Jonas Hiller hadn’t played a game in the NHL playoffs until the first game of this series against the Sharks (April 16 – also his first playoff shutout). He’s played only 4 NHL playoff games and he has 2 shutouts. A lot of people seemed to doubt Hiller’s ability to handle the playoff pressure, but considering the fact that the Sharks have only scored 6 goals against him in 4 games and he shut the Sharks (the winner of the President’s Trophy for the best NHL season) twice. I think Hiller has shown he can handle playoff pressure. Sure, it’s early in the postseason, but if I were a Ducks fan, I’d be happy Hiller was in net.
Bobby Ryan, Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) finalist, scored Anaheim’s first goal of the game (and their second – scored right after the long break close to the middle of the 2nd period as the Honda Center crew jury rigged a solution to temporarily replace the glass between the benches). Tonight’s goals were Bobby’s first two non-power play goals of the post season. Because of tonight’s goals, Ryan co-leads the NHL in goal scoring (with Ryder, Malkin, & Kessel). Tonight was also only the second time in Ducks franchise history that a rookie scored multiple goals in a postseason game (the first was Francois Beauchemin, who scored 2 goals in game 3 of the conference quarterfinals on April 25, 2006 against Calgary. His three game goal streak (4-0) is tied with the longest playoff goal streak in the NHL so far.
Fans chanted “Bobby” after each of his goals and a couple times late in the game. They also chanted “Hiller” near the end of the game. I didn’t ask Hiller about the crowd chanting, but Ryan said it was really great to hear and that he realizes he’s come a long way since last year and the crowd’s cheers mean a lot.
Ryan Whitney’s 4-game point streak (0-4) is tied for the NHL point streak of the postseason (with Ryder, Crosby, Kessel, Martin, & Franzen). Getzlaf has scored in 3 of the Ducks’ four games and has 5 points so far (1-4). Whitney, Ryan, Hiller, and Getzlaf are definitely leading this Ducks team, which wouldn’t even have made the playoffs in the eastern conference, in shutting down the number one team in the regular NHL season.
Sadly, tonight’s announced attendance (always a lot less than the actual attendance) was only 16,830. That’s two home playoff games for the Ducks without a sellout. Considering the fact that they had some of their biggest announced crowds this season at the Honda Center, it’s amazing that they can’t sell out the playoff games. Perhaps the prices are just set too high given all the other options (Lakers playoffs being just one of them) in southern California. Whatever the reason, it’s sad that the games haven’t sold out. In my opinion, the games here in Anaheim were the most exciting games of the California playoff series.
The Ducks definitely played their best hockey of the postseason tonight. That’s one fact no one seems to dispute. Clearly, the Ducks want to carry this style of play back with them to San Jose and end the series in 5 games.
Fortunately, for all of you with HD (apparently, enough people complained that FSN Prime Ticket decided they should air tonight’s game in HD), FSN is not covering Saturday’s game. That’ll be three Ducks/Sharks playoff games in a row that those of us in southern California will be able to see in HD, since Versus has shown all of their playoff games in HD. Suffering through the first two games in standard definition was definitely rough for all of us who are spoiled with all the other playoff coverage, most of which we’re able to experience in HD.
When I predicted that the Ducks would win this series in 6 games, most people thought I was nuts. Some told me the Sharks would win in 5, some said 6. I’ve only talked to a couple other people who picked the Ducks to win the series. Clearly, the California playoff series is far from over. However, now that the Ducks have a 3-1 lead and need to win only one of the remaining 3 games to end the series and advance to face the Red Wings in the conference semifinals, a few people seem to be thinking that I might not have been completely nuts when I picked the Ducks to advance.
(In other news, not long after the first period ended, there was a 4.0 earthquake centered about 7 miles from Anaheim. Those at ice level didn’t feel it, but more than half of us in the press box noticed it.)
Enjoy the playoffs!