Or rather… You wouldn’t recognize the Devils. The New Jersey Devils are off to their worst start in 27 years. I’d never seen their defense look as horrible as I did two days in a row here in southern California. I’ve only been a hockey fan since the late 80’s, so I’d never seen the Devils look this bad. In Anaheim, it was like the Devils and Ducks were playing themselves. Both teams had been built on their strong defense and neither team has much of a defense this season. If their offenses were more in tune, I would have expected a much higher scoring game.
When the Devils signed (and later re-signed) Kovalchuk, they were indicating a commitment to being a more offensive team than defensive, but they haven’t followed through on that and their defense is definitely lacking. They don’t have Scott Stevens or Scott Niedermayer right now. Their current defense isn’t the same. They’re not as difficult to figure out and they handle pucks very poorly in their own end. The Devils are currently ranked last in the NHL again, which is really surprising to me. I didn’t expect them to be as good as they were last year and I figured they’d probably just squeak into the playoffs, but if anyone had told me they’d only win ¼ of their first 12 games, I would have thought they were nuts.
The makeup of the Devils’ team has really changed this season. I was talking to someone Friday night, who said it was strange, since most of the players he saw on the ice didn’t make him think of the Devils. Perhaps that identity crisis ad not knowing if they’re going to be an offensive or defensive team is what’s causing their poor performance.
The Kings are currently number one in the NHL…. It’s definitely good to be a King this season. They’re 4-0-0 at home (one of two teams with a perfect record at home – St. Louis is 5-0-0 at home) and even won their first game back from a long road trip last night. Most people I talked to seemed to think the Kings would be too lifeless in their first game back to even beat the tired Devils (they’d played the night before in Anaheim) who’ve been at or near the bottom of the NHL. I thought they’d pick themselves up to beat the Devils because of honoring Mattias Norstrom before the game and having some of the former players (including fan favorite Ian Laperriere) back for that. Rob Blake’s reception was actuallybetter than most of us expected. I’d say he was cheered by about 75% of the fans and only booed by 25% – it was nice to see that he got a better reception than usual in Staples Center.
The player Kings fans were determined to boo was Ilya Kovalchuk (clearly). Fans may not know the whole story (Kovalchuk himself is probably the only person who really could), but they do know that Kovalchuk chose not to play in their city. Oddly enough, I think the fans should probably be thanking Kovalchuk for not taking the outrageous contract the Kings offered him. It was more than Lombardi wanted to offer Kovalchuk. Lombardi was protecting the Kings’ future and their ability to re-sign the important franchise players like Drew Doughty (who looked good and said he’s feeling okay – he just can’t get up to full speed and still feel okay and the Kings are being careful to make sure he’s fully healthy before his return). Just as the Penguins probably couldn’t have won the Stanley Cup in 2009 with Marian Hossa, signing Kovalchuk would have probably done much more harm than good to the LA Kings who are in first place without Kovalchuk as the Devils sit in last place with him.
The Kings were determined to win again at home, in spite of how the first game back from a long road trip usually goes. Jonathan Quick continued to look great and in control tonight. He’s currently 4th in the NHL for save percentage, which is definitely a huge leap from his performance last season.
The Kings’ next game is Thursday as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning led by Steven Stamkos the number one offensive player in the NHL.
Tags: booing, Dean Lombardi, Devils, Drew Doughty, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Ian Laperriere, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Marian Hossa, Mattias Norstrom, NHL, Penguins, Rob Blake, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Staples Center
In spite of their two bench minors for too many men on the ice (inexcusable in a must win game) and two other power play chances they gave the Red Wings, Anaheim’s penalty kill kept Detroit’s power play at bay for 3 of their 4 chances. Anaheim’s power play (ranked 2nd in the postseason going into tonight’s game) was also successful 1 out of their 5 chances (though it was really more like 4, due to the overlapping penalties). Fortunately for Ducks fans everywhere, most of Anaheim’s 46 penalty minutes, 12 penalties) came at the 20 minute mark of the 3rd period when the gloves were dropped by just about everyone (Scott Niedermayer included). Until that point, the Ducks were even with the Red Wings in penalties at 5 (10 minutes each).
Jonas Hiller was amazing again, stopping 38 of the 39 shots he faced (97.4% of the shots). The Red Wings outshot the Ducks 39-28, but the Ducks played much better after the first period. Considering how poorly the Ducks played in Detroit on Sunday, I expected them to come out with all cylinders firing at the beginning of the game tonight. Apparently, they didn’t all get the message that the game time had been pushed up to 7 p.m. (all the previous playoff games in Anaheim had been at 7:30 p.m.). The Ducks came out looking a little tired, but by the end of the first they were still tied with the Red Wings and that was important. They came out strong in the 2nd and got the only two goals of the period, in spite of being outshot by the Red Wings in that period.
When the Red Wings scored their power play goal, a lot of Ducks fans got a bit nervous. A one goal lead is far from safe in the playoffs – especially against a strong team like the Red Wings. The Ducks held on to their lead and are ready to play their style of game again in Detroit Thursday night in game 7. In spite the pressure of a game 7 on the road, the players know this is what the playoffs are all about. The excitement of a game 7 is hard to match.
Thursday’s game will be the Ducks’ 4th game 7 in franchise history. They’re 2-1 in game 7s so far. The Joe Louis Arena is a difficult arena to face in the playoffs. In a game 7, it’s sure to be incredibly loud, but the Ducks are as prepared as possible and they’re ready to face Detroit and fight for their playoff lives. They know if they don’t win their season is over and no team is ever really ready for their season to end.
Ryan Getzlaf had a point in each of the Ducks’ 2 goals tonight (1-1), making tonight his 7th multi-point game of the postseason.
Fortunately for Ducks fans who couldn’t make it to Honda Center tonight, FSN Prime Ticket aired the game in HD (even for those of us unlucky enough to get only one of the FSN HD channels).
Tags: Ducks, fans, fighting, FSN, game 7, HD, Hockey, Honda Center, Joe Louis Arena, Jonas Hiller, NHL, penalties, playoffs, power play, Red Wings, Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer
Corey Perry tied the Ducks’ franchise postseason record for the fastest goal scored at the start of a game (Sykora scored 42 seconds into game 5 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals in New Jersey on June 5, 2003), established a career high for points in a postseason game with 3 (2-1), & had his first career postseason multi-goal game. However, his first goal of the game was probably the highlight for most Ducks fans at Honda Center tonight. Perry’s goal gave the Ducks their only lead of the game, which they held until Hiller gave up a soft goal to Franzen at 11:49 in the first period.
Ryan Getzlaf extended his league-leading postseason point streak to 8 games. He has 14 points in those 8 games (2-12) and has regained the solo lead in postseason scoring (he was tied with Sidney Crosby going into tonight’s game). Chris Pronger & Scott Niedermayer also extended their point streaks (to 5 & 3 games respectively), but overall the Ducks looked pretty bad tonight in front of their announced attendance of 17,601 (including 427 standing room only tickets) breaking the record set this season against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 2, 2009 (17,597). One of my friend’s who was at the game joked that it was all Red Wings fans, but the Ducks fans were well represented in the crowd, in spite of the “Let’s go Red Wings” and “Ozzie” chants that could probably be heard by watching the game on TV near the end of the game almost as well as they could in Honda Center.
Another bright side for the Ducks is that they managed to continue their power play goal streak, scoring one goal in their 3 power play chances. For a while, it seemed like the Ducks didn’t want a full power play, since they took a penalty 31 seconds after Detroit’s first penalty and only 6 seconds after Detroit’s second penalty. They scored to end their third power play opportunity after only 12 seconds. Obviously, that’s the way the Ducks would prefer to end a power play early. I’m sure the Ducks will aim to spend less time in the penalty box in games 5 & 6, even though Detroit only scored one goal in their 5 power play opportunities tonight.
The Red Wings clearly didn’t start game four as they’d planned. Mike Babcock mentioned in his post-game interview that they’d talked a lot about starting the game stronger, since he feels the Ducks have out-skated the Red Wings for about the first ten minutes in every game this series and that the Red Wings have improved as the games progressed. The plan was to change that tonight and start stronger, which they obviously didn’t accomplish. Babcock also mentioned that he thought the first period of tonight’s game was their worst period they’d played in a long time and that he’s not sure how they managed to come out of it with a 2-1 lead.
The Ducks and Red Wings have two days off to rest up before playing game 5 in Detroit on Sunday. The series has become a best of 3 series and whichever team can come out of it winning 2 of the next three will advance to the conference final against the Vancouver Canucks or Chicago Blackhawks (also tied at 2 a piece after tonight’s overtime Hawks win).
Honda Center will surely be packed again Tuesday night for game 6, since everyone already knows the series cannot end earlier.
Note: Hiller was pulled for the first time in his playoff career (his 10th playoff game). I’m sure Hiller will still start game 5 for the Ducks, since he started tonight’s game as the number one goalie in the playoffs and was in the top for the regular season, as well.
Tags: attendance, Blackhawks, Canucks, Chris Osgood, Chris Pronger, Corey Perry, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Honda Center, Jonas Hiller, Mike Babcock, NHL, Petr Sykora, playoffs, power play, Red Wings, Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, Sidney Crosby
The new players on the Ducks seemed a lot more at home in Anaheim tonight. Nokelainen got his first goal of the season, Whitney & Christensen got 2 assists each and Christensen got a goal that was questionably called off by the ref, due to goaltender interference by Getzlaf. As a Kings fan, I wanted the Ducks to lose tonight’s game in regulation. However, I think the call by the ref taking away Christensen’s goal was one of those calls that could go either way and would normally go the other way. Clearly, when Vancouver scored their third goal, the goal that got called back was very important. Fortunately for the Ducks and their fans, Scott Niedermayer scored 3 on 3 (after the Ducks had taken a penalty to remove their power play advantage) in overtime to win the game.
Perhaps the Ducks did a better job at the trade deadline than most seem to think. I thought their first trade was probably the best trade they made this season and I’ve talked to many people who think the Penguins or the Ducks didn’t do well with that trade. I still think both teams got what they needed a bit in their first trade of the trade deadline time.
I was curious how it felt for a player to go from Pittsburgh where the arena is full every night to the home crowd in Anaheim where there are a lot of empty seats – even on the nights when they have standing room only sellouts. Tonight’s announced attendance was 16,967; however, there were a lot fewer fans at the Honda Center than that. Whitney said that the Honda Center is “pretty loud” and that the three games he’s played in Anaheim have had a “really good atmosphere.” That it’s “not like going to the Islanders or Atlanta where you really feel an empty building.” He went on to say that the fans are great here and clearly he seems to be comfortable with his new teammates, he’s getting used to playing with Pronger. Obviously, it was also nice to get the first home win (he was traded early enough that he had won a game with the Ducks in Dallas against the Stars on February 28th) and experience the Anaheim crowd when the team wins.
Needless to say, Erik Christensen didn’t agree with the call made when he got the puck in the net, but it all worked out in the end and the Ducks won the game. He never got an explanation from the refs, since he doesn’t have a letter on his jersey. The ref refused to talk to him about the call, since he’s not the captain or an alternate. Christensen said, “Nothing you can do about it now, so, I mean, I disagree with the call, I guess.” He saw the replay and didn’t really see Getzlaf push anyone into Luongo, but at least it didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game.
The games at this time of the season are so important to everyone (especially with the tight competition in the western conference) and all three games today were decided after regulation, giving out 3 points in each game. This frustrates players and fans alike when their teams are relying on other teams failing as much as their team doing well for the rest of the season. Every point matters and the teams are competing strongly to get as many points as they can down the stretch to the playoffs.
Tags: attendance, Canucks, Chris Pronger, Ducks, Erik Christensen, fans, Hockey, Honda Center, NHL, Petteri Nokelainen, playoffs, questionable call, referees, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Whitney, Scott Niedermayer, Stars