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
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
It didn’t seem likely at the beginning of the season, as the Ducks started out 0-3, but tonight’s win over the LA Kings in Anaheim ensured that the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks would all be in the playoffs in 2011. It’s the first time since the Ducks joined the NHL (in 1993) that all three teams will be in the playoffs at the same time. Who would have predicted that in spite of Canada having double the teams of California that California would be represented by more teams than Canada? (Only Vancouver, #1 in the NHL, and Montreal will be representing Canada in the NHL playoffs in 2011).
Ducks’ coach Randy Carlyle said that “it is amazing that you’ve got to play 81 games to find out you finally made the playoffs.” Carlyle also talked about how great it is for California hockey (not just SoCal) that all three teams from the state are in the playoffs this year.
Though Teemu Selanne (40) is the oldest player on the Ducks and one of the oldest players in the NHL, he’s consistently been one of the best and scored the Ducks’ only two goals tonight against the Kings. Selanne is the only one of the 10 oldest players currently playing in the NHL in the top ten of NHL scoring (#9 before tonight’s two goals). Coincidentally, Ryan Smyth, the Kings’ oldest player (35) scored the only Kings goal in Anaheim tonight.
Because of tonight’s loss, the Kings fell to 6th place in the western conference. The conference is so tight that the Kings can still end up in 4th place if they win tomorrow and Nashville and Phoenix lose their final games in regulation. In fact, the Ducks could still potentially end up in 4th place, since they beat the Predators and Coyotes in the first tie breaker. With the playoff standings still up in the air, tomorrow night’s game in LA where the Kings and Ducks face off again is sure to be an intense end of the season before the SoCal teams start the playoffs next week.
Tags: California, Canadiens, Canucks, Coyotes, Ducks, Hockey, Kings, NHL, oldest players, playoffs, Predators, Randy Carlyle, Ryan Smyth, Sharks, Stars, Teemu Selanne
A few of us were pretty surprised that none of the fans we heard chanted “One more year” for Selanne at all tonight as the Ducks rallied to beat the Avalanche 5-4 after being down 2-0. The fans had plenty of perfect opportunities… Selanne scored on a penalty shot tonight to score the Ducks’ first goal. He also got a point in all five of the Ducks’ goals tonight and scored the 22nd hat trick of his career (13th as a Duck). Tonight was Selanne’s 33rd career 5 point game and he was the first player age 40 or older to record a hat trick and five points (or more) in a single game. Selanne has been truly amazing this year. He’s second in Ducks scoring and looks better than most players in the NHL.
In spite of all this, the only person I heard actually chant, “One more year” tonight was Corey Perry, teasing as he walked by the scrum interviewing Selanne and (of course) asking him his thoughts on continuing to play. At this time last year, retirement was something Selanne seemed to be seriously considering. This year, I don’t see how he could be thinking of retirement. Last season Selanne played very well, but this year he’s been truly amazing. For his part, Selanne said he’s been feeling great the whole year and he’s still having fun, which is the only reason he’s still around. He also said, “My mind goes like an elevator – one day I feel that I can play ten more years and the next day I feel why do I keep doing this? That’s why I’m not yet thinking about that during the season.” Selanne went on to say that it’s better to think about these things after the season and then asked to talk about something else.
Selanne’s penalty shot goal was the second of his career, the last one coming in Tampa Bay when he was playing for the Winnipeg Jets on March 9, 1993. I would have never guessed that it had been 18 years since Selanne scored his only other penalty shot (he’s now 2 for 6), but that’s because Selanne has been so amazing in his career and continues to stun crowds. With 6 games to go this season, Selanne is already the third highest scorer of 40+ years. Only Gordie Howe (with 103 points in 68-69) and Johnny Bucyk (with 83 points in 75-76) scored more at that age. Clearly, no one but Selanne can know what he feels when recovering for a game, but watching him on the ice, I can’t imagine how this could possibly be his last season in the NHL. (Not surprisingly, Selanne was also the top NHL performer of the day, not just tonight’s game in Anaheim.)
Since the Ducks and Blackhawks both won tonight, Anaheim maintained their position in the standings (7th place in the western conference). Clearly, every point is important at this time of the season when all the teams are so close. As Randy Carlyle pointed out, everyone other than the top couple teams and bottom couple teams is worrying about winning games to get into the playoffs and maintain their position in the standings at the time. Though four teams have secured their spots in the playoffs in the eastern conference, the Canucks are the only team completely mathematically secure in the western conference so far.
Tags: Avalanche, Blackhawks, Canucks, Corey Perry, Ducks, hat trick, Hockey, NHL, penalty shot, playoffs, Randy Carlyle, retirement, standings, Teemu Selanne
With tonight’s overtime win against Calgary (after giving up an early 3 goal lead) put them back in the 8th and final playoff spot of the western conference… at least until the end of tomorrow’s two games. Since the Ducks needed overtime to beat Calgary, the Flames could take their spot away for a bit tomorrow. The Ducks have two games in hand on the Flames now and will have 3 in hand as of tomorrow, so they’re concentrating on their own performance. Randy Carlyle even joked about it, since he really wasn’t sure if they were back in the playoffs or not. Clearly, none of the Ducks (or their fans) were happy with the way they gave away their early three goal lead and were losing 4-3 until Selanne tied the game with a power play goal at 17:59 of the third period. The Ducks’ two power play goals (their second goal of the game was a power play goal by Corey Perry) in three chances were definitely a good sign for fans who’ve watched the Ducks’ power play struggle lately.
Bobby Ryan had an unsuccessful penalty shot attempt in overtime (in a play that seemed even less obvious than last night’s take down of Dustin Brown when the Ducks beat the Kings in LA), but that didn’t deflate the team. On the contrary, the Ducks seemed to draw power from the penalty shot attempt. They won the next face-off and scored immediately. Corey Perry wasn’t even sure where the puck hit him for his game winning 39th goal of the season. He said it might have even been Lydman’s goal, but the official stat sheet came out still saying the goal was Perry’s, so he’s one step closer to having 40 goals this season.
Corey Perry has increased his points every season he’s played in the NHL starting with 25 his first season. He had already reached last season’s point total last night in Los Angeles and has a career high 79 points after his two goals and assist tonight. The Ducks are heading on the road for their three game road trip starting in Dallas Wednesday. Most of the teams they face in their last ten games of the season are the teams close to them in the standings (the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, & Los Angeles Kings). It’s going to be a tough road for them with six away games and 3 more sets of back to back games – especially when most of the teams they’re facing are fighting as hard to get into the playoffs as the Ducks.
Tags: Blackhawks, Corey Perry, Ducks, Dustin Brown, Flames, Hockey, Kings, NHL, penalty shot, playoffs, power play, Predators, Randy Carlyle, Ryan Getzlaf, standings, Stars, Teemu Selanne
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