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

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Counterpoint: 9 questions about the Ducks—answered

Well, as part of the Sens Army-inspired cross-interview from the last post, Ottawa-blogger Ben sent me a set of questions to answer about the Ducks and their postseason thus far. I didn't get home until really late last night, so at times my answers might suffer from late-night fatigue, but I think generally this captures my impressions about the postseason Ducks.

Feel free, as always, to tell me what I got wrong, or ask anything else you might be curious about. Without further ado, here's Sleek helping Sens fans Better Understand the Ducks:

(Ben) 1. Although the Ducks are well known for their defence, who is their most consistent scorer? Are you worried that your top scorer is a defenseman?

(Sleek) Hmm, putting answers in my mouth already, eh? Among the forwards these playoffs, probably our most consistent scorers have been the PPG line, or the "kids" (Penner, Perry, Getzlaf). Not so much in that they actually score every game, but they can be absolute monsters along the offensive boards each and every game. Partially what explains this is that the Selanne line naturally draws the best defenders, and the kids get to go nuts against lighter competition.

Among defensemen of course it's Pronger--he runs the power play with Scott, and he gets enough touches at even-strength to get on the scoreboard regularly. Am I bothered by Pronger scoring as a defenseman? Hell no! Remember, the Ducks played against this guy in the WCF last year, and the difference when he's on your side is enormous.


2. How would you compare Giguere's performance this year as opposed to his Conn Smythe-winning year?

No comparison. 2003 was a story that even on his best night can't be replicated. They should take that footage of Giguere in the first three rounds of 2003 and show it in history classes--sure he was a big goalie but he was in the exact right spot for every shot. And there were a TON of shots. Critics I think focus too much on his pads and ignore his positioning, and that year he had both going to their fullest.

I don't want to knock this year at all, though. He's been great, but he also has a better team in front of him than ever before. Long gone are the 40-save days of yore. The real benefit I think Giguere gets these days is his defense controlling his rebounds--the Ducks are much better at it this year than in any Mighty year. Still, he's absolutely money in critical situations and is a real stabilizing force on the ice; he still is in my opinion one of the top five goalies in the league. I'll say this: if I had to choose between re-signing Selanne or re-signing Giguere (and this is probably a real upcoming scenario), I'd have to take Giguere. He guarantees that you won't fall apart at your most critical position.


3. Other than Giguere, who's having an outstanding playoff this year? Who's underachieving?

The checking line (Pahlsson centering Rob Niedermayer and Moen) has been outstanding--they are having a better playoffs than regular season, and I was damn proud of them then. They are essentially shadows that will take all the hardest minutes at even-strength and short-handed. The Spezza trio will definitely be seeing a ton of these guys. Quite simply, they have the ability to make guys disappear from the scoresheet--not always, but they can do it for stretches. Their real knack is making opposing scorers play defense, and they have been producing. Pahlsson is a +6 and is fourth in team scoring.

Underachieving would probably be the top line, mainly Andy McDonald. Ever since I threw my hat on the ice in G1 against Vancouver, Andy Mac has been extremely quiet on the scoresheet--1 goal and 1 assist in his last 10 games. Sure the top line is always getting the attention of the opposition's best stoppers (and don't get me wrong--that in itself is pretty huge), but in the regular season they were able to overcome it and score like crazy. Last year in the playoffs, McDonald went through a slump like this one and later it was revealed he was injured, but I'm not sure that's the case this time--the line looks good despite not producing as much as it could, but I'll credit some great defenses and some great goalies for holding Teemu and Andy Mac in check. The top line lost Chris Kunitz for the playoffs in G1 at Detroit to a broken hand, but Todd Marchant has filled in smoothly.

4. How do the Ducks intend to shut down the top-scoring line in the NHL playoffs?

Tons and tons of Pahlsson. The checking line has been doing this exact sort of assignment since game one of the season. Carlyle mixes his lines every once in a while, but one thing that he refuses to touch is Pahlsson-Moen-Niedermayer. They have played all 82 regular-season and all 16 playoff games together without any line-juggling and without any injury, and they know their roles to a T.

On the back-end, I'm unsure which pairing Carlyle will prefer. If it were me, I'd put Pronger and O'Donnell out--they are goal deterrents also. Detroit didn't score a single power play goal or even-strength goal with Pronger out on the ice. Even so, Carlyle often declines my advice and uses Scotty Niedermayer and Frenchie Beauchemin instead. Not a bad option, really, as Scotty brings a lot of recovery speed and puck smarts, and Beauchemin isn't any slouch either. I'm guessing you'll see these two against Spezza & friends, and Pronger can go frustrate somebody else.


5. Who is the Ducks' hidden weapon? The one that the Sens may not have heard of, but should watch out for.

You've probably heard of him, but watch out for Corey Perry. Sure, Getzlaf is all the rage and he's been playing tremendous hockey these playoffs. But Perry is the sneak, the whiner, the diver, and the sniper. He can dazzle with the puck, then get pulled awkwardly down into the goalie, then tie up a defenseman trying to get up, then snatch the puck and roof it. Opponents hate Perry, and probably rightfully so, but he can be damn effective. He can act with confidence, also, with the knowledge that he won't have to fight his own fights; these are the punch-loving Ducks, after all.

6. Who is on the Ducks' top scoring line? Are they significantly better than the other lines?

In the regular season and start of the playoffs, it was Selanne-McDonald-Kunitz. Replacing Kunitz now is Marchant. Teemu and Andy Mac are fantastic together; they really have that connection that Kariya and Selanne used to have--speed and space. They are fantastic at stop-and-start plays, and both can really turn on the jets.

This playoffs, though, they haven't been better than the PPG line, or probably even better than the checking line. Again, though, they do occupy the opponent's best checkers, so there's still a contribution being made. And they are creating chances still--I wouldn't stop defending them by any means.

The last time I really saw the top line struggle like this was at the start of the season. Teemu only got 1 goal in October, yet each line chipped in goals from different players and the team didn't suffer a regulation loss until its 17th game. And that's the same kind of team I'm seeing now, almost frighteningly balanced--the top two lines have 27 points apiece while the checking line has 26.


7. How would the City of Anaheim reacted if the Ducks had lost their series against the Red Wings?

Two ways to answer this question. First off, the city of Anaheim as a whole would be mostly oblivious--hockey here is still an underground sport shared among individuals. By no means would you go up to someone in Anaheim and assume they knew the Ducks were in the Cup Finals, but you could probably assume they root for Vlad Guerrero or Kobe Bryant. The market is coming along, though, and it certainly helps that the team is winning.

For Duck fans, though, there's probably two teams we detest losing to more than any other--the Detroit Red Wings and the Los Angeles Kings. It would certainly have been a painful loss, tempered by the positives of reaching the conference finals again and losing to a 1-seed.

8. How much do you love Brian Burke? A whole bunch?

Hell yes, especially when I look around the league and see how other GMs mismanage their cap and rosters. Plus he's a really good personality to have in Southern California--a tough guy blowhard lawyer, a great fit!

I will say this, though. In my mind, I've still maintained that Bryan Murray still retains the best GM in team history for what he did in 2003--everything he touched turned to gold that year. He acquired Adam Oates, Petr Sykora, Sandis Ozolinsh, Rob Niedermayer, and Steve Thomas over the course of the season and all proved critical in the team's cup run. When Oates retired and Kariya ditched the team after G7, Murray nabbed Fedorov and Prospal, probably the two best free agents available at the time, which I'll also give him credit for even though it didn't work out. Plus he drafted Getzlaf and Perry and signed the undrafted Penner.

Sure, Burke has had his moments, but Pronger pretty much fell into his lap last summer, and he held Rob Niedermayer at the exact right moment to sign Scott. And he probably was more lucky than prophetic on the Selanne deal. But I got no qualms with Burke--he's molded his team and I like the results.


9. If the Ducks don't win the Cup, is Pronger's wife gonna be pissed and make him request a trade?

Hell, she might request it even if they win. Honestly, I have no insight into this, other than it's probably unlikely that they'd pull the same maneuver twice. Then again, nobody in Edmonton saw it coming, either...

So, that's my late-night take. Anybody got anything to add?

12 comments:

Daniel said...

3. Sean O'Donnell, perhaps? Can this guy get kicked in the face any more? Seems like no one is saying anything about him. He was unsung when Pronger was suspended and he just quietly stays solid, especially in front of the net.

That's probably the only thing I can think of. Lots of smothering and tight checking from the third line, giving "those three" less room to skate and accept a pass.

dbushik said...

Giguere was spectacular in 2003. Yes, I do think there is something there talking about the size of pads, but that's not just about him, but about every goalie int he league. Just go look at guys like Roy or even Broduer and compare what they looked like in their rookie years to what they look like now (or at the end in Roy's case). Goalies turned into Michellin men. Regardless though, Giguere was fantastic and deserved the Conn Smythe. Without him, that run does not happen.

The Red Wings as a Ducks rival. Here's another one that kind of has me scratching my head. The Kings fans seem to think the same way. For some reason, it seems to me that like 25 teams out there would list the 'Wings as their teams rivals. I kind of think it's wishful thinking. The Ducks now are actually making a case for it when they keep consistantly going far in the West and actually presenting true competition for a team like DET that has been consistantly elite, but I doubt the 'Wings view the situation the same way Kings and Ducks fans do.

My brother is likely going to be quoted in the Register today as saying Anaheim doesn't give two craps about hockey (just happened to run into a columnist doing a 'man on the street' thing). The So Cal market is odd. Just look at the NFL. Plenty of football fans here, potentially a great market, the NLF would love to be here...and how many teams have poor fan support run out of this town? Three? There is so much to do here recreationally, sports team have to be a winner or have some other star power (i.e. Gretzky, Kobe) to get attention. All our teams have very good die-hard bases, but if you are talking anything outside baseball and the Lakers, that base isn't big enough to reflect excitement into the general population. Now I will say that this year for the Ducks has been a big change in their fans. Prior to this year I have never seen the Pond as raucus. I'd have compared it to a hospital before this season. Winning and getting good management in place really helped. It took three or so consecutive years of being good, but it's finally working out.

It's interesting the way the Ducks initially had strong support, but thenm it lagged. I kind of think what happened was the Ducks brought all these new people into the game, and then after a couple/five years they actually became knowledgable hockey fans and realized what a snow job Disney was putting out there, and attendance tanked. Seems like they've gotten past that issue at this point though.

Brian Burke and Murray really have been fantastic for ANA. Amazing how quickly they were able to build that team and make it gel. Got lucky with a few things like Selanne getting his wheels back through rest over the lock-out and the kids not looking like kids, but they deserve tons of credit. What fan wouldn't have been happy with the way they run the team.

My only complaint about Burke is he's an obviously extremely savy and intelligent man, yet many times says things in the press that make no logical sense. Yeah, he's has an adgenda behind what he says with an eye on what's best for his team, but some times 1 and 1 make 4, and you know this guy is way too smart to believe his on spin.

Pronger's wife. Come on, can you really blame her? There's a telling commercial for Canada's version of Home Depot (Canadian Tire maybe?) that's running right now. The husband, wife and dog look out into their frozen tundra of a backyard longingly. Their gaze shifts over the outside thermometer which reads 40 degrees. It ticks forawrd like a clock to 41 degrees, and the family rushes out onto the patio in shorts and tees rolling out the BBQ. The voiceover proclaims, "summer is here".

Hey, Peca spent how many years in Buffalo, and it was widely reported his family was having serious issues with adjusting to life in Edmonton.

Hell frozen over just isn't everyone's idea of the good life. Sucks for teams like EDM, but I know I have a personal creed about not living anywhere where it's likely you'll die from just being outside.

She shouldn't have that issue in Anaheim.

Kevin said...

I kind of think what happened was the Ducks brought all these new people into the game, and then after a couple/five years they actually became knowledgable hockey fans and realized what a snow job Disney was putting out there, and attendance tanked.

That's a great take.

I have a personal creed about not living anywhere where it's likely you'll die from just being outside.

That's a better one.

wooster11 said...

9. If the Ducks don't win the Cup, is Pronger's wife gonna be pissed and make him request a trade?

Hell, she might request it even if they win. Honestly, I have no insight into this, other than it's probably unlikely that they'd pull the same maneuver twice. Then again, nobody in Edmonton saw it coming, either...


I for one doubt that Lauren will ask Chris to request a trade. It happens to be my wife is from St. Louis too and she loves it here in So. Cal. In fact, we moved to Seattle about 2 years ago and just recently moved back. A big part of it was the fact that she just didn't like it up there. And that's Seattle, not Edmonton. I couldn't imagine living in Edmonton with it's bitter winters. And they even have less sunlight in the winter than Seattle does.

I do also believe that the Canadian pressure that was put on the Pronger family was too much for Lauren and the children. Could you imagine being the child of someone like Chris Pronger in a hockey mad city like Edmonton. Kids are viscous and I couldn't imagine his kids getting any slack from other school kids. At least in Anaheim, they all can remain pretty anonymous.

Now with that said, who really knows except the Pronger family. They may want to go back to St. Louis, as it's a great town too (Weather isn't the best though - hot and humid summers and cold winters).

Mike said...

Kids are viscous...

One of the all-time great typos. Soylent green is people!

Objectionable Conduct said...

I get so sick of people acting like playing hockey in Canada is the worst thing ever.

Being a hockey player in Edmonton can be no worse then being a football player in Green Bay.

Lauren's issues with Edmonton were NOT because of the weather (though it can suck, but its not nearly as bad as Winterpeg). Nor was it because of the kids. I mean, seriously. Every Canadian city is hockey mad.

At least we sell out our arenas.

Earl Sleek said...

Nobody's going to remark how Marvin the Martian's getup looks awfully similar to that of an Ottawa Senator logo guy? That I thought was the best part of this post.

Or is that comparison already played out in the eastern conference?

zot said...

Nobody's going to remark how Marvin the Martian's getup looks awfully similar to that of an Ottawa Senator logo guy?

I think that we were disappointed that we didn't get one of your patented sleek-toons instead. :P

alejandro said...

Nobody's going to remark how Marvin the Martian's getup looks awfully similar to that of an Ottawa Senator logo guy?

I noticed that, but then had to stop and wonder how many people were going to associate the cartoon with Disney, not realizing it's WB...

Sherry said...

Nobody's going to remark how Marvin the Martian's getup looks awfully similar to that of an Ottawa Senator logo guy? That I thought was the best part of this post.

It was cute when Patrick Lalime had it on his mask. It stopped being cute when he turned into a sieve.

Scott Robytaille said...

Now I will say that this year for the Ducks has been a big change in their fans. Prior to this year I have never seen the Pond as raucus. I'd have compared it to a hospital before this season. Winning and getting good management in place really helped. It took three or so consecutive years of being good, but it's finally working out.

Don't forget that we went from Disney to Samueli ownership in the last couple of years. Having real music in the arena (rock, not pop), upgrades to the sound system, new jerseys that weren't taken from a movie, and a team that was told its okay to fight have all contributed to a new spirit of hockey in Anaheim. I do like that there are still families coming to the arena to build the next generation of hockey fans and not just because it is not another Disney experience. I just read season tickets will go from 7,000 when they bought the team two years ago to an anticipated 14,000 next season. They are doing something right and there are hockey fans in Anaheim.

Thank you to the Samuelis and Go Ducks.

Bryan said...

Actually, the jerseys were not taken from the movie. Just the team name.