These last two photos are for Vinny, to better tell the tale of one of my birthday parties that starred a six-foot burrito:
Sunday, December 31, 2006
These last two photos are for Vinny, to better tell the tale of one of my birthday parties that starred a six-foot burrito:
Friday, December 29, 2006
The Phoenix Coyotes ran up a 2-0 lead over the Sharks on Thursday night on the strength of 2 power play goals by Oleg Saprykin and Shane Doan. San Jose tightened up defensively after the poor start and worked its way back into the game.
It looked like both teams were playing out the string for overtime in the third period until Yanic Perreault scored the game winning goal with under a minute remaining. The former faceoff specialist picked up his 11th goal of the season to lead all Coyotes in scoring.
Trade rumors are swirling around Phoenix, spurred in part by this article in the Arizona Republic. David Vest reports that Mike Comrie, Shane Doan, and Ladislav Nagy could be available for the right offer. The return of defenseman Ed Jovanovski and Nick Boynton from injury will add more rumors to the mix.
The photo above is of Curtis Joseph making a painful off the mask save. A recap and photo gallery from the Sharks-Coyotes game is available here.
Anaheim Ducks (28-5-6, 1st in west) at Carolina Hurricanes (20-15-4, 4th in east)
There’s plenty of storylines for tonight’s game:
- the top team from this regular season vs. the defending Cup champs
- injuries preventing an all-Conn-Smythe goaltender matchup (the Ducks’ Wall-McKee tandem has a combined 2 games of NHL experience)
- The Ducks' first game this year without Francois Beauchemin (lacerated spleen)
- ridiculous travel (Carolina played last night in Buffalo, while Anaheim somehow got Raleigh thrown in between stops in San Jose and St. Paul)
- Rod Brind’Amour night in Raleigh commemorating his 1,000th NHL point
Look out, ‘Canes. It’s payback night.
Prediction: Ducks 4, Hurricanes 2. Goals by Pronger, Kunitz, Pahlsson, and Getzlaf.
p.s. Congrats to BoC all-star Mike Chen for his new work on FoxSports.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Well, not that this team deserves any sympathy, but Ducks are dropping like Kings lately. The injury list since Christmas reads like a list of gifts to the hockey gods:
J.S. GiGOLD—groin strain, day-to-dayNot to mention that Ilya Bryzgalov has been out for a while with his own groin pull, and Sean O’Donnell should be returning tomorrow from his own lacerated foot issue.
FRANKINCENSE Beauchemin—a Forsbergian spleen rupture, out indefinitely
Todd MYRRHchant—abdominal strain, day-to-day
Replacing Marchant shouldn’t be an issue, as Travis Green has been sitting around in the pressbox most of this year waiting for such an opportunity, but plugging the blueline and netminding holes will be a lot more interesting.
In the nets, we should be seeing a lot more of Michael Wall, yet another undrafted fellow set to prove that even a poor netminder can win behind a Norris-laden blueline. He is 2-0 this season, but a lot of his success can be credited to the fact that the Ducks are limiting opponents to less than 19 shots-per-game in front of him. In the 84 minutes that Wall has played this season, Anaheim skaters have blocked 23 shots, which matches the number of saves that Wall himself has blocked. That’s the kind of defense that turns a CuJo-like .885 sv% into a Brodeur-like 2.15 GAA.
As for the blueline, losing Beauchemin will be a challenge also, as he sits third on the Ducks in overall icetime and first overall in even-strength icetime. I would guess this means that Shane O’Brien gets to try out for a more prominent role and AHL-callup Kent Huskins gets to eat up the leftover minutes.
[EDIT: I'm not sure how related this is, but the Ducks and Blackhawks made a minor-league deal today. To Chicago: F Pierre Parenteau and D Bruno St. Jacques. To Anaheim: G Sebastien Caron, F Matt Keith, and F Chris Durno.]
I wonder how much Dr. Duck is planning on increasing the Niedermayer and Pronger dosage?
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Merry Fist-mas day +1. Fight clip courtesey of Hockeyfights.com. Rumors that Earl Sleek was going to be an emergency replacement to backup Michael Wall were unfounded.
Maybe the Kings can loan Anaheim a goaltender.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Anaheim Ducks (27-4-6, 1st in west) at Phoenix Coyotes (12-20-1, 14th in west)
What were you doing on the evening of October 12, 2003? Have trouble remembering?
Same with me, I have trouble remembering the last time the Ducks played the Coyotes and walked away with 0 points. Since then, Anaheim has gone 13-0-3 against its division buddies, another 16-game point streak to put on the line tonight.
Since former Winnipeg Jet Randy Carlyle has taken the coaching reins, the Ducks are 10-0-1 against Phoenix, outscoring them 46-23. Another former Jet Teemu Selanne has 9 goals and 13 assists in those 11 games.
No wonder Coach Gretzky is getting into fits, or why PB is less-than-enthusiastic in OFP’s game preview.
Still, you have to think that at some point, this “automatic points” thinking is going to bite us in the ass. Sometime in the new year, that is.
Right now, it is too one-sided. The Ducks currently have 2.4 times as many standings points as Phoenix, and Phoenix is the only team with more power play goals allowed (46) than Anaheim’s league-leading 44 power play goals scored.
At this point, the Coyotes need the benefit of some easier opposition, like they had at this preseason scrimmage:
Prediction: Ducks 5, Coyotes 3. Goals by Pahlsson, Marchant, McDonald, and 2 for Selanne.
(Side note: I don’t know what the injury status is for Ilya Bryzgalov, but if he were handy, I’d go ahead and throw him in for this game. Breezy has a career 6-0 record against the ‘Yotes, with a sparkling 1.67 GAA and a .932 sv%.)
Friday, December 22, 2006
Well, as I mentioned in the GDP, I somehow snagged the Row B tickets to the Dallas game on Wednesday, and it was a blast. Now normally I bring my pal Damndaze along, (even though he’s a Red Wings fan) because he loves taking pictures from up close. However, Damndaze was out of town on business, and I had to take my own damn photos.
Now, I’m not real dedicated to photography or anything, especially when I’ve had some beers. Damndaze goes to a game and takes like 300 photos (a lot of them garbage-smudge, though); at the end of this game I think I had taken 16 shots (a couple of them garbage-smudge also). Most of the time the camera stays inaccessibly in my pocket, so I can safely drink my beer and still bang the glass if necessary.
Nevertheless, I did get some shots of some penalized Ducks. (Side gripe: this is my fourth game of five this season/preseason, and Chris Pronger refuses to take any damn penalties.)
OK, easily the best part of this game was the 90-second beating of metapest Matthew Barnaby, courtesy of the wicked fists of Shawn Thornton. It was a drawn-out yet one-sided affair that deep-down felt really good; it’s nice every once in a while when a big yapper-pest gets the beatdown he’s had coming to him for the better part of his career. I mean, it wasn’t knock-you-out decisive, but still Thornton pretty much made him his Barnabitch. And I tell ya, the Honda Center crowd was pretty damn pleased.
Once in the box, Thornton proceeded to reassemble his playing gear while still talking it up with the persistent (I’ll give him that) Barnaby. It was pretty amusing for all of us to watch. Anyway, awesome work, Shawn.
The next two penalties were both taken by Teemu Selanne, who suspiciously enough had been quoted that morning in the OC Register, saying: “I don’t want Lady Byng. Burkie would probably trade me if I won Lady Byng.”
Any way, Teemu showed up both times pleading his innocence, and I managed only one good shot out of both visits. I yelled "Go get 'em, Teemu!" in the closing seconds of each penalty, with the exuberance only a beer-drinker can muster.
In the third period, I got another rare visitor, Cap’n Niedermayer, for another minor. I tell ya, I was really struck by the intensity sitting next to that guy. I know that’s an overused word, but Scott intensely watched the Ducks kill his penalty. It was like he was memorizing it or something, kinda kreepy, actually.
Later in the third period, both Shawn Thornton and Shane O’Brien took coincidental minors for double-roughing Barnaby (again), and Shawn spent the entire time re-enacting the earlier bout for Shane’s amusement, giving him a blow-by-blow account. It was pretty cool to watch, those guys were having a good time that night.
In this shot, he is showing O’B how to move his hands faster than a digital camera’s default shutter speed in the hands of a drunken techno-idiot. You know, the kind of idiot who can't even frame well enough to get even one guy's face in the damn shot.
Oh yeah, and outside the penalty box, Ducks won the game as well. Goals by Capt. Niedermayer, Pronger, and two by Corey Perry--on a night when Moustache was scratched, of course.
27-4-6 means 60 points (!) for the Ducks, with still two more shopping days until Christmas. One year ago today, Anaheim had 38 points, while Ottawa and Detroit led the league with 51 points.
What’s the phrase I’m looking for? Oh yeah, Holy
Christ Shit Moly Smokes! Sure there's bound to be downturns at some time, but for now the outlook is cautiously awesome.
Hope you like the photos, and have a good holiday weekend, readers-who-only-read-blogs-when-they’re-at-the-office!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The Ducks’ best interview does his best to stand up for Pronger’s leaving Edmonton, but in the end, he probably does more harm than good.
The crazy Russian has been nursing an injury lately—any ideas how can we get him to rehabilitate in the announcer’s booth for the next several games?
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Dallas Stars (21-12-0, t-4th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (26-4-6, 1st in west)
You know, as much as I’m about to throw numbers around about this game, the more important issue is that Sleek's going to be at HC tonight to watch Episode II of this Pacific battle. I'll be in my YouTube seats even, right next to the Ducks penalty box. This was a bit of a surprise, as it was not in my original game set, but I guess Christmas started a bit early this year.
Ho, ho, ho.
Only four teams in the league have more wins than the Stars, but two of the four are division rivals Anaheim and San Jose—the Stars currently sit 6 points back of the Sharks and 16 points back of the Ducks. But are the Stars just fooling us with their early-season record? I found this split to be interesting:
The Stars are 9-0 against the Kings and Coyotes this year, outscoring them 31-13.
Against everyone else, they are a more modest 12-12, getting outscored 55-61.
We’ll see how these top 3 Pacific teams really compare soon, as there are a lot of points yet to be disputed (6 remaining SJ-ANA games, 6 remaining SJ-DAL games, and 7 remaining ANA-DAL games).
Dallas did take the first game in Anaheim by (surprise, surprise) virtue of a shootout win, although the Ducks are still the only team in the league to have ever bested the 15-1 Stars in a shootout (how’s this for irony: the first two shooters were Rob Niedermayer and Jonathan Hedstrom, and we didn’t need a third shooter).And for fun, here’s two bonus “Ducks Hype” notes from the 2003 playoff matchup (1st seeded DAL vs. 7th seeded ANA), back when Anaheim was constantly magical:
Clutch Ducks get it done late: In all six games of that 2nd-round series, the Stars were either tied or ahead with 90 seconds left in regulation. In all four Anaheim wins, the Ducks scored the game-winner on their final shot of the game!
Jiggy sets record in fifth career playoff game: J.S. Giguere became the first goaltender in NHL history to have two 60-save performances in one playoff year (G1 3-OT at Detroit and G1 5-OT at Dallas). For reference, Patrick Roy was the only goaltender who had two 60-save playoff performances in his career!
Heh, good times.
Prediction: Ducks 5, Stars 2. Goals by Moen, Pahlsson, Kunitz, Getzlaf, and Beauchemin.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Calgary Flames (16-11-3, t-7th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (25-4-6, 1st in west)
Thanks for the graphic, Grabia.
Sorry this one will have to be short; not only is this game snuggled between two very high profile Pacific matchups (last Saturday’s ANA-SJS game and this Wednesday’s DAL-ANA game—I just found out that I am attending the Dallas game, btw), but I was also away from the computer all weekend. So for a better-thought-out preview probably check out Matt at BoA, Five Hole Fanatics, Double D(ion), or Real Deal Hockey.
Ducks return from an almost-perfect 5-game road trip for a battle between the top two scorers in the western conference:
Teemu Selanne, 35 GP, 19-24-43, +17
Jarome Iginla, 30 GP, 20-21-41, +12
This is a Flames team that has both gone 10-0-0 in its last 10 home games (3.70 GF, 1.10 GA), including a 3-0 shutout over visiting Anaheim, and 1-4-1 in its last 6 road games (2.33 GF, 3.00 GA), including a 5-3 loss in Anaheim to bench-door operator Michael Wall. Interestingly enough, the Ducks have yet to score a goal against Miikka Kiprusoff this season, and the Flames have yet to score a goal against J.S. Giguere this season.
Overall, the Flames are an .800 team at home (12-3-0) and a .367 team on the road (4-8-3). Only the Minnesota Wild are more home-schizophrenic (.781 at home, .281 on the road). Let’s hope the Flame-pattern holds true tonight.
Prediction: Ducks 4, Flames 3. Flames try to hold a lead, but the Ducks storm back in games six and seven. Goals by Pahlsson, O’Donnell, SNiedermayer, and Selanne, who non-coincidentally scored the four game-winners in last spring’s series.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Jesus, everyone take a breather after that game. Seriously, that had it all -- including especially mega-angry psycho woman fan behind me who seemed to think that curse words were normal for play-by-play commentary. She's also one of those blindly homer-ish fans, so even when the refs make a call against the Sharks that is a good call (like the idiotic too many men call), she screams bloody murder and everyone in my section looks at her and mutters under their breath.
Yes, and she's there all season. Woo hoo.
Anyways, this game really lived up to the hype. Two fantastic teams going toe to toe, a soft goal by each, power play tallies, and talent really shining through. Some key things to note:
- Evgeni Nabokov really hadn't let up many soft goals this season so I was pretty surprised at the stinker that went in. Still, he saved the Sharks' bacon many, many times, so no complaints here about Nabby's performance.
- Obviously, I don't watch nearly as many Ducks games as I watch Sharks games, but J.S. Giguere looked pretty uncomfortable any time one of the Sharks planted himself in front of the crease.
- Patrick Marleau's one of the few players who can actually skate fast enough to catch up to Scott Niedermayer and stick check the puck away.
- The Anaheim power play is ridiculously patient with Pronger and Niedermayer and it's really just not fair. I met two of my buddies at intermission; though first thing both of them said to me separately was lamenting about the unfairness of the Anaheim D.
- The instant I turned to my dad and said, "Why is Mark Smith on the power play?" freakin' Smitty scores. That's why Ron Wilson's coaching and I'm not.
- Mark Bell is shaking off the jersey curse. Sure, he's not putting up the points, but he's working hard, hitting hard, and his fight was the turning point of the game. Now if only he wouldn't look so damn tentative with the puck.
- When did Andy MacDonald get so freakin' chippy?
- When did Teemu Selanne grow the balls to start jawing at Joe Thornton? Teemu's a lover, not a fighter!
- Watching the Anaheim D and the Sharks D was night and day. Sure, Matt Carle and Christian Ehrhoff show flashes of brilliance, but there's no comparison. Someone needs to replace Josh Gorges and soon. And Scott Hannan, you're on my shit list for all of your bad turnovers this season.
- Spotted: one "Vote for Rory" t-shirt...on a pretty hot babe to boot!
- Spotted: one freakishly creepy guy in a dirty stained Santa costume.
- The Sharks fans were cheering outside the tank like they had just won a playoff series. Everyone relax; it's a regular season game...in December.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Anaheim Ducks (25-3-6, 1st in west) at San Jose Sharks (23-10-0, 2nd in west)
Sorry, this preview’s gotta be rushed. Instead of watching the #1 and #2 western teams duke it out tonight, I am going to be performing in a Christmas concert that starts right at game time, so my viewing will be courtesy of late night Tivo. Any way, this blog was started during last year’s playoffs, and one of my first posts took a look at the similar self-improvement patterns that the Ducks and Sharks used to leapfrog into the playoffs. If you recall last year,
- Anaheim had an 8-game stretch without a win November 3-20.
- San Jose had a 10-game stretch without a win November 5-30.
The Ducks are in red, the Sharks are in blue, and I have included a dashed line that is a straight-line approximation of an 8th-seeded team (95 points) for reference. Note that before this month, the furthest the Ducks and Sharks have been separated in the standings has been 7 points.
And, just for measure, here are the last 82 regular-season games for each franchise. Even these records are within 7 points of each other:
ANA: 53-17-12, 118 points, .720 win%, 277 GF, 207 GA, PP 21.2% (96/452), PK 84.9% (69/456)
SJS: 52-23-7, 111 points, .677 win%, 264 GF, 203 GA, PP 21.0% (99/471), PK 82.5% (66/378)
And once again tonight, these parallel teams shall battle again.
Prediction: Ducks 5, Sharks 4. Parallel patterns persist, but the better Thornton pots the winner.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Brust poke check, sit down Shark man.
The Kings dismantled the Sharks in their own house 4-2 Thursday night, with rookie Anze Kopitar potting 2 goals and a sick deke along the boards that sent a Sharks defenseman sprawling to the ice. Dismantled and demoralized, the Sharks attempted a weak comeback scoring 2 goals in the third. Brust came up big in his first NHL start, and Sopel looked impressive logging 26+ minutes and earning an assist after missing 16 games with an injury.
More from the game is available here.
I got word the Ducks were in town Thursday, awaiting their turn against the Sharks on Saturday. After getting blown out a few weeks ago in Anaheim, this is a chance for Teal Redemption. Only question, will there be a Sleek sighting in the land of Google and $6 Bud Lights? And will he rock purple and orange for the game?
You know, I’m starting to come around to George Parros (awesome graphic to the left stolen from HF Boards). Not in the sense that Moustache is doing anything well on the ice, but gosh, that pornstache is a pretty cool calling card. Plus, it's tough to be that critical when the team's winning like crazy.
Still, I am worried: through 13 games Moustache has pretty much stopped production on the Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf line, which Vic Ferrari notes play the softest minutes in the league (actually, he is referencing a metric at the new Behind the Net stats site, which to my eye looks excellent). This type of matchup is really sort of unfair, of course; Getzlaf and Perry are way too talented for third-string defenders, and their early production numbers show it.
But that was then and this is now. Now, instead of teaming up with a fighter-who-can-play, Perry and Getzlaf get to carry around a moustache-who-cannot. This was even more evident this week when Perry scored three points against FLA—on the one day Moustache was scratched.
Here’s some even-strength statistics for Perry, separating out the time he spent playing with and without Parros Nation. I focus on Perry here because Getzlaf’s slump has been less noticeable—he too has stopped producing in Parros minutes, but he steals time and points on other lines. Note also that the "No Moustache" minutes generally means playing with Fedoruk or Thornton instead of Parros (not Selanne or anything).
Oh, and see that one Perry goal that Moustache was on the ice for? Parros was never within one zone of the puck on that play.
Who needs goals with facial growth like this?
This is not to say that Parros serves no purpose; he will fight the big boys and allows Perry to be a snarky lad in the offensive zone. And with Parros canceling out the other team’s heavyweight, that allows middleweights like Thornton, Moen, and O’Brien to fight opponents more down in their weight class; Thornton and Moen definitely kicked some ass in Washington once Brashear was out of the way. Putting Parros in the lineup definitely comes at a cost, however, as Anaheim is now getting zero production from the easiest minutes in the game.
For reference, Todd Fedoruk in 75 minutes had 3 assists and was a +2. Shawn Thornton got 58 minutes in his first call-up, and had 2 assists and was a +5. If Parros could just find it within his moustached-heart to just not be useless, then maybe we can have the best of both worlds, just like before—production and protection.
You can do it, Moustache! Be useful!
(For more hard-hitting Ducks analysis, be sure to check out Tapeleg's take at JAHL.)
Thursday, December 14, 2006
My baloney has a first name. It’s W-W-W-O-O-W-W-W-W-O-W-W-O-W-W-W-L-W-L-O-W-W-O-W-W-W-W-W-L-W-W-W-W-W.
Ridiculous. Here’s some unnecessary gloating; maybe you can wow people at dinner parties with these tidbits:
The last 15 games (12-1-2), Teemu Selanne has 15 goals plus 12 assists (+16), and has 10 multi-point efforts. McDonald, Pronger, Kunitz, and Thornton are also point-a-game over that stretch.
9 of the last 12 wins were one-goal wins, ignoring 3 empty-net goals. The only blowouts were San Jose, Nashville, and Washington, who collectively got beaten 15-1.
J.S. Giguere won his 9th straight start, and his 21 wins (4 more than 2nd-best Brodeur) matches the season total of last year’s St. Louis Blues. 05/06 Blues: 57 points; 06/07 Ducks: 56 points and counting. The Blues actually pro-rate to an even worse total this year (49 points), and along with the Flyers (53 points), are not even projected to catch the Ducks’ current points total.
I know that scheduling still has been in favor of the Ducks thus far, but last year, no team was able to at any point have a 10-point conference lead or an 8-point league lead until April. The Ducks have more wins (25) than any team has losses—regulation or overtime (23). Anaheim also has more goals-scored (121) than any team has goals-allowed (118).
Big caveat to the Ducks' record, however: in regards to the next-top-four teams in the west (SJS, DAL, NSH, DET), Anaheim has only faced these teams once apiece, all at the Honda Center. 20 of Anaheim's 48 remaining games will be against this formidible foursome (8 at home, 12 on the road).
Still, the Ducks have now played 8 games against then-division leaders (10/18 DET, 10/20 MIN, 10/27 @MIN, 11/12 MIN, 11/24 NJD, 11/28 @EDM, 12/6 NSH, 12/13 @ATL), and are 7-0-1, outscoring opponents 24-11. Against playoff-hopeful teams in the west (SJS, DAL, DET, NSH, and the Northwest Division), the Ducks are 10-1-3, outscoring opponents 47-22 and sporting a 94% PK (4 for 66).
The Ducks do not lead the league in regulation wins, however. The Sharks have that edge, 22-21, thanks largely in part to SJ’s non-participation in overtime. Since winning their season opener in OT, the Sharks have played 31 straight decided-in-regulation games.
San Jose currently also holds a 0.0002 lead over the Ducks in power-play percentage.
This SJ baloney ain’t bad either: W-W-W-L-W-W-W-L-W-L-L-W-W-L-W-W-W-W-L-W-W-L-W-W-W-W-W-L-L-W-W-W (plus a game tonight hosting the Kings).
See ya Saturday, Sharks.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Ever notice how Evgeni Nabokov looks really pissed off when he does interviews these days? Well, it's not just the goal-support issue (Nabby gets about 2 goals for each game, Vesa Toskala gets almost 4.5), it's the schedule. Sure, Ron Wilson probably thinks it's fair just to alternate Nabokov and Toskala game by game, but look at the opponents in here:
I've put an asterik next to each team that's not within sniffing distance of .500 or better (the only exception is the Islanders since Toskala played them before Ted Nolan spun straw into gold). So by my account, Toskala's got 10 fairly easy opponents while Nabokov's only had, um, 2.
Not quite fair, huh? In terms of stats, the two are freakishly identical. As of today, they both have 2.04 GAA and a save percentage that is within one 1000th of each other (.924 for Nabby vs .925 for Toskala). But if you factor in the competition and goal support in there, I'd say that Nabokov's having an even better season than Toskala.
Food for thought when we enter the post-Christmas trade rumor silly season.
Today: Anaheim Ducks (23-3-6, 1st in west) at Florida Panthers (10-16-6, 14th in east)
Tomorrow: Anaheim Ducks (24-3-6, 1st in west) at Atlanta Thrashers (18-8-5, 2nd in east)
Another set of back-to-backs on the Ducks’ Sherman march through the Southeast, but this time it gets a little more nostalgic. These particular games feature Ruslan Salei and Vitaly Vishnevski, some nasty defensemen who got replaced this past offseason by a monster named Pronger. These two ugly mugs combined to play over 1,000 games for the Anaheim franchise, not to mention contributed minutes in our two lengthy playoff runs, and I miss the hell out of them.
Rusty Salei, the Ducks’ first round pick in 1996 (9th overall), signed a 4-year deal last July with the Florida Panthers, where I hear he is playing admirably on a not-very-strong team. His 20 points would put him 3rd on the Ducks’ blueline, only 7 points behind Scott Niedermayer. Still, the Panthers have only won 2 of their last 10 games, which includes a stretch of being shut out in three consecutive games. Salei is tough as nails and can be a decent puck-mover when he wants to be. He definitely struggled at first with the new enforcement rules, but improved significantly towards the end of the season. He is an adorable Belarusian beast, a thorn in scorers’ sides.
Vitaly Vishnevski, Anaheim’s first round pick in 1998 (5th overall), is still a work-in-progress, I would say, after he was traded to Atlanta following his arbitration award. Vishnevski, the name proudly sewn on the back of my only Anaheim jersey, is a momentum-hit artist, with an innate sense of when to intercept and clobber an unprepared rushing forward. He’s never shown great interest in scoring, but still left Anaheim as a very popular player. It’s good to see Vitaly playing well on a division-leading Thrashers team, along with other former Mighty Ducks Steve Rucchin, Niclas Havelid, Jason Krog, and Mark Popovic. I’m being a bit selfish here, but if I could undo only one of Brian Burke’s GM moves, Vitaly would still be an Anaheim blueliner (and this jersey would still be half-relevant).
Prediction: Ducks 9, former Ducks 5. Salei pesters Selanne and Vishnevski buries Perry.
(For more on Salei and Vishnevski, see my offseason going away post or take the “Are you a Vishnevski or a Visnovsky?” quiz.)
Monday, December 11, 2006
I hate myself for being this petty, but NHL.com, as part of its “Hype Thyself” campaign, has once again come out with its Players of the Week, chosen by some east-coast guy with an early bedtime. This week Mr. Bedtime put together a 3-man listing of Brodeur (3 wins, 2 GA), Lecavalier (4g, 3a in 3 games), and Ovechkin (1g, 6a in 3 games).
For those that are keeping track at home, that means of the 27 weekly awards given out thus far, only 9 have gone to the western conference. Of those 9 westbound awards, only 3 have gone to non-goaltenders.
Now, to be fair, the east coast is where the scoring is at. To date, the eastern conference teams have scored 133 more goals than western conference teams, so I guess I’m not surprised that the offensive awards have been east-slanted thus far. Still, let’s take a look at last week’s stats:
Still, as a theoretical "tiebreaker", the Ducks played both the Lightning and the Capitals last week, beating them both in regulation. In the first game, Teemu outscored Ovechkin 2-1, and in the second game, Teemu outscored Lecavalier 2-1. Says Selanne (on a different topic):
Aw, don’t worry, Teemu. I suspect you don’t really care, and neither do I. It’s just Monday and I needed something to gripe about.
Maybe I can cheer you up with a game of “What’s scarier?”
- The fact that J.S. Giguere has more wins this season (19) than 26 teams?
- The fact that the Ducks could sport a .500 record the remaining 50 games of the season and still have 4 more standing points than last year?
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Found a new Kings blog via LetsgoKings.com. Take a look at Insidesocal's Life in Hockeywood. Hope the rain gives you a nice break from the smog SoCal.
From Steven Ovadia of Puck Update (someone draft him for Battle of California), the New York Times discovered hockey in California.
Hockey Fanatics in a Land of Palm Trees - Mark Pargas.
When Dave and I worked together at a newspaper in Southern California, we got through our shifts by talking about the Los Angeles Kings, our favorite team. In the dead of winter, we ignored the bitter warmth outside by focusing on a game played with ice skates and a frozen rubber disk.
We took turns taking shots at each other with a tennis ball, using an editorial writer's glass wall as a goal. We enlisted our colleagues in a fantasy hockey league. We did everything we could to make them want to switch the channel on the office TV set from the U.C.L.A. Bruins, or the U.S.C. Trojans, or "Caddyshack," to the big game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Hartford Whalers.
We had some modest success. But there were a few skeptics. Like Steve, who loudly declared to the office that he was the Antipuck. But even he began to crack. He started quoting lines from the movie "Slap Shot," talking about "feeling shame" and "putting on the foil." Once he even announced a Luc Robitaille goal to the newsroom by placing his hands around his mouth to recreate the voice of Darth Vader: "LUUUUUC" he intoned. "Come to the dark side, LUUUUUUUUC." There was hope for the Antipuck.
Kopitar starting to get star treatment - Los Angeles Times.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Anaheim Ducks (22-3-6, 1st in west) at Tampa Bay Lightning (14-13-2, t-9th in east)
Colorado Avalanche (13-13-2, 10th in west) at Los Angeles Kings (10-16-4, t-11th in west)
Nashville Predators (18-7-3, 3rd in west) at San Jose Sharks (20-9-0, 2nd in west)
Not to mention 11 other games today, featuring everyone except the Stanley Cup Finalists Edmonton Oilboys and Carolina Candy Canes.
Anyway, I guess I’d better feature this now, while gloating is still possible.
|Team||GP||EV min||EV pts||EV pts/hr||+/-||PIM|
Shawn, incidentally, has yet to be on the ice for an Anaheim goal-against.
[EDIT: I ran some Shawn Thornton numbers on last night's game. I think this is the first time Shawn has faced some tough minutes, as he played nearly 6 1/2 minutes against Ovechkin (about 57% of his ice time vs. AO). In fact, here's the elements of his Gordie Howe hat trick:
Goal: scored 31 seconds into his first shift. In his first game since Nov. 12.
Fight: initiated 35 seconds into his second shift. A decisive victory.
Assist: 22 seconds into his ninth shift, before the game was to the halfway point.
And the commonality? Omunchkin was on the ice for all of 'em. Sweet mother of mercy.]Prediction: BoC 10, Challengers 5.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Anaheim Ducks (21-3-6, 1st in west) at Washington Capitals (12-9-6, t-9th in east)
The Capitals come in on an impressive 4 game win streak, made all the more impressive given the opposition—at Tampa Bay, then hosting Dallas, Buffalo, and Ottawa. The Caps outscored that fearsome foursome 22-11, despite being outshot 108-155.
Last year, my brother and I went to the once-in-three-year visit of the Caps at the Pond, where Alexander Ovechkin potted his first NHL hat trick, including the OT winner. That kid worked us over that night, so probably Pronger will get the AOssignment tonight.
Two months ago, Japer’s Rink randomly took a shot at ‘Christie Prongley’ and I never quite understood why. A Caps fan jumping in on this bash-Pronger movement? Well, JP, here’s some Pronger news for ya:
Pronger is second in the western conference in overall scoring, only trailing teammate Selanne. He’s got 31 points, same as Omunchkin, and has gone without a point only three times in the last twenty games. Pronger leads the Ducks in even-strength ice time, power-play ice time, and penalty-kill ice time, and has been on the ice for 62 goals-for, 26 goals-against.
Plus Pronger can throw a baseball without making a Skeletor face.
CapsChick has a nice game preview, including nicknames for all the Ducks. Check out her linky bar for lots more Cap bloggers, all desperately trying to be adopted by Ted Leon$i$.
Prediction: Ducks 4, Capitals 1. Goals by Selanne, each Niedermayer, and “Screech” Pahlsson.
Wojtek Wolski and friend hammer Marcel Goc along the boards.
Faceoff late in the third.
Christian Ehrhoff sticks his tongue out while skating past 3 Colorado players.
A recap and a few more photos of the 5-2 Colorado win are up on Sharkspage. A Caps-Ducks game day preview and pregame skate photos are up on Offwing.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Nashville Predators (17-6-3, 3rd in west) at Anaheim Ducks (20-3-6, 1st in west)
This also could be called the Battle of November, as the Ducks and Preds earned more standings points in the month of November than any other team in the league. They were also the two best teams in terms of goal-differential per game for that month.
Ducks November: 10-2-3, 23 points, 3.67 GF/gm, 2.47 GA/gmBut aside from the prestige and the numbers, Nashville brings with it one commodity well-known to Anaheim fans, former captain Paul Kariya.
Preds November: 10-2-1, 21 points, 3.69 GF/gm, 2.38 GA/gm
Now I’m not going to bad-mouth Kariya for the way he left us in 2003, but I do think it is interesting how similar Kariya-and-Selanne from the old days resembles McDonald-and-Selanne from today. Really, McDonald is a Kariya-clone, both playing a small-man’s game, both skating like hellfire, both wearing a visor, and even the numbers 9 and 19 at times are tough to distinguish.
Only Teemu Knows the Difference
You know, I’ve personally never booed PK, even after he left. Frankly, he put up with so much ridicule being the brave face of the Mighty Ducks during the height of their hilarity that I couldn’t bring myself to boo the guy. No matter how PK up and left Anaheim, you gotta respect the legitimacy and attitude he brought while he was here. That’s why he is #2 on my Memorial Day Top 10 Mighty Ducks list.
Hey, but that’s just my opinion; boo away, Anaheim.
As a last side note: it is entirely possible that the Ducks will be facing their former call-up Michael Leighton in this game, as Vokoun is injured and Mason has played the last five for the Preds. If so, let’s hope Leighton remembers who is paying half his goddamn salary.
Prediction: Ducks 5, Predators 2. "Kariya-clone" McDonald with a pair, along with Selanne, Pahlsson, and Perry.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
It’s ironic—down to a man, NHL players are now more skilled than they ever were, talent dilution be damned. It is my (ignorant?) belief that a depth player from today, if transplanted to the NHL of 80s, could stickhandle and skate in that 80s league with ease. But somehow, this collection of talented individuals yields a product that is inferior to the on-ice product of the 80s. Why is this? And just as importantly, what can be done to make today's NHL on-ice product better?
Well, here’s six things NHL Commissioner Sleek would consider:
(Note: don’t read too much into these, they aren’t meant to be dead serious. Plus, if I were really commissioner I would probably just call in sick, stay home, and play with all my money.)
1. I would find a better incentive for teams to want to score goals. My first proposal: teams will qualify for the playoffs the usual way (top eight in each conference), however, the teams will be SEEDED by total goals-scored. The highest-scoring qualifying team would play the lowest-scoring, and so forth. Straight bracketing from thereon out.Now, as I say, I am not completely serious on these issues, in fact, I really only stand behind two of them (Can you guess which two?), and I think one of them is illegal. Anyway, here are some good gloom-and-doom state-of-the-game pieces from Reality Check and Jim Kelley, both good reads. The common tune? The on-ice game needs some re-tooling. Not all is NHL-rosy.
My thinking here is that a lot of the problem with competitive hockey these days is that coaches (particularly western ones) stress systems that aren’t so much about chance creation as they are about chance neutralization. Maybe a little home-ice incentive will make some coaches concentrate a little more on creating risks and chances rather than avoiding them.
2. Unless you are an actual proven grandfather, put on a fucking visor. No ifs, ands, or buts. If you can’t do it, go play in some other league (which, incidentally, will make you wear one anyway). This isn’t about tradition, this is strictly about safety. Besides, the old-school “tough guy” mentality developed in an age where pucks and sticks more often than not stayed on the ice; that’s not really true any more.
Now, this mandatory visor thing is not a statement against fighting, by any means. Rather, fighters are encouraged to, in addition to dropping their gloves, also remove their helmets before engaging in fisticuffs. In fact,
3. Not only would I repeal the instigator penalty, but I would put strict language in the NHL Constitution that prevents future commissioners from touching this rule. You want a cleaner game, more respect, and less career-ending questionable hits? You want emotion, team identity, and cult heroes? You want to capture the attention of a certain male demographic, ages 12 – 40?
I’d let ‘em fight, dammit. I’d restore the code (except for that no-visor thing, of course), bring back the enforcer, and win some fans along the way.
4. I would fix the blueline. The blueline, for whatever reason, is becoming too easy to defend, both in creating off-sides situations, and in clearing the puck. To combat the former, I would widen the blue-line significantly, allowing forwards to precede the puck a couple of feet into the zone. To combat the latter, I would call immediate icings if the puck were cleared (a) off the glass, or (b) over the height of the high glass.
Six icings in a game, by the way, results in a 2-minute bench minor. All these rules can be adjusted as their impact becomes clearer. Speaking of 2-minute minors,
5. I would find a way to make sure that less overall time in a game was spent watching a team try to score on the power play. Yes, that means less penalties. The problem with the amount of penalties today is (a) they are becoming so prevalent that teams aren’t even trying to score 5-on-5 any more, rather just “skate hard” until they can draw a penalty and then try to score, and (b) nothing kills excitement that watching a bunch of no-hit, set plays where only one team is expected to score, scattered among a bunch of icings by the other team.
I’m not sure exactly how to do this scale-back, though. I’m tempted to say just stick to pre-lockout enforcement rules, but maybe I could do something like a penalty bank, where if you push the new rules long enough, then eventually the ref will make the call. However it happens, overall penalty-calling will be reduced.
6. I would mandate that salaries for players, GMs, and coaches will be cut in half, a mandatory 50% rollback. Instead, that pay will come in the form of shares in a company. This company will hold partial ownership in all 30 NHL franchises—when the teams make money, the shareholders makes money.
You see, it makes no sense that the players and the owners are on separate sides when it comes to my dollar. The players and coaches need some common incentive tied into the well-being of the sport. It needs to become their concern that hockey is entertaining and drawing fans. This "shareholder" system means the better they are able to fill seats and draw viewers, the better-off they individually become, and everyone wins. It is an alignment of incentives.
So, anybody want to fix my suggestions, or offer any other ideas on how to improve / sell / reinvigorate / resuscitate the watchability of this league? Or anybody want to tell me to fuck off, I like the hockey the way it is? Suggestions are welcome.
I have done a little legwork to figure out the following frequency counts about the Ducks this year. Frequency counts are simplistic in that they do not consider how long situations last, but rather just counts how often situations arise. Anyway, see if you can solve this math puzzle:
The Ducks have been in 59 tied situations this year (29 opening whistles plus another 30 times where a game was re-tied).
35 times the Ducks took the lead (59%)The 35 times the Ducks took the lead,
17 times the opponent took the lead (29%)
7 times the score remained tied to a shootout (12%)
18 times the lead was held and the Ducks won (51%)The 17 times the opponent took the lead
17 times the game was re-tied (49%)
4 times the lead was held and the opponents won (24%)So, math whizzes, just going off these numbers, what is the likelihood of a Ducks win against a dead-average team (equally likely to pull ahead/fall behind, equally likely to hold-lead/re-tie)?
13 times the game was re-tied (76%)
I know this counting method is very rudimentary and probably each of these situations should be weighted according to how much time is left in the game, but I’m not that great a number-crunching guy (at least in bulk). But what I do know is that there are three fundamental aspects to winning—coming back from behind, pulling ahead, and staying ahead—and in my opinion how they happen isn’t as important as that they happen. These three attributes, in essence, define winning.
In this counting method, it doesn’t matter if a leading team scores eight more goals or not. What matters is that given this lead, do they finish with it or not? If the game re-ties, can they re-establish a lead? If things go sour, can they come back?
Thoughts? Interest? Does any of this make any sense?
(I should note that I would like to see these numbers for other teams to compare against, but this took me a long time to do for the Ducks, and certainly there’s others on this “internet” that could produce these numbers much more easily if the concept is interesting.)
Saturday, December 02, 2006
On a day that also features a local college football game (USC at UCLA) and a local basketball matchup (Lakers at Clippers), the NHL decided to also fit in with the cool kids with its own SoCal home-and-home series.
Today: Anaheim Ducks (19-2-6, 1st in west) at Los Angeles Kings (9-14-4, 11th in west)
Tomorrow: Los Angeles Kings (9-15-4, 11th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (20-2-6, 1st in west)
Oct. 6 LA 3 at ANA 4, Kopitar scores 2 goals, Kunitz nets the game winner. Oh yeah, and Selanne drops a bomb.
Oct. 22 ANA 3 at LA 2 (SO), Garon gives up a softie late, Getzlaf wins the shootout in the 5th round.
Despite the fact that Anaheim brings twice as many standings points to these matchups as Los Angeles does, these games have generally been very evenly played, in fact, probably the Kings have had the better of the play.
In the two games, the Kings have outshot the Ducks by at least 10 shots each game (75-53 total), but have been outscored 6-5. That’s particularly impressive since the Ducks generally run the shot count the other way. Anaheim is 2nd in the league in shot differential (6.7/gm); Los Angeles is 4th (4.8/gm).
6 of the top 10 western conference scorers come from the Battle of California. Selanne and Pronger are 1 and 2, if you can believe it, followed by SJ’s Marleau and Thornton, followed by L.A.’s Frolov and Cammaleri, with some other guys sprinkled in for effect.
I noted in the post below that in the month of November, the Kings were 3rd in goals-per-game, 1st in PP efficiency, and 3rd in shot-differential (western conference ranks). During that same month, though, Ducks were 2nd in goals-per-game, 3rd in PP efficiency, and 2nd in shot-differential.
The main difference? The Kings were the only team in the league last month to surrender more than four goals per game. The Ducks instead used reliable goaltending, namely Giguere, who has six more wins than the Kings’ combined netminders do.
Prediction: I’m actually calling a split here. One game the Ducks will beat the Kings, and the other game the Kings will beat themselves.
C’mon, you know the difference.
Friday, December 01, 2006
I don’t really have to emphasize too much the importance of quality goaltending in ice hockey, but maybe my neighborhood L.A. Kings could use a quick primer.
When news broke this week that goalie Mathieu Garon had injured his groin in practice, I chuckled at the thought of the die-hard Kings fan, cursing the heavens and saying “please not THAT groin!” You see, coach Marc Crawford has been ever-so-stubborn about platooning his goaltenders, despite the huge disparity of play (a disparity so wide, I believe it is visible from space).
Here’s a quick look at what I’m talking about:
Mathieu Garon, 5-5-2, 2.65 GAA, .903 sv%How far apart is this? Well, if Cloutier (pictured above in his classic pose) wanted to match Garon’s GAA and sv%, he would need to stop the next 164 shots-on-goal over the next 376 minutes (more than six regulations!). Cloutier in 16 appearances has only 3 games where he stopped 90% of the shots he faced.
Dan Cloutier, 4-8-2, 3.85 GAA, .862 sv%
See, what gets lost in the shuffle a bit is that the Kings (netminding aside) are a pretty strong team, especially lately. In the calendar month of November, the Kings played 13 games, going 5-6-2. They scored 3.46 goals-per-game (3rd in the west), had a PP efficiency of 33.3% (1st in the west), and had a shot differential of 5.4 shots-per-game (3rd in the west).
The problem? Goaltending, all around. Kings goalies had a collective 4.03 GAA and an .848 sv%. Even Garon’s awesome October (1.72 GAA, .941 sv%) turned into an awful November (3.61 GAA, .856 sv%), though that was still markedly better than Cloutier’s numbers (4.35 GAA, .839 sv%). Had there been a .900 sv% goaltender in all 13 November games, the Kings would have projected to a 9-1-3 month (assuming they lose all 3 OT games), and would be currently sitting in the 6th spot in the west with 31 points.
The Kings need quality goaltending badly, and they certainly are not getting it from Dan Cloutier (the worst goalie in the world, now with a two-year extension!). Now Garon is hurt, and the Kings are prepping for a home-and-home with their neighborhood bully Anaheim Ducks.
In related news, I'm having real trouble getting this ear-to-ear grin off my face. Go get 'em, Ducks.