Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fond Memories From the 2009 Playoffs

Sunday night's 1-0 shutout against the San Jose Sharks probably brought back a lot of great memories from the 08-09 playoffs for us Duck fans, and probably brought back some nightmares for San Jose fans. Hiller was absolutely on his game on Sunday night, stopping all 31 shots he faced, and sending about 200 San Jose fans home drunk and depressed. A massive group of Shark fans went down to Orange County to"invade" the Honda Center. I wonder if all that work was worth it for a six hour bus trip back without even seeing your team score a goal. The Ducks did not have a particularly great game, they were outshot and outchanced throughout the first two periods, but it was Bobby Ryan who cashed in against the Sharks, and that was all we needed. Jonas Hiller closed the door all night long, and earned us another two important points in the standings.
Turning Point
The turning point of the game was in the third period when Jamal Mayers took a hooking penalty, which was the first minor penalty the Sharks took all game. While the Ducks did not score, they had good puck control and wore down Sharks defense. As soon as that penalty was over, Joe Thornton took a cross-checking penalty, and they had to spend another two minutes with their penalty kill unit on the ice. These penalties took the game down to the final 5 minutes, and seemed to really demoralize the Sharks' bench. Anaheim controlled the puck for the rest of period, so much that the Sharks couldn't get Niemi off the ice until there were only 36 seconds left in the game,

All-Star Selections

Generally, I don't find the All-star game particularly interesting or exciting, and am usually pretty irritated with the selections. This year is not any different for me, with the exception of the "fantasy draft" format the league is trying out this year. In the article on, Shannahan made a mention of a few teams who requested that some of their players be omitted from taking part in the game this year to nurse some nagging injuries. I actually respect the wishes of the teams and the players. They work their asses off all year, and taking a weekend in the middle of the season to play a meaningless game is tough. I'm very happy to see Perry, Hiller, and Fowler be recognized by the league, and they are definitely the guys I would send as well. Getzlaf obviously was not chosen due to his broken face, otherwise you have to believe we would have 4. The only disappointment is not having Selanne go. At 40 years old, the guy is still flying, and one of the most productive players in the league. Considering this might be his last season, I would have liked to have seen him chosen. 
What do you think? What changes would you make to the AllStar roster? And if you were a captain, who would you take first overall? I would take Steven Stamkos. In a game where the score is typically around 10 goals for both teams, I would definitely take Stamkos. I predict he goes home with the brand new car the league gives out the the MVP. I'd love to hear some opinions on this year's AllStar game, and congrats to Hiller, Perry, and Fowler for representing the Ducks. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The 6-0 Beatdown

        First and foremost, I would like to apologize for not updating the blog after the 4-1 loss against the Predators on Wednesday. I didn't see any of the game, with the exception of the last 4 minutes, where I got to watch Shea Weber's ridiculous empty netter from the Nashville defensive zone. Judging from the boxscore, we got a taste of what Jonas Hiller provided for the Chicago Blackhawks last Monday. The scoreboard might have said 4-1, but it wasn't that bad, and Pekka Rinne really won that game for Nashville. It would have been nice to keep the win streak alive, but games like that happen, and we managed to bounce back very nicely against Columbus last night. 
         A 6-0 domination of a conference opponent is always great, and gaining two points, along with taking two points away from a team we will likely be battling with for a playoff seed, is even greater. Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan were big contributors on the scoresheet with a pair of goals each, but here is my choice for player of the game:

Matt Beleskey played one of his best games of the season. He was started on the 4th line, but was quickly moved up to the top line with Ryan and Perry. He was good on the forecheck, was skating hard, and really sealed the game with a huge goal to take the 3-0 lead. Beleskey leaped off the bench, slapping his stick on the ice calling for the puck. Newcomer Max Lapierre hit Beleskey with a pass right in his wheel house, and Beleskey ripped a one-timer past Chris Mason. It was such a nice shot, I thought it was Bobby Ryan initially.

"What is going on?" Moment of the Game:
I was very surprised that neither Teemu Selanne or Bobby Ryan were on the ice in the final 2 minutes, with each of them having a shot at a hat trick. I realize that the game was already in hand, and there was no reason to risk an injury to either of our stars, however, hat tricks are a big deal. Teemu has had 21 in his career, and I doubt he is really itching for 22. But I see hat tricks as something that sets the game of hockey apart from the other professional sports. A hat trick at home, in front of your fans, will definitely help put some butts in the seats. Particularly in Orange County, where you likely getting a lot of people in the arena that are not die hard hockey fans, it's important to instill fun, exciting memories in people's minds, and there aren't too many things cooler than 100 hats being thrown out onto the ice.
        The Ducks have been looking great lately, and are starting to make me believe there is some hope for the post season. Tomorrow will be a great test against the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are an interesting team, with an extremely deep and talented group of forwards, but with big questions on their blueline and in net. Tomrrow's key to the game for Anaheim will be a strong and physical forecheck. The San Jose defenders will crumble if our forwards run them down like they have been doing this whole homestand. Looking forward to a big Pacific Division battle, Go Ducks.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A look at our newest Duck: Maxim Lapierre

Last week the Ducks added some depth in the bottom-6, acquiring center Maxim Lapierre from the Montreal Canadiens for Brett Festerling and a 5th rounder in 2012. The first thing is that regardless, this was a low risk, potentially high reweard trade. We lost Festerling, which has no real affect on the Ducks' roster. It is very unlikely that he becomes anything more than a career AHLer, and we already have enough bottom pairing defensemen. Now, I didn't know a whole lot about Lapierre, so I did a bit of research. I started with a trip to YouTube, and found this video:
        I knew heading in that Lapierre has so far been a career 3/4th liner, and that he's known as an agitator. This is what I'm hoping he can bring to the table for the Ducks, as we do not have a player that attempts to get under the skin of the the opposing teams. Perry does this for us sometimes, with his occasional goalie running, but I would rather have him on the ice scoring goals. We have our enforcer in George Parros, but we really need a Sean Avery type player, and I hope Max can do this for us. From that video, his fighting skills don't look particularly great, he looked a bit like a girl trying to slap her sister in a few of those fights. But if he can make some guys frustrated and take penalties, I'll be very pleased. Lapierre has decent size, at 6'2 and 207 pounds. He was drafted in 2003, and has been playing up with the Habs since 2005. He has a career high of 15 goals and 28 points, and hasn't had less than 60 penalty minutes in three years. We can't expect too much from him offensively, but hopefully with his other skills, it won't be noticed.
        He will be hitting the ice tomorrow night for the first time wearing Kunitz's old #14, I hope he can bring some of the old spunk and fire Kunitz brought us. Let's keep this home stand rolling!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Blackhawk Fans Everywhere Hate Jonas Hiller

Jonas Hiller was easily the biggest story after last night's game against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. For those of you that didn't see the game, the Ducks beat Chicago last night 2-1 in Anaheim, riding an incredible performance in net from Jonas Hiller. He stopped 39 of the 40 shots Chicago put on net, only being beat by Bryan Bickell in the second period. Hiller even made the original stop on Bickell, where he puma-leaped across the crease and stopped a tap in shot with his stick, but then knocked the puck behind him and into the net. Hiller looked like a complete wall in the third period, where he stopped 19 shots, including this amazing save on Jack Skille:
Needless to say, this game would have been a loss without Hiller's performance.
The thing that I did not like about this game was how the Ducks once again sat back in the third period. They were outshot 19-2 in the third, which is completely unacceptable. It took players 4-5 tries to clear pucks out of our defensive zone, and by the time they got it out, the players were too gassed and had to change. I don't blame this particular collapse on Carlyle, simply because he was not the one who couldn't clear the zone. It definitely falls on the players, and every single Duck owes Jonas a beer.

Anaheim Ducks Fail of the Night

Last night's biggest fail for the Ducks was the Anaheim Powerplay. They were 0/3, and playing against a disciplined team like Chicago, they really needed to cash in on one of those. The first PP was the best of the three, they had good zone time, had a few shots, and controlled the puck. The other 2 were complete disasters. The Ducks could not get the puck in past the Chicago defense, and even let Marian Hossa skate around the puck for 30 seconds with the puck, practically unopposed. On their own Powerplay! That was easily the most frustrating moment of the game. The PP is a place where we will definitely be missing Getzlaf, and someone needs to step in and control the puck in the zone. I don't expect someone to be as effective as Getzlaf, but someone needs to take on the role of being the passer. I'd expect it to be Ryan, mostly because Selanne needs to be parked at the bottom of the left circle for one-timers, and Perry needs to be in the crease, mucking it up and pissing off the goalies.

Tomorrow I make a post about the Maxim Lapierre trade, and what I think we should do with him. Hopefully everyone else is enjoying the fact that Hawk fans everywhere are fuming over our goalie, and looking forward to more against Nashville on Wednesday. GO DUCKS

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ducks Defeat Flyers 5-2 on New Year's Eve

        Our Anaheim Ducks found a way to end 2010 on a high note, taking down the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 at home tonight. Heading into this game, I was worried about how the team would fair without our big franchise center, Ryan Getzlaf. Gezlaf was placed on the IR yesterday with multiple sinus fractures after taking that nasty looking shot to the face against Phoenix on Tuesday. Shane Doan has seemed to made it his mission to decimate our roster this year. First the incidental hit on Cam Fowler early in the season, then the not so incidental high hit to the head of Dan Sexton, and now he rips a slapper right into Getzlaf's face. Brutal. I think everyone should wear a cage next time the Coyotes are in town. Anyways, Getzlaf was out for tonight's game and has already been ruled out for the game Sunday against the Blackhawks. But hey, if we can play like we did tonight against Chicago, we won't need him.
        Since I was unable to watch the game live because of my work schedule, I ended up TiVo-ing it and watched it when I got home, so I will do a Ducks' hit/miss list tonight rather than a full recap.

Tonight's Ducks Hitlist
Bobby Ryan at Center: After the first few games this season where Bobby was centering the third line, I thought we would never see it again. He looked lost in the defensive zone, and seemed so concerned with making nice passes, he forgot to shoot when he had chances. Tonight was a completely different story. Ryan threw his weight around from the opening shift, crushing Kimmo Timonen in the offensive zone, and never looked back. His goal was just what we've come to expect from him, a beautiful wrister that the goalie never had a chance on.  He wasn't great in the faceoff dot, but you have to assume that aspect of his game will come with time. The only time I noticed him out of position defensively was on the Philadelphia goal by Andres Nodl in the second. I am definitely interested to see how this move progresses as the season continues, and obviously what happens when Getzlaf is healthy again.

The Blake-Koivu-Selanne Line: These old guys were absolutely on fire tonight. This line was really needed tonight to come up on the score sheet, since we were missing Getzlaf. Jason Blake roofed a backhander past Brobovsky on a breakaway 5 minutes into the game, which set the tone for that line. They were fast through the neutral zone, and seemed to control the play everytime they were on the ice. Their best shift was in the second period, right after Flyer's coach Laviolette took a timeout, and the Flyers scored on the next shift. I could feel the momentum shifting to Philadelphia after that goal. Their forwards started forechecking pretty hard, and I was afraid the Ducks would start to turtle like we have seen so many times this year. But instead, BKS hopped onto the ice, forechecked hard, drew a penatly, and took the momentum back. They were easily our most effective line, and I think it's a great thing for Blake to bury some pucks, he needs it.

Jonas Hiller: He didn't have to stand on his head to win this game, but he made a decent amount of saves that really kept the momentum with the Ducks. The glove save on Scott Hartnell in the third comes to mind. 35 saves is a solid night, and Jonas gave us just what we needed: Stability.

Bookend Effort: For the first time in a while, the Ducks began and ended the game with a great effort. It seems as though they either come out flying, get a lead, and then sit on it, or they come out flat, get down by a few goals, and then play hard to get back in the game. Tonight, the Ducks took the play right to the Flyers from the opening faceoff, and never once sat on their lead. They continued to pressure in the last 5 minutes with a two goal lead, which led to Lubo's 100th career goal. That is the type of effort that will keep earning 2 points every game.

Tonight's Misses

Matt Beleskey: When you are playing left wing on the top line, you have to be useful. Beleskey did not do much of anything tonight, outside of taking a puck in the knee. Everytime Ryan or Perry had possession in the offensive zone, I didn't notice Beleskey driving hard to the net, or finding open ice. He just seemed like he was floating, and when you have that much talent on one line, you should find a way to contribute. I don't think there are too many other options for the team right now, but Beleskey was a miss for me tonight.

Andy Sutton: He might also be 6'6 and be 220 pounds, but this guy is no Chris Pronger. I know having a big, physical presence is important for a team, but when he's a slow pylon that doesn't do anything but turn the puck over and get burned by fast forwards, there needs to be a change. I would much rather have Paul Mara dress than Sutton, Mara can at least move around the defensive zone.

Those are actually my only misses for the game tonight. The Ducks found a way tonight to overcome the loss of Getzaf and take down a tough and deep team in the Philadelphia Flyers. The upcoming 5 home games are going to be very important, as they are all against Western Conference teams they will be battling with for a playoff berth. Tomorrow I will take a look at the trade we made today for Maxim Lapierre, and then spend the day watching the Winter Classic. Happy New Year, and Go Ducks!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Puck Drop: The First Post

        This is my first post for my new blog, which will be centered around the Anaheim Ducks. I will recap every game, starting with this Friday's game against the Flyers, as well as my commentary on player performances, plays of the night, and any other Duck related news that arises over the course of the remaining season. Before the upcoming game on December 31st, I think I should let everyone know a little bit about myself, and where my passion for the Ducks and hockey in general has come from.
        I am not your prototypical hockey fan. I am from Long Beach, California originally, but moved with my parents to Portland when I was 8 years old. The only exposure I had to hockey growing up was floor hockey in gym class, which I was terrible in, and "The Mighty Ducks" movie series. I wanted to be Charlie Conway so bad. My parents even bought me roller blades and a cheap, plastic hockey stick one year for Christmas. Unfortunately, rollerblading on a dirt driveway does not work very well, and with the nearest ice rink thirty minutes away, my dreams of triple deke-ing on a breakaway died pretty quickly.
         My first real experience with the NHL didn't come until high school, where I made friends with a guy from Edmonton. He was naturally a huge Oiler fan, and didn't really care much about anything other than whether or not the Oilers were playing well or not. I could tell every single day whether or not the Oilers had won the previous night or not. John would be in English class on time with a smile on his face the day after the Oilers had won a game. He was at least five minutes late, had forgotten his homework, and looked like he had been run over by a car on the way to school on a day after the Oilers had lost. I don't think I have ever met someone who's entire demeanor is based completely on a hockey team. Needless to say, he's practically depressed these days. John bought the NHL center ice package the year after the lockout for the 05-06 season, and he and I would watch games together after school. It didn't take me very long to get addicted the the speed and excitement of the NHL. The competitiveness of the players and the amount of skill it takes to be a great hockey player still amazes me.
        It took me a little bit to fall in love with a team, and honestly, the first thing that drew me to the Mighty Ducks was that John passionately hates them. He would talk about how expansion teams don't even deserve to exist, and that a team in California based on a Disney movie is an insult to the sport. As a native Californian and American, I took some exception to his hardcore Canadian opinions, and began cheering for the Ducks. Although I was becoming a big Ducks fan, a piece of me still hoped the Oilers would do well, mostly because John was a good friend of mine. The mid-season addition of Chris Pronger was huge for Edmonton, and he became my favorite player quickly. He was huge, tough, and nasty. Essentially everything I am not, and I loved watching him play. I followed along through the playoffs on the edge of my seat every night on TV, through Bryzlgalov's heroics against Calgary and Colorado, and the eventual fall to John's Oilers. When the offseason news hit that Chris Pronger had been traded to the Ducks, it was all over. I was officially a hockey fan, and more so, I was an Anaheim Ducks fan.
        I will not pretend to be an extremely knowledgeable hockey historian. I wasn't around for the dark days of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and outside of last season, didn't know how horrible it is to have your team not playing in April. My blood doesn't boil when I hear the name Paul Kariya. But that does not make me less of a fan of the team now,  and I consider myself to be a smart hockey viewer. I want to provide somewhat of an outside point of view about the Ducks. Most Ducks fans are based in California, and I hope my opinions from up North are different and insightful. I am looking forward to recapping games, and providing my two cents on what the Ducks are doing right, and much more likely, what they are doing wrong and the things they can do to fix it. Thank you for checking out my new Ducks blog, and let's go Ducks!