Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Offseason peek at the Ducks

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

and whither the Ducks next year - what moves would you make if you were Burke?

I'm going to address better this in a later post when I get a better handle of who's owed what, but short answer: the Ducks are in a very comfortable place salary and talent-wise, thanks a lot to the kids. There are future raises to consider, and I don't think we want to be top-spenders (I think the Samuelis promised season ticket holders a price freeze for next year), but here are the main points:

  • Selanne (UFA) and Andy Mac (RFA) should both be given pretty decent offers, considering they played for a combined $1,627,000 this year. Of the two, I am of course more inclined on keeping Selanne, as he does tons for the Ducks off the ice as well.
  • Salei (UFA) I think is leaving, based on language coming from both camps. I think Friesen (UFA) walks also, either replaced internally or cheaply.
  • New faces might include Chistov, Smid, and possibly Konopka.
  • Still, I think the pressing need will be a top-3 defenseman, someone particularly who can spell Niedermayer and Beauchemin on PP minutes. This will allow Vish / O'Donnell / Dipenta to fall to more realistic roles. These three guys along with Salei were in a lot of ways redundant. I am not averse to putting all our UFA efforts into this move.
  • Talking about future rosters is a bit tough on Duck boards, given that Carlyle changes lines a ton, and we're not sure which is our fourth line anyway.
  • I am always against getting rid of Pahlsson or Vishnevski, and this year any of the kids. Fortunately, there appears to be no pressing reason to do away with any of them.
  • Though there is indeed some debate on Jiggy vs. Breezy, it might not be bad for the Ducks to suck it up and keep both, at least to start next season. $5 - $6 MM isn't such a bad price for a quality netminding duo, at least until you can decide who is better or what else you might need on the ice. There will be no particular rush, I think, to move Giguere, unless of course there is a super-sweet offer.

Note that I am not really that concerned what our opening day roster looks like, as Burke has shown a willingness to really stir the pot mid-season. Of course, Burke has also shown me that nobody is safe.

Except, of course, the Niedermayers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

One more stats rant: wanna make a million dollars?

(Author's note: I still don't know what I'm doing on this blog; I go from silly to serious to outraged to drunk-and-outraged. I'm still trying to mix it up, but I got one more nerdy task to accomplish.)

And that is to tell somebody with skill how to make a million dollars.

Step One Go here. This is the play-by-play of tonight's CAR-BUF game. They exist through NHL.com Stats for all NHL games from '02-'03 to present. Somehow find a way to access them all (I think there should be a pattern in the naming convention).

Step Two Use all this data to form a clean data table for all this. All events and all games should be given unique ID numbers. Record whatever data is available for each event, including shift charts if you're really bold.

Step Three This might be tricky, but things should also be 'known' or 'queriable' about each event, such as the score, or how long it has been 5-on-5. These things can be appended on to each line or if there is a better way, do that. Also if you can somehow figure each team's record at the time of each event, that might be helpful also.

Step Four Answer the following questions:

  1. How much more likely is a team down by one going to get a power play than take a penalty?
  2. Same question, but only on the road.
  3. Same question, but only Eastern Conference teams.
  4. Same question, but only in the 3rd period.
  5. How long into a power play is the average PPG scored?
  6. How long after a faceoff is the average goal scored? Is there a cluster shortly after faceoffs?
  7. Same question, but only after icings.
  8. Given two specific teams and a tied score, who is likely to score first?
  9. How likely is it that the other team scores next?
  10. Compare pre-lockout to post-lockout, regular season to postseason, etc.
Step Five Once you know more than anybody about the last three years of NHL hockey, you're sure to make a million dollars*. Good luck with that, and if you make more than a mil, you can email me some.

(Oh, and if you've already done this on your own, you can owe me.)

* it might be Canadian dollars

On statistics and hockey, Oilers edition

I have another confession to make. I have something called a blush, which is a term I have coined for blog crush, for mudcrutch. Or maybe it's blenvy, but my spell checker keeps catching that one.

At any rate, Tyler is a guy who not only asks good questions about our sport, but then has the gall to answer them with statistical research. I am very fascinated with this sort of game, although when it comes to actually doing anything, I am a hack.

(Just like my HTML skills. Good thing the team color is turning orange; it would be easier than me trying to figure out how to make this page purple.)

However, I do have a keen eye for criticizing others' work, and now that I have a forum; let's see what happens.

Tyler can confirm this (I can't find a good link but if you give me one I'll put it here), but I believe that his position regarding the Oilers' 8th-seeded success is that the Oilers' seed is understated; really they should have a higher (possibly 3rd?) seed, thus their postseason success would be less 'shocking'.

His argument is based on goal differential, calculating an expected goals for and goals against for a team and an expected standings based on those factors. Generally, this GD is sufficient enough; my problem is not with this method.

However, you see, there is this Roloson Factor (RF) to deal with. Tyler (and others) argue that the Oilers have suffered from abysmally poor goaltending all season, and the RF has corrected this problem. Thus, using their season's GA isn't fair; we should instead use only the games Roloson has played in. In the RF games, the GA indeed did drop noticeably. But troublingly enough, so did the GF.

I am paraphrasing here, in that I haven't bothered to look at exactly which games Roloson played in, nor am I pulling empty-net goals or anything, but here's how the Oiler season looks segmented by Roloson Day in Edmonton:

__Total Year_____3.04GF-2.95GA__18.1%PP,84.1%PK__.884sv%

(Note the first segment covers 62 games of .589 hockey, and the second segment involves 20 games of .550 hockey. Edmonton by no means roared to the finish line.)

What can one make of this drop in Edmonton's goal scoring? Tyler cannot see a reason why that this 20-game anomaly should matter. He didn't see the Oil necessarily collapsing, and thus he decides to ignore it and use the season scoring average instead.

So loosely he grabs a GF from a season and a GA from a subset of games involving Roloson. This is where I see a problem.

I know where he's coming from, in that Roloson plays no part in the offense, so his effect really should only evidence itself in the defensive turnaround (which is substantial, particularly on the GA and PK numbers).

However, I think there is a connection between GF and GA that cannot be ignored. We observe in games that teams (and refs) push more for a goal in a 2-3 game than a 2-1 game. We observe how many games go to overtime or end as one-goal games. A trailing team more often than not 'gets the breaks'.

A better goalie implies that there is less time spent trailing, and probably more time holding a lead. I would expect a team that holds the lead more often to (a) score less, and (b) have less power plays. The latter comes both from spending less time on the attack and on biased refereeing.

Edmonton, in fact, (a) did score less, and (b) did have less power plays. Their PP% and PK% both improved, but they went from a 392-372 man-advantage count in the first 62 games to a 93-106 deficit in the last 20.

Now I don't want to knock the Oilers' playoff accomplishment by any means. That they earn on the ice, screw goal differential and us back-room pencil-pushers. And I don't really want to suggest that my numbers are right or anything; as always, the truth is somewhere in between. Hell, I'm not even sure that I'm saying that they don't deserve the 3rd seed, just by a lesser margin.

I'm just saying that discounting the fact that GF dropped along with GA is simplistic and convenient. The dropoff was probably too dramatic, but I would expect that there is a negative offensive effect to having a better goalie. When you lead more of the time, the balance of the game changes.

Note that I haven't really discussed goalie tendencies, like freezing or playing the puck. Both of these should influence a team's scoring rate as well. I also didn't mention Samsonov, who probably matters the most.

Stats lie to us all the time, but if we compile enough data they will eventually tell us the truth. Great work, Tyler. Now tell me everything I got wrong.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Duckling (P)review

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

who do you like amongst the kids and why?

Quick answer: In terms of what the Ducks needed, I think Beauchemin was the best kid in '05-'06. Long term, I'm guessing Getzlaf is the guy, although there should be some good competition.

I should say that I am very happy with how the kids were managed this year. They all avoided full seasons, which kept them absent from any rookie-of-the-year comparisons, which would be unfair any way. Their roles were never critical, yet they were given enough ice time to contribute.

At any rate, the Ducks have a very promising pipeline of talent (rated #1 at hockeysfutures as of April 5, 2006). This should give Burke a lot of flexibility in the coming offseason, even if some of this youth gets used as trade currency. Here are Sleek's quick takes on Ducks born in the 1980s (a somewhat incomplete list):

Vitaly Vishnevski (3/18/80)—Vish-dog really doesn’t belong on the list, but he does qualify age-wise. He has played 416 regular season games for the Ducks, and has shown more dependability each year. I think he is top-4 next year.

Francois Beauchemin (6/4/80)—Burke got a real steal all right, in fact I think at first Frenchie was a steadying influence for Scotty, although later in the season that balance was shifted. He’s got everything except footspeed, but his shot is wicked. He’s hardly been seen without Scotty by his side, so some judgment has to be reserved.

Ilya Bryzgalov (6/22/80)—This guy is probably our netminder sooner rather than later. He showed that he is reliable and rather unflappable in these playoffs. His two advantages over Jiggy are size and reflexes, his downside might be streakiness. He should definitely be an upgrade in shootouts, probably Giguere’s weakest event.

Travis Moen (4/6/82)—Moen wasn’t as bad as I thought originally. He’s not afraid to show what a mediocre fighter he is, and he’s certainly no offensive threat, but he is reliable at moving the puck and his wheels aren’t bad. I wasn’t afraid when Moen was on the ice, can’t say that for all these kids. Not a bad 'spare part'.

Dustin Penner (9/28/82)—This is a kid I still don’t know much about, other than the story of how he had a very late growth spurt, supposedly why this big body doesn’t quite know yet how to best use his large frame but has above-average hands. Based on what I have seen, I am very excited to see Penner develop as a Duck. He could be very good or somewhat good, but he won't be useless.

Stanislav Chistov (4/17/83)—I am not sure what the Ducks’ position is on Chistov, who spent last year playing in Russia. He is still Ducks’ property, and Burke indicated earlier in the year that he planned on bringing Chistov back. Cheesy is a small, shifty Russian winger, stylistically akin to Datsyuk. He did play in the NHL 2 seasons pre-lockout, including the SCF run.

Joffrey Lupul (9/23/83)—I am not entirely sure what to think of Lupul. For sure his shot is outstanding, but he is a bit prone to hooking calls and I’m not sure if he’s better as a threat on a checking line or on a scoring line. He should score more goals next year, but I’m not sure if it’s a few more or a lot more.

Ryan Getzlaf (5/10/85)—I think Getzlaf might be the prize player in all this, although there are many contenders. He has a great combination of size, speed, and vision that promises a lot of future production. With him and Perry, I am very happy how Carlyle managed their season; they were able to go down to the minors and play their way back together. I think he is a better pointman than Beauchemin, though it is close.

Corey Perry (5/16/85)—Perry’s still got some filling out to do before we know how good he is, but he is practically European in his stickhandling. He could score a lot, I think, given the right minutes. He’s a pest also, which I think can work for him. His problem is he instigates a bit more than he can back up, but that’s the liberty you get playing with Fedoruk, another good move by Carlyle.

Ladislav Smid (2/1/86)—Our 9th overall pick in the 2004 draft, this sizeable Czech defenseman appears to be adequate at a lot of things without being spectacular at any. We love those guys. Apparently he’s the reason Salei might leave as a UFA.

Bobby Ryan (3/17/87)—The guy picked 2nd behind Crosby in the 2005 draft. Not sure if he comes up next year or not, but this ‘power forward’ could become an option.

The Anaheim Ducks are eagerly awaiting his development.

Burying the past

Memorial Day post, remembering the Mighty Ducks

Last season (lockout included) proved to be a tremendously transitional one for the Ducks, with new ownership, a new GM and coaching staff, and a huge turnover on the ice. Gone at various times were Steve Rucchin, Mike Leclerc, Martin Gerber, Niclas Havelid, Vinny Prospal, Martin Skoula, Sergei Fedorov, Petr Sykora, Keith Carney, and Sandis Ozolinsh.

This postseason promises to be a different era of change. The team will have a new name (Anaheim Ducks) with new logos and uniforms, and even the Arrowhead Pond is being bid on for new naming rights. (Side note: I was surprised after being eliminated in G5 how many people were in the MD store. That seemed to be an odd time to purchase game gear.)

So, as this is sort of a team on the brink of a new 'chapter', let us look back on MD history and tell a little about Earl Sleek's top 10 Mighty Ducks. Note that these are just personal favorites, and the order isn't that important. Not surprisingly, most come from the past 3 years, based on the fact that our playoff history is very back-loaded.

10. Steve "Stumpy" Thomas--Stumpy is was the shortest-tenured Duck on this list, but he was a tremendous trade deadline pickup for then-GM Bryan Murray (I should note that Burke has yet to dethrone Murray as best Ducks' GM, though he's started well). He generally was thought of as 'washed-up', but carried a Chistov-Pahlsson line well into the playoffs. In 33 games he played as a Mighty Duck, he had 14 goals, 6 of which were game-winners. 2 game-winners came in the Stanley Cup Finals.

9. Fredrik "Freddie O" Olausson--Only one of two blueliners to make the list. Freddie O was a Mighty Duck for two stretches, but it is particularly his '98-'99 season that is noteworthy, as it was the one stretch in MD history where we had a dominant power play. The unit of Freddy O and Kariya on the blueline, with McInnis-Rucchin-Selanne up front, helped lead the league with a 22% success rate. Freddie O and his backdoor play led all blueliners in PP scoring that year, and his passing was first-rate also.

8. Guy "Care Bear" Hebert--For long stretches, Guy was the other recognizable MD not named Paul or Teemu. He was a very popular Duck, even during times when the team was not very good. He has had the coolest goalie name in MD history, which is tough considering the random selection of J.S. Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov, Mikhael Shtalenkov, Steve Shields, and prospect Michael Wall.

7. Petr "Please score" Sykora--You have to understand; before the Sykora trade in 2002, I was a huge A-Line fan (Arnott, Elias, Sykora on the NJ Devils). I thought that it was the best line in the league. Sykora had the mindset of the ultimate shooter, he wasn't a guy to mess around for another pass. There was a stretch when I noted that Stumpy Thomas had 8 goals in his first 10 games as a Mighty Duck. The surprising stat was that over that same stretch, Sykora had 9. His postseason numbers were underwhelming, although he did end a 5-OT G1 in Dallas and a 2-OT scoreless G1 in Minnesota.

6. Keith "Carney Asada" Carney--He is a guy who it was tough to watch play this year, as he had lost another step in the lockout. I say "another step" because he was always seemingly playing from behind, but was just so smart about poking the puck. He was better than Scott Niedermayer in that regard, although his skating was mediocre. He was an anchor on the blueline for that '03 squad, and gets bonus points for assisting on the series-winning goal against Detroit. I swear that is the only time I have EVER seen him behind an opponent's net.

5. Jean-Sebastien "Jiggy" Giguere--I think this post says it all.

4. Adam "Old Man" Oates--This guy was an amazing player to watch, as he was such a contrast from other scoring leaders. He was the smartest player I think I have ever seen, and if you've ever seen his stick-blade, you probably realize it's because he's playing a different type of game than anyone else. Perhaps the best pure passer in the game, although I know there's plenty of debate in that statement. It was truly a shame that Oates and Thomas could not win their Cup.

3. Steve "Roochie" Rucchin--How many seasons were the Ducks promised a better top line center to properly complement Kariya and Selanne and how many seasons did we end up going back to Steve Rucchin? On paper it always seemed like we could do better but on the ice we never could. He was underappreciated probably his whole career, until the '03 playoffs when he proved to be an invaluable stopper. His heart and smarts more than made up for a lack of footspeed.

2. Paul "the Captain" Kariya--Kariya is somewhat unpopular with Anaheim fans still, but this should not taint what Kariya did when he was here, which was not only lead this team on the ice, but really prove to the franchise that it could sustain a superstar player. Kariya was the one to really ask the question "Why not us? Why not Anaheim?" He was clearly a talented kid thrown into a Disney experiment, but while he was here he embraced that role rather than running from it, and played some damn good hockey as a little guy also.

1. Teemu "the Finnish Flash" Selanne--Selanne gets #1 on this list for his triumphant return (along, of course, with his glory days). Sure he is soft and European, so his leadership doesn't come through body work or backchecking, but for what he brings you, Teemu is the man. He is consistently keyed on by opponents' defensemen, which helps linemates like Kariya or Andy Mac to find more ice, and yet manages to shoot the puck with such skill and confidence that he puts up great numbers. He has been and will be the best seller of the game in Anaheim, and should be the first number hung from the rafters. Maybe even 2 numbers, if the league will allow it.

Notable omissions: Sandis Ozolinsh, Tomas Sandstrom, Ruslan Salei, Scott Niedermayer, Sergei Fedorov, and personal faves Vishnevski and Pahlsson.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Season ends in loss. Criticism all around.

Can somebody help me get from step 2 to 3? This chart is confusing.

Some complaints and thoughts:

  • I genuinely enjoy reading the bearded shenanigans of the Oil bloggers, but one thing that somewhat mystifies me is the outrageous hatred they have towards the Ducks, particularly Teemu and Joffrey. This is more hatred than we have seen from the Flames or the Avs, despite the fact that we had three more wins against our previous opponents. The basis? Post-game quotes, such as Teemu's "we were the better team, but beat ourselves" (loosely quoted). Um, since when has anything meaningful come from players' mouths in postgame interviews? Other than Hull or Avery, we just hear the same damn thing over and over again, the same P/R quotes with a different speaker. Why not pick on him for trying to take it "one game at a time" or with "nothing to lose"? These are just as compelling, and just as ordinary. I don't really mind player hatred, mind you, but I think it should be more reserved for someone who beats you. It's not fair that you win and are more annoyed.
  • Sorry, Oilboys. One other thing. What I am looking forward to least is the inevitable claim of "How bad we would have beat you except the flu". While I like hypothetical piss contests as much as the next guy, this is silly. It may have been that in managing the flu, the Oil also simplified their game in a way effective against the Ducks. I think these two healthy squads have several potential outcomes, including an Edmonton sweep. But by no means should I accept that that outcome is a given, just based on a flu-induced series with several close outcomes.
  • All that said, I would rather lose to the Oil than the Flames or Avs. Particularly the Flames.
  • Duck fans deserve their share of criticism also; it is not fair to say that we outplayed the Oil significantly, as that really is measured on wins. I think it is fair to say that we spent a lot of the time as the attacking team, which could explain the at-times penalty discrepancies. However, the Oil's shell was in fact outplaying our 'attack' or whatever we want to call it. We were stymied when we needed goals, bottom line.
  • Also, it isn't quite fair to blame refereeing in these games, not in the sense that there weren't bad or questionable calls, but in the sense that these have existed all season and postseason. Make-up calls, in particular (either to a trailing team or to a team behind on power plays), have been particularly obvious since October, so to say that this is now a new phenomenon is absurd. I think a lot of games I have seen this season end up close as a product of 'even-up' refereeing; it is manufactured but seems accepted.
  • Ducks PP is mystifyingly bad to me. Even the stretch toward the end of the season where our numbers were very good, I recall a LOT of these goals being scored on the rush, not so many in the instances where we actually set up. It's tough to point out the particular weakness, since generally everything looks pretty good, but I was telling my roommate after the 2nd period last night that the guy we really miss is Sykora. He was a guy who if nothing else was willing to consistently hit the net, a shooter. Maybe of all Burke's moves I feel that the Sykora trade might have been the most hockey-poor one. I should note that our PP was also remarkably horrid in 2003, so it felt normal at least.
  • Conference Finals was a good showing for us, in that we were fortunate to have avoided the lot of Detroit, Dallas, and San Jose, three clubs that I think we would have had real trouble surviving. The Colorado series turned out to be a gift-wrapped ticket to the 3rd round (very similar to Minnesota in 2003). Maybe these "gimme" series aren't very good for a playoff team, in that afterwards there is not only rust from the layoff, but also a different sort of rust from not being challenged. In a way, both playoff years involved a stretch of nearly a month between playing 'tough' opposition, and in both cases, we started the next round extremely flat.
  • I think Burke is right when he says our kids are getting some extremely valuable playoff experience in playing in both Calgary and Edmonton, two loud and proud places to play.
At any rate, I will keep up this blog, albeit at a slower pace. My day job is painfully neglected, but at least my boss remembers that it was very similar 3 years ago. It almost feels like I'm waking up from a long trance or something, but I wish I could hit the snooze button a few more times.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

"I didn't say Ducks in seven; I said Ducks in '07!!!"

Oh man, this was coming. I knew it when we had only a one-goal lead in the first, and when we trailed after two. IN EV IT A BLE.

Read it here for the last time: CONGRATULATIONS OIL. AND GOOD LUCK.

Now for the gripe (only minor this time): We did not deserve the win, but it SUCKS that the game winning goal came on a too-many-men-penalty when the player in question LEAPT INTO ANOTHER GUY'S LAP to avoid the call. It was the "essence" of not getting called, but it was made a penalty nonetheless.

AT ANY RATE, we couldn't get it done, which is not that surprising given the deficit we were trying to come back from.

I cannot be upset with these Ducks for losing in the conference finals. Period. In so many ways, they did not deserve to be there in the first place. Still, the opportunity was there, and we couldn't get it done.

More to come, I'm sure. Note that Ruslan or Vitaly never made it to the penalty box, and apparently Dustin Penner cannot read Russian, even after three tries!!!

Aah, who cares? More drinking. Afterthoughts later.

[Edit: Note that the joke in the headline has worked for the Lakers, Clippers, and Ducks this year, but won't work for another century. Use it now while you still can!]

Pre-Game Jitters

"Hold me, Teemu. I'm scared."

I'll tell ya, these last few days have been nutty. I go from hopelessly optimistic to brutally realistic in a matter of moments. Guinness will definitely help me in this regard.

Some useless stats that help confuse the issue. Throw them out the window as soon as you read them.

The Ducks are 0-4 in Game Fives, but 4-0 in Game Sixes and 2-1 in Game Sevens. Most of that has come within the past 2 playoff runs.

J.S. Giguere, thanks to the Wild, has his best numbers in the Western Conference Finals. In 17 periods he has played in the WCF, he has allowed goals in only 2 of them.

This is the Ducks 4th trip to the playoffs, and this we have been eliminated in every other round but this one.

So now that everything is properly jinxed, here's our symbol of hope (I did some web hunting).

"I pity da fool who, uh, quack quack jibber-jabber!"

I know it's lame, but be glad I didn't use this guy to rally around.

On being spoiled and influencing a game

This post is a bit of a confessional. When it comes to attending hockey games, Earl Sleek is rather spoiled. Or very spoiled. You can be the judge.

You see, I have a somewhat unique ticket-buying situation which I have participated in over the past 4 seasons. Through my old boss, I am connected to a season-ticket-holder who has second-row seats. Basically this means I purchase and pay for 3 out of 41 home games (4 tickets plus parking), plus a discounted preseason game. Regular season, these tickets were $71 apiece.

But check out these seats! We literally get to sit next to the most-recently penalized Duck. It is a fantastic way to watch the game. I am so frickin' spoiled.

In fact, I don't attend many other games, because I'm so spoiled that if I'm not watching up close, I would rather watch a game on TV. Also, I live in L.A., so traffic sufficiently discourages me from being a more frequent attendee.

Playoffs are a different story, in that the Pond (presumably because of a low level of season-ticket holders) offers us an additional 4 lower-bowl seats for the playoffs (same price). In 2003, these were Row R seats in a corner; this year they are Row H. Scheduling is weird, and there are probably 10 parties in our pool for these 8 tickets, but I have made three games thus far these playoffs, once in Row B (G1 Colorado).

Now that I've distanced my readership, let me remind you that I also support the Pond through drinking. With enough drinking (read: courage), I have the liberty to yell directly at players on the ice. Or even talk to Ducks in the penalty box. And at times, I think it can make a difference, though I realize that's probably delusional.

Long story short, Sleek has these seats tonight (now at $121 apiece), and plans to make that difference. Look for me on TV, I'll be the one in the Vishnevski jersey reminding Lupul to play with some discipline or yelling something dumb like "Where's Sean Pronger? He's your ROB. Can't play with your brother?" when Chris skates by.

I'm certainly open to taunt suggestions, though.

[Edit: This sign has been suggested. I am considering this. I'll try not to show it to Samsonov, though.]

Friday, May 26, 2006

Still skating on thin ice

Coach Sleek's G5 speech:

Ducks: we played great in G4 to bring the series back home. Good work. But remember: even though we are closer, we are still one loss away from elimination.

The reason it is so hard to come back from a 3-0 series deficit is with each win, the road ahead feels easier. Each win means that there are fewer future wins required, and thus the burden feels lighter.

But remember, the task at hand is not different: one loss and we're done. That has not changed.

The ice we're skating on is still just as thin. The number of wins required has not changed:


We did it before, let's do it again. Give 'em hell, boys.

(A disciplined version of hell. I'm talking to you, Rusty.)

Ducks avoid sweep in G4

A fitting picture, I think.

(Author's note: I will be at G5 tomorrow, drinking as usual. No beer shortages in Anaheim, thank god. The stress would kill me.)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ducks to take more of my money

(this better mean a free agent, Burke!)

This is embarrassing

At some point, you need to call this game for what it is. A spectacular exhibition of how to draw a penalty. After 5 straight penalties in the first period, Edmonton starts to work the officials in the first half of the second.

Pisani breaks in on Giguere, and then loses an edge after the scoring chance passes him by. Penalty Anaheim on Beauchemin. Samuel Pahlsson does an excellent job forechecking, forcing two Oilers back behind their own net. Pahlsson extends his stick out with one hand, Samsonov tucks it between his arm and twists it up into his own body. Penalty Anaheim on Pahlsson. Horcoff gets stick checked at the top of the circle and he falls to the ice like he was shot out of a cannon. Penalty Anaheim on Getzlaf. Roloson complains about Ahaheim crowding the crease? Penalty Anaheim, goaltender interference on Andy McDonald.

Oilers fans are unhappy, booing the officials? Deal with it. Play the game, or start calling diving every play until it stops. This is not soccer. It was noticeable during the regular season, noticeable in the second round, and burning through the eyelids noticeable in game 4 against Anaheim.

Penalty totals halfway through the second period: Edmonton Oilers 5 in the first period, Anaheim 0. Anaheim 4 minor penalties halfway through the second, Edmonton 2.

[Update] Salei and Smyth trade goals to make it 4-2 Anaheim. One more goal by Edmonton and the Rexall Place is going to explode.

[Update2] Laraque comes through for the Oil. The enforcer makes it 4-3 Edmonton on an assist by Chris Pronger, and now the Edmonton fans are in a near constant roar.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Meet your Mighty Ducks, part 3

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, a.k.a. "Jiggy", "Fat Pads"

Rumor has it that Jiggy might get the start tomorrow night, and so why not explore this forgotten hero?

First off, history buffs, Giguere currently holds the NHL record OT shutout streak, which at this point sits at 170 minutes 3 seconds (8 straight overtime wins, 95 (!) overtime saves). Should we be elminated in overtime, the history guy can finally pen it into the record books.

Fact: In setting the record, Jiggy has recorded an overtime win against every opponent he has faced in the playoffs (Det 2, Dal 2, Min 1, NJ 2, Cgy 1).
Good spin: There is an aura going for us should we force OT with Jiggy in the net.
Bad spin: He hasn't been tested in a while. His last 3 OT wins involved 4 OT saves.
Oddity: Only 16:12 of this OT streak has come at the Anaheim Pond, although he has half his OT wins there.

Fact: His playoff record sits at 17-8, 10-2 at home and 7-6 on the road. He has a career 1.90 GAA and a .935 save percentage.
Good spin: Giguere is a Conn Smythe winning goaltender, who has the ability to dominate a postseason. He has a 5-game and a 6-game postseason winning streak in his young career.
Bad spin: That glory is in the past. Since his romp against Minnesota, he has a paltry 5-6 record, sporting a 2.96 GAA and an .860 save percentage.
Oddity: In the first three rounds of the 2003 playoffs, Giguere had been first star of the game in 9 of the 12 Duck victories, and got second star in 2 others.

Fact: This year was a decent one for Giguere. He went 30-15-11, with a 2.66 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
Good spin: Giguere and the Ducks were best down the stretch. He had 15 wins in his last 24 starts.
Bad spin: He was 0-3-1 against the Oilers, with a 3.72 GAA and an .878 save percentage. He had a 3rd period explosion in the 2nd meeting where he took 16 PIM and allowed 4 goals.
Oddity: Of course, there is the lower body injury, which has been speculated but never confirmed.

Whatever it was, it was very worrisome to find out just before gametime that our playoff hero was not dressed for G1 of the playoffs. Then, just as mysteriously, he was back for games 2-5 vs. Calgary, going 2-2 but with rather unspectacular numbers. He was pulled less than a minute into the 2nd period of G5 and has been observing Bryzgalov ever since.

So the cycle goes: our worst playoff nightmare comes true, but then becomes our playoff dream when Breezy busts out of the gate. But now, depending on Coach Carlyle's whim, we may be heading back to the well to see if there's any playoff magic left.

Problem is, that 3-0 pit we're in is pretty damn deep, too.

Cookin' with the Oil

Waking the Dead??

Well, if I can't motivate our Ducks' squad, at least this guy seemed to do it. At least that is some of the talk in Oiltown.

Truth be told, I don't think this celebration is that big a deal (other than the fight was a little 'slippery' to be a real victory). I love fighters and I love fighting, and I think fighters like Laraque and Fedoruk should be reminding us of what they bring to the table, and should regularly be 'playing to' the crowd.

Although there might be something a little weezly about waiting for a 3-0 lead to showboat, that isn't a huge deal either. This is the playoffs, after all.

So the Ducks made the game close, so what? That's not Laraque's fault, and any notion that the Ducks 'came to life' to spite Laraque is silly; they want to be in this series more than they want to keep Georges' post-fight behavior under control.

So, Georges and Todd, and all the rest of you grunts out there. Keep yapping. Keep fighting. And if the crowd loves it, throw those arms in the air. Make a little noise. Go nuts.

I got nothing against showmen in this league; sometimes I wish there were more of them.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Damn, I need a drink. Game 3 Notes

Not the best sign. I will say this on Fedoruk's behalf, he was spitting up blood from a vicious Rhett Warrener check two series ago. I doubt he's 100%. (Thanks to Matt for pointing out the correct hitter in the Flames series)

This is funny until he gets a concussion. Then I suppose it will be really funny. Roloson would make a good drinking game, drink for every penalty, assist, or mask-off (finish).

Again, out-stymied. The one-goal lead wins again.

My non-hockey friends, unfortunately, missed the very watchable first period. Then they sat grudgingly through the unwatchable second, until I gave them the TV and went down to my room to watch the rest. They instead played Katamari Damacy on the PS2. I started another post on boring hockey.

Pow, pow, pow, it gets worse-worse-worse. 4-0 Oil. Lucky friends, playing their Katamari.

It is a crazy third, Ducks go nuts but come up short. What does it mean? Have we solved some sort of puzzle? Why now? Pisani gets the game-winner, but other than that, it looked really good. Really good. Final whistle. Oil 5, Ducks 4.

Silly friends, upstairs on their Katamari.

Our PP stinks, but that is not new. We've had about the worst PP in these playoffs. Oil deserve credit, but note they weren't stopping a juggernaut.

3-0 of course has enough history behind it to be damn well condemning.

Got a mountain ahead of us, no margin for error.

This is soooo Disney.

On winning vs. boring, part 2

[Edit: one other motivation for these posts (other than having not much positive to say on the Ducks thus far) is that in Southern California, with the Clippers now eliminated and the Angels playing horrible baseball, the Ducks should now get more local attention. The way the games are going now, I'm not sure that's a good thing. I have two friends coming over today who know very little about hockey; I'm afraid to try to sell this sport too well lest the game turn into another stinker.]

Just a few more thoughts on this subject, and some related ones. I meant to post these earlier, but was interrupted by the stupid day job.

  • I like that there is a rules committee, but I am not sure about the personnel they invited. I don't know if the league's problems were getting Shanahan enough scoring chances, but rather the overall mindset of the game. If I had a rules committee, I would definitely invite Darryl Sutter and pose to him the following questions: "What rules in today's game enables your team to sit on a lead so effectively? What rule changes would encourage you to pursue a 2-goal lead rather than sit on 1?" His input matters more to me than Mark Crawford's.
  • It has bothered me all year that the league decided on so many rule changes at once, in that it becomes near-impossible to test what has worked vs. what hasn't. In particular, I still have no idea how to feel about allowing 2-line passes. While once every couple of games it seems to work for something, how much is it costing us to defend? What is the inherent sacrifice that needs to be made on an offensive end to properly (or even improperly) defend a 2-line pass? Had this been the only rule change, we would know the answer to this better.
  • To me, a lot of the problem comes from the blue line, even with the addition of tag-up offsides. Defensive systems are very dependent on the rules that dictate that the puck must enter the offensive zone before any player, and once the puck is in it becomes a game of "get it over the line before it gets in our net", which for the most part is a very winnable game. I don't know what the solution is, but if I had the job of making hockey more watchable, it would probably involve a rule change about the blue line. It may even be something very dramatic, like if the puck crosses center ice then one skater is allowed to be offsides. If nothing else, that would change the way things are defended.
  • However rule changes happen, there needs to be incentive built into the whole thing. A coach gets hired and fired based on winning and losing, not based on TV ratings. Players get paid for signing a contract, not for delivering anything. A team that plays defense well enough has no incentive to see another goal scored once they get a one-goal lead. Bottom line (no matter how it happens): there needs to be more incentive for a team with a one-goal lead to try to make it two.
  • (random question) Remembering that I have never played hockey, I wonder why there is still a rule about the curvature allowed on a hockey stick, especially given the offensive push the league decided to make. What is the danger of having a stick too curved? Too good a shot?

On winning vs. boring

I am leaving this as an open thread for comments, since I am somewhat interested in reader perspectives. As a Duck fan, it is difficult to distance myself from the team's ups and downs, but now that we find ourselves playing crummy hockey on a national stage, here's the question:

How can the NHL better ensure that important hockey (conference finals) is watchable hockey? How can it make winning hockey not a distinct thing from exciting hockey?

I don't know who outside of Edmonton or Anaheim is captivated thus far by what they've seen, but if you're watching (or importantly, have stopped watching), write a comment.

Feel free to write something about "this post wouldn't be happening if you were UP 2-0", because that might be true. Again, though, I can't be an outsider on this one.

Monday, May 22, 2006

5 keys in G3






C'mon, Ducks. Party like it's 1999.

Meet your blogger

In one of my comments fields, Mike W asked a valid question: "Earl, I have to ask: are you born/raised Californian hockey fan or are you from Canada?"

Here are 5 interesting facts about Earl Sleek the blogger:

  1. "Earl Sleek", of course, is a pen name. The name comes from an obscure video game called Forsaken on the old Nintendo 64. For various reasons (employment being the most pressing), that name will suffice for these posts.
  2. I have lived in Southern California since I was 2 (I am 28 now). For the most part, I lived within 15 minutes of Disneyland (Villa Park, Orange, Santa Ana). For the past five years, I have lived in Redondo Beach, CA, and worked in downtown Los Angeles (about 8 blocks from the Staples Center).
  3. I am half-Irish and half-Korean. That doesn't mean much except that I come from two races of mean drunks.
  4. I have never played the sport of hockey, on ice or on roller blades. Rather, I actually became a fan of hockey through the popular video game NHL 94 on the SNES.
  5. As the Mighty Ducks franchise pre-dates that video game, I have very little first-hand knowledge of the inaugural team, as I had no interest in hockey at that time. I don't know much about the Ducks before the Kariya-Selanne days, other than what I've read.

If you're curious to know more, shoot a question in these comments and I'll respond. I'll probably post something at a later date about how a guy who never played hockey became an NHL nut, as that might be of interest in the debate about 'growing the game'.

Sharks in review: Part 2

While Earl Sleek is busy recovering from last night's sucky suckitude, I'll wave my arms and try to grab the attention of what few remaining Sharks fans are reading this blog. Part 2 of the Sharks in review focuses on the 3rd/4th line guys:

Scott Thornton: A brutal season for Joe's older cousin. Aside from the odd big hit, not much went right for big Scotty T. Low point totals meant for another frustrating season -- perhaps Scott only plays well when paired with Mike Ricci. In any case, despite his insane dedication to being in shape, Thornton looks like time has passed him by. I often wondered why he wasn't placed in the slot on the power play and given the assignment of "Screen the goalie/don't freakin' move except to get a rebound" but I figure Ron Wilson is smarter than me and knows something I don't. Regular season: C-. Playoffs: C+

Ville Nieminen: It's hard to judge Ville's value after only being here a short while, but he certainly came as advertised -- hard hitting, hard working, good penalty killing, and a gigantic jaw that you can see for miles. The best thing about Ville's game was that he brought all those to the table without his trademark stupid penalties that marred his time in Calgary. Not too shabby, Ville. Regular season: B+. Playoffs: B+

Alyn McCauley: It was recently revealed that McCauley's knee had been bothering him since August, which makes me wonder why he didn't just get it taken care of then. Instead, we had a very sub-par season from McCauley who, despite being the Sharks top penalty killer when he played, noticably missed a step from the season prior. McCauley's a UFA and I'd love to see him back, but because of his health situation, I'd only sign him to a short-term deal. Regular season: C-. Playoffs: C-.

Mark Smith: If you could put Mark Smith's heart with Nils Ekman's hands, you'd have a hell of a hockey player. Unfortunately, Smith's only good from the defensive half of the ice. Get him a breakaway and he bobbles the puck like, well, like I do in my beer league games. Still, Smith did what his role dictated and set career highs in points. A few seasons ago, he was the Sharks go-to guy on faceoffs. Unfortunately, his faceoff abilities seem to have diminished. Regular season: B+. Playoffs: B-.

Patrick Rissmiller: When Doug Wilson gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Rissmiller isn't ever going to be a top two line guy, but that's ok -- he brings energy and a tiny bit of skill to the game. Rissmiller may be back as a fourth line guy, but he very well could be a career AHLer. It's not any fault of his own -- he knows his role and he did it well when given the opportunity. Regular season: B. Playoffs: C.

Marcel Goc: The Sharks had high hopes for the young German. While Goc started strong and was one of the best players on the team during the first two months of the season, his play tailed off dramatically and was a non-factor during the playoffs (in addition to getting smoked on almost every faceoff). Doug Wilson is still high on Goc, but here's hoping his sophomore campaign is much better. Regular season: C-. Playoffs: D.

Grant Stevenson: Stevenson's a career AHLer who played to the best of his abilities and had some fortunate bounces early on, but time showed that he couldn't cut it at the NHL level. If the Sharks make any roster additions during the offseason, it's pretty likely that that's the last we'll see of Stevenson up in the big leagues. Regular season: C-. Playoffs: C-.

Up too late after a G2 loss

Um, this was supposed to be inspiring, but I think my favorite NHL team and my favorite TV show are now both tainted...

At any rate, the A Team always had better comebacks than the MD movies.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Down 2-0?

The downside to being the solo blog voice for the Ducks is that sometimes you have nothing to offer. Case in point, I have just returned to my house for the first time since Friday morning, and the Mighty Ducks are trailing the Oilers 2-0 going back to Edmonton. I haven't seen a lick of G2 and only have a drunken perspective on G1, so I'll just take someone's word on what's going on rather than check the tapes. (I'll warn you ahead of time also that I won't be catching all of G4.)

The situation we are in is critical, no doubt, and could be even more dire after game 3. In the opponent's building, down-and-out, with nobody giving us a chance.

Actually, it sounds kind of familiar, like a movie I once saw. The Mighty Ducks.

If this truly is to be the send-off performance for the franchise name, let's try to end it with the same fight-back spirit that the film embodied. Let's be that downtrodden team that pulls its shit together in the lion's mouth in the zero-hour. The cast-offs. The ridiculed.

Common sense says you're beaten, Ducks. The first half of the script is written.

How is this movie going to end, boys?

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Ducky Drunky Post

(Author's note: because I have been drinking a lot, I reserve the right to delete this post later)

(Author's note: because I have been drinking a lot, all I will do in this post is gripe)

GRIPE #1: I have since found out that the Hemsky goal was "legit", but when I was at the game, sitting at the wrong end of the ice, I was under the impression that some Oiler ran into Breezy on the goal. In fact, my whole end of the arena was outraged at this goal. Why the f uc k will they show me meaningless replays throughout the whole game, but never show me a god damn replay of the game winning goal?! In the end, it was nice enough, but I couldn't know that until I got to a friend's house to watch the replay. Stupid animatron decided to show us some movie clips instead. GRRRRRRRR.

GRIPE #2: Stupid Anaheimers!!! The final score was Fans 3, Ushers 0, mainly starring the guy two rows behind me, who in the end griped that me and my kid bro decided to (gasp) stand up for the last minute of the game. "Whatsamatter? You miss the empty netter?"

GRIPE #3: (deleted for nonsense) (it had something to do with traffic)

GRIPE #4: My kid bro is what, 3 months from being 21? I had to buy two beers to drink one. Still, I seem to have a lot of commemorative cups at the end of the day.

GRIPE #5: Mr. Roloson, let me buy you a good roll of duct tape and STICK YOUR GODDAMN MASK TO YOUR GODDAMN HEAD. Doesn't the NHL or NHLPA have to do something in the name of 'protection'? You drop your mask twice in two games and guess what? YOU GET A NEW MASK.

All said, it might have been a good game, but I was not glad to be there. Had there been no uniforms, I might have been at a Flames game.

(Author's note: I will fix this post later, upon recovery)

(Author's note: we did cheer for o canada, that's something)

When you think about it, apples are kind of like oranges

Easily the worst analysis I have seen about this series comes from today’s L.A. Times, who have taken team comparison to a new all-time low.

“How similar are the Ducks and Oilers?

Both have a popular goal scorer—the Ducks’ Teemu Selanne and the Oilers’ Ryan Smyth.

Both have a franchise defenseman who can control a game—the Ducks’ Niedermayer and the Oilers’ Chris Pronger.

Both have enough speedy forwards to stretch across three lines and both have goaltenders—the Ducks’ Ilya Bryzgalov and his counterpart, Dwayne Roloson—no one dreamed would be starring in these playoffs.”
These comparisons are all horribly brutal; why not point out that both teams like to wear uniforms? Clearly the talented journalists have gone to watch the Clippers.

Now that's not to say that there aren't similarities between these teams, but how the Times decide to call these specific players 'similar' are beyond my comprehension. They could have pointed out, for example, that Smyth and Selanne both lost teeth this year in the line of duty, but no, they draw the line in that they are both popular and both score. Or that both teams have a top defenseman and a goaltender. What a load of crap.

Feel free to contribute your own Times-style similarities; do it well enough and you might land yourself a job as a sucksack L.A. Times reporter.

Change your predictions, Sleek is going to Game One!

For those looking for some good, in-depth post-game analysis on Game One, I’m not going to be very helpful in that regard. You see, I’m going to be in the house tonight, and I always find that a better breakdown comes from watching on TV, where you have the benefit of replays, commentary, and cheaper liquor. For some Edmo-centric game reviews, check out the many Oil bloggers; for a drunken hazy Duck fan’s at-the-game experience, this will be your Game One headquarters.

I normally shy away from game predictions, because quite frankly, there are enough out there. However, GAME ONE PREDICTION: I will be reprimanded twice by my usher and once by a nearby “fan” for being entirely too drunk and boisterous. Ushers 2, Fans 1.

(Author's note: I doubt we will see some lusty booing of the Canadian anthem tonight, but not because we are the class of California. It is because of the frickin' 6 pm start time; traffic alone should prevent a full house until sometime late in the first. Anaheim's true test should come on Sunday, with weekend (weakened?) traffic.)

(Author’s note 2: I will definitely not be sweating this one out, like this guy:)

Sharks in review: Part 1

Before the madness of the WCF tonight (stupid stupid freakin' Oilers), it's time to hand out the grades for the Sharks' players, coaches, and management. Today's installment -- the top two lines:

Joe Thornton: It's hard to argue with winning the Art Ross, being one of your team's top penalty killers, and sparking the Richard winner. Even though Joe didn't put up the points in the playoffs, he had a great first round by drawing a ton of penalties and creating a lot of plays. His point totals against Edmonton were roughly the same, but his play had been diminished as Chris Pronger did what the Predators couldn't. Regular Season: A+. Playoffs: B-.

Jonathon Cheechoo: We knew Cheech was good, but Rocket Richard good? Cheech turned into a combination of Brett Hull and John LeClair -- disappearing into shooting positions and firing away one-timers like Hull and mucking around the crease for goals like LeClair. However, passing lanes were taken away from him in the playoffs, and if you can't get the puck to him, he can't shoot. Regular Season: A-. Playoffs: C-.

Nils Ekman: Is there another NHL player that goes offsides as much as Ekman? From the doghouse (4th line/scratched) to the penthouse (Thornton/Cheechoo) and back, Ekman's lack of intensity has been frustrating since he has so much talent. If someone could do a heart transplant on Ekman, he may be a 40-goal scorer. Regular Season: C-. Playoffs: D.

Patrick Marleau: Before the Thornton trade, Marleau was the only consistent player on the Sharks. Sandwiched between rookies and journeymen (hello and goodbye Niko Dimitrakos and Grant Stevenson) for the entire season, Marleau started finding some chemistry with Milan Michalek in January and the pair really clicked when Steve Bernier returned. Against Edmonton, their line was smoking until Michalek's injury knocked things out of whack. Regular Season: A. Playoffs: B.

Milan Michalek: After an atrociously slow start, Michalek finally found his groove with Patrick Marleau and Steve Bernier. The biggest success of this season was the fact that Michalek's knee held up as he rounded into form. Next season, look for his confidence and strength to go up; as he does that, 30 goals/60 points should be a reasonable expectation. Regular Season: B-. Playoffs: B.

Steve Bernier: Bernier's first half of the season was actually worse than Michalek's simply because he didn't even make the big squad back in September. After being called back up, Bernier found a home with Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek. For once, a Sharks rookie was actually being noticed by the Canadian media. Like his linemates, Bernier had a great series against Nashville and was going strong until the Michalek injury derailed things. Regular Season: B. Playoffs: B.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Meet your Mighty Ducks, part 2

Vitaly Vishnevski, a.k.a. "Vish-dog", "Vitaly"

I'm pretty much going through these Ducks in order of personal favorites, and as you may note while Scott and Teemu are generally the fan faves, I like a little more sandpaper than silk.

And while Sammy is the best, actually the only Ducks jersey I own is the one shown above.

These days, Vish-dog sits at about our 5th d-man (behind Scott, Beauchemin, O'Donnell, and Salei), but he is a great physical presence, despite being (a) Russian, (b) a bit lanky, and (c) quite Russian. The thing about Vish-dog is that if you plan on carrying the puck through the neutral zone, keep your head up. Vish-dog can sense a moment of puck concentration and will plow you into next week.

He was fourth overall among defensemen in the regular season with 196 hits, and is third among defensemen in these playoffs (he trails only R. Blake and Z. Chara, each of whom have played around 100 more minutes).

But aside from stats, I can just tell an anecdote. I saw this kid play for the first time in a Ducks uniform in a preseason game against the Avalanche in 1999. From what I had heard from the Ducks' media, he knew hardly any English at that point. The only thing I really remember from that game was when Joe Sakic carried the puck over the blue line at one point and WHAM! somebody had leveled him. Harder than I had seen Sakic ever hit before, that slippery ghost of a man.

Now this was preseason; everyone was kind of shocked. Joe kind of looked up, a little stunned, and even the Ducks weren't quite sure what had happened. Didn't this kid know that this was Joe Sakic? Didn't he know that it was a preseason game? And collectively, it became apparent, he didn't.

Postgame interviews (albeit broken ones) confirmed that he didn't know Joe Sakic from teammate Joe Sacco, and from that point on, I loved this kid. He'll hardly ever score (his one goal this year happened when the St. Louis Blues passed the puck into their own net during a delayed penalty call), but he does have the power to turn on or off the crowd with one well-placed shoulder.

Give 'em hell, Vish-dog.

(Author's note: It is also somewhat silly that the Kings have Lubomir Visnovsky, who although being Slovakian, has a very similar-sounding name. This can be quite comical during L.A.-Anaheim telecasts, and even this postseason without the Kings, I think Neil Smith has called Vishnevski "Visnovsky" every chance he had.)

Stanley Cup Playoffs Trivia Question #2

Trivia Question #2: Who leads the NHL in ice time during the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

The answer... Edmonton Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger with a 32:46 ATOI in 11 games played [2G, 10A, +7, 6PPP, 6PIM]. Pronger logged over 45 minutes twice in the first two rounds.

During a 3-2 double overtime win against Detroit Red Wings in game 1 of the Conference quarterfinals, Pronger logged 47:17 of ice time. In the decisive 3-2 triple overtime win over San Jose in game 3 of the Conference semifinals, Progger logged an almost responsible 45:58.

Ice time prediction for Pronger in the next Edmonton-Anaheim series? He will break the 50 minute barrier in a 4 overtime 2-1 win at Rexall Place in Game 3. Bonus points, guess who is second in ice time for the playoffs?

Random musings on the WC Finals

  • Quick Trivia question (answer posted in comments section): Name the current Mighty Duck who is the only NHLer to get to the Conference Finals in each of the past two postseasons (2003 and 2004).
  • People talk about this “2006 Western Upset” like it is something new, but consider that this is the third consecutive playoffs where the Western Conference Final involved a 6-seed. And 2 of the 3 times, the 6-seed had home ice.
  • Also, it is the third consecutive playoffs where the Western Conference Final involved two teams that had spent the previous spring watching playoffs on TV. It appears that the best way to make the WC Finals is to finish 12th in the West the year before, and then 6th the next year. Note: this year, Phoenix finished 12th in the West.

  • Sorry, Central. Also the third consecutive playoffs where the Northwest and Pacific divisions battled out the WC Finals.
  • How does a 6-seed get home ice advantage in Rounds 2 and 3 of the playoffs? It pretty much has to happen exactly the way it did. I’m not even going to research this; it’s never happened before. Personal gripe #1: It is difficult coordinating a Game 1 at home when the NHL gives you one frickin’ day to digest the next-round schedule.
  • Personal gripe #2: Of the four remaining teams, I think Edmonton is the only city that I know what to call its residents: Edmontonians (I think). The best I can come up with for the other cities are Anaheimers, Buffaloans, and Raleighites, and those are all made up. Also, San Joser?
  • The first Oiler goal of the series will be the second goal allowed in the Ducks’ WC Finals history. That’s saying something.

A charmed postseason existence?

Now it's tough to call the Ducks' postseason history a smashing success, considering:

  • The Ducks have never qualified for the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
  • Each postseason has been under a different coaching staff
  • 2 of our first 3 postseason series involved being swept by Detroit
However, given these factors, it's amazing how well the Ducks have done in the playoffs the odd years when they decide to qualify.

Overall, the Ducks have a postseason series record of 6-3 (including 5-1 since 2003). Here are some random notes about this short-but-sweet playoff success. I guess what should qualify this is that in all these cases, we were never expected to make any playoff noise. Nobody saw this success coming.
  • The Ducks all-time are 3-2 in series sweeps, 1-0 when a series goes six games, and 2-1 when a series goes to Game Seven.
  • 2 of our 3 series losses came against the eventual Stanley Cup champs (Detroit 1997, New Jersey 2003).
  • The Ducks have never won a Game Five (0-4), yet have a 3-1 record when a series gets to Game Five. We are 4-0 in Game Sixes and 2-1 in Game Sevens.
  • The Ducks have beaten a defending Stanley Cup champion (Detroit 2003), a defending Western Conference champion (Calgary 2006), and a President's Trophy winner (Dallas 2003). We are the only team to have swept a defending SC champ.
  • The Ducks have had 2 stretches of 3 straight postseason shutouts (Giguere 2003 and Bryzgalov 2006).
  • Records that will never be broken? How about allowing one frickin' goal in a 4-game series (Minnesota 2003). Or perhaps it is Giguere's 170-minute 95-save unbeaten-in-overtime streak (which, incidentally, is not over).
  • The Ducks have yet to lose a series in which it wins at least one of the first two games. Round 1 vs. Calgary, incidentally, is the only time the Ducks have split the first two games in a series.

Playoff History:

1997--(4) Anaheim vs. (5) Phoenix, Anaheim in seven; (3) Detroit vs. (4) Anaheim, Detroit in four

1999--(3) Detroit vs. (6) Anaheim, Detroit in four

2003--(2) Detroit vs. (7) Anaheim, Anaheim in four; (1) Dallas vs. (7) Anaheim, Anaheim in six; (6) Minnesota vs. (7) Anaheim, Anaheim in four; (2) New Jersey vs. (7) Anaheim, New Jersey in seven

2006--(3) Calgary vs. (6) Anaheim, Anaheim in seven, (6) Anaheim vs. (7) Colorado, Anaheim in four

Still going strong...

Let me dispel all of the talk: There'll be no dying of this blog! With absolutely no one blogging for the Anaheim Ducks and the good work Earl's doing here, I have a feeling this is going to be a major hub for, well, a lot of crazy Oilers fans to run amok in Round 3.

And that's a good thing. (I think.)

In the meantime, let's allow the Sharks fans to lick their wounds in peace and head off to recruit someone we can all poke fun of: a Kings fan.

(As an aside, this blog's been up for a good 10 days so far and already has had about 2,000 visitors. I'd say that's a success considering I was the only one reading my site when it started.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Eulogies to follow...

Meet your Mighty Ducks, part 1

Sammy Pahlsson, a.k.a. "Sammy".

I start with Sammy, quite frankly, because he is the best. Sure Teemu is flashy, and Scott is more or less incredible, but if you need dependability, Sammy is your guy.

He's the top faceoff guy, the top stopping center, and if you can appreciate gritty, body-on-body, stick-on-stick defense, watch Sammy for a game or two. He barely ever scores and his statistics are underwhelming, but nobody puts in a better effort each night than good ol' #26.

  • Sammy (along with Teemu) leads the team this postseason with 2 GWG.
  • Sammy is one of only five (!) remaining players from the 2003 SCF team (R. Niedermayer, R. Salei, V. Vishnevski, and J.S. Giguere, who now is benched).
  • Sammy's earlier claims to fame include playing in Sweden with the Sedin twins, and being part of the trade package that brought Ray Bourque to Colorado.
  • Sammy is the only player left in the 2006 playoffs from the gold-medal-winning Sweden squad.

Here Sammy (center) is celebrating in Sweden after winning the gold. On the left is Ducks deserter Jonathan Hedstrom (who was on Sweden's taxi squad, and has now left his NHL team mid-playoffs to return to Sweden).

(Author's note: I don't know whether Hedstrom was given a medal for going to Turin as part of the taxi squad, but he might technically also be eligible to join the list of players who wins a gold medal and a Stanley Cup in the same year. The difference will be that Hedstrom will have been absent from either effort.)

(Author's note 2: Hedstrom leaving for Sweden could be construed as a good sign for the Ducks. During the 2003 playoffs, fellow Swede Patrick Kjellberg also bolted for his homeland after the second round victory over Dallas. Both these instances of team desertion correspond well with the Ducks' posting back-to-back-to-back shutouts.)

4 Keys for the San Jose Sharks in Game 6

Four things the Sharks have to do to ensure a game 7 against Edmonoton:


1. Production from Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo on the power play. In the last 3 Edmonton Oiler wins, Patrick Marleau has a goal and 2 assists [-2], Joe Thornton has a goal and 3 assists [even], and Jonathan Cheechoo has 2 goals and 2 assists [+1]. In those three losses, only Patrick Marleau has a point on the power play (primary assist on Christian Ehrhoff's 2nd period PP goal Sunday).

2. Faceoffs. The Edmonton Oilers lead San Jose 151-101 in faceoffs during the 3-game winning streak, including several key third period draws. Team FO% leaders during the playoffs: SJ, Mark Smith 58% [38-27, 15th, 10GP], Joe Thornton 42% [110-149, 74th, 10GP], Patrick Marleau 40% [59-90, 84th ,10GP]. EDM, Shawn Horcoff 55% [143-116, 23rd, 11GP], Jarret Stoll 55% [111-92, 28th, 11GP], Michael Peca 51% [93-88, 45th, 11GP]. Sharks center Marcel Goc won 13 of 18 for 72% in Game 5.

3. Get the puck deep. In the 6-3 loss during game 5 at San Jose, the Sharks repeatedly failed to get the puck deep in Edmonton's zone. Dump the puck in, hammer the defenseman trying to play it, and make the Oilers skate the entire 200 feet to create offense. The Sharks set the tone with physical play in the first two games, but Oilers have answered that and then some in the last three.

4. Manage the officials. Dwayne Roloson averages more equipment breaks, and argues more calls with the referees than the entire Sharks team combined. Several "gritty" Edmonton forwards are also taking advantage of tight officiating to manufacture penalties. Uncontested up until this point, San Jose needs to fight back. If it is preordained that refs are going to determine a game, make them call it in your favor.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A fishy story about Karma

(Author's note: I can't believe I forgot about this, since this bar was about 15 minutes from my house, but this is true.)

Early on May 9th, a Hermosa Beach bar called Sharkeez
caught fire, causing over $1 million in damages.

As of that morning, the San Jose Sharks had won six straight playoff games. Since the bar ignited, they have lost their last three.

Now I'm no real believer in karma (thus my participation in this joint blog), but this certainly strikes me as odd.

But fear not, San Jose brethren! Sharkeez bar owner Ron Newman promises:

"We plan to rebuild as soon as possible."

No doubt Sharks owner Greg Jamison will respond similarly.

Unless, of course, you plan on winning tonight.

Good luck. Hope it goes seven.

Western Conference Finals Schedule

[Edit: now we know the schedule]

All times are Pacific (after all, this is the Battle of California)

  • Game 1 at Anaheim: Friday, May 19, 6 pm
  • Game 2 at Anaheim: Sunday, May 21, 6 pm
  • Game 3 at Edmonton: Tuesday, May 23, 5 pm
  • Game 4 at Edmonton: Thursday, May 25, 5 pm
  • Game 5 at Anaheim: Saturday, May 27, 6 pm (if necessary)
  • Game 6 at Edmonton: Monday, May 29, 5 pm (if necessary)
  • Game 7 at Anaheim: Wednesday, May 31, 6 pm (if necessary)

A Mighty finish?

Just a quick post about the name change.

I am personally against it, for various reasons, most notably that really, all team names are stupid. However, if it must be changed, "Ducks" isn't so bad.

At any rate, I had found this picture of proposed logos on a message board a while ago (can't quite remember where); don't know if I'll get in trouble for posting it. Note that this probably came from a cell phone camera, thus the crummy quality.

Um... yay?

No word yet on whether a Cup win changes our plans.

Reasons not to boo Canada

After all the fervor over Anthem-gate, I thought it'd be a good time to remind readers what's so awesome about our friends from the north. Here are Mike's personal reasons why Canada rules (minus the obvious Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau/Jonathon Cheechoo/etc.):

-As an indie rock dork: my favorite new band from the past few years, the Arcade Fire

-As a fan of the Simpsons: Troy McLure/Lional Hutz

-As a sci-fi fan: Anakin Skywalker and Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

-Because I buy stupid sports figures: Todd McFarlane

-Because most of the hockey fans we talked to when my friend and I went to Toronto and Ottawa on a hockey vacation were pretty cool, including the guy who asked us "You're from California? Why the hell would you come to Canada in March?"

-Because I watched wrestling as a kid (and with my roommates in college, I'm ashamed to admit): Bret "The Hitman Hart, Lance Storm, and Chris Jericho

-Because we wouldn't have the South Park movie without Canada (and most Canadians I know have a pretty good sense of humor about it)

Got more reasons to not boo Canada? Put them in the comments -- and, oh yeah, go Sharks!

P.S. Regarding my post about stupid superstitions...the jersey has been washed.

Ducks' Streak On Hold

Well, while our pals up north and up very north continue to duke it out, let's take a look at what is awaiting them, the 2006 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

The Ducks have been playing good-to-amazing hockey of late, depending on your opinion on the postseason beatability of the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche. Myself, I view Calgary as a defensive powerhouse and Colorado as an offensive powerhouse. The problems with these squads is that they are very average-or-below when out of their comfort zone (Calgary generating offense or Colorado playing shut-down hockey). Still, it is encouraging that the Ducks were able to exploit both squads' weaknesses.

The goal-differential stats might not on-the-surface seem that impressive, but consider this: J.S. Giguere, who played in games 2-5 of the opening round, is hurt. Or terrible. Or both.

Since Bryzgalov took over (1:03 of the 2nd period in game 5), the Ducks have gone 6-0 and outscored their opponents 23 - 5. Now true, these stats always look pretty with 3 straight shutouts [Ducks 11, Opponents 0], but you know what? The shutouts were pretty.

So, all that being said, here are 5 reasons why the Ducks will be dangerous:

  • 4-Line Attack--The Ducks have gotten contributions from all four lines. 15 different Ducks have scored or assisted on game-winning goals.

  • Penalty-Killing is outstanding (although Jiggy can hurt us)--The Ducks have killed all 40 man-down situations with Bryzgalov in net.
  • Bryzgalov is in another world, and that might just work--How do you intimidate a guy who cares more about world hunger than a trivial playoff game?
  • Young and aggressive players--The Ducks have gotten 7 goals and 20 assists from their 5 rookies (Kunitz, Penner, Getzlaf, Perry, and Beauchemin)
  • Rest/Health--The biggest impact on our roster was Jonathan Hedstrom bolting back to Sweden. Corey Perry has been ready to go the entire Colorado series, but couldn't crack the lineup with the team winning.

Meanwhile, here are 5 reasons the Ducks are in trouble:

  • Teemu Selanne: Second Period Sensation?--Someone on the opposition should look back and realize that Selanne has scored 9 of his 10 postseason points in the 2nd period. The top line has 18 of its 23 points in 2nd periods.
  • Power Play sucks--It doesn't get noticed so much since our PK keeps working, but even during our six-game streak, the PP is 3-of-29 (10.3%) while allowing a short-handed goal.
  • Bryzgalov is in another world, and that could backfire--Is it really encouraging when your goaltender has much larger concerns than stopping the puck?
  • Young and inexperienced players--It hasn't caught us yet, but it is a concern.
  • Rust/Slipping play--The Ducks haven't played since May 11th, and so they will have to pick it up again. Even in their last two games in Denver, they allowed more chances than usual, but that could have been an altitude factor.

Who knows how good we really are? Our next opponent promises to bring a balance of offense and defense that our earlier opponents clearly lacked. All told, it seems like the buildup to a really good WC Finals.

Go Ducks.