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
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
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
With tonight’s win against the Blues, the Ducks are back in 8th place in the western conference. Emery’s first NHL start this season led to his first NHL win of the season. Every game of the season is important, but the end of the season (especially in these times where points for losing in overtime and shootouts make the standings even closer) seems more critical. Every win can mean jumping a couple spots up in the standings and every loss can mean being passed by a team or two to drop in the standings.
Though he didn’t exactly answer the question about why he chose to start Emery in goal tonight, Randy Carlyle explained that all you can as of your goaltender is that he give you a chance to win the game and said Ray Emery definitely did that tonight for the Ducks. They had a rough second period, but ended it still in a tie and managed to get and keep the lead in the third to beat the Blues.
The Ducks are playing every game like it’s already the playoffs and fighting to make sure they’re not going to stop playing at the end of the regular season. With their number one goalie (and many would argue, MVP until he was injured, Jonas Hiller) injured, Anaheim is facing a bit of an uphill battle.
Their SoCal rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, swept their recent four game road trip and face the Blues tomorrow night in LA. Although the Kings have climbed to 4th place in the western conference, they’re far from secure in the playoff picture. They’re only 4 points ahead of the Ducks, who are tied in points with the 9th place Calgary Flames. With 12 games remaining in the season, it’ll definitely come right down to the wire again this year.
Tags: Blues, Ducks, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Randy Carlyle, Ray Emery, 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
Alexander Semin led the Capitals with his hat trick tonight. Semin kept the game from going into overtime by scoring with just 1:47 left in regulation. His first goal of the game was the first he scored since November 28th. Semin missed a lot of those games due to injury, but was clearly happy to get the hat trick and the game winning goal tonight in Anaheim to end the Caps’ losing streak at three games.
The Ducks hadn’t had more than six goals scored against them this season, but their number one goalie (Jonas Hiller, who hasn’t gotten nearly the credit he deserves for Anaheim’s success this season) is injured as he has been on and off since getting hit with a puck in the head at the All Star game.
Tonight’s game in Anaheim was back and forth and neither team ever had a good lead. The largest lead was the two goal lead the Ducks had for just a little over a minute and a half in the middle of the game. There aren’t many one goal games with a combined total of 13 goals. The fans in attendance (a lot less than the 15,579 announced, sadly) really got a treat at the Honda Center tonight. They got to see a couple breakaway goals (including a great one by Alex Ovechkin), a short handed goal, a hat trick, a fight (started after the Ducks’ Sutton’s bad boarding hit on Hendricks). When asked about the hit, Hendricks said it sure felt like more than a two minute penalty hit, but I’m guessing they never do. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a hit like that.
The Ducks won’t be back in southern California until they host the Kings a week from now (Feb 23), but they play in Minnesota and St. Louis before that.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, breakaway, Capitals, Ducks, hat trick, Honda Center, Jonas Hiller, Kings, NHL, short handed goal
Brian Burke and Francois Beauchemin had triumphant returns to Honda Center and the Ducks took some careless penalties as they lost to the Maple Leafs at home. Toronto hadn’t won a single game and only had one point in their first 8 games of the season. Only one team had failed to beat the Maple Leafs in regulation, but the Ducks managed to take enough penalties to make the Leafs’ 6-3 win possible with only one even strength goal.
The Ducks took a total of 17 penalties for 45 penalty minutes tonight. Anaheim’s first goal was definitely suspect and watching it again at home in HD on FSN after the game, it was easier to see why Ron Wilson took the bench minor for “abuse of officials” after they didn’t make the call to wave the Ducks’ goal off due to goaltender interference. I’ve definitely seen goals called off for a lot less, but unfortunately for the Maple Leafs goaltender interference is not something they can review – if it’s not called on the ice, the goal stands. At least the goal didn’t end up making the difference in the game. If it had, I’m sure Ron Wilson would have been irate. In spite of having the first power play of the game and a middle of the league power play against the Maple Leafs’ dead last in the league (before the start of tonight’s game – the Ducks may have helped the Leafs in that area) penalty kill, the Ducks only had three power play chances and went 1 for 3 on the power play tonight. The Leafs also took quite a few penalties (10 penalties for 31 minutes), but most of them were offset by the Ducks’ penalties. The Maple Leafs went 5 for 11 on the power play tonight. The Toronto power play was only 12th in the league (22.2%) at the start of the game, but their 45% power play in tonight’s game is better than the best power play in the league (the Calgary Flames, 32.3%).
While I’m sure there are a couple goals Hiller would like to have back, I’m sure the Ducks fans know that he and his 85% save percentage were not the real problem. Most of the goals were scored on the power play (3 scored with a 2 man advantage). Randy Carlyle stuck with his goalie and didn’t pull him from the game when he knew it wasn’t Hiller’s fault that the Ducks were doing poorly. The real problem tonight was the Ducks’ lack of control. The Ducks’ bad penalty killing can’t even be blamed. What team could be expected to survive the penalties the Ducks took in their game against the Maple Leafs?
Hagman’s hat trick led the way for the Maple Leafs and though most of the fans left in the building as he scored his 3rd goal of the game were Toronto fans, no hats made it to the ice. Kaberle had a goal and 4 assists and Stempniak had 4 points (1-3) in the Maple Leafs’ big win against the Ducks.
I was talking to a friend who has Ducks season tickets before the game. He was planning on going to the game with a friend who’s a Maple Leafs fan and said that his goal was to “see one of the bottom teams in the league win a game.” He knew he couldn’t lose with that goal, since the Ducks were one of the bottom teams in the NHL and the Maple Leafs are still in last place even though they finally got their first win against the Ducks.
It’s early in the season (only 9-12 games of the 82 in the season have been played by teams at this point), but the games at the beginning of the season count as much as the games at the end and teams like the Maple Leafs and Ducks have to be hoping that they find the right combination soon. The Ducks did make major changes to their top lines and their defensive pairings, but after the preseason and 10 games of the season, one would expect them to be getting used to each other and finding chemistry somehow. If they’re not, perhaps the lines aren’t set the way they should be yet. Maybe some more line changes need to be made.
Tags: Brian Burke, Calgary Flames, Ducks, Francois Beauchemin, FSN, goaltender interference, HD, Hockey, Honda Center, Jonas Hiller, Lee Stempniak, Maple Leafs, NHL, Niklas Hagman, penalties, penalty kill, power play, Tomas Kaberle
Jonas Hiller may have the save percentage (and he’ll probably still lead the save percentage for the playoffs by the end of the Stanley Cup Finals), but Osgood’s save percentage of only 88.89% in game 7 was enough to advance the Red Wings to the conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, where they’ll have home ice advantage again.
The Ducks looked sluggish for much of game 7, but still managed to fight back from a two goal deficit to tie the game at 3 goals apiece at 7:37 in the 3rd period. Near the end of the third period, it was obvious that the next goal would win the game. Unfortunately for the Ducks fans and team, the next goal was scored by Dan Cleary with exactly three minutes left in the 3rd period. It was the game (and series) winning goal for the Red Wings.
Detroit is a tough team and the Ducks should be proud of what they accomplished this post season. Game 7 of the series could have easily gone the other way. It was a very close game (unlike the Penguins/Capitals game last night) and to keep the game that close in Detroit is very impressive.
I think the Red Wings are beatable largely because of Osgood’s poor play in the regular season and playoffs, but not this time. It’ll be interesting to see how Detroit fares against Chicago.
As a side note, though it was frustrating last night, the fact that FSN West/Prime Ticket didn’t have their act together ended up saving me and allowing me to watch the entire game. Since they had the game listed on none of their stations (HD or otherwise online or in DVR guides) and I only get one of their two HD channels, I recorded the game on FSN Prime Ticket and FSN HD. Since the Angels game went into extra innings, but first period of the game was only available in southern California on Prime Ticket. I guess that’s the advantage of Versus as a channel – they don’t air anything else right before the games that can’t be cut off to move on to a hockey game. I guess that’s the up side of being on a network a lot of people don’t get. True, most carriers offer Versus now. Of course on the down side, Versus is a paid channel for most, so people who don’t purchase the sports package probably don’t have Versus. This is most noticeable when traveling and trying to find Versus in a hotel.
Tags: Blackhawks, Capitals, Chris Osgood, Ducks, fans, fighting, FSN, game 7, HD, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, NHL, Penguins, playoffs, Red Wings, Versus