Most of these photos were taken from the press box, but here is a photo gallery and audio clips from last night's Dallas Stars 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Earl Sleek, if indeed he were an NHL-caliber hockey player
Team: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (before they sold out to the “man”)
Uniform Number: 8 or 13, whichever one Teemu isn’t currently using
Position: checking line winger
Nickname: Pahlsson-lover, Girl Sleek
Dream Linemates: Sammy Pahlsson and (out of retirement) Stumpy Thomas.
Rounding out the PP: Vitaly Vishnevski and Lubomir Visnovsky, it’s always been a dream of mine to see these two paired up.
Job: I’m the set-up guy; I get the puck to Stumpy while Sammy plays as our defensive conscience.
Signature Move: Square-square-triangle. A real doozy.
Strengths: Offensive zone awareness and a regular willingness to wear a microphone.
Weaknesses: I make Stumpy do the fighting for our line, as well.
Injury Problems: Lower-body.
Equipment: An Adam Oates-style stickblade and for sure a visor.
Nemesis: Later it would be revealed that the only reason I devoted my life to making the NHL was to get close enough to murder Chris Chelios.
Scandal Involvement: Even later it would be revealed that my name was never Earl Sleek at all.
Who I’d face in the Stanley Cup Finals: The Devils. We owe ‘em a little G7 heartbreak.
What I’d do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: Oh, it would be one wild party, I can assure you. I suspect I'd get married and divorced within the night.
Would the media love me or hate me? They’d like me all right, until I kill Chelios. Then the good ones would love me.
OK, let’s tag some ladies from the ol’ HLOG (on their own blogs): Sherry, HockeyGirl, and Finny.
I was thinking today -- with Giguere out and Wall in goal, this will give the hockey world a good glance at the Ducks with just an average 'tender in net. My impression from watching a dozen Anaheim games is that Giguere is getting a little too much Vezina dap for what he's actually done -- but I'm curious, how big a part of the Ducks success do you think is due to their goaltending?
You know, I've tried like five times to write a good response to that e-mail, but honestly, it's a tough question. So in lieu of me actually answering it, I'll instead just provide one jaw-dropping stat to consider:
Ducks when Giguere gets the start: 25-3-4
Ducks when Giguere does not start: 6-9-4
[EDIT: Moneyp makes a good point in the comments--that the second statistic does include a 2-7-2 stretch with no Beauchemin and hardly any Pronger. Even so, though, that still leaves a 4-2-2 record behind a healthy defense when Giguere does not start (a glorified .500).
I guess the question I really have for Duck fans is this: Given the fact that our two most prominent UFAs-to-be (Selanne and Giguere) are both having monster seasons, GM Burke may be facing a choice of which one to try to retain this coming offseason. If you were the GM, which free agent would you be putting your energies towards re-signing?
I gotta say, as much as Teemu has been killing with his league-leading 31 goals, I'm still probably leaning Giguere for that question. How about you?]
Monday, January 29, 2007
Whenever I hear "NHL Marketing" or "the new NHL", I think of a column written a few years ago "The NHL, Now with more Explosions!" The article did not live up to the headline (i.e. it fizzled), but it inspired a new marketing angle to reach American audiences from NHL Headquarters.
In conjunction with Etrade and TriMount Studios, the new 200 million dollar NHL commerical is all Blow'd Up.
[Update] NHL All-Star TV rating plunges 76% from 2004 - USA Today.
TV watchers didn't exactly warm up to the NHL's midweek All-Star game, which experienced a 76% drop in household viewership from the previous All-Star game in 2004.
Wednesday night's game in Dallas drew a 0.7 Nielsen rating on Versus, the cable channel formerly known as OLN. The game was viewed in an estimated 474,298 households and by 672,948 viewers, down from the 1,985,000 households that saw the 2004 All-Star game on a Sunday afternoon on ABC.
Wednesday's most-watched show, American Idol on Fox, drew an estimated 37 million viewers in the 9 p.m. hour. The NHL ratings drop-off was even greater when compared to the 2000 game in Toronto, which was watched in approximately 2,681,000 households on a Sunday afternoon — or more than five times as many homes as were tuned in Wednesday.
Friday, January 26, 2007
|Team||GP||W-L-O-PTS||Top Third||Mid Third||Bot Third|
8H 4R 12
4H 6R 10
5H 6R 11
6H 7R 13
4H 1R 5
6H 8R 14
4H 4R 8
4H 3R 7
10H 8R 18
5H 7R 12
4H 6R 10
6H 6R 12
6H 7R 13
5H 2R 7
7H 7R 14
4H 5R 9
8H 8R 16
5H 5R 10
4H 5R 9
8H 5R 13
6H 6R 12
2H 3R 5
9H 9R 18
5H 5R 10
5H 5R 10
8H 9R 17
3H 5R 8
3H 6R 9
8H 7R 15
5H 5R 10
6H 7R 13
7H 6R 13
5H 3R 8
10H 4R 14
6H 6R 12
2H 6R 8
9H 6R 15
3H 5R 8
6H 5R 11
6H 8R 14
5H 5R 10
5H 5R 10
4H 7R 11
4H 7R 11
4H 6R 10
- Top Third indicates games remaining against the top 5 teams in the west or the top 5 teams in the east (NSH, ANA, DET, SJS, DAL, BUF, NJD, ATL, MTL, OTT).
- Mid Third indicates games remaining against the middle 5 teams from either conference (CGY, VAN, MIN, COL, EDM, CAR, TBL, NYR, TOR, PIT).
- Bot Third indicates games against the bottom 5 teams from either conference (PHX, STL, CBJ, CHI, LAK, BOS, NYI, WSH, FLA, PHI).
I don't know if it's that revealing, but note that Detroit and Minnesota in particular seem to have gotten through the toughest parts of their schedule, and there seems to be a lot of top games remaining between Nashville, Anaheim, San Jose, and Dallas. The Predators probably will drop somewhat, as they have already played most of their games against their "automatic two points" division sisters. Teams in the bottom five are pretty destined to stay there, it seems, as they have tougher competition ahead of them than the teams they are trying to catch.
I guess all I'm really saying is that I'll be somewhat surprised if Detroit doesn't end up with the one seed and if Minnesota doesn't end up in the top eight. That means that Colorado and/or Edmonton had better really step it up, because they may need to catch one of VAN/CGY/DAL, all of which have quite a strong headstart.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Memorable moments in NHL mascot history #1: When trying to jump over a wall of fire in a 30 pound mascot outfit, try not to do a headstand at the last possible moment.
Full disclosure, the NHL is now sponsored by KFC.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
(HUGE WARNING: I got a pretty good talking to last night from a good friend of mine, and he pretty much convinced me that the contest as I laid it out is a bad idea. His idea is to have two different contests--a drawing for the tickets for those who want to attend, and a cartoon contest for those who would like to try that out but cannot attend, with NHL.com gift certificates for prizes. I haven't made a final call yet, but that idea makes some sense, in that it separates a reader's ability to attend the game and his/her willingness to draw a cartoon. I'll let you know the decision soon, but let me know if changing the rules like this pisses anyone off. After all, it was only a pre-announcement :) )
OK, the contest will officially be announced in a week or so, but E (the Theorist of Ice) writes the shortest sentence of her career, and raises a good question at the same time:
Define “cartoon”.Well, maybe it’s time to go behind the curtain and see how Sleek makes a cartoon or image, which might help some of you and shock a lot of you. WARNING: If you have any photoshopping skills at all, you will have a hearty laugh at my ridiculous lack of software (MS Paint and Power Point), but hey, it’s easy enough a beginner should be able to do it, right?
Think of this as a lesson for those who know nothing, from a guy who knows next to nothing.
Lesson One: learn how to “layer” images in Power Point
Lesson Two: for the bolder, try using photos, too.
Lesson Three: add background, text.
So yeah, it’s a crummy method compared to what’s out there, I’m sure, but I don’t think it’s out of anyone’s reach. If you’re one of those who thinks you can’t draw a cartoon, you’ve got about as much know-how as I do now, so I’m curious what could be made (not even just for the contest) on this hockoglobotronet.
If you have any problems, you know where to find me.
LEGAL ADVICE: When doctoring material off the web (NHL or otherwise), I’d consult someone with know-how if you start making any money doing it.
Monday, January 22, 2007
I haven’t really thought through all the details yet, but I’ve got something to get you all excited. But first, any thought to what you (the reader) might be doing on Wednesday, April 4th, this year? Any chance you might be in Orange County, CA (or could schedule it in)?
And I’ve got four Row B seats.
My good blog-buddy PJ (whom I’ve never met, but I love his photowork) has arranged to come to Anaheim for this game and will be sitting in one of the seats. And I, humble mystery blogger that I am, will be in another. And the other two? Could it be you? You, Lieutenant Weinberg?!
These are not the official rules (wait for the official Contest post, which I’ll put together when I’ve got a better idea of how this should run), but just so you have an idea, here’s some of the rules I’m considering:
1. The contest itself looks to be a hockey-themed cartoon contest (in fact, I doubt I’ll put much more guidelines than that; I like to keep it open-ended) with two winners chosen. Cartoons do NOT need to be about the Ducks or Sharks (though bear in mind who your judges are), and fret not, non-artists! It will be judged more on concept than on execution. Photoshopping is allowed, but each entry must contain at least one portion that is (clearly) hand-drawn. Multiple entries are allowed.
2. Being able to be here on the actual date is NOT a prerequisite to enter the contest. I’ll probably have you indicate on any submission whether you can attend the actual event or not, but (this part is still fuzzy) I will also have a prize for the best non-attending entry.
3. Winners must be at least 21 years old and have a valid Blogger account and an email address. There is no requirement that you will need to root for either the Sharks or the Ducks, but it is required that you are looking forward to the hockey and the experience. You must have a tolerant attitude towards (my) drinking, and please, no creeps (you know who you are).
4. For the out-of-towners: The prize really is only the game ticket itself—getting to Anaheim will be on your own money. Logistical things (getting picked up at the airport or at a hotel) can be arranged, but are not guaranteed. In fact, the only guarantees are the ticket and my cell phone number, but I’ll do my best to minimize any unnecessary travel costs (within reason). Winners will be announced at least one month before the event, so you can plan travel ahead of time.
5. Perhaps most importantly, there is to be absolutely no resale of these tickets. If you would like to enter the contest yourself on behalf of another person to attend, you need to convince me of that at the time of entry! However, nothing will piss me off more to run this contest and then to find out I’m sitting next to some stranger who’s never even heard of Battle of California.
6. Please, no entries from Vote-For-Rory votebots.
Heh, I haven’t even run this idea by PJ yet, but regardless, I’m always excited to bring hockey fans to enjoy these seats, and once I got the idea for a BoC Contest, I had to do it. It’s either the best or worst idea this blog has ever had, but there’s only one real way to find out which it really is.
If you have any questions, ideas, or complaints, go ahead and leave them in the comments. Again, remember these are NOT yet the official rules, but I thought I’d give a heads-up so readers outside the immediate area (red circles below) might think about coming to SoCal is realistic or not, and all readers can start thinking about their cartoons.
Red circle readers, start planning now!
Good luck, and hope to meet some of you soon!
St Louis goaltenders Manny Legace and Curtis Sanford combined for 3 overall goals against in 3 consecutive games against Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose. The Blues win 3 straight in California, and tie a resurgent Phoenix Coyotoes squad for 11th place in the Western Conference.
Murray has helped make it fun to be a Blues fan again - Belleville News Democrat.
Nice job firing Murray Los Angeles, he just may lead the Blues back to the playoffs in his first season.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Well, I certainly have fallen behind on my offseason goal of cartooning new mascots for all the divisions, haven't I? Looking back, I haven't done one since August. Previous divisions include: Pacific, Northwest, Central, and the Atlantic.
Well, nothing like a hangover do-nothing Saturday to complete old tasks, eh?
First off, we have the Southeast Division:
We have the Tampa Bay Lightning Bolt, the Atlanta Thrash-Can, the Carolina Hurricane, the WASHINGTON CAPS, and the Florida Panthro.And finally, the Northeast Division:
Hope you enjoy 'em. Off to the couch for me!
Friday, January 19, 2007
(Author’s note: Thanks, Philadelphia. You’ve pretty much got that “worst” spot locked up.)
(Author’s note: the pictorial tragedy to the left was the best graphical representation I could find of the Anaheim season of-late.)
(Author’s note: Warning—I am going to try to do this post without any numbers—sorry, JavaGeek and mudcrutch. Just me, this goddamn keaybord, and the reader.)
I’ve written at length now about the on-ice statistics as it relates to the Ducks (scroll down, I'm still on Blogger 1.0), and don’t get me wrong, there’s pretty powerful stuff to be learned in reading these numbers. But seldom have I taken pause and told the plight about the fragile emotional state of one (drunk) Sleek, and how the rollercoaster Ducks have affected his (drunk and online) soul.
Now if you were to classify me as a hockey fan, you might describe me as “stoic”. If you were a bit more astute, you’d describe me as “drunk enough that he’s not fully aware of the game outcome, thus he appears to be very stoic.” And while both are pretty valid, the truth is these Ducks have forced me into a certain state of detachment—for sure these Ducks were not as good as when they started (best team ever?); for sure they are not as bad as the team I’ve been watching since Christmas (worst team ever?). Yet somewhere in this vast in-between lies the truth.
There’s a secret part of me that’s not unhappy about the recent downfall—most notably the “blogger” in me. You see, when I set out on this cover-the-Ducks thing last spring, I had a sort of “underdog voice”, something along the lines of “Hey, stop disrespecting the Ducks! We’re a legitimate team with legitimate fans too!” Something like the Acid Queen, I suppose, I 'll kick your ass for coming from a legitimate hockey market.
But it was also an awkward teenage moment for the (Mighty) Ducks; at one moment I am telling the world to “watch out for these upstart Mighty Ducks” (loosely interpreted from my first post), and next thing I know it, fuck! We’re cup favorites?! The disrespect was suddenly over?!
I didn’t really know how to write from that Red-Wing-ish, top-of-the-league perspective, where most every night you’re expected to win, and sure enough, you do. In fact, I’m still not sure what I should be posting when everything goes your way.
But when things go to shit, hey the “blogger voice” in me kicks in, and I can criticize anyone, from Teemu to Bettman to the cute couple sitting in front of me at the fucking game.
So yeah, this season has certainly been weird. The front-end went so well that I lost interest in any particular game (that I wasn’t at), and now the accumulated point cushion has allowed that I don’t care about any particular outcome, so long as I can point to injuries as a contributing factor to any loss. I’ve spent most of this season pretty indifferent to what happened on any given night.
Throughout the losing, though, I haven’t really lost any hope on this year’s Ducks, as injury timetables still show us being a complete kick-ass roster by the time playoffs roll around. But if there’s one benefit to all this losing (and there’s probably only just this one), I now have revitalized interest in how this season, game-by-game, turns out.
Like I said in an earlier post, we’re going to be neck-and-neck with the Sharks for the Pacific lead, and within reach of the Preds or Wings for a 4-team fight for the top spot. Should be a blast.
(this time in earnest) GO DUCKS!
(Author’s note: being pretty drunk, can I put in another plug for my brother’s frickin’ album? The more I listen to it the more I like it. Go ahead and buy one—none of the proceeds go to Pronger.)
(Author’s note: I'm off for a bit more misery-drinking. I’m just going to post this thing and see what sticks in the morning.)
Anaheim Ducks (30-11-8, 2nd in west) at Calgary Flames (24-17-4, 6th in west)
(Author’s note: I’m writing this post only going off the boxscore of the Edmonton game; I’ll watch the DVR later)
…my baloney has a last name, too. It’s L-L-L-L-W-O-W-O-L-L, with another letter to be added tonight at the Saddledome. For those counting at home, that’s more L’s in the Ducks’ last 10 games than they had in their first 39.
As Dan Wood notes, it is nearly a foregone conclusion that the Ducks will lose this last game before an eight-day break, apparently subscribing to the notion that regular losing is a good way to boost Pronger’s Hart and Giguere’s Vezina chances. And really, who’s to say that the Hart Trophy doesn’t belong somewhere in the middle of Giguere-Pronger-Beauchemin? The Ducks have gone from a .795 team to a .300 team, and their goal-differential has dropped by nearly 2 goals a game (+1.26 to -0.70)! That’s a staggering drop; usually dropoffs that significant are reserved for Joe Thornton when he gets to game one of the playoffs.
It’s really the price of rapid advancement, really, as suddenly big-time minutes are being occupied by guys who aren’t really ready—O’Brien, Jackman, DiPenta, and Huskins. Side note: I bet Vitaly Vishnevski and his ability to play 19 minutes a night on a division-leading team would really help, even after the team returns to health. Ducks have plenty of cap room, and hell, I already had the jersey.
Perhaps the craziest part about this recent slide is that Teemu Selanne is better than ever. He’s now the league leader in goals with 30, having potted 11 in the last 10 games, while the rest of the Anaheim forwards have combined for 13 over the same span.
This all-star break is really a strange (but welcome) time for this Ducks squad; even though there are lots of contradictory reports when players will return from injury, it seems assured that at least one of the big three will be back when play resumes on Jan. 28. I guess what’s strange about it is the unknown sense of relief—how good or bad does this squad become if Giguere is in the net, or if Beauchemin can play minutes, or if Pronger comes back, or any combination of those things? Improved results are coming, but to what extent remains to be seen.
I’ve spent plenty of time griping about our injuries, so I’ll take a second and acknowledge that the Flames have an injured Iginla and a healthy Friesen, which is a pretty ugly combination.
Bottom Line: There was a time not so long ago when an Anaheim team without Pronger and without Giguere went into a crucial game seven in the Saddledome and came away victorious. (Never mind the fact that Beauchemin led all skaters in G7 icetime or that Ruslan Salei led all skaters in G7 scoring.) This team used to have that underdog role mastered, and maybe it’s time to look back to the fighting spirit that existed back then.
Prediction: Ducks 3, Flames 1. Bryzgalov rediscovers his Calgary stinginess, Teemu rediscovers another diseased friend and delivers another hat trick, and I rediscover my appreciation for the beauty of a single regulation win.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Anaheim Ducks (30-10-8, 1st in west) at Edmonton Oilers (22-20-4, 10th in west)
For the first time in a while, I had to check to make sure the Ducks were still in first place, and at least for another day, it holds true. But the team is a mess, and you gotta think that the team is toast until any one of Giguere / Pronger / Beauchemin returns.
If it can hold together that long. The thing is, Coach Carlyle seems to have acquired an unhealthy appetite for Scott-ch.
That is, Scott-ch Niedermayer. In the eight games since Pronger’s foot crumbled, the captain has played 34+ minutes three times. To put that in perspective, the franchise record for minutes in a game used to be 33, set earlier this year by Chris Pronger, before SNieds THRICE shattered it.
Carlyle’s like a kid trying to break his sturdiest toy: in those 8 games, Scott has played 42% of the even-strength minutes, 63% of the shorthanded minutes, and 82% of the power play minutes, in all averaging to more than 30 minutes a game.
The only two games in the stretch where SN did not play at least 48% of game time were at Dallas and vs. St. Louis, the two “blowouts”. In the other six games, he's got an average of more than 32 ½ minutes per game!
Now don’t get me wrong, I'm happy with his increased production (2-8-10 in those 8 games, now leads the league in d-man scoring), and I’m not exactly thrilled to see an opposing forward cross the blueline and see the likes of Kent Huskins or Ric Jackman defending, but there’s a limit to how much Scott Niedermayer should be used on a first-place team in early January (hint: conservatively!).
I’m reminded of the stretch before Christmas where the Ducks played 6 games in 6 cities in 11 days (including two back-to-backs), and much to my surprise, Giguere started all of them. A week later, predictably enough, he was injured, and the team has been in a tailspin ever since. Seemed like a lot of overkill then, and seems like a lot of overkill now.
Here’s hoping that Carlyle lays off the Scott-ch a little more this week, especially in the even more meaningless all-star game.
Prediction: Ducks 4, Oilers 2. (C’mon, they still might be playing like Sucks, but I’m not about to predict a loss!) Goals by Teemu, Pahlsson, Getzlaf, and Marchant.
[EDIT: Some of the usual Oil sources chime in: Battle of Alberta, Lowetide, Real Deal Hockey.]
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
“Watch this, Lis. You can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half.”
--Bart Simpson, “I Love Lisa”
Well, from my perspective, there is one precise moment when the Anaheim Ducks fell apart and became the Anaheim Sucks, Boxing Day at San Jose. To recap, that is the game where Francois Beauchemin lacerated his spleen and J.S. Giguere pulled his groin. Two games later, Chris Pronger broke his foot, and sure enough, that’s a tough trio to replace. Despite the lengthy IR time, they still remain #1, 3, and 4 in overall Anaheim ice time, and heck, Giguere is still 4th in the league in wins and Pronger is still 2nd in the league in defenseman scoring.
Through Boxing Day, the Ducks were a ridiculous 28-5-6, a .795 win percentage and outscored opponents 3.49 – 2.23. Since then, however, the Sucks have been an inversely ridiculous 2-5-2, a .333 win percentage and a negative goal differential of 2.89 – 3.33. Only the NY Islanders and the Chicago Blackhawks have less standings points since Dec. 27 than the Sucks do.
The problems start in the net. Since Giguere (23-4-5, 2.17 GAA, .924 sv%) went down with injury, his replacements have gone 3-5-2 with a 2.97 GAA and a .881 sv%. Even though the Sucks have lowered their shots-against-per-game by some 13%, their goals-against-per-game has increased by some 37%.
On the blueline, things are equally as crazy, as lots of minutes are being made up by AHL talent despite the fact that Scott Niedermayer has increased his ice time to more than 30 minutes a night. If you think about the collection of defensemen not named Niedermayer, Pronger, Beauchemin, and O’Donnell, these guys used to average a combined 24 minutes per game for the Ducks. For the Anaheim Sucks? That collective number has skyrocketed to 65 minutes per game.
And even among the relatively healthy forwards, suckage has trickled down to those not named Selanne or Getzlaf. In the last 9 games, Teemu Selanne has 10 goals and Ryan Getzlaf has 4. The rest of the forwards combined have 9, including 2 NHL-debut goals from Bjorn Melin and Curtis Glencross.
So, bottom line? The Anaheim squad we’ve been icing the last nine games is unbelievably terrific, putting up points at a rate that would (if extrapolated to a full season) have them finish 29th in the league, last in the west and only slightly better than the Philadelphia Has-Beens. And until someone comes back from the injury trio, I don’t really see these Sucks getting much better.
Per Brian Hayward last night, Giguere, Beauchemin, and Pronger are all on-schedule for their much-needed returns, and I think for Giguere and Beauchemin, that means right after the All-Star Break (which for Anaheim is a welcome 8 days off). Until then, we can probably expect losses in both Edmonton tomorrow and Calgary the day afterward, and will probably find the team behind the surging Predators and neck-and-neck with the quickly-approaching Sharks once action resumes.
Hope’s around the corner, Duck fans, and frankly, this probably turns a dull end-of-the-season into a 2-month-long nail-biter. And as for you Suck fans, well, you probably get two more games to enjoy the limited-time-offer of two free points.
And for me? It's looking like two more games of excess liquor (lately, Johnny Walker Gold). Can’t wait.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Only two teams in the NHL have a pair of players in the top 10 for a major statistical goaltending category (wins, save percentage, goals against average). The Nashville Predators have Tomas Vokoun [9th] and Chris Mason [7th] operating at a sub-2.50 goal against average. The San Jose Sharks have studiously alternated goaltenders each game, with Vesa Toskala [5th] and Evgeni Nabokov [8th] providing a measure of stability in front of a very young blueline. Each have allowed 2.40 goals against per game or less.
Tomas Vokoun [13-4-1, 2.42GAA, .920SV%] returned from a torn ligaments and fractured thumb recently to find his replacement Chris Mason [17-7-2, 2.36GAA, .928SV%] making waves as one of the top goaltenders in the league. Predators head coach Barry Trotz will alternate Vokoun and Mason until both netminders are ready to compete with each other for the #1 job.
The San Jose Sharks have seen both of their co-#1 goaltenders struggle and shine at times this season. Evgeni Nabokov [11-9-0, 2.40GAA, .913SV%] is in the middle of a rough patch, allowing 3 goals in the opening period in 3 straight games, including being pulled twice against Detroit and Phoenix. Vesa Toskala [18-6-0, 2.32GAA, .912SV%] receives the bulk of the goal support on a nightly basis, and is in the middle of a 4 game winning streak.
In Smashville, things are going to remain status quo until the end of the season. San Jose is a different story. Nabokov seemed irritated and visibily frustrated after being pulled against the Detroit Red Wings. Instead of getting the call 2 days later to redeem himself against Columbus, Evgeni had to wait 6 days when his team came out flat against the Edmonton Oilers.
The Sharks will continue to rotate goaltenders each game, but look for more trade rumors to heat up around the trade deadline. With two rookie defenseman logging significant ice time, and two more defenseman in their sophmore season, a veteran defensive-defenseman could be a necessary addition heading into the playoffs.
There is also an outside chance that a scoring winger could be brough in to fill the hole Mark Bell has left on the first line. With the lack of production from Bell, San Jose head coach Ron Wilson has demoted last year's Rocket Richard winner Jonathan Cheechoo, and run with a top line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Mike Grier to try to create a consistent effort.
Nabokov's no-trade clause and hefty contract will be an issue if teams want to make a move for him, but many have expressed interest in Vesa Toskala. Teams are also going to have to adapt to emerging problems with the goalie waiver wire re-entry circus. Bottom line prediction: all 4 goaltenders stay put and both teams meet in the Stanley Cup Western Conference semis (where each team will rely on only 1 goalie).
[Update] Marleau's fight inspires Sharks - San Jose Sharks.
Goalie Vesa Toskala, who finished with 29 saves, started for the second consecutive game. This was just the second time that Wilson deviated from his plan of alternating goalies every game.
Evgeni Nabokov started consecutive games against Calgary and Anaheim immediately before and after Christmas, because Wilson was concerned about playing Toskala without adequate practice time. The coach cited the same reason Saturday -- the Sharks didn't skate Friday -- as well as Nabokov's recent difficulties.
Nabokov surrendered three goals in the first period in each of his previous three starts, which included the 8-0 squash two weeks ago in Phoenix. He wasn't entirely to blame on those goals, but Wilson pulled him for Toskala on the first two occasions.
"He's been having a bit of a struggle," Wilson said. "I know for him, the thing he'd like to do is to go back in and play. But the situation is, every point is valuable. And I'm not at the point where it's, `OK, work it out in a game.' We just won't do that. He'll get in a good practice tomorrow. It's just using logic."
Colorado Avalanche (21-19-3, 10th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (30-9-7, 1st in west)
Who doesn’t love going out to a game on Saturday night, the climax of the NHL week? Ever since Hockey Night in Canada (and even before HDiC liveblogs), Saturday night has been a hockey staple for fans across the continent.
However, if you’re an Anaheim fan and want to see a Saturday night Honda Center game, you’d better hustle up and go tonight! No shitting, this is the only time this season the Ducks play a Saturday night game at home, the other eleven are all on the road.
This has to be a Samueli-Honda-thing, I’d guess. Remaining Saturday night Honda Center events include Smuckers Stars on Ice, Top Rank Boxing, Front & Center 2007 featuring Chicago, the Amp’d Mobile Invitational (PBR), Harlem Globetrotters, and Eric Clapton. Not a bad lineup, I suppose.
With Teemu's hat trick Thursday, he now co-leads the league in goal-scoring with Alexander Ovechkin and Martin St. Louis (all with 28). Sure, you might point out that the other two guys have played less games than Teemu, but I'd just point out in return that they got a head start, as Selanne had but one goal (!) in the month of October.
In fact, after 12 games in October, Joe DiPenta was the only Duck regular who had less goals than Selanne. It also represents the first time in his Anaheim career that Selanne had gone 10 games without a goal.
Since I called him out, though, he has been absolutely ridiculous, propelling himself first to the team lead and now even a share of the league lead. Look at this chart, and note to yourself that the other five league-leaders are all 31 years old or younger and play in the softer eastern conference (all but Heatley in the supersoft Southeast Division).
Also, here's Teemu's goal and point rates by month:
G/gm = goals per game
Pts/gm = points per game
%PP = percentage of points coming on the power play
Since October, Teemu has been scoring at a 63-goal-season rate. In his last 27 games since November 15, he has been scoring at a 73-goal-season rate.
Of course, not all of this is "good news", as the real follow-up question is: what does this cost the Ducks? And quite frankly, I don't know what the salary-cap implications are. You see, Teemu signed a one-year deal last summer worth $3.75 million plus performance bonuses, which I have never seen a breakdown for. My best recollection is that Teemu's contract could be worth as much as $6 M, and you gotta figure this unknown factor as "very achievable" when thinking about Anaheim's available cap room.
Still, no matter what you gotta love the feel-good Teemu story (especially this one about his Thursday hat trick). Go get 'em, old man!
Prediction: Ducks 5, Avs 2. Two goals by white-hot Selanne, one each by Pahlsson, Jackman, and Penner.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Anaheim Ducks (29-9-7, 1st in west) at Dallas Stars (26-17-1, 5th in west)
Not much time to remark on these tables, but check out the Pacific standings through the two-day Christmas break and since. I’d have figured that the Ducks’ Pacific lead would have been much more deteriorated thanks to their lackluster play lately, but really the Sharks have closed their gap by only one point and the Stars only two.
|W-L-O-Pts||Win Pct.||GF – GA||PP%||PK%|
3.47 – 2.21
2.97 – 2.14
2.58 – 2.22
2.68 – 3.51
2.41 – 3.65
|W-L-O-Pts||Win Pct.||GF – GA||PP%||PK%|
4.13 – 1.88
3.43 – 3.29
2.75 – 3.25
3.57 – 3.71
3.00 – 3.43
Prediction: Ducks 4, Stars 3. Goals by Penner, Pahlsson, Getzlaf, and Scotty.
[EDIT: I didn't notice this until today, but JavaGeek threw together some numbers on a new win predictor I had been mulling about instead of goal differential--the ability to hold a lead or come back from a deficit. Again, not much time to digest the numbers today, but it does one thing right: Ottawa (notorious for winning blowouts and losing close games) ranks 21st in the league. Check it out and give it a basic sniff test.]
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
[EDIT: I meant to post this Tuesday morning, but as you can see below I was off to WI today, and Blogger didn't get its shit together in time. So now I am in WI, the Ducks have already lost, but I still remain optimistic as to the outcome.]
Anaheim Ducks (29-9-6, 1st in west) at Nashville Predators (28-11-3, 2nd in west)
Tonight is milestone night for my hero Sammy Pahlsson (see my man-love poem here)! Tonight Sammy will be playing in his 238th consecutive game, breaking the Anaheim iron-man record held by Oleg Tverdovsky (who, by the way, has played in only 22 of 44 games since his L.A. acquisition).
Nobody in the league has it as tough as Sammy, if you believe Behind the Net’s 5-on-5 metrics. He ranks 10 out of 544 in the league in the “5-on-5 Quality of Competition” metric, and 535 out of 544 in the “5-on-5 Quality of Teammates” metric. He’s playing a plus-5 differential against the NHL’s best night-after-night, and carrying around lugs like Rob N. and Moen while doing it.
PLUS (!), he leads all NHL forwards in SH TOI with 210:44, which is incredibly 55% of Anaheim’s total penalty-killing time. Rob N. ranks second in the league with 172:48, nearly two periods less!
PLUS (!), he’s done it all while only taking 4 minors, and still leads the team in hits (99), takeaways (32), and faceoff wins (440).
I certainly think there’s a pretty damn strong case not only that Sammy get the Selke Award, but maybe they should consider renaming the award for Pahlsson. He’s a defensive forward’s god.
Unfortunately, though, the Selke will probably go to Rod Brind’Amour, who plays in a much more respectable time zone. To compare, Rod (who is also a +5) plays against easier 5-on-5 opposition (112 of 544) with much better linemates (121 of 544) and does a third of his scoring on the power play. He also has about 60 more PP minutes than SH minutes, but whatever. I’d rather have the Selke-worthy performance than the actual Selke award anyway.
Oh, stability. The guy who’s job it is to put names and numbers on the backs of Anaheim jerseys must be going nuts, seeing has he’s had to create seven new templates over the last seven games for Duck debuts.
Dec. 23—Kent Huskins, D, #40And in those seven games? A whopping 2-5 record, though the team has looked better since the return of Bryzgalov.
Dec. 29—David McKee*, G, #41
Dec. 31—Sebastien Caron*, G, #29
Jan. 2—Aaron Rome, D, #34
Jan. 5—Tim Brent, C, #47 and Ric Jackman, D, #5
Jan. 7—Bjorn Melin, W, #43
* backup role only
Meanwhile Nashville enters the game winners of 10 of their last 13. It’s probably worth mentioning, though, that 6 of those 10 wins came against St. Louis and Chicago. Ah, the beautiful disparity of the Central Division!
At any rate, you’d figure I’d have great interest in watching a measuring-stick game between the top two teams in the west, but alas! I am going to be sitting on a plane flying off to sunny Wisconsin for business.
Prediction: I freeze my ass off, while the Ducks sneak a 3-1 win. Goals by Perry, Pahlsson, and whichever other guy is making his Duck debut.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Anaheim Ducks goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov discussed Chris Pronger's return to Edmonton with Score a few weeks back. When Ilya was asked why Pronger may have left Edmonton to go to Southern California this offseason, he answered:
He may be tired to live here, because in the November months it is -32. Can you imagine? Eight months in a year snow. (Yes, its a tough place to live) Hold on, I'm not finished. Here is like North Pole. (You have a whole Canadian country mad now) (What's it like in Russia right now?) In my home town, +7.Take that Canada, +7. Running ESL smack against a whole country is great. When is the NHL going to give Bryz his own commercial? Oh, and for the record. Tomorrow in Anaheim, sunny and +80.
[Update] A local California hockey mag used one of my photos of Anaheim rookie Dustin Penner. You can read the article here and here.
[Update2] Canada apologies to America. Apology accepted.
Collision along the right boards
Sergei Fedorov went down in the first with a possible dislocated elbow
Faceoff in the Columbus zone late in the 3rd
This was an interesting game from a fans standpoint. Sharks defenseman Doug Murray rocked Jason Chimera, who had his head down at the Columbus blue line. It looked like a car crash on the slow motion replays showed on the big screen the rest of the night. Already without Rick Nash and goaltender Pascal Leclaire, the two reasons I wanted to see the Blue Jackets by the way, the loss of Fedorov for an extended period may be too much for Columbus to recover from.
After a goal in the third period, I realized it was a Ryane Clowe hat trick when the bill of a hat thrown from the upper deck hit me in the back of the head. About 10 other hats bounced off of the protective netting. It was not as bad as last year during a teddy bear toss at Stockton of the ECHL. After a few fans realized that they could not get their bear over the netting, they aimed for the first person near the glass they could find. Me. Taunting a few of the fans probably did not help matters much.
After a mistake as big as the referees made on Saturday, letting two power play goals result from one penalty, it would have been hard for the visiting team not to use that as an excuse. But the Blue Jackets would have been rolled regardless. Without Fedorov, Svitov and Modin tried to keep up the attack but the chances fizzled out in the second and third periods. The Sharks were still hurting from an 8-0 blowout loss to Phoenix a few games earlier, and if that can not help them remain motivated, GM Doug Wilson may make some changes.
A photo gallery and a recap from the game is up here. NoCal rules, SoCal sucks. Out.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Why would I have exclusive X-ray photos anyway, seeing as the team doesn't even know that I exist? Still, the graphic begged to be made, ever since the team decided on a footprint for a logo.
But while I got you here, let's take a look at some Pronger numbers, as the Ducks try to learn a lesson that 29 other teams have already figured out: how to win without Chris Pronger.
Now, to be fair, Pronger got hurt two games after J.S. Giguere got hurt, and there is a very big split in how the team does with Giguere (24-5-5, 86.6% PK) and without him (4-4-1, 81.6% PK), and a lot of the team's current problems, I think, stem from the fact that both players are out. James Mirtle sent me an email a bit ago asking about the importance of J.S. Giguere that I fully intend on answering, but I'll save that for a future post.
So, with that in mind, let's take a look at the ever-apparent importance of Chris Pronger:
EVEN STRENGTH: Pronger has played 695 even-strength minutes this year, and during that time, the Ducks have scored 44 goals and allowed 23. That is, the team scores 3.80 GF/hr and allows 1.98 GA/hr.
In the 1,199 even-strength minutes that Pronger has not been on the ice, the Ducks have scored 49 goals and allowed 45. Those numbers, then, are 2.45 GF/hr and 2.25 GA/hr.
POWER PLAY: Pronger has played 241 power-play minutes this year, where the Ducks scored 35 goals and allowed 0. That is a rate of 8.71 GF/hr.
In the 114 power-play minutes without Pronger, the Ducks have scored 14 goals and allowed 0. Again, a lesser scoring rate of 7.34 GF/hr. (This is still pretty effective, as I think Getzlaf is a fairly adequate fill-in on the point.)
PENALTY KILL: Pronger has played 161 shorthanded minutes; the Ducks have scored 1 goal and allowed 13. 0.37 GF/hr and 4.86 GA/hr. I don't have the precise numbers, but you should consider here also that Pronger does do most of our 2-man down killing, which makes it a bit tougher.
Without Pronger (211 shorthanded minutes), the Ducks have scored 2 goals and allowed 20. 0.57 GF/hr and 5.69 GA/hr.
OVERALL: With Pronger on the ice, the Ducks have scored 80 goals and allowed 36. Without Pronger on the ice, the Ducks have scored 45 goals and allowed 45. There's a lot of talk about how forwards and goaltenders drive results, but with Pronger, he's really a case where the Ducks are a better team in all situations.
OK, some random stuff to top it all off.
- It took new Duck Ric Jackman less than 14 minutes of even-strength ice time to get a -4 in his debut last night against the Blue Jackets, which quickly put him as the worst +/- on the team.
- Looking around the league, I’m wondering whether we will see any 50 goal scorers this year. Right now, using goal-per-game rates and games remaining, Martin St. Louis projects to 50.76, Alexander Ovechkin projects to 50.00, and Marian Hossa projects to 49.58. The next highest guys, Ryan Smyth (48.77) and Jarome Iginla (48.36), have had or are having injury issues. Really, it seems like thin odds we'll have a 50-goal scored this year; a few injuries or slumps and suddenly we’ll have nobody on pace.
- At the bequest of my Detroit-loving buddy Damndaze, I will be going to Staples Center tonight to see the Kings-Wings matchup. All I'm really hoping for is that the Kings beat the snot out of Detroit, so maybe the Ducks can end their four-game slide tomorrow afternoon. Since Christmas, the Ducks have seen their league lead drop from 7 points to 1 point, their west lead drop from 9 points to 5 points, and their Pacific lead drop from 10 points to 8 points.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Columbus Blue Jackets (15-21-4, 14th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (28-8-6, 1st in west)
(Our scene opens sometime in the 2006 offseason in the NHL war-room, where two lab technicians are busy putting together the second half of the 06-07 schedule, feeling rather proud of how well they had done on scheduling the first half.)
Tech 1: Oh crap, you know what I just realized?
Tech 2: What’s that?
Tech 1: Frick! Columbus is in the western conference!
Tech 2: Yeah, in the Central division. So what?
Tech 1: Damn, that means they have to play Anaheim four times this year!
Tech 2: Oh, what did you have scheduled for them thus far?
Tech 1: Uh, never mind. We can make this work!
And thus, tonight in Anaheim’s 43rd game of the season, we get to see those rumored Blue Jackets for the first of four games this year. (There is a second act to that play, by the way, where Tech 1 forgets about the match-up again, and recovers by fitting Columbus in three times over the Ducks’ last dozen games—all within the last 3 ½ weeks of the season).
Um, as for the match-up itself, Columbus fans should be relieved to know that two former Blue Jackets Francois Beauchemin and Todd Marchant are both out with injury, so there’s no need to feel tangible shame in getting fleeced by Brian Burke. Anaheim fans, on the other hand, should be relieved to know that former Mighty Duck Sergei Fedorov is still making in excess of $6M, so it was still a good trade for the mild-spending Ducks.
And though I am not really troubled by the Ducks’ 3-game losing streak, should tonight’s game turn sour, then we are looking at a pretty daunting week in DET, @NSH, @DAL, and COL. With the Sharks and Stars closing the division gap, it could make for an interesting finish.
Prediction: Ducks 4, Blue Jackets 2. Bryzgalov brings order back to the Anaheim nets, and goals by McDonald, Kunitz, Pahlsson, and Moen. Should be a pretty full house tonight, I’m guessing, as it is free hat night at Honda Center.
p.s. For Columbus coverage, check out Army of Ohio and End of the Bench.
There's nothing quite like smacking the Red Wings around -- except when you smack them around by scoring NINE unanswered goals and watch dejected Red Wings fans suffer from hecklers all around them. I know this is a blog about how evil the Ducks are and how awesome the Sharks are (oh, I guess the Kings are in there too -- just give them a season or two), but all California fans have to enjoy watching idiot Red Wing bandwagoners leave their seats early only to have entire sections chant "Go home Red Wings" at them.
Author's Note: I have nothing against Red Wing fans who are actually from Michigan or have some sort of family ties to Michigan. The term "idiot Red Wing Bandwagoners" is just for people who became fans circa, oh, the 1997 Stanley Cup victory.
Anyways, SIX power play goals has gotten the Sharks back on track. However, to me, it masked the team's deficiencies that were exploited in the first period -- namely, the thin defense. Poor Evgeni Nabokov; people at the arena (at least the unobservant drunk ones) were blaming him, not the defense, on the first two Detroit goals. Hey, when you got big red asses planted by you without any defense taking them out, I'm not going to blame you. Even the third goal, which was admitedly stoppable, still originated from a defensive lapse that led to a breakaway.
Author's Second Note: Sorry about focusing on the negative, but I'm just being honest!
Now, the mysterious highlights of the 8-0 disaster against Phoenix but my super-secret sources (the Mercury News recollection) told me that Nabby didn't get much defensive help for his three goals against in that game either. In other words, it was breakaways, tip-ins, or scrambles that went in prior to his yanking. So he's been yanked in two straight games even though his defense was busier dreaming about the new Robotech sequel instead of playing defense. Only difference is that they also let Toskala down against the Yotes, but the forwards went apeshit and bailed everyone out against Detroit.
Since losing to the Ducks 4-3 a few weeks back, I've gotten off the "keep both goalies" mindset and jumped on the "we need more defense" bandwagon. If the Sharks didn't have to contend with the Earl Sleek-powered mighty Ducks (pun intended!) in their division, I wouldn't be as gung-ho about it, but watching the Norris Trophy show makes me nervous about the Sharks' chances without a true #1 d-man. Yes, I have defense-envy.
This win against Detroit kicked ass for a number of reasons, but it still only hides the fact that Scott Hannan and Kyle McLaren are the only veteran Sharks defensemen. People will talk about Carolina's no-name defense winning the Stanley Cup, but at least they were a group of good vets (Kaberle, Ward, Hedican, Commodore, etc) who as a group mixed toughness with speed and some skill. Instead, the Sharks have three borderline NHLers (Murray, Gorges, Davison), three good kids who need more time to develop fully (Vlasic, Ehrhoff, Carle), and two above-average defensive defensemen.
When the Sharks forwards are firing on all cylinders, that can be covered up. If the forwards hit a dry spell, however, the boys in teal wind up getting manhandled in their own zone.
In my perfect world, the Sharks trade Nabokov for Wade Redden (and he heals up and becomes himself again); that ain't going to happen, but you can't thump Detroit 9-4 every night, so something has to eventually be done about getting a #1 defenseman.
But enough bitching for now -- GO HOME RED WINGS! And congratulations to Patrick Marleau for becoming the team's all-time points leader. The Captain is also a much nicer guy in person than former record holder Owen "Jerk" Nolan.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
No, Sleek is not dead. Sorry for the unannounced hiatus, but after slicing my foot, pulling my groin twice, straining my abdomen, rupturing my spleen, and breaking my other foot, I suppose I needed a few days off.
Oh wait a second, those things didn’t happen to me; those happened to Sean O’Donnell, Ilya Bryzgalov, J.S. Giguere, Todd Marchant, Francois Beauchemin, and Chris Pronger. If you’re napkin-scoring at home, that’s roughly $15.5 million in salary that’s on the mend (O’Donnell and Bryzgalov have returned already, though).
And as for Ducks you’re not recognizing, Kent Huskins (#40) was brought in to replace O’Donnell, and then stayed on to replace Beauchemin. Then Aaron Rome (#34) was brought in to replace Pronger. Travis Green (#39) has been trying to mimic Marchant, while Michael Wall (#31), David McKee (#41), and newly-acquired Sebastien Caron (#29) have been Anaheim’s netminding options (although Wall was the only one to actually step on the ice). Oh, and some breaking news? Ducks have traded a conditional pick to Florida for D Ric “Don’t call me Rick” Jackman to replace the fall of Rome.
Actually, I’m kidding. Scott Niedermayer has tripled his ice time and is replacing everyone.
And as for the results? Overall, the Ducks have lost 8 times in regulation in 42 games this year, but half those losses have come in the last 5 games. Yup, it’s vulnerable time for these Ducks.
And yet, do I panic? Hell, no! I’m having trouble even caring. You see, other than the damage it’s doing to my fantasy teams, Ducks are doing too damn well for me to fret through rough patches like this:
- Anaheim has 62 points, a whopping number that wasn’t achieved until February 10th last year. It would have to be a record-setting effort to miss the playoffs with that start. President’s Trophy to me has been overrated, especially the last several postseasons. What matters is making the playoffs and playing well at the end of the season; what doesn’t matter is winning in January when you’re 20 points ahead of 9th place.
- Hey, we’ve lost 4 of 5, but despite the laughable lineup, there hasn’t been a game where we’ve been out of it. This AHL-NHL joint venture is still pretty good (especially now that we have an NHL goalie again), or at least within a goal of being pretty good.
- Plus, shifting your perspective can always be a nice thing. Ducks have just finished a 17-game stretch that involved 13 games on the road, with a more-than-OK record of 11-6.
- And probably most importantly, there’s still plenty of time to heal for the postseason. And it’s not a bad opportunity for these kids are getting a chance to show whether or not they deserve to be NHLers.