Here are a few photos from last night's 4-2 Sharks win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. After a tight checking game in the first period and several spectacular saves by backup goaltender Ty Conklin, the Sharks opened up for 3 goals in the second and outskated a tired Wings team in the third. More notes and photos from the game will be posted here soon.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Vancouver Canucks (5-5-0, t-7th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (6-5-0, 5th in west)
Trick or treat? Teemu takes Trick.
Sorry this gameday post was so late in coming, but I was under the assumption that the NHL was going to suspend all regular season games until its posterchild Sid Crosby recovered from his mystery injury. Whoops!
At any rate, because I was so bored at work today I thought I'd revisit an old study I did about the success of teams visiting SoCal to play both the Kings and the Ducks. In the table below, I've pooled together all the instances since the lockout when a visiting team played at the Honda Center and the Staples Center within two days of each other, then separated the results according to (a) which arena they visited first, and (b) how many days separated the games. Keep in mind, this table shows visiting opponent results, not the results for the home teams:
(click image to enlarge)
There's a lot of data thrown in this table (and sorry for the shoddy image quality), but here's a few quick takeaways:
1. Given a choice, a visiting team probably prefers to visit the Ducks before they visit the Kings. In the 23 times that has happened since the lockout, teams have won 10 times in the Honda Center, 13 times in the Staples Center, and 7 times a visiting team has won in both venues.
When teams visit the Kings first (as Vancouver did last night), they generally get ripped up by the Ducks in the second game. In the 35 times that has happened since the lockout, only 9 times has a visiting team won the second game in Honda Center and only 2 times has a visiting team been able to walk away with victories in each building (though the Canucks could become the third team to do it tonight).
Interesting to note that if you count the upcoming games against Vancouver and Calgary, that will make the last eleven straight opponents who went to Staples Center first.
2. A day off between games helps a team in either situation. Neither Vancouver nor Calgary will enjoy that luxury, but as you can see, visiting teams do enjoy better results in the second game if they have a day off to prepare for it. It's intuitive, sure, but I thought I'd point it out.
What's less intuitive? Teams with a day off between venues are typically enjoying better results in the first game, also. Possibly this has to do with "looking ahead" at the next day's opponent?
3. There's still plenty of factors that aren't included in this spreadsheet. Part of what makes this study a bit complex is that loosely speaking, the last three-plus seasons the Ducks have been very good and the Kings have been very bad, and it's interesting to see how teams strategize with that in mind. Should a team play its starter against Anaheim and its back-up against L.A., to try to pick up points in each venue? Or should the starter get the easier points in L.A. and let the back-up try to pull an upset in Anaheim?
Also lost a bit in this story is the set of teams that are making these two-stop trips; generally it's teams that have to travel very far (San Jose doesn't appear in this data once, as an example). Just another thing to keep in mind when over-analyzing these results.
At any rate, I've laid out the results in what I think is a logical way; feel free to comment or question any of it, or add observations of your own.
Prediction: Per the spreadsheet, Ducks win 3.5 - 2.2. Goals by Hedican, Morrison, Pahlsson, and half a goal by Perry.
Have a safe and pagan Halloween, everyone! Go Ducks.
Hey, your team just beat last year's Stanley Cup Finals participants! Your top line is dominant, your young guys are doing great, and Dan Boyle has been a great acquisition so far. You guys are celebrating, right? Right?
[Update from anonymous Battle of California Blogger] Yes.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The big story today seems to be the whole Todd McLellan vs. Mike Babcock sub-plot (I was going to do an Obi-Wan/Darth Vader Photoshop of the two with the "When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master," line but I ran out of time) but that whole thing doesn't really mean that much to me. I mean, these guys are professionals and they knew that some day this was probably going to happen.
My bigger focus is on seeing how the Sharks compare as a whole to the Wings. Like it or not, the god damn Red Wings have been the measuring stick for the league since the mid-90s (give or take a few seasons), and the emphasis is even higher now that they're defending champs. Holding Sidney Crosby and company to just a handful of shots showed that the Sharks were ready to put forth a strong defensive effort against an elite opponent, but I got the sense that the Penguins were off their game on Tuesday. I doubt I'm the only one who thought that the whole game was pretty darn boring.
So, what to expect tonight? The Sharks certainly are playing their own version of the Wings attack style, but I see San Jose as more based on speed and the Wings based more on passing/possession. The idea isn't to necessarily outshine Detroit at their own game; instead, it's all about bringing the necessary effort to make the Sharks' own system the superior one.
A few more random notes:
-Joe Thornton's groin injury seems more obvious with each game. He simply doesn't use his legs or lower body to protect the puck the way that he normally does, and assuming he didn't just revert into a craptacular player over the off-season, I'm assuming this is the lingering effects of his injury. Since I'm not a doctor (and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn last night), I don't know if this is one of those injuries where you can't rest it, you just have to work through it. I'm doubting that, though, since it seems like any sort of leg/abdomen injury would heal better with resting rather than playing at elite-level competition. Plus the team is scoring by committee right now, and I'd rather have 100% Thornton later than 75% Thornton for the bulk of the season (since these things linger forever).
-For all you King fans...um...well, I see what you were complaining about with Rob Blake. Those first two games kinda seem like an abberation now, don't they?
-The Sharks power play started using a slightly different look with one guy in the crease and another guy in the high slot. The strategy here seems to have the low guy providing a screen while the high player looks to deflect a shot in. Jonathan Cheechoo had a few dandy deflections against the Penguins and it's nice to get some refreshing special teams strategy after the Ron Wilson days.
If you recall, this past summer BoC had a brief series called Letters from Switzerland from our generous friend Markus (will it continue? only Markus knows for sure), where we received some overseas updates about some former NHLers. In that same spirit, I present a guest submission from reader Kyle J., a guy I can only assume hails from Sweden (to be completely honest, I'm not sure about this, but based on a few phrases of broken English I've corrected, I'm comfortable being presumptuous). Well, I'm never a guy to turn away free artwork, especially if it's potentially from Sweden!
I am, however, a guy who (for better or worse) will regularly publish e-mails I get.
Dear Earl Sleek.Just take a look at the awesomeness below, inspired by last week's Ducks win against the Toronto Maple Leafs (featuring an ill-advised goaltender switch by Ron Wilson for the shootout):
I have been wanting to find a way to mix my passion for graphic arts and hockey together for a long time. I have finally figured out how. A Graphic Novel of Hockey(Comic book). However I would like to showcase them where people could see them. And reading your blog since the Season We Won the Cup I know that many people in fact read your blog. I have really enjoyed your cartoons. If you wouldn't mind letting me post these on BOC I would very much enjoy some feedback so I could start up on my own or possibly work together on some.
BOC Reader of you and Rudy,
Ducks Fan and Hockey enthusiast,
and Fellow Artista,
Quite literally the best artwork this blog has ever seen.
(Click image to enlarge.)
I don't even know where to start. The Terminator version of Nik Antropov is killer, the classic Ron Wilson media staredown is spot-on, and I want to run and hide from that George Parros glare. Basically, Kyle, I give this a hearty standing ovation. Outstanding.
One of my side goals here at BoC is to semi-legitimize the notion of internet cartooning, even though I'm pretty much just a hack. Well, fellow hacks, the bar may have just been raised, and I'm pretty excited to see that. Plus, now with Switzerland and Sweden on the BoC contribution list, I can't wait to see what our German or Finnish readers will do to top this.
[1:15 pm edit -- Oh boy did I blow this one. I've now been informed that Kyle J. is from Southern California, not Sweden. Well, this won't be the last fact-checking error that Sleek will ever make, but it is a doozy. Also, a new version of the picture was submitted with "Foliage" instead of "Foilage". Sorry for the mix-up, KJ.]
Los Angeles Kings (3-4-1) vs. Vancouver Canucks (4-5)
7:30 PST, Fox Sports West
Patrick O'Sullivan will skate with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar tonight, reuniting the Sandman Line* that was so effective in the 2nd half of last season. It's all well and good for those three because they love playing with one another, but the question I have is: why? Kopitar, Brown, and O'Sullivan are all playing over 18 minutes a game and they're all averaging about a point a game on separate lines. Kopitar and Brown have been effective though somewhat smothered by opposing defenses, while O'Sullivan has been the driving force on the third line** alongside Jarret Stoll and Oscar Moller. It seems like this is a move designed to end Kopitar's perceived struggles, but at the expense of the Kings' newfound offensive depth.
*I call them the Sandman Line because they put opponents to sleep. Actually, it's because they all look really tired.
**Can we end the whole charade that Alex Frolov is on the third line? He and Handzus are playing the 3rd and 4th minutes on the team among forwards. They're playing against the other teams top lines. And they're doing awesome. They're not the 3rd line.
There were a few more shifts in the line-up worth mentioning. Well, they're not, but I'm going to anyway. Kyle Calder has joined Jarret Stoll (I keep writing "Stool" instead) and Oscar Moller on the 3rd line. It'll be interesting to see how this line does: will Stoll and Moller be able to create offense on their own, or will Calder drag them down? The answers are, in order, "no" and "yes."
Matt Moulson also rejoins the lineup tonight in place of Brad Richardson. The move is designed to provide a little defensive responsibility. Of course, the defensive problem on that line is not Richardson but instead Ivanans and Armstrong. I dont' know why the Kings don't sit Ivanans for a game because he's been sucking and not fighting lately, but who the hell knows. I think Richardon, Boyle and Moulson should all play one game, just to see how the Kings do with 4 legit lines. Oh well. No one really cares, I guess. Hey look, a duck.
The Vancouver Luongos come into town tonight, led by their resolute captain. A lot of people made a big deal out of Luongo being named captain, but why the fuck not? He's their best player, he's probably the best athlete on the team, and he's a pretty outgoing guy. It's not like the past where goalies were dangerous lunatics that couldn't be reasoned with. As a goaltender myself, I am tired of the blatant stereotypes perpetuated upon my race. If a black man can become president, a goalie can become captain. Now that's change I can believe in.
Prediction: Kings win, 3-2. Goals by O'Sullivan, Kopitar, and Brown. Well, they better score, anyway; it's not like anyone else is going to now.
Underwhelmed to put it mildly with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at the tank. Thornton and Marleau turned in a dominant performance defensively as well as offensively, and Marleau and Setoguchi were really exploding on the back check to chase down plays. More photos and notes from the game here. Detroit returns tonight.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
As you are all probably aware, Fox Sports West has been experimenting with a new method of presenting a hockey game, called "Rinkside View." The view
fucking sucks attempts to give the viewer a more up-close view of the action through cameras right above the penalty box and behind both nets. It was an interesting notion, but the view has been an overwhelming failure with the fans and is quickly becoming an black mark on the network and the Los Angeles Kings. Look at this poll on Inside the Kings: fans have risen up in protest against Rinkside View. If it were a bill, fans could override a president's veto to dismiss Rinkside View. The problems with Rinkside View are voluminous so I hardly see the need to discuss all of them, but I will take time from my busy schedule making my cat chasing a laser point to point out just a few flaws.
1) YOU CAN'T FOLLOW THE GODDAMN PUCK. Ahem, excuse me. The patricians that sit right near the glass won't tell you this, but in places like the Great Western Forum or the Pond it's actually better to sit in the top section, right in the middle. Why? Because you can follow the puck wherever it goes. When you sit close, other fans and players block your view of the action and present a incomplete picture of the play. Through Rinkside View, guys will come flying out of the corner of the screen and get a great shot off before you've had time to recognize them. It is infuriating for an experienced hockey viewer to be forced to watch the game through the eyes of a newcomer.
3) WHERE THE FUCK DID HE SHOO-OHGODGETOUTOFTHEWAYGAUTHIER. When a forward takes a shot on goal, the defender on the opposite side of the ice always always always goes to the front of the net to help clear any potential rebounds. When the Rinkside View is used, this often means that the shot is obstructed from the far side by the defender going to the net on the near side. It's a Donkey Punch for the viewer and really, really fucking pisses me off.
4) I'M NOT USED TO THIS! I know, you're thinking, "Well that's a terrible reason to be against something," but hear me out. We're all used to the traditional camera angle because that's what works. It's the 2nd best way to watch a game* and the best one that's actually feasible. Rinkside View is like taking a chocolate eclair and then putting poo in it; yeah, it sure is different and exciting but I sure as fuck don't want it anywhere near me.
*I've always thought the best camera was the one high in the corner because you can see the entire ice at once. Sure you can't really see numbers, but if they're Kings I can tell by who they are by watching them skate and if they're not then I don't really care. Plus I can watch line changes!
Basically, the problem with Rinkside View is that it incorrectly presumes that the most important part of hockey is the man with the puck. There's so much more going on (guys crashing the net, the battle in front of the net, the trailing defender) that will actually decide the game that is not being shown so you can watch some asshole get taken into the boards. It forces the experienced viewer to watch the game through a newcomer's eyes and retards the growth of the newcomer by not allowing him to see the other parts of the game. It's like helping someone who can't learn the alphabet by removing the letters "Q," "I," and "T." Sure, they might be able to learn it faster but at what cost and what if they want to spell, "Quisling?" See, madness.
I did my first podcast with the awesome Brian Kamenetzky of SportsHubLA. My voice sounds weird. We go over the high points of the season so far and a few of the major storylines so you can listen if you want. If you don't want to then I think you should listen to it anyway and tell me how badly I suck. And check out the rest of SportsHubLA because it's pretty great and covers everything in LA and also the Chargers, for some reason.
Detroit Red Wings (7-1-1, 2nd in west) at Anaheim Ducks (5-5-0, t-5th in west)
Ah, it's never felt so good to be back at .500
Well, I don't know if it was a lucky mix of positivity and poetry (Poetrivity!), but somehow the Ducks pulled off a nice 4-game sweep on their road trip, to nicely recover from their 0-4 season start. There's still plenty of things to improve on for the Ducks, but I'm still at the point that I care more that they are getting points than worrying too much about how they're getting them. Suffice to say that it was a fortunate road trip (really? only the third time ever a team has swept eastern Canada?), and it was extremely helpful to score the first two goals in each of the first three games.
But probably the one event on the road trip that probably shouldn't be overlooked was Ryan Getzlaf's trip to the dentist. Getzlaf had a virus removed from his gum that kept him out of the game in Toronto, but apparently the virus was adversely affecting more than just his inner mouth -- his entire forward line showed improvement once the infection was removed from the lineup. Here's the top line's very-much-improved stats from the road trip:
R. Getzlaf 3 gp, 3g-2a-5p, +4
C. Kunitz 4 gp, 1g-4a-5p, +2
Recall that in the six games prior to that dental visit, that trio combined for 18 gp, 0g-2a-2p, -14.
I can only assume this resembles Getzlaf before and after his dental visit.
It certainly mirrors the top line's performance since that pivotal event.
I don't want to seem overly presumptuous, but perhaps it's time to schedule Brendan Morrison for a teeth-cleaning. Ten games in, and he's got 0g-1a-1p and a -5. Just sayin'.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings come into town with a 5-game win streak of their own, thanks to Denis Gauthier's questionable decision-making. Like Anaheim, Detroit's win streak seems a bit illusory as well -- three of the five wins have come in OT/SO, and over the streak they've allowed 3.6 goals per game, which is definitely uncharacteristic.
Here's one stat that definitely differentiates Detroit's win streak from Anaheim's, though. In 5 wins, the Red Wings have outshot their opponents by a margin of 41.2 to 29.8. In 4 wins, the Ducks have been outshot by their opponents by a margin of 25.5 to 37.8. Detroit's also 5-0 on the road this season, and the Ducks haven't won a home game that I haven't attended, so hopefully this battle of the last two cup champions provokes some inspired play from the web-footed ones.
Prediction: Nevertheless, the Ducks pull it out. Ducks 4, Wings 2. Goals by the two-time Wing killers -- the fabulous Niedermayers, Pahlsson, and Pronger. For your Red Wings angles, make sure to hit up Abel to Yzerman, Winging It In Motown, On the Wings, and HockeytownTodd.
[9:30 am edit -- I've just been informed that the Chief over at A2Y will be running a live blog over at his site tonight, and I've agreed to join in the comments there to take my lumps like a good Ducks fan should. Feel free to join in, defend Pronger's elbows, and enjoy a hearty laugh at the persistence of 18-month-old injury excuses.]
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Damn that sucked last night. To see the Kings play such committed defense for 58 minutes and then lose it with one dimwitted pass was awful. Gauthier cemented his dipshit status last night. I felt bad for Kyle Quincey (who played like he wanted to murder everyone who didn't give him a shot in Detroit) and Drew Doughty (who looked a little overmatched but still played nicely). And why the fuck was Ivanans playing against the Red Wings? What, the Kings have to protect Kopitar from Henrik Zetterberg or Andreas Lilja? The worst things they're going to do is fuck him and not call him again. That's damaging psychologically, not physically. (Syphillis, maybe. Hold on, I'm still building this scenario.)
Oh well, it's a long season and the Kings have 6 games left on this homestand. Here's something to make you feel better:
I love how dogs in clothes are either insanely fucking happy to be wearing clothes* or unbelievably depressed.
*"Holy fuck, man! Check this out, I'm wearing clothes! Have you seen this shit? A dog in clothes! Unbelievable. Dogs should not be wearing clothes but here I am, blowing minds. Look, it even has a spot for my tail!"
Monday, October 27, 2008
Los Angeles Kings (3-4) vs. Detroit Red Wings (2009 Stanley Cup Champs)
7:30 PST, FSN West
-Jason Labarbera is playing fucking again today. I actually like it because I wanted him to get a chance to prove himself but give Eric Ersberg a chance, huh? Did Ersberg spit on Terry Murray's grave or something? (Because he looks like a corpse, you see.)
-Anze isn't looking that great to start the season. That's not bad. I've always found hockey to be cyclical: you feel great for a month, then you notice a little hitch that bothers you and it throws you off, then it seems like nothing is going right, and then all of a sudden you're fine again. The important part is that Kopitar is still being productive even though he's struggling. Both him and Frolov look like they're pressing a little bit, probably because they expected to be the leaders of this team, but they'll be fine.
-Detroit is a shithole.
Prediction: Kings win, 4-1, with dominant puck possession hockey while the Red Wings run around with shit in their pants. Now reverse the names on that.
It's been a rough start to the season for the Dallas Stars and no one is feeling the brunt more than Marty Turco. Many thought that this would be a big year for Turco considering the departure of more than capable backup turned beleaguered starter Mike Smith and the exorcising of many a playoff demon.
That has not been the case, so the Stars are calling in Andy Moog to try to work out the kinks.
And the kinks, well ... they've been kinky.*
*Kill me. Don't think about it, just murder me.
In nine games, Turco managed three wins and six loses (four in regulation). He's had a save percentage of 90 percent twice with one other game over 85 percent. He had three games in the low-80s and three disastrous games in which his save percentage was in the 70s.
So, looking inside the numbers 2/3 of Turco's starts would have really pissed off John Tortorella with a couple fitting in the ex-Lightning coach's disdainful 75% club. The season is young, but this is a large enough sample to at least generate concern. Not panic, mind you, but a generous helping of concern.
The Kings need a prayer. The Ducks need to continue revitalizing their offense and to stop taking moronic penalties. The Sharks need to keep it up.
The Stars? They need to play better defense, but more than anything else, they need their all-world goaltender back. Maybe Moog can find him.
Video of every single one of Jonathan Cheechoo's NHL leading, Rocket Richard winning, 56 goals in 2005-06. Tape delayed play-by-play of the Sharks 3-0 win over Tampa Bay is up here. The Sharks recalled forward Jamie McGinn earlier today, head coach Todd McLellan is scheduled for a conference call today at 3:15PM.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I'm not going to predict who's going to win this game, but just as a side note -- I guaran-damn-tee you that Steven Stamkos will get his first NHL point tonight against the Sharks.
Why? It's not the news that he's been bumped to the first power play unit or that coach Barry Mullet wants to expand his ice time. It's because the Sharks have consistently wanted to dabble in the history books by being the team that other teams hit milestones against.
You want specifics? Um, well, much of my brain is still recovering from my friend's Halloween party last night (where I dressed as Robert Smith from The Cure during the era where he wore hockey jerseys; my outfit was complemented by a knock-off Vancouver Canucks jersey with the old orange/red/white skate logo) but I know every time it's announced on a broadcast, I slap my forehead and go, "Not again."
If my coffee kicks in before game time, I'll post some specific memories.
But just sayin'. That's my not-so-bold prediction for today.
I guess it was a result of reading USA Today too often, but I always wanted pie chart functionality on my blog. I will break down a few of the recent scoring trends for San Jose on Sharkspage soon. I was going to try to project the largest number of 20 goal scorers for the Sharks in a few years, but as has happened often when I delve into the numbers it usually disproves the point I am actually trying to make.
There is no live broadcast of Dan Boyle's return to Tampa Bay tonight on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area. There will be a broadcast of the game on the NHL Network (as reported on the Sharks-Florida broadcast last night, my cable guide shows Northern Michigan at Michigan State tonight at 4PM), and Sharks radio play-by-play host Dan Rusanowski breaks down a plethora of radio options for tonights game here.
If you want to go off the board for your hockey viewing today try Yahoo Streaming (Pittsburgh vs New York Rangers), hockeywebcasts.com (Ottawa @ Toronto, Anaheim @ Montreal, Pittsburgh @ NY Rangers, Edmonton @ Vancouver), or channelsurfing.net. You could also subscribe to the NHL's official Game Center (I keep confusing this with ESPN's old GameCast), which has very good video quality and a number of bells and whistles to make it worthwhile. Boycott tsn.ca until they unblock American viewers.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Anaheim Ducks (2-5-0) at
- Ottawa Senators (2-3-1), tonight
- Montreal Canadiens (5-0-1), tomorrow
- Columbus Blue Jackets (3-3-0), Monday
Anyways, in lieu of anything analytical, here's a nice Friday poem to get you through next Monday. Enjoy!
Ode to the Road TripGo Ducks.
O h for the glory of two playoffs ago,
T aking Lord Stanley away from Big O.
T rue, going in the Sens seemed like a beast,
A lfie, Spezz, Heater – they ripped through the east!
W hile both teams have since seen some talent get scattered,
A t least we can say that we won when it mattered.
M on dieu! Les Canadiens, a hearty “whassup?”
O ne hundred years old? I’d better speak up.
N ow I know that SoCal isn’t Original Six,
T hus you probably can’t stand us insufferable pricks,
R eally what scares me is the Habs’ power play,
E specially if the Ducks think penalties are OK,
A nd while fans will drink at the game and in bars,
L et’s not go crazy and start burning cop cars.
C an I keep up this rhyming for one more damn stanza?
O f course! Time for some Blue Jacket bonanza!
L ast NHL team to feel postseason pride,
U gh! They’re still a thorn in the Ducks’ side.
M aybe it’s travel or maybe it’s fate,
B ut the Jackets have sure been tougher of late.
U sually I end with some nonsense prediction
S o Pahlsson scores ‘em all; 3-0 perfection!
Los Angeles Kings (2-3) @ St. Louis Blues (4-2)
5:30 PST, FSN West, FSN Mountain West
Whenever the Kings play the St. Louis Blues I always get uncomfortable. I liked Andy Murray when he was the coach of the Kings, crazy tests notwithstanding, but it gives me a weird vibe every time I see him. It's like when you see an old high school teacher that you thought was cool but now the whole relationship between the two of you has been changed and neither one knows how to act. So you just kind of fumble a hello and then awkwardly explain why the dreams you had in high school are long since dead and they just kind of look at you with that weird cross between wonderment and bewilderment. I don't like it and I just wish it would be over.
The Blues are off to a nice little start, led by Paul Kariya, Keith Tkachuk, Andy MacDonald, and Brad Boyes... wait, what the hell? They're going to tail off, right? There's absolutely no way a playoff team can be led by those 4 doofuses. Anyway, the Blues have been outstanding thus far on the power play, leading the league with a conversion percentage of 40.7%. That's obviously unsustainable, but neither is the Kings' 100% penalty kill so it'll be interesting to see which one breaks first.
The Kings are shuffling up their lines a little bit, skating Kyle Calder alongside Kopitar and Brown for about 12 minutes a game. I really like the way Terry Murray has been using Patrick O'Sullivan. O'Sullivan is skating with Oscar Moller and Jarret Stoll and is doing a good job of driving that line until Jarret Stoll takes a stupid hooking penalty. On top of that, O'Sullivan is taking 4 or 5 shifts a game with Kopitar/Brown, usually in the third, when the Kings need a little extra push. The result is almost 19 minutes a game for O'Sullivan, in line with Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov.
Prediction: Kings win, 4-3. Goals by O'Sullivan, Frolov, Brown and Stoll. Jack and Erik Johnson share a beer and talk about what the hell just happened to their seasons.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Well, I don't know where Brian Burke keeps finding money to spend ("Hey, Samueli's going to jail! Let's blow all of his cash!"), but apparently the Ducks have signed Mr. Yamaguchi to a one-year, $870.5k contract. If you're looking for a cheap, not-very-productive fantasy defenseman, you may have to search under his lesser-known surname, Hedican.
But hey, he's only a dozen games shy of his 1,000th regular season game. We may as well have some reason to celebrate this year (Positivity!).
No, probably not. But still, it's fun to think about. Gaborik, of course, is the talented but oft-injured winger for the Minnesota Wild who apparently hates Minnesota so much that he'd rather die than play there. (Can't say I blame him.) The hot rumor is that Minnesota GM Doug Riesebrough is actively shopping Gaborik and he has called both Los Angeles and Montreal. This isn't really a surprise because the Kings have a lot of great prospects, but there's just no way Lombardi is going to give up anyone of importance for a guy that'll be a free agent. The Kings aren't going to trade for Gaborik when they know they can just sit on their hands in this Lost Season and potentially sign him this off-season, especially when trading for him means giving up something like Alexander Frolov and Thomas Hickey.* Another problem with Gaborik is that you never really know what you're getting: are you getting one of the best players in the game, or are you getting a guy that'll only play 40 games a year? Are you getting both? Luckily for the Kings, they already know what they're getting because they've had him before; only last time, he went by the name Ziggy Palffy.
*Can you imagine Frolov in Lemaire's system though? Mmmm... tasty.
The Kings traded for Ziggy Palffy after the 1999 season for Olli Jokinen (1st round pick), Josh Green (2nd round pick), Mathieu Biron (1st round pick), and a 1st round pick (1st round pick). Like Gaborik, Palffy had a unique blend of speed shooting ability and, like Gaborik, Palffy had a sensitive groin. Palffy spent 5 seasons with the Kings, averaging over a point a game and about 60 games a season. The Kings made the playoffs 3 times in that span, advancing past the 1st round once. The trade for Palffy was ultimately worth it because two of the three prospects they traded were worthless, but the key difference between then and now is the salary cap. Trading for Gaborik and then signing him to a ludicrous deal (which someone will give him VANCOUVER) would fuck everything Dean Lombardi has been building the past 2 1/2 years. The Kings would be cutting a big swath out of their cap space and depleting the cheap talent pool they have to compensate for Gaborik's deal. Dave Taylor made this move; Dean Lombardi won't.
That's not to say that the Kings won't go after Gaborik (or Jay Bouwmeester) this off-season, however. The Kings should have a clear number of their cap picture after they sign Jack Johnson to a 2-year deal or whatever and if they have a chance to upgrade either Alex Frolov or Johnson then they should definitely do it. They can then trade one of those guys for depth. Gaborik is an outstanding player when he's healthy and Lombardi isn't one to let a little injury history deter him from signing a player. This off-season should be pretty interesting for both the Kings and the Ducks.
(Said in my best Tim Gunn voice)
Many goals. Not so many games. That's not good.
While I still feel like there are a number of things to feel really good about with the Sharks, some of the more significant problems are coming to the forefront. Only one of them is a carryover from the Ron Wilson Sharks (which is kinda strange when you think about it considering the makeup of the team); fortunately, they're all kinks that can be worked on if both the coaches and the players are smart about it.
1) Penalty kill: Get the puck out of the zone. Please. Sweet jebus. Didn't we see this enough from Ron's Sharks, especially in the playoffs? Maybe Todd McLellan needs to have an entire practice session focused on effectively clearing the puck using the glass rather than dumping it right to the freakin' point man.
2) Odd-man breakdowns: Ok, I get that we're all trigger happy now with this active defense system. That's good stuff, but please, people, how about we take it one step at a time rather than have every blueliner on the team suddenly think they're Bobby Orr. I'm not sure if it's just bad luck (blocked shots kicking out for odd-man breakdowns), if the responsible forward isn't paying attention when a defenseman pinches in, or if the D aren't properly communicating out there. In any case, Nabby facing two-on-ones all the time isn't a good game plan.
3) Joe Thornton: Joe's "lower-body injury" from the preseason is a groin issue but we don't know how bad it might be -- or how much it's affecting his game. I'm guessing that having him play differently from his "Joe commands the half-boards" position takes some getting used to but I'm also guessing he doesn't have full strength in his legs to protect the puck like he can. If he's hurting, I'd sit him out in at least one of the two Florida (the state, not the team) games. You don't want those lingering groin injuries to carry forward into the season.
(Turning back on the Tim Gunn voice) Make it work, people!
On a different note, I got a sneak peak at what the scrapped BlackArmor (TM) third-jersey ideas are. They're posted over here at my Kukla blog.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The Kings are putting Kyle Calder on the top line in place of Matt Moulson Friday night.
You know that scene in The Happening where the blonde chick just stares forward while she slowly inserts a knitting needle into her neck? I'm pretty sure the Kings are doing that right now.
It's been an eventful month for Avery the unsavory. It started out with Avery's bizarre but absorbing interview with ESPN tart Rachel Nichols where the super-pest hilariously criticized the NHL's marketing (or lack thereof) and spoke of his troubled youth (dominated by stealing dolls from his babysitters and other telltale sign of latent child self-abuse).
Next came Avery's somewhat anti-climactic return to Madison Square Garden. Despite receiving a heavy dose of boos, it was really just another day at the office for Avery as he pestered the Rangers and the Stars won because of Mike Modano's GWG.
Still, Avery might need riot gear tonight as he pays visit to his nemesis Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. You may remember Avery's windshield-wiper maneuver from last year's playoffs - it was such a diabolical move that they often-listless powers that be in the NHL immediately passed "The Avery Rule."
(That became the name of one of my fantasy hockey teams, BTW.)
Say what you want about Avery's tactics ... they clearly got into Brodeur's head. So much so that the normally charming goaltender refused to shake Avery's hand once the series was over. He also may have used Avery's "fatso" remark as motivation to increase his aerobic routine over the off-season.
The question is not whether or not Avery will get booed mercilessly by the crowd in Newark, but rather if someone will throw a pair of windshield wipers at him. Never a dull moment with the former Mr. Elisha Cuthbert, is there?
[11:30 am Sleek edit -- Guest art by commenter Julian.
I don't even know how you managed to find a smiling Carlyle picture, but nicely done!]
Hockey blogging giant Spector named Randy Carlyle among the five head coaches most likely to get shit-canned. Sure, the Ducks started the season like a fart on a first date, but how thin is the ice for Carlyle?
It's hard for me to tell how much of the Ducks' recent greatness could be attributed to the rarely smiling former Norris trophy winner.
Was Carlyle a master tactician or a bus driver? Is he a genius with a mildly hilarious balding Caesar 'do or a fraud whose firing might be one of the last marks of the Brian Burke era?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Nothing says I Love You like a cold Cujo in a shootout.
One thing about Ron Wilson -- he's not a guy who forgets his old friends (nor his potential future boss). There is no such thing as a "filthy two points" in this young Ducks season. Positivity!
Anaheim Ducks (1-5-0, 15th in west) at Toronto Maple Leafs (1-2-2, t-11th in east)
When's the last time you looked longingly at Toronto's record?
(I wasn't asking you, Kings fans.)
Yeah, sometimes I'm lazy enough for a good google image search, so sue me (note to Disney: please don't sue me).
Not too much from me today, as I didn't even get to watch the Carolina outing, but I did want to revisit a post I wrote way back in June that explored the notion of Brian Burke taking a Maple Leafs GM job next summer. I really made two points: (1) Brian Burke has gotten lucky at times, in particular with his acquisitions of Niedermayer, Pronger, and Selanne, and (2) I was fine with Burke leaving, as there is a fairly open roster next year for a replacement GM to work with.
Of course, that latter point isn't looking so strong these days, as the three biggest contracts Burke has locked the Ducks into are:
R. Getzlaf, 6 gp, 0-1-1, -5 — 5 years, $26.625 million
C. Perry, 6 gp, 0-1-1, -4, — 5 years, $26.625 million
C. Kunitz, 6 gp, 0-0-0, -5 — 4 years, $14.9 million
So, using some ridiculous pro-rating math, thus far it's looking like the Ducks will pay some $68.15 million for this trio of forwards to score a combined 0 goals and 137 assists in 1,148 games played. That's just under $500,000 per assist, and I don't even want to mention the combined -888.
Of course, that's all pretty silly math, but the reality remains: the forwards on the Ducks with one or less points on the season are Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz, Selanne, Morrison, and Parros. And the only thing that separates Parros from this group is (a) he's been on the ice for more goals-for (3) than the other five, (b) he has yet to be on the ice for a goal-against, and (c) he's had less than half the ice time of any of them.
I'll mention again the bizarre scoring structure: the top two lines have scored 1 goal, the bottom two lines have scored 8, and the defense has scored 4. When exactly is Carlyle going to shuffle things up?
Prediction: Technically, somebody's getting a second "W" tonight. Ducks 4, Leafs 1. Goals by Kunitz, Scotty, Pahlsson, and Parros. Ron Wilson catches Teemu with another illegal stickblade. Make sure to check out Pension Plan Puppets, Battle of Ontario, and Down Goes Brown for your Toronto perspectives.
[9 am edit -- Our good buddy Michael Dell, who hosts the LCS Radio Show where both Chen and I recently made guest appearances, was so inspired by our 80s TV devotion that he made a list of the NHL's A-Team. A pretty good list, but I still prefer my casting.]
Positivity! Go Ducks.
Monday, October 20, 2008
In case you haven't heard, the Sharks put former 1st rounder Lukas Kaspar on waivers. There's not much to say about it other than Kaspar hasn't really been given much of an opportunity to do much of anything, so it seems rather strange that the team would have him start in the big leagues, only to get sent down to the AHL via waivers six games in.
While Kaspar hasn't exactly set the world on fire, he hasn't been a total disaster like, say, when Jeff Jillson tried to justify his first-round selection. He's made rookie mistakes and he's had one pretty sweet goal against the LA RudyKellys.
Well, since we're all pondering Kaspar's demise, let's take a quick look at who else the Sharks have drafted in the first round. San Jose has this reputation of being excellent drafters but when you look at the list, you see a bunch of good, not great players:
2005: Devin Setoguchi
2004: Lukas Kaspar
2003: Milan Michalek
2002: Mike Morris
2001: Marcel Goc
2000: Tero Maatta
1999: Jeff Jillson
1998: Brad Stuart
1997: Patrick Marleau
1996: Andrei Zyuzin
I think Michalek will peak at being a 70-point guy and Setoguchi's certainly got the hands and speed to be a 35-goal guy. Goc? Well, I suppose there's always a need for a reasonably reliable defensive fourth-line center. Brad Stuart's a solid defenseman but he didn't turn into the stud everyone anticipated while Andrei Zyuzin's waiver-wire fodder.
The exception here, of course, is Marleau, who can be somewhere between good and great depending on when you take a snapshot of his career. I don't think Marleau ever had the goods to be an Art Ross kind of guy but he's definitely turning into a more well-rounded and gritty player than I ever thought he'd be.
Los Angeles Kings (2-2) vs. Colorado Avalanche (2-3)
7:30 PST, FSN West
Brian Boyle is 24 years old. While others from his draft class are firmly established NHL players by now (Dustin Brown and Patrick O'Sullivan, for example), Boyle is still struggling to find his place in the league. Boyle doesn't have the speed or the hands to really become a top offensive player so the plan was to get him used to playing in a bottom role. The Kings only played him about 9 minutes a game in preseason in hopes that he could adjust and use his body more. The Kings hoped that Boyle join forces with Derek Armstrong and Raitis Ivanans to become a terror to opposing teams.
Instead, Boyle's line has been embarrassing and Boyle has accrued a -4 rating in 3 games. That's awful when you consider that Boyle has been playing sheltered minutes and he's only played in home games so far. I think the problem isn't that Boyle isn't using his body like the Kings have asked; the problem is that he doesn't know when it's appropriate. Being physical in hockey isn't just about being able to knock a guy down, it's about being able to knock a guy down and affecting the play. Boyle seems uncomfortable out there because he is playing a completely new role. I think he'll figure it out, because Boyle is a solid player, but right now he needs to either get sent down to Manchester or given a new role on the team.
Do you ever wonder why Earl doesn't let anyone write about the Coyotes on this site? This is why.
The Avalanche have averaged 4 goals for and 3.8 goals against so far this season. Ruggedly handsome Joe Sakic and just plain rugged Paul Stastny each have a goal and 7 assists this season, but the numbers I like to see are these:
Andrew Raycroft- 2 GP, 3.00 GAA, .875 SV%
Peter Budaj- 3 GP, 4.38 GAA, .824 SV%
I bet Sakic hates both of those guys. Peter Budaj is getting the start tonight.
Prediction: Kings win, 8-6. Goals by Kopitar (x3), Handzus (x2), Frolov, Simmonds and Moller. Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft are "accidentally" left in LA after the game.
The Sharks 5-4 overtime win on Saturday night was an entertaining affair, with new defenseman Dan Boyle contributing to the game tying and game winning goals respectively. It was Boyle who fired 2 of the Sharks 5 shots in an earlier 5-on-3 man advantage, Boyle who split 2 Flyers and pulled up in front of a third to create the game tying goal sequence, and it was Boyle who drove the net in overtime and hammered home a hard feed from Thornton to give the Sharks a win and a 5-1 start on the season.
The Flyers are a bit of a conundrum at this point. They have some injuries on defense, and they brought in a hulking Andrew Alberts from Boston who took a number of shifts, but they had more than enough opportunities to lock down a difficult road win. Instead they opted to go eye-for-eye, check-for-check with San Jose and they got burned. The physical element to the game kicked off early in the first period when defenseman Rob Blake checked Scott Hartnell hard into the post. It was a clean play to prevent a rebound opportunity, but Downie/Staubitz and two other Flyers jumped into a scrum behind the net. Devin Setoguchi scored the game tying goal, but he also destroyed Scottie Upshall with a check in the defensive zone, and crumpled Hartnell with a check near the penalty box late in the third. Hartnell took offense, and came after Setoguchi with a stick high to the head that connected about 3 feet from where I was sitting.
What was noticeable was the speed at which he came in on the play, and the fact that the puck had already been played around the boards. Too many bodies between the ref and the hit, or they were focusing on another part of the ice are the only reasons I can think of for that non-call. There was also a NHL statistican error, as one of the players was left in the box longer that 2 minutes (+20 seconds). I was on the other side of the ice, so I do not have the details, but there was a stoppage in play so it was not a major problem. Another example of the speed of the play is the shot of Patrick Marleau checking Mike Knuble in the third photo above. A split second before that picture neither player were in the field of view, a split second after that photo both players were crumpled against the end boards. That hit happened at full speed, as Marleau prevented Knuble from driving the net to create a scoring opportunity.
In the second photo the puck looks like it is traveling into the net, or wide to the right. It actually trickled a few inches wide to the left on the play. Niitmayki was solid on the night, stopping 40 of 45 shots, but his one mistake on a harmless Joe Pavelski shot from the blueline (with the Flyers best 2 defenseman on him) resulted in an 8 foot rebound in front. Pavelski jumped on the loose puck and hammered home a goal early in the third period to spark the Sharks comeback. Niitmayki was solid before that play with spectacular stops on Thornton and Boyle, and after that play with a little over 2 minutes left when he robbed Cheechoo with a highlight reel glove save. The Sharks were 1-7 on the power play, and adjustments are needed. Several times I noted that San Jose only had one player in front of the net, and the radio broadcast noted they were setting up too far off the goaltender. Joe Thornton initiating play behind the net may become too much of a routine as coming off the half boards last year. New head coach Todd McLellan mentioned several times he wanted Thornton to drive the net with the puck, and that he also wants more players on other lines to crash the net (like Jonathan Cheechoo).
Battle of California (0-0-0) vs. Behind the Jersey (0-0-0)
Round One -- Single Elimination
I really should have been promoting this semi-event more (I've had it in the sidebar for a few weeks, I think), but I guess BoC was one of the last entries in the field. Anyhoo, the NHL Arena messageboards are running an online Battle of the Blogosphere, where 128 blogs are stacked head-to-head in an NCAA-style vote-off for a champion. You can read about it here.
Before I link to the list of match-ups, though, I do want to mention a few things, and first is a quick profile of why you should vote for BoC's first round adversary, Behind the Jersey. If you're unfamiliar with the site, Christy Hammond is a Red Wings blogger, and if information is your game, she's all over it. Take a scan of her posts, and check out her profile page, and you'll see that she loves her Wings pretty dearly. And while I'm a guy who holds plenty of hate for Wings fans, that's never an issue with Christy.
You may notice that I've had BTJ in an exclusive group on the sidebar called "BoC Inspirations", which I guess I should explain a bit. It's not meant to be a "best of" list or anything (there's plenty of blogs not listed there that you should definitely be tracking -- Puck Daddy, The PensBlog, FHF1, FHF2), but it definitely includes some of the best. Really what the "Inspirations" listing represents is the sites that turned Sleek into a blogger today (plus I added Fanhouse when they paid me to draw cartoons). The primary reason why BTJ made that list was because of the series that Christy ran, Behind the Blog. It's one series that I'd recommend any aspiring blogger to read (especially the questions about "Why do you blog?" and "What advice would you give?"), because I think it offers plenty of great perspectives -- I know I was influenced especially by the BoA take and Mirtle's offering, plus here's one by our pal Mike Chen (and one on PJ here).
Anyways, I've been stalling long enough -- here's the Battle of the Blogosphere. Be warned, it is a long listing, and I don't recommend voting for each and every contest. My advice? Scan the list, pick out your favorites, cast a vote (registration is free), and when you're satisfied, stop. Here's where you can win, though -- if you catch yourself on the trailing side in any poll, it's probably worth giving the other entrant a read. Of course, I don't assume that this Battle of the Blogosphere will categorically determine anything (popularity contests rarely do), but that's not to say it's a waste of time; it does at least offer a wide glimpse of the variety of fan sites out there. What's stunning to me, actually, is how many quality blogs aren't even in the running -- this blogosphere experiment grows and improves by the week, it seems.
If you'd rather skip all that and just push BoC to round two so I can campaign for another quality opponent, though (or eliminate BoC so I don't write about this again), here's the direct link for BTJ vs BoC.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
The Kings signed defenseman Matt Greeene to a 5-year deal worth about $2.95 million dollars, ensuring that they'll always be able to balance out all their good puck-moving defensemen with a guy that couldn't handle the puck if you taped it to his stick. This is a weird deal. I've liked what I've seen from Matt Greene so far and he could very well be worth this kind of contract, but why give it to him now? Why not wait until the end of the season and see how Greene holds up? Apparently if Patrick O'Sullivan wanted a big deal from the Kings he should have gotten hurt for most of last season.
The Kings are hoping Matt Greene will eventually become just like Sean O'Donnell was on the Ducks, a solid defensive defenseman that can skate on a primary shutdown line with Jack Johnson while also chipping in 3+ minutes on the penalty kill. The name thrown around for Greene when he was with the Oiler was Jason Smith and that doesn't seem that unreasonable. Still, Greene is a long way away from proving he's actually capable of that. I mean, he's capable of that on a poor defensive team like the Kings, but is he capable of that on a playoff team? Maybe, but nobody knows yet. Now, we have seen that the market for defensemen that don't fuck up is pretty lucrative, so if Greene pans out then the Kings are going to make out okay. But that's the problem; at best, the Kings make out okay. There's no possibility that this deal is going to work out great. It's either just okay or terrible. It's a pretty big risk to take.
Michal Handzus, hockey god? The oft-mocked and ridiculed center has been making all the assholes (read: me) that made fun of him last season look like idiots. It's only 4 games but Handzus looks like an honest to God bad ass out there. He had a great chip-in goal while driving to the net (something I dont' think happened last season) and made a beautiful dangle and shot to win the game last night in overtime. The Frolov-Handzus-Simmonds line actually managed to win the battle with Eric Staal's line and Frolov didn't even create a goal. I've made my fun of Handzus in the past (he looks like Matt Stone from South Park... dammit, did it again!) but if he can play like this all season then the Kings are looking in good shape.
Wayne Simmonds also looked great last night, as he was basically the only Kings' player that could get the puck deep into Carolina's zone. He also set up the first goal of the game with his physical play. I imagine that's not the last time we'll see that.
Jarret Stoll's line looked like shit last night, especially when the Kings moved Patrick O'Sullivan (who was awesome again) up to Kopitar's wing and moved Matt Moulson down. I still think the Kings need Ted Purcell back up to help create offensive chances for that line, otherwise teams are just going to key in on Kopitar. A Moulson-Stoll-Purcell line isn't that bad and could serve as a secondary scoring or stopping line.
Kyle Quincey played 21 minutes last night and I didn't really notice. That's good.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Oh, wait! This team is only "mostly dead".
Wow. What a fucking game! Who would have guessed that I could attend a Ducks/Sharks game where Joe Thornton fought but Jody Shelley wouldn't? Great work by Steve Montador and Brad May in each instance.
Add in a Giguere shutout and a Pahlsson out-of-the-box breakaway goal (plus I didn't lose my wallet), and guess what I'm feeling? Some goddamn positivity!
I have to run to meet up for the game tonight, but this absolutely sucks. The Oilers brass, in an effort to give their pressbox the charm of a low-security prison, have not only prevented CiO's Dave from not only liveblogging from that lofty perch (which he seemed willing enough to do when condescendingly lectured), but have basically ruined the will of one of the Oilogosphere's faithful to even root for the team.
I haven't thought this through very well, but basically, Goddamn it.
Los Angeles Kings (1-2, meh) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (2-1, 4 pts)
7:30 PST, FSN West, FSN South
Do me a favor: reach into my pants. No, in the front. Do you feel that? No, that's my phone. Left. Yeah, right there. That's a boner. That's what Frolov playing defense does to me. Hey, shut up, we can't all be Dustin Brown. You know what, forget it, just get out of there.
The point is, I'm very excited by this pronouncement by Terry Murray that Alex Frolov will skate with Michal Handzus on the prime defensive line for the Kings. The traditional NHL line is that you have to have 2 scoring lines, a checking line and then a goon line. Look at the Ducks for an example of this and see how well this works. The reality, however, is that guys aren't either good at offense or good at defense; guys can be good at both and they can suck at both. There are guys like Sammy Pahlsson, who's great at defense but couldn't score if you put a passed out coed in his hotel room, but most of the time the top defensive unit is populated by failed offenisve talents like Kyle Calder. Alex Frolov is a talented offensive player but he's also the best defensive forward on the team. He's good not only at positional defense and stripping the puck, but he's also great at protecting the puck in the offensive zone and keeping the puck away from the opposing team. A guy like Ryan Getzlaf or Olli Jokinen can't do much damage if they don't have the puck. Placing Frolov against top offensive guys will definitely help the Kings.
What does this mean for Frolov? Well, it means his +/- might take a little hit and he might not score quite as many points, but overall it'll make him a better player and it'll help the team. I imagine the Kings will move Matt Moulson down to the Frolov-Handzus line when Patrick O'Sullivan is ready to go, or move O'Sullivan to that line to create an ultimate offensive-checking unit. That would definitely put me at full mast.
The Kings are playing Carolina tonight in an important grudge match. Nah, just kidding, I don't think either side really cares. But hey, Tim Gleason! I liked Tim Gleason when he was on the Kings and he's done well for Carolina. Still, his face is squishy and I hope Dustin Brown buries him tonight.
Prediction: Kings win, 4-2. Goals by Frolov, Handzus, Moulson and Doughty. Eric Staal's eyes will be too close together.
San Jose Sharks (4-0) at Anaheim Ducks (0-4)
Battle of the Western Conference Extremes
Ain't the Ducks a bunch of sweethearts? I mean, some fans are forced to watch their team get a season's first victory on TV, but the Ducks have managed to work things out so that I can come experience it in person. That's right, it's time for another Sleek sighting at the ol' Honda Center, sporting the lucky green shirt and drunk-yelling "Positivity!" from Row B. If you're attending the game and want to say hi, you can probably catch me during the intermissions in the lower-level concourse furthest from Katella Avenue.
Now you might think that I'm terrified or worried about tonight's game, but to tell you the truth, I've already attended it -- five years ago, if you can believe it. (Uh-oh, flashback.) If you recall, optimism was very high back in the start of the 2003-04 season. The Mighty Ducks were fresh off an upstart Stanley Cup G7, and even though Oates and Kariya had departed during the summer, their vacancies seemed decently filled with the signings of Fedorov and Prospal. High hopes came crashing back to earth early, however, as the 03-04 Mighty Ducks began their post-Finals-appearance season with a horrific 0-4 start, getting outscored by the whopping margin of 12 to 2 (!).
I don't recall how I managed to score tickets to the fifth game, but I do remember conflicting feelings about the start of the season. Was this Ducks team, such a giant-killer last spring, all of a sudden the worst team in the league? How was I supposed to react to the team's horrid start in my first Pond visit since the miracle run?
For the record, the Mighty Ducks ended up with a mixed result in the game I attended. They did pick up their first standing point of the season, but fell in overtime to Joe Thornton's
Sharks Bruins. The thing I remember most about that night wasn't anything that happened on the ice, however, but rather it was the moment I got home and realized that I no longer was carrying a wallet. In my eager (younger) attempt to drown the Ducks' struggles in liquid amnesia, I apparently had left it sitting on the beer counter after flashing my ID. If anyone does recall finding a wallet that night (the Pond had zero clue the next day), now you know the secret identity of Mr. Sleek -- and if you're feeling particularly malicious, I never did get around to cancelling that Blockbuster Video card.
Now I'm not exactly sure why I decided to bring up that story -- it's certainly a very different Ducks team than it was five years ago, and I don't even think the parallel 0-4 records signify the same problems. One thing that I do notice, however, is that I'm a much less panicked fan this time around. Maybe I've grown up a bit, maybe I'm disillusioned a bit, who knows? I do think that one of the Ducks' TV guys (Bill MacDonald, maybe?) brought up a helpful point after the Oilers loss, though. It wouldn't be that difficult to shrug off a 4-game losing streak if it happened in the middle of the season, and I'll add it's preferable to mourn in October than in April.
So regardless of early-season records, I figure I'll be in good spirits tonight. Sure, I'll be drinking (it's still me), but instead of a drown-my-sorrows attitude from five years ago, tonight's just an exciting matchup on what promises to be a crazy-season roller coaster ride. Oddly enough, I think the 0-4 start has actually been a little bit liberating; I'd probably be more stressed about tonight's result if the teams had identical records.
Anyways, if you're following the game on TV, feel free to join Mr. Plank's interactive liveblog over at We Bleed Teal. Sharks fans, Ducks fans, wayward Kings fans, disheartened Angel/Dodger fans -- all are welcome, I'm sure. If the puck goes near the Ducks' penalty box and you spot a green shirt on the bottom of your TV set, though, make sure to give him a "Positivity!" shoutout. Every little bit counts.
Prediction: Sleek manages to hold onto his wallet this time, and that makes all the difference. Ducks 4, Sharks 3. Goals by Carter, Getzlaf, Pahlsson, and Pronger.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Here's Derek Armstrong, Denis Gauthier, Kyle Calder and Dustin Brown on The Price is Right:
(Video taken down because it's annoying)
It's funny, but little did Calder know that he was brought just so he could be neutered. It's for the best.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Absolutely nothing is working for the top lines of the Ducks, but the bottom two lines are thriving. Rob N., Pahlsson, Moen, Marchant, Carter, May, Parros, and Sutherby -- those eight players have combined for 6 goals and 8 assists, and Carter, May, and Parros are each +3 -0 at even strength.
Getzlaf, Kunitz, Perry, Selanne, and Morrison? That fivesome has but 1 goal and 1 assist between them (not even on the same goal), a collective +3 -17 at even strength, plus they're taking a whackload of stupid frustration penalties.
So why not mix it up? I know that the Ducks looked pretty good for most of tonight, but what's the downside in trying this?
Marchant - Morrison - Perry
Moen - Pahlsson - Niedermayer
May - Carter - Sutherby - Parros
There's obviously a lot of room for shuffling, but should Carlyle just stop forcing Getzlaf-Perry and Morrison-Selanne? Can changing primary partners help ignite what's been so far an awfully stale offense? I don't necessarily like it as a long-term solution, mind you, but maybe it's worth a try.
Positivity! Go Ducks.
Only had a few minutes in the third period to take photos, but here are a couple shots from the game. A few more notes and photos from Tuesday night are here.
A few things I like about Terry Murray:
-He puts Frolov, Brown and Kopitar on the penalty kill when they haven't played in a while and paired them for a shift when Frolov got out of the box
-He's trusting his young guys and giving them playing time in important situations: Doughty is playing 20 minutes a game, Moller is getting regular time on the power play, and Simmonds is getting regular minutes with Alex Frolov
-He seems to have instilled a team commitment to defense that is actually working and players are actually sticking up for one another
A few random thoughts about last night's game:
-Patrick O'Sullivan was again excellent. Since the Kings only have 2 games in the next 9 days, I imagine the Kings will work O'Sullivan in with one of the top 2 lines.
-Dustin Brown has been asserting himself a lot more carrying the puck, but I don't think Kopitar is comfortable moving without the puck. And Brown pasted Sammy Pahlsson in one of the best hits you're going to see.
-Tom Preissing and Michal Handzus are still overpaid but actually look pretty good out there.
-Jarret Stoll has a shot.
-Jason Labarbera is playing pretty well. Sure, he still gives up a few bad rebounds and he's not a great scrambler, but he's stands big in the net and gives his defensemen confidence.
-What the hell has gotten into Derek Armstrong? He's really mad all the time. I hope everything's okay at home.
-The Ducks looked terrible.