Last year, both Southern California NHL teams made the playoffs. The Ducks were the 4th seed, believe it or not. What a difference a year makes. Though the Kings went back and forth between being 3rd, 7th, 8th, and even out of the playoffs in the last couple weeks of the regular season, they ended in 8th. By points, the three Pacific teams who made this year’s NHL playoffs are 6th – 8th place. I’ve always been a believer in giving home ice advantage to the teams who do the best, not automatically assigning the top three seed positions to the winners of each division in the two conferences. If that were the case, none of the Pacific teams would start out with home ice advantage. Since it’s not, the Phoenix Coyotes (below the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks in points) will have home ice advantage to start the playoffs. (As a side note, the Florida Panthers are in the same position in the East.)
The Anaheim Ducks were pretty clearly out of the playoffs early on this year. They replaced their coach with the hopes that it would help them, but I really don’t think they’ll be able to do much until they replace their general manager and no GM in his right mind would tell the owners of a team to fire him, so I’m guessing Murray bought himself a bit of time by blaming Randy Carlyle. Of course, the team’s poor performance for the rest of the season seems like a very good argument that Carlyle was not the problem
On paper, the Los Angeles Kings are a very strong team. They were expected to be pretty dominant this season and go far in the playoffs. They had a rough year and didn’t do nearly as well as expected. Some will argue that’s due to the strength of the Pacific Division, but I think the Atlantic Division (with four teams in the playoffs) in the East is a good argument against that. The Atlantic Division has almost all strong teams. Four out of the five teams will be in the playoffs. If you ranked by points instead of giving the division leaders the 2nd and 3rd spots, the Atlantic Division would be ranked 1-4 in the east and they’d all have home ice advantage. Considering the fact that the Pacific teams are the lowest in points, they really don’t seem as strong overall.
Of course, none of that matters as the playoffs start later this week. It’ll be interesting to see how the Kings perform in the playoffs this year. They’ve definitely got the advantage of having to fight to get into the playoffs, but they ended with a couple of losses in SO/OT against the Sharks and have to face Vancouver, who knocked them out of the playoffs two years ago and often seems to have their number. The schedule will be released 10am Pacific time on Sunday.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Atlantic Division, Blackhawks, Bob Murray, Canucks, Coyotes, Ducks, Hockey, Kings, NHL, Pacific Division, Panthers, playoffs, Predators, Randy Carlyle, Red Wings, Sharks
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
The Anaheim Ducks’ 12th Annual Dux in Tux event is this Friday, November 18 at The Westin South Coast Plaza. The event, benefiting the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, features the entire Ducks roster serving the guests.
Attendees paid $250 per plate to support the sold out event and get served by the players of their favorite team.
Tags: charity, Ducks, Hockey, NHL
Both of the Southern California NHL teams are heading to Europe to start their seasons this year. The last time the Kings and Ducks played in Europe, they faced each other at the O2 Arena in London in 2007. This time, the Kings will face the Rangers in Stockholm and the Sabres in Berlin and the Ducks will face the Sabres in Helsinki and Rangers in Stockholm. The Rangers will be the only team of the four starting in Europe playing their first two games in the same country. The NHL has been starting some teams in Europe every year since 2007 and it’s odd that the Kings and Ducks are both going back in the same year, but at least this year the Kings have the luxury of not having to travel all the way back to start the North American portion of their season. They get to stop on the east coast (for games in New Jersey and Philadelphia) before getting back to the west coast for their home opener.
The Kings often go without a long road trip until February, when the Grammy’s kick everyone else out of Staples Center for a bit to set up. Kings’ coach Terry Murray said he thinks “it’ll be very helpful” with the team bonding. He said, “I think it’s really a timely thing when you add new players like we have this year… The timing of this thing with the changes that we’ve made is very good.”
All the players on both teams seem to be embracing this opportunity to play their sport in Europe. The trip allows some of the players from Europe to have more friends and family at the game than they typically enjoy here in North America. Kopitar said some of his buddies from back home were planning to make the trip to Sweden, though he hasn’t heard the latest. He also said, “We wanna get off to a good start no matter where we play.” That’s always the key at any point in the season and the Kings and Ducks are both looking to win both games in Europe to start their seasons with a bang.
The Kings face higher expectations this year than they have in a long time. None of the players on the team have experienced these high predictions while on the Kings, but they’re ready to meet them and show early on that they’re a real contender this year.
If you’re traveling to Europe with your team, have a great time and be safe.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, bonding, Ducks, Europe, Hockey, Kings, NHL, Rangers, Sabres, 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
Though I still think the Winter Classic (in Philadelphia on January 2nd this year at 8pm) is the NHL’s big moment to gain fans, I also think the move to Vegas in 2009 was a good move and the NHL seems to be presenting the awards better every year. They don’t seem to know where the awards will be in 2012, but I’m hoping they get a new contract here in Las Vegas. Everyone seems to like it. The players get an excuse to come hang out and have fun together in Vegas and the fans have a great place to enjoy surrounding their trip to watch the awards and see their favorite players. Each year the number of players (along with their families and friends) attending and parties for them to attend seems to be growing. It seems like a perfect relationship for the NHL – hopefully, it will continue for a bit longer. I’m generally not a fan of visiting the Vegas heat at this time of year, but as long as you stay inside most of the time, it’s a lot of fun.
Corey Perry lost out to Daniel Sedin for the player-voted Ted Lindsay award, he won the one Daniel Sedin himself described as the “greatest award you can win as an individual” (he went on to say that “it’s been a fun life, so I can’t be disappointed”). Perry won the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded every year to the MVP of the NHL as voted on by members of the NHL Hockey Writers’ Association. The emotional Ducks’ scoring leader said it was his team that got him there. A lot of his family and friends were able to travel to Vegas to see Perry win the award, which definitely makes this moment all the more special. Perry said when he heard his name, “it kinda shocked me – you don’t really believe it.” I’m sure the accomplishment will set in after a bit of celebrating with everyone who came to Vegas to enjoy this with him.
Dustin Brown took home the NHL Foundation Player Award this year, his third year nominated. Clearly, the third time was the charm for him and his charity KaBOOM. I’m sure Kings fans were also happy to see Ian Laperriere (always a favorite ex-King) win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, for the player exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, & dedication to hockey.
Daniel Sedin (2011) and Henrik Sedin (2010) became the first brothers to win back to back Art Ross Trophies (awarded for leading the league in scoring). It was also great to see Tim Thomas get the Vezina for the best goaltender again – especially in the year the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Though I know the voting takes place before the playoffs, no one deserved the Stanley Cup more than Tim Thomas the way he performed and during the regular season he did the same thing for the Bruins night after night. It was great to see him rewarded for that hard work.
On a personal note, I enjoyed seeing Dan Bylsma win the Jack Adams award for coach of the year. I think what he did with the Penguins in spite of all their injuries was truly an amazing accomplishment, even though they clearly wanted to do better than they did getting knocked out in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If you get a chance to catch one of the re-airings of the NHL Awards on Versus or the NHL Network, I’d highly recommend it. I’m glad I recorded it, so I’ll be able to watch some of the bits I missed, due to running around and talking to the winners. Apparently, there was a USA vs. Canada part two and I’m looking forward to seeing that when I get home from Vegas tomorrow. For now, it’s almost time to go enjoy more of this fun city!
Tags: Bruins, Canucks, Corey Perry, Dan Bylsma, Daniel Sedin, Ducks, Dustin Brown, Henrik Sedin, Hockey, KaBOOM, Kings, Las Vegas, Lightning, NHL, NHL Awards, Penguins, Stanley Cup, Tim Thomas, Versus, Winter Classic
Tonight’s game at the Honda Center in Anaheim was definitely exciting at times. Ducks fans got to see Bobby Ryan score one of the most amazing goals, but at the end of the first period their team was behind, they were tied after two periods, gave up the lead with just 36 seconds to go in the third period (with Shea Weber’s goal), and lose just only 1:57 into the first (and only) overtime period. Clearly, it would have been worse for the home fans if they’d had to wait until double overtime like the Lightning and Rangers fans (who lost to the Penguins and Capitals respectively). I’m sure that’s little comfort to the announced SRO sellout crowd of 17,385 (definitely the most full I’ve seen Honda Center this year). They were surely feeling good about their team with under a minute to go in the third period and then had to see their team collapse before their eyes.
Instead of being proud of a goal that will surely be played even on sports broadcasts that normally ignore the NHL, Bobby Ryan was upset by the heartbreaking loss. When asked about his amazing goal, Ryan explained “he had no stick, so he was a little vulnerable” and how Ryan himself didn’t have a lot of speed, so he tried to cut back as many times as possible and was a little lucky that he got it up over his pad, but “it’s kind of a moot point now.” Bobby also said you don’t have time to sulk at this time of year, since you have to prepare for the next game.
Good news for Ducks fans is that their team has won every other game so far of the post season, so it seems odds are pretty good that their team will be back at Honda Center for game seven Tuesday night. The down side is that the Ducks have been winning the even games and if they continue to only win even numbered games, they’ll lose the series to the Predators in seven games. In order to move on to the next round, the Ducks must win two games in a row. They need to win in Nashville Sunday (3pm Pacific) and then win again at home Tuesday. Like all hockey fans with teams still in the playoffs, all Ducks fans can do is hope and wait to see what will happen to their team.
Tags: Bobby Ryan, Capitals, Ducks, fans, highlights, Hockey, Honda Center, Lightning, NHL, Penguins, playoffs, Predators, Rangers, sellout, Shea Weber
The Anaheim Ducks didn’t really have much playoff intensity when the 2011 playoffs opened for them on Wednesday. Their fans were certainly wondering what happened to their league leading scorers and even what happened to the Nashville Predators – known more for their defense than offense. Friday night, the Ducks showed their fans that they DO remember how to show up for the playoffs and started with two power play goals (one 5 on 3, one 5 on 4) at 5:24 and 6:02 of the first period. They were the only goals scored that period, but at least Ducks fans had seen their team score a goal against the Predators in the post season without a two man advantage. I’m sure they were hoping their team would work up to an even strength goal at some point. The Ducks’ first even strength goal of the 2011 playoffs came almost halfway through their second game when Bobby Ryan scored his first goal of this year’s playoffs. His second of the playoffs was the empty net goal securing the win for the Ducks.
Ducks fans breathed a sigh of relief as their team proved they were capable of scoring even strength goals against Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. For some reason, the Ducks like to keep things interesting for their fans and let the Predators get a bit too close for comfort a couple times in the game, but they pulled out the win and managed to keep most of their fans in the arena until the end of the game. The announced sellout crowd, definitely much closer to the 17,174 capacity than Wednesday’s announced sellout, got to celebrate their team’s first playoff win of the year and know they will see their team at least once more at Honda Center this year (for game 5 on Friday, April 22).
In order to move past the Predators and on to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Ducks have to win at least one game in Nashville. They’ll play in Nashville tomorrow at 3pm and Wednesday at 5:30pm, Pacific. Ducks fans are hoping the team they saw Friday is the team that will travel to Nashville.
Tags: Bobby Ryan, Ducks, even strength, Hockey, Honda Center, NHL, Pekka Rinne, playoffs, power play, Predators, sellout
In the first day of the 2011 NHL playoffs, the Ducks were the only home team to lose. The Capitals had to get near the end of the first overtime period to win their game, but the Ducks lost 4-1 to the typically defensive Predators. Nashville was expected to be a good team defensively – especially with Pekka Rinne, one of the best goalies in the NHL, in goal. I don’t think many expected them to score four goals against the Ducks, though. Ellis hasn’t been the best goalie this season. In fact, he’s near the bottom in save percentage, but even if he’d played really well tonight it would have been rough for the Ducks. You can’t win without scoring and the only time the Ducks scored against Rinne was in a 5 on 3 power play. Teemu Selanne scored the Ducks’ only goal.
The only real good thin the Ducks can take out of this is (as Getzlaf pointed out) scoring the one goal means “we know we can get it past him.” The Ducks clearly realize that they don’t just need more traffic in front of the net to score on Rinne. Getzlaf explained that it’s, “not only traffic in front, we’ve gotta get good quality shots to the net… it’s not good enough just to throw them there, we’ve got to put them there with some enthusiasm and get there after the rebounds.
Though a sellout crowd of 17,174 was announced for Honda Center tonight, there were a lot of empty seats and I find it hard to believe the top corner seats were sold – especially since there were even tickets available on Goldstar. One of these days, I’d like to figure out what percentage of the tickets have to be sold before they can donate the rest of the tickets or give them to employees or whatever they do to ensure that they can announce a sellout at a sporting event.
Clearly, the Ducks are ready to move on from the first game and come back ready to take on Rinne and the Predators again on Friday. Hopefully, Honda Center will be more packed on a Friday night, in spite of it being more of a true hockey fan’s matchup.
The Predators were naturally happy about winning the first game away from home and essentially removing the Ducks’ home ice advantage from the equation, but they realize it’s a long series. They’ve just won one of the four games they’d need to win to advance to the next round and the series is far from over.
Tags: attendance, Ducks, fans, Hockey, home ice, Honda Center, NHL, Pekka Rinne, playoffs, power play, Predators, Ryan Getzlaf, sellout, Stanley Cup, Teemu Selanne
Here they are – my playoff predictions for the first round. Some of these were difficult for me to pick, but here are my thoughts.
Capitals vs. Rangers
Capitals in 5 – I don’t think this will be at all challenging for the Capitals given the way the Rangers have been playing lately. I think the Rangers will win a game, hopefully at home for their fans. I may not like the team, but I think all fans deserve a win at home in the playoffs.
Flyers vs. Sabres
Flyers in 6 – The Sabres have been playing amazingly well lately and have the best record in the last ten games out of all the teams in the NHL, but I still think the Flyers will prevail in the end. They’re a strong team and I think they may be the team that’ll make it out of the east.
Bruins vs. Canadiens
Bruins in 5 – With Tim Thomas (who should get the Vezina again) in goal, I don’t see how the Bruins can go wrong here. The Canadiens only won half of their last ten games and certainly don’t seem to be in playoff form at the moment.
Penguins vs. Lightning
Penguins in 6 – The Pens ended their season with the second best set of 10 games in the NHL and in spite of not having team captain Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin healthy, they have been finding ways to win. There’s still hope that Crosby might be able to return at some point during the playoffs, though clearly the Penguins will be careful not to rush him back too quickly. If Sid returns, who knows how well the Penguins will be able to do with him back in the lineup.
Canucks vs. Blackhawks
Canucks in 5 – The Blackhawks almost didn’t make it into the playoffs. They were 5-4-1 in their last ten games and only made it into the playoffs, since the Stars lost their last game of the season, too. I could see the Canucks sweeping the Blackhawks, but I think the Blackhawks will be able to win one game. The Canucks aren’t perfect and if the Hawks play well they’re an amazing team.
Sharks vs. Kings
Kings in 6 – I’ve heard some people say they think this will be the year the Sharks do well in the playoffs. It’s bound to happen one of these days and perhaps Nabokov was the reason they weren’t able to do well in the past. That might be true, but I don’t think so. These Sharks are definitely different than the Sharks on the last few years, but the Kings split their series with the Sharks including a win in the last month of the season. Of course, if the Kings who played the last two games of the season against the Ducks show up, I have to change this prediction to Sharks in 5. Anze Kopitar is definitely out until next season and though Justin Williams has been skating, he’s still an unknown. If he ends up getting back in time, he could help the Kings survive the first round.
Red Wings vs. Coyotes
Coyotes in 6 – The Red Wings have the worst record of the 8 teams who made it into the playoffs in their last ten games of the season (4-4-2) and have had some goaltending issues. The Red Wings look tired and I think the fact that they have quite a few older players and their goaltending isn’t as good as it has been the last few playoff runs. It took the Red Wings seven games to beat the Coyotes in the first round last year and I think the Coyotes will be even more motivated this year and will upset the Red Wings.
Ducks vs. Predators
Ducks in 6 – When Hiller got injured, a lot of people (including me) thought that would be the end of the Ducks’ playoff hopes. Hiller had been keeping the Ducks in the mix and very few thought they could manage without him. Anaheim proved us all wrong. Corey Perry (#1 goal scorer in the NHL this season with 50 goals) and Lubomir Visnovsky (the top scoring defenseman with 68 points) really stepped up. The Ducks have two of the top ten scorers in the NHL this season (and Getzlaf is tied for 11th) – if you resort by points per game, all three of their top scorers are in the top 10. I think that is what will get them past the Predators (whose top scorers are tied for 91st in the NHL). Pekka Rinne (the #2 goaltender in save percentage) has carried the Predators through the season, but I think he’s met his match in the Ducks’ offense. I don’t think it’ll be a super easy series, though I could see the Ducks winning in 5 games, too.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Blackhawks, Bruins, Canadiens, Canucks, Capitals, Corey Perry, Coyotes, Ducks, Evgeni Malkin, Evgeni Nabokov, Flyers, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, Justin Williams, Kings, Lightning, Lubomir Visnovsky, NHL, Pekka Rinne, Penguins, playoffs, Predators, Rangers, Red Wings, Ryan Getzlaf, Sabres, Sharks, Sidney Crosby, Teemu Selanne, Tim Thomas