Tonight, I was able to attend the Kings/Ducks game in Anaheim as a fan, which was quite a treat. I hadn’t attended a Kings game as a fan since 2006, I think. I got to wear one of my Kings jerseys, sit with my friend in a Ducks jersey, and cheer for the Kings. Fortunately, for me, the Kings gave me a lot to cheer about and the Ducks put up a good fight, making the game exciting and at times nerve wracking. Everything one would want in a game as a fan.
Jonathan Quick played for the Kings in both games against the Ducks even though they were back to back games and he had to win last night’s game in a shootout. Clearly, this was a good decision on Terry Murray’s part, since Quick looked great in net for the Kings. Dan Ellis was in net for the Ducks tonight. I would have played Hiller at home instead, since he generally gives the Ducks a better chance to win, but I’m sure Randy Carlyle had his reasons.
I was surprised that the game was still relatively empty (especially for a SoCal rivalry or “Freeway Series” game). Tonight’s game at the Honda Center in Anaheim had almost everything a fan could want in a game. The Kings scored a short-handed and power play goal (scored by Simon Gagne & Slava Voynov) and the Ducks got a power play goal (scored by Corey Perry). In fact, if you count the empty net goal at the end of the game, the Kings had two short-handed goals. One of the Ducks’ goals was reviewed and the call on the ice of a goal stood. Kyle Clifford and Sheldon Brookbank fought.
Jonathan Quick’s save percentage of .921 stood up with the Kings’ five goals. Star Kings’ player Anze Kopitar scored his 9th goal of the season, Mike Richards had two goals, Gagne had a goal and an assist, … what more could a Kings fan ask for in a game?
There was an odd problem with the lights tonight I can’t remember seeing in a hockey game before. The teams came back out for the third period and had to wait while the Honda Center employees rushed to fix the problem. The teams were waiting so long that they had to let them warm up some more. Practice in the middle of a game is definitely not typical, but the teams needed to stay active. Fans were a little restless, but a problem like that isn’t typical and gives fans something to talk about the next day other than the win or loss.
Perhaps this set of back to back games against the Ducks is exactly what the Kings to kick their season into gear and get them to start playing consistently like the team everyone expected to see this season – the contender.
Though it’s still early in the season and the Kings have played more games than all the teams in their division other than the Ducks, they took over the division lead with tonight’s win, putting them in third place in the western conference. Perhaps this is the beginning of a good streak that will keep the Kings near the top for a while.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, back-to-back games, Corey Perry, Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, Honda Center, Jonas Hiller, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Kyle Clifford, Mike Richards, NHL, Randy Carlyle, Sheldon Brookbank, Simon Gagne, Slava Voynov, standings, Terry Murray
Jonas Hiller played in tonight’s game for the Ducks in Anaheim. It was just his first full game since February of last season and he looked good. Hiller’s been saying he’s feeling healthy, but until seeing him play a full game, I’m sure some of the Ducks fans were still worried.
Randy Carlyle said if Hiller’s healthy, as he’s seemed so far, they’ll proceed as if the injury didn’t happen and it’ll be business as usual with Hiller in goal for the most part. I’m sure all Ducks fans are happy to see him healthy. Dan Ellis and Ray Emery did well for them last season and got the Ducks into the post season in spite of Hiller’s injury, but no one wants to see their number one goalie out with any injury – especially a bad one to the head.
The regular season is just a little over a week away and the Ducks will (again) be starting the season in Europe.
Tags: Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, NHL, Randy Carlyle, Ray Emery
Tonight’s embarrassing loss by the Kings in front of their fans in their home closer at Staples Center probably means they dropped from 4th place (where they started last night’s game in Anaheim) to 8th place in a little over 24 hours. The Kings are currently in 7th place, but as long as the Blackhawks get a point in tomorrow’s home and season closer against the Red Wings, the Kings will finish in 8th. The Ducks weren’t even guaranteed a playoff spot until they beat the Kings last night in Anaheim and now they’ve moved from just barely making it into the 8th and final playoff spot to clinching 4th place and home ice advantage for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Ducks ended the season with one of the best records in their last 10 games to make sure they got into the playoffs and are now in a similar situation to their 2009 position where they’ve been playing playoff intensity hockey out of necessity in preparation for the playoffs and have been finding ways to win in spite of their number one goaltenders (Jonas Hiller) injury.
In contrast, the Kings have one of the worst records in their last 10 games and are just barely limping into the post season. They’ll probably face the #1 team in the NHL in the first round, since the Vancouver Canucks are clinched the President’s Trophy a while ago and are in the western conference. Randy Carlyle talked about how far the Ducks have come from where they were a couple months ago in spite of the challenges they’ve faced since then. He credits the players for solidifying their group and said they’d earned this position. Carlyle laughed as he said, “I don’t think anyone picked us to be with home ice advantage at any point, but it’s funny the way things fall in your lap if you continue to win your fair share of games.”
With under 3 ½ minutes to go almost everyone on the ice ended up fighting each other. Not surprisingly, there was no third man in penalty. It was most surprising to see Teemu Selanne (generally mild mannered and the oldest player on either team) face off against Brad Richardson. It started with shoving during a puck battle along the boards, but deteriorated fairly rapidly. For a bit, it seemed like goalies Jonathan Quick and Dan Ellis might get involved, but according to Ellis, they really just talked about how they had no desire to fight. He went on to say that he was so tired that “if he were to punch me, I’d be right down on the ice. I might have just laid right down anyway.” The fans who stayed in Staples Center for the end of the game got to see a bigger fight than in most NHL games and many fans enjoy the fighting aspect of hockey games, but the Ducks fans were definitely the only truly happy fans exiting Staples Center tonight.
Tags: Brad Richardson, Canucks, Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, fighting, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Quick, Randy Carlyle, Red Wings, standings, Staples Center, Teemu Selanne
Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t give up 5 goals in a game often, but when he does it seems to be in surprising situations (like to the NY Islanders early in the season). Lundqvist has two shutouts in his last seven games and hadn’t given up five goals himself since November 24th in Tampa Bay. He faced only one more shot than Dan Ellis and gave up three more goals. I’m sure that’s not what Rangers fans were expecting after the display against the Flyers Sunday. Most Rangers fans are probably wondering what team will show up for the game in San Jose and whether their team will squeak into a playoff spot in the east or drop out of the playoffs, since many teams around them have a couple games in hand against them.
Ducks fans are also dealing with a roller coaster watching their team play lately. The Ducks were shut out against the Canucks (the number one team in the league, but the way they played was more disturbing than the score), but won four of their last five games. The down side, of course, is that before the last five games the Ducks had lost five in a row. Before that, they’d won five in a row, though. The team has been very streaky all season and fans are hoping they can make that a winning streak for long enough that they’ll end up in the playoffs. Their win tonight put the Ducks back in 10th place in the western conference. The playoff battle is definitely going to go down to the wire again this season. The Kings won tonight and the Stars got a point in the standings with an overtime loss.
Lubomir Visnovsky has five goals and two assists in his last three games. He had a hat trick and an assist against Dallas and two goals and an assist against the Rangers. Lubo hitting his stride is something Ducks fans are hoping will help their team squeak into the playoffs this season. They missed the playoffs last season and don’t want their team to be sitting at home after the regular season again.
Tags: Canucks, Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, Flyers, Henrik Lundqvist, Hockey, Islanders, Kings, Lightning, losing streak, Lubomir Visnovsky, NHL, playoffs, Rangers, standings, Stars, winning streak
The Vancouver Canucks are the #1 team in the NHL (by 7 points). They’ve played one more game than the Red Wings and two more than the Flyers, but they’re in the lead by more than the maximum possible points in those games. Cory Schneider stopped all 26 of the Ducks’ shots to give the Canucks a shutout in the second of their back to back games this weekend in southern California and complete the SoCal sweep. (The Canucks beat the Kings 3-1 yesterday afternoon in LA.) Schneider said having a shutout at this level was “a good milestone and something to build on,” though he also mentioned that at this point in the season the win was more important than reaching this milestone. All the Canucks spoke highly of Schneider. Daniel Sedin even said “we don’t see him as a backup, he’s shown that he can play on any given night.”
Though the Canucks were the visiting team at Honda Center, you wouldn’t have known it from the crowd noise or the number of Canucks jerseys (especially in the lower concourse). Ducks fans started chanting “Let’s go Ducks” at the beginning of the game, but were quickly drowned out by the “Go Canucks go” cheer. At least from the TV broadcast it was probably difficult to tell the difference between Ducks and Canucks…
Ellis didn’t play badly and he’s 3-2 since coming to Anaheim, but after allowing 3 goals in only 16 shots (only .813 save percent), one has to wonder if Emery will be making an appearance in a game for Anaheim.
Since the western conference is still very tight, had the Ducks won tonight’s game, they would have moved into 8th place in the conference, but since they lost in regulation and Minnesota lost in overtime, the Ducks moved down to 10th. Clearly, the playoff race will be interesting until the end of the season.
Tags: Canucks, Cory Schneider, Dan Ellis, Daniel Sedin, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Honda Center, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Ray Emery, shutout, standings
Lubomir Visnovsky’s 2nd career NHL hat trick (first as a Duck), the first of a Ducks defenseman, secured the overtime win for the Anaheim Ducks tonight in Honda Center in front of the very sparse crowd. Though the announced attendance was over 12,000, I can’t remember seeing a Honda Center that was more empty. There were quite a few sections that had fewer than 50% of the seats filled. Naturally, the fans who were in attendance went crazy when the Ducks won.
The only Ducks goal not by Visnovsky tonight was the game-tying goal by Teemu Selanne. It was Selanne’s 400th goal as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks have been struggling since goaltender Jonas Hiller’s injury, but Ellis has given them enough of a chance to win the last couple games and the Ducks have taken advantage of it to tie their last two games (against the Red Wings and Stars) up in time to win them in overtime, putting them back in 9th place in the conference tied in points with 8th and 10th. This year’s western conference playoff race is definitely a tight one, so hopefully the Honda Center will be a bit more full when the Ducks face the 1st place Canucks Sunday.
Tags: attendance, Canucks, Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Honda Center, Jonas Hiller, Lubomir Visnovsky, NHL, playoffs, Red Wings, standings, Stars, Teemu Selanne
In the beginning of the season (though many seem to have forgotten about this part), the Kings were doing great and in solid playoff standings (even #1 in the entire NHL on and off for a while) and the Ducks were struggling to stay out of last place in the NHL. Then, Jonas Hiller (the Ducks’ #1 goaltender) started to steal games for the Ducks. The Ducks still weren’t playing well, but they were winning and climbing the standings steadily. The Kings went through a rough patch and found themselves low in the standings and in a place where their fans were questioning their certainty that their team would be in the playoffs for the second year in a row in 2011.
Now that most teams in the NHL have 20 games or less remaining in the season, the Kings are in 5th place (just one point behind the 4th place Coyotes and they have a game in hand). They’re 5 points ahead of the 11th place Ducks (only 2 points out of the playoffs, but only 3 points ahead of 13th place). Jonas Hiller is injured (with symptoms of vertigo) and Ducks GM Bob Murray has already signed Ray Emery and traded the former backup (Curtis McElhinney) for Dan Ellis, who lost to the Wild in overtime last night. If I were the Ducks, I’d be making sure Hiller is seeing every specialist out there. I know a few people who suffer from vertigo and one way or another, the end of their symptoms is almost always the same. They see the right specialist or take the right medication and they’re back to normal until something else sets off their vertigo. I don’t know how the Ducks are handling the situation with Hiller, but he’s clearly still not healthy, which has already been very bad for the team. Hiller seems to be getting a bit more of the credit for the Ducks’ success earlier, but what good is that if he’s not able to play and the Ducks are sitting at home in the post-season again? The western conference remains tight. Only 5 points separates 4th place from 10th. The Kings have won three games in a row, in spite of giving up their 4-0 lead in today’s game and only beating the Avalanche by one goal. They’ve won 11 of their last 15 games and got points in 3 of the 4 they lost.
I find it interesting that the two southern California teams haven’t done well at the same time this season. I think it would be great for southern California hockey to have the Kings and the Ducks in the playoffs at the same time, but it looks like 2011 won’t be the year for that.
In spite of the struggling Anaheim team, somehow GM Bob Murray got a four year extension to his contract yesterday (an act that almost made one of my friends who’s a fan of the Ducks cry). I haven’t talked to anyone who believes Murray has been doing a good job as the General Manager of the Ducks, but clearly those most important in the decision believe in him. I think this will bring more mediocre hockey to the Ducks fans in the near future and the owners will wish they’d found a new GM, but time will tell. The trade deadline is coming up Monday at noon (PT), but so far the most shocking transaction was the Ducks resigning Murray. It doesn’t have to do with a player directly, but this development could have a longer impact on the team than most of the trade deadline moves on their teams. Many trade deadline moves result in a player transaction that only affects a team until the end of the playoffs that year. Very few of the moves affect a team for four years.
Tags: Avalanche, Bob Murray, contract, Coyotes, Curtis McElhinney, Dan Ellis, Ducks, general manager, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Ray Emery, trade deadline