout the game. (Luca Sbisa, for one, was absolutely everywhere last night.)
The atmosphere was such in Honda Center that you could just tell the roof would be blown off the place when the first goal was scored -- by either team. And it didn't happen until 12:48 into the second period when The Kid connected on the man advantage. The Ducks got a second straight power play when Drew Doughty got whistled for tripping Corey Perry just seconds after escaping the box for a previous tripping penalty. And it didn't take long for the Ducks to pounce, as Fowler threaded the needle with a shot from the top of the circlet (looking just a little like the guy whose house he lives in) through a Corey Perry screen that ticked off Jonathan Quick's leg pad and rang the inside of the post.
The look of glee on Fowler's face (sort of captured in this screen shot from the broadcast) was priceless, as was the later shot of him looking up at the video board from the Ducks bench to see if he could catch the replay.
And I liked this quote that Selanne offered the L.A. Times last night: "This Fowler kid, he's going to win the Norris Trophy one day. He has all the tools. It's amazing to watch an 18-year-old kid dominate this game. It's unbelievable."
Fowler's goal, his second of the year, would have been all Hiller needed on a night when he got some redemption at home after being pulled in the last game here, last Friday's 4-1 loss to Chicago.
"We didn’t play too well the last few games at home, and we wanted to show we could play better," Hiller said. "Everybody played quite well tonight. If we play like that every night, we’ll always have a good chance. We got better every period and that is important."
Playing well at home is key for the Ducks, who host at Honda Center every other night this week -- tomorrow vs. Florida, Friday vs. Detroit and a Sunday rematch with the Yotes.