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

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ducks Gameday—Oh, you Oilers

Anaheim Ducks (12-10-4, t-4th in west) at Edmonton Oilers (10-14-1, t-14th in west)

I made this poster earlier this summer, but it was a pretty flimsy concept: "Hm, doesn't the name 'Penner' look kind of like the name 'Potter'?" It's not the strongest graphic to ever make its way to this blog, but considering I got nothing else ready today, it seems more than appropriate.

Dustin Penner's counting stats thus far this season have been fairly mediocre: 25 gp, 4 g, 7 a, -1. Of course, it might not be that surprising if you took a look at his last 25 games in a Duck uniform (mostly playoffs): 25 gp, 4 g, 5 a, +3. That Anaheim stretch includes Penner going scoreless throughout the month of May, something that's likely to be repeated this year unless the Oilers get some magical boost in the standings.

It's not really that Penner's useless on the ice, but he's got to be played very carefully—he's a big-bodied passenger, one who will neither be very useful in backchecking nor will be the catalyst in the offensive end. He's incredibly strong along the boards and somewhat capable with the puck, but in terms of his overall contribution, it is pretty reliant on his linemates' ability to do most of the skating, defense, and puckhandling for him, and is best utilized against pretty soft competition. These drawbacks are pretty overlookable when the big guy plays for league minimum; however with a huge paycheck in a salary-capped league, the flaws get a lot more scrutiny (see also: Bertuzzi).

Often-ignored upside: Dustin Penner kills terrorists!

I don't really want to get too critical of Oiler management (the Oilosphere has that more than covered), but the one aspect that strikes me the most about the Penner offer sheet: if I'm a GM that has publicly admitted his team's inability to attract UFAs, I wouldn't be in the business of driving up RFA salaries at the expense of UFA salaries. Sure, with the CBA being what it is, I'm sure eventually the stigma around offer sheets would have eventually disappeared, but still, it is significant that Kevin Lowe did trigger this market shift. Probably the best thing Edmonton has going for it is a solid group of young, entry-level talent; jumping the offer-sheet gun seems only to paint a dark future for keeping it together. And heck, thanks to Lowe getting desperate in the Pronger deal and the Penner deal, even a bottom finish by the $50M-payroll, injury-plagued Oilers won't yield them anything—the Ducks hold the Oiler's 1st round pick, while Lowe will pick based on Anaheim's finish.

To be fair, nothing really should be judged on the Penner offer sheet until year three or so; the five-year contract was more a long-term gamble than a short-term one, and it's entirely possible that Hemsky and friends learn to use the big body of Penner effectively or that he improves on his weaknesses and gets much more worth his salary (he still is rather new at this league). Also, it will be better gauged after we see what Burke does with his picks—I've seen little evidence so far that Burke is a draft wizard; at least nobody he's drafted so far seems willing to make the big league roster.

Anyway, I'm getting rambly; feel free to offer your Penner-thoughts or Edmonton-reaction in the comments. Meanwhile, from the Oilblog angle (one that you have to respect--nobody's had a fall from grace like they have), Covered in Oil put together a nice Oiler-drinking game for tonight; I especially like the suggestion in the comments: "Drink every time Dustin Penner looks tired."

Prediction: Ducks 3, Oilers 2. The CinO-reading crowd gets filthy drunk. Goals by McDonald, Pahlsson, and Getzlaf.

Go Ducks.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Battle of California, Kings-Sharks photos

Here are a few photos from the Kings 3-2 OT shootout win over the Sharks last night at HP Pavilion. There was a lot of negative comments made after the shootout loss, but the Sharks did come back late in recent games against Anaheim and LA, they just can't get it done in the shootout.

San Jose is 1-4 this season in shootouts, and 4-13 all time (worst in the NHL). Evgeni Nabokov has to get over the poke check strategy in a shootout, it rarely works, and head coach Ron Wilson needs to get creative with who he selects to take shots. If the big guns are not firing, ice Rob Davison, Sandis Ozolinsh and Curtis Brown. Try anything, because what they are trying now is not working.

There were reporters from ESPN, the Canadian Press, the Globe and Mail, and a few other national sources, and Toronto Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. was in the press box. After this type of loss, with this amount of media and the Board of Governors meeting today and tomorrow in Pebble Beach, expect the Sharks rumor mill to hit the fan.

A few more notes from the game are up here. War Rudy Kelly's blog posts without f-bombs.

The San Jose Sharks Have the Worst Fans in Hockey

Couldn't they just give San Jose the loss and save everyone some time?

Right? Remember when they were winning at home all the time and everyone was saying how great their fans were? I do. I couldn’t go 5 feet without listening to some San Joseer bragging about how great they were and how San Jose fans are more cultured and understood how to support their team better than the fans in Los Angeles and Anaheim. Now that they have fewest wins at home in the NHL (along with 3 losses to the Kings there this season), that means that their fans suck now, right? I mean, it’s not like you can take credit when your team wins and then blame them when they lose, right? That would be crazy and illogical.* Tough break, San Jose.


How badass is Jason Labarbera? Lost in the Kings’ woes the past two weeks has been the stellar play of… Labs? Labby? This guy needs a good nickname. I prefer “Nolte,” after his profile shot, but that’s just me. I mean, the guy’s sporting stats like 2.49 GAA and a .917 SV%, and it’s not because of the Kings’ defensive play or anything like that. The craziest thing is that he’s posting those stats and still has a sub-.500 record. If I told you at the beginning of the season that the Kings would get good goaltending and still lose, what would you have said? Well, you probably would have called me gay, because you’re a dick. Fuck you man, I don’t even know why I hang out with you sometimes.

Nice game Jas- oh, I'm sorry sir, I thought you were someone else.


What do you guys think of Michal Handzus? I think he’s kinda getting dicked over. Sure, he hasn’t played great so far (although I think he’s picked up his game of late), but I saw that the guys on Versus said he was the biggest free-agent bust of the year so far. The guy is coming off major knee surgery and hadn’t played in a year! There are two injuries I accept in hockey: injuries to your knee and your head. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to walk confidently after wrecking your knee, let alone skate. I know he’s getting paid $4 million this year and that’s probably too much, but I’ll give him this year to get back into shape. If he’s leading team in penalty minutes this time next year then I’ll be first in line to flagellate the son of a bitch. (No, FLAGELLATE. Look it up and get your mind out of the gutter.)


I don’t really have any hard evidence to back this up or anything, but I’m convinced that Milan Michalek did vile things to Jack Johnson’s mother some time in the past. That’s the only way to explain Jack’s actions every time we play the Sharks. He tried to kill Michalek two weeks ago by jumping at his head, and last night he gave Michalek the mother of all face washings because Michalek… stood there? It’s nice to see Jack play with a little bit of an edge, but why is it only against Milan?

*My craaazy friend Megalodon thinks the Sharks aren’t playing well at home because they’re young and nervous to play in front of the home crowd. Sure why not.

Ducks Flameday—Misery loves company

Anaheim Ducks (11-10-4, t-8th in west) at Calgary Flames (10-12-3, 12th in west)

As rotten as things feel in Duckland, I still gotta take comfort that the Ducks remain ahead in the standings of the other two most recent western conference champions (and next two opponents)—the Flames and the Oilers—for now, at least. Talk to fans of any of these recent-glory teams and you'll find a sad tale of disappointment, inconsistency, and general frustration.

I guess I should qualify, as to the naked eye, the Ducks seem to have had an excellent November thus far (7-3-2), but it is a very deceptive record. In the last six weeks (16 games), the Ducks have managed to beat only two teams in regulation—the Kings twice (in three tries) and the Coyotes once (in four tries). Sure, they are finding ways to sneak standings points, but it doesn't appear to be sustainable nor does it suggest anything positive for any playoff success, should they even qualify.

Meanwhile, the Flames have suffered a rotten month of November, both on the ice as well as in the standings. They are 4-8-0 so far this month, and have allowed the 2nd-most 3rd period goals during that stretch (16 3rd period GA over 12 games). Kiprusoff has been a big problem, it seems, though his November stats (2.94 GAA, .879 sv%) aren't very much different from his whole-season stats (2.96 GAA, .886 sv%).

Did you see how angry Mike Keenan got when he had to yank Kipper from the last game?

Anyway, for some Flames perspective, you can always check out the Flame-o-sphere: Matt at Battle of Alberta, Metrognome & friends at Five Hole Fanatics, RealDeal Hockey, HG at double d(ion), Completely Hammered, and Open Ice Hits. One of these days I'll organize our unhelpful sidebar, but that promise is as flimsy as Scott Niedermayer telling us he'll reveal his retirement plans by the end of November (uh, tomorrow, I guess?).

Hey, but somebody's got to win tonight. Maybe it will even be a turn-around game for one of these two squads. In fact, I've got an idea of how everyone can come away a winner.

Prediction: Flames 24, Ducks 2. Calgary comes away with a monumental win, starting its stretch of 12-straight unbeaten. But the real winner is Anaheim, whose pitiful play finally earns a sympathy unretirement from Scott (and if we're really lucky, a sympathy retirement from Bertuzzi). Ducks goals by Pahlsson and Moen.

Go Ducks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This is Like Deja Vu All Over Again....Yogi Berra

I turn on the game tonight and basically predicted what would happen. No Frolov, Cammalleri, or Modry. Sharks come out strong and only score 1 goal. They decide to take the 2nd period off and lose in a shootout. Anyone else seen this movie before? I could not believe it but I actually got off the couch at the end of OT since I knew what would happen. I swear other teams get to OT and think to themselves "why should we push forward when we have this game already in hand once we get to the shootout." At this point I say just throw 3 forwards and Ozo on the ice during OT and go for it. Hell, pull Nabby and play 5 forwards in OT...ok I'm kidding (sorta)

If you missed it, President and CEO Greg Jamison pulled RWilson aside after practice and had a closed door meeting after practice. Why was this unusual you ask? First, Jamison decided to do this right before Rwilson was to speak to the media leading to speculation of a tongue lashing. For the record, both Wilson and Jamison said they spoke about possible rules changes they would talk about during the Board of Governor's meeting going on Thurs/Fri at Pebble Beach. The more interesting fact to me was the timing of this meeting and that is occurred while the hockey world and hockey writers converged on the Bay Area. It will be interesting to see what comes of these meetings especially regarding the scheduling issue. Interesting things usually happen when all the GM's get together. The Sharks have cap space, an inconsistent team and a coach on shaky ground. You never know what will happen in between rounds of golf. Heck, if Brett Hull can be a co-GM, why can't we bring in Pat Falloon to coach?

Random Impromptu Liveblog: Kings @ Sharks

10:13 PM: Never mind. Another shootout loss. Well, that's it for me and my impromptu liveblog. So far this new Roenick jersey isn't that lucky. Hopefully I got out all the bad mojo before I wear it at a game.

10:12 PM: God damn it, I hate the shootout when the Sharks are in it. It's fun every other time to watch. Thank you Little Joe for tying it up.

10:11 PM: Nabby's stupid poke check move only works like 1% of the time. Sure, it looks cool when it does, but it still never works. No fivehole for Michalek.

10:09 PM: JR channels the power of my jersey and SCORES! And he didn't even do the beanpot move he and Tony Amonte always did.

10:08 PM: Oh man, Randy and Drew are referencing the Seinfeld episode when George Costanza decided to do everything Bizarro and he started getting things his way. That's why I love these guys.

10:06 PM: My shooters if I'm Ron Wilson -- throw everyone off and go with Roenick, Ozolinsh, and Mitchell.

10:04 PM: I get the sense that Torrey Mitchell can't quite control himself at top speed. He always looks like he's about to just fly off in a random direction or pull off the sweetest move off all time. As Yoda once said, control, control, you must learn control!

10:03 PM: Sandis Ozolinsh, master forechecker.

10:01 PM: Hey, Wilson's listening to me, pairing Marleau and Michalek together.

9:59 PM: Drew Remenda's talking about electrolytes in Gatorade. If you ever want a really funny take on that, rent a movie called Idiocracy by Mike Judge.

9:57 PM: Doh. Stupid overtime. Please oh please, no shootout.

9:55 PM: If I'm Wilson, I let Marleau and Thornton skate together for the last minute.

9:51 PM: For you LA fans, Drew Remenda REALLY likes the nickname Anze Kopi-STAR.

9:49 PM: Another power play. Let's bring it home, boys. Seriously. No more shootouts. Please.

9:48 PM: Stupid Marleau and his stupid deke move that never works. Try something different, Patty!

9:46 PM: In my beginner hockey class way back when, they taught us to only have one forechecker in during a shorthanded situation. But I'm guessing that Mike Grier and Joe Thornton are a little better than the guys in that class.

9:43 PM: Is "plethora of stupid penalties" synonymous with "mental toughness"?

9:41 PM: I can't believe I'm saying this but...good tough 5 on 3 kill by Christian Ehrhoff.

9:40 PM: 5 on 3. This isn't good.

9:38 PM: Bad penalty by Craig Rivet. Selfish, stupid, undisciplined. That's it, he's off the Fellowship of the Leadership Council.

9:35 PM: Tim Hunter is waving his arms behind the bench. He's probably saying, "Jesus, JR, don't you know Mike bought your jersey and is wearing it as he liveblogs? Give him a point!"

9:33 PM: A Quiet Riot/hockey story to share. When I went to Toronto with my buddies, we sat behind some angry old Leaf fans at the ACC. I was saying something about the game when the old dude turned to me and said, "What do YOU know about hockey? Try putting on some skates before you say anything." To which I said, "Actually, I DO play hockey," and promptly got the guy to shut up. A few minutes later, Quiet Riot came over the PA and my buddy said in his loudest voice possible, "Mike, what do YOU know about Quiet Riot?" I still chuckle about that to this day.

9:32 PM: They're playing Quiet Riot on the PA. Do you think they had a moment of silence for the lead singer who died?

9:30 PM: Forward Rob Davison goes offside. His excuse? "I'm just doing what Nils Ekman told me to do."

9:28 PM: YES! Finally woke up -- and Cheechoo and Marleau are actually on the ice for a goal. Too bad they don't get help for their +/- rating, but whatever. Ever notice how Craig Rivet always looks sad even when he scores?

9:26 PM: Big Johnson hits the box. Time to score.

9:25 PM: God damn it Cheech. Keep going, boys.

9:23 PM: Penalty to ex-Shark Brad Stuart. Here's the chance. Sidenote -- one of my buddies used to sit next to an obsessed Brad Stuart fan who painted her nails "7BRAD STUART". She was known as the "Brad Stuart Ho".

9:22 PM: 3rd Period, here we go...

9:21 PM: I'm really sick of the term "mental toughness." Probably because the Sharks don't seem to have any.

9:17 PM: How I'm changing the mojo: I realize that I was wearing a sweater UNDER my JR jersey. That's a no-no. Now it's just a t-shirt and the Roenick jersey. I've also scooted my laptop over to a different position and got a soda.

9:14 PM: Right now, I'd try a few shifts of Thornton/Seto/JR and Marleau/Michalek/Pavelski. When Marleau and Michalek get their legs pumping, they're at their best, and Pavelski's much more savvy than I usually give him credit for.

9:10 PM: NHLPA head honcho Paul Kelly's being interviewed: "I think we owe it to the fans to work out problems as professionally as possible." Professionally = negotiation, communication, partnership, compromise, NOT name calling and finger pointing.

9:05 PM: Intermission -- time to check on the sick wife. Be right back.

9:04 PM: I think Patrick Marleau's like one of those video game characters where you only have so many points to distribute in his attributes. You increase his faceoffs and his offensive attributes decrease.

9:02 PM: God freakin' damn it. Am I psychic or do the Sharks just fall into bad patterns?

8:59 PM: FYI, right after the game, I'm going to watch Project Runway on Tivo. I love that show -- and I bet those contestants could design a better jersey than the Sharks designers.

8:58 PM: Come on Patty, do something besides turn it over or bobble the freakin' puck.

8:57 PM: Sharks strategy: Get the puck. Pass around the perimeter. Hold it at the point. Pass around the perimeter. Turn it over. Repeat.

8:55 PM: You know, Pebble Beach is within driving distance. Maybe I need to make some suggestions...

8:55 PM: Drew Remenda and I agree -- put Curtis Brown in the lineup every night, even just for PK/4th line minutes.

8:53 PM: Hooking calls require the stick to actually hook the guy rather than just brushing by him, right? I know, I know, hindsight and instant replay are 20/20.

8:53 PM: Is Jack Johnson going to earn the nickname Big Johnson or is that too late 80's/early 90's to be funny?

8:52 PM: Craig Rivet on the bench: "Bla bla bla work hard, stay positive bla bla bla bad bounce keep working bla bla bla generic cliche #15"

8:51 PM: If Rob Davison can be a forward, I have some guys on my beer league team who should get a shot at playing left wing.

8:48 PM: Oh, bloody hell. You idiots.

8:47 PM: I love how Sandis Freakin' Ozolinsh spends more time in the slot area than any forward.

8:45 PM: Well, that was a useless shift. However, even though Cheech has never exactly been a smooth skater, his crossovers and turns look totally awkward (yes, even worse than usual), like he's playing beginner beer league down at Logitech Ice. There were those rumblings about his groin/hernia not fully recovering, and I'm beginning to believe it. You don't just lose that sort of innate scoring ability and shot unless something's REALLY jacking up your timing and ability to create space.

8:44 PM: Here comes Cheechoo...

8:43 PM: Random fact: one of my best friends has a man-crush on Milan Michalek.

8:40 PM: HOLDING? How does Murray hold him if he never takes his hands off his stick? Not to sound like a homer, but just sayin'...

8:39 PM: Sharks/Avs promo. Do we really need to see all billion Colorado goals against the Sharks again?

8:37 PM: Big Murray goes to the box. On Tivo instant replay, I see that he DIDN'T take his hand off the stick. He did, however, wave his arms in disgust.

8:35 PM: On Jonathan Cheechoo's next shift, I'm going to just focus on him and see if I can get a sense of an injury.

8:34 PM: Jebus, Joe Thornton can make a tape-to-tape pass while flying through the air a la Bobby Orr. How the hell do you pull that shit off?

8:33 PM: The rush you DON'T want to see: Patrick Rissmiller leading Douglas Murray.

8:32 PM:Is the Sharks Leadership Council like the Council of Old Guys in Lord of the Rings?

8:30 PM: Nice move by Ladislav Nagy. I was watching the Yotes/Ducks game the other day and the Anaheim guys couldn't remember that Nagy was no longer in Phoenix. You think of all the other teams they'd know, it'd be LA's roster.

8:28 PM: Second period, here we go.

8:27 PM: Now I'm really multi-tasking -- liveblogging AND chatting with Earl Sleek at the same time. Technology rules!

8:24 PM: Randy and Drew are talking about the tongue-lashing Ron Wilson gave today. What hasn't RWilson tried? He's been nice, he's been a jerk, he's mashed lines together. George McPhee was talking about Glen Hanlon being fired and he said that at one point, it's not that you have a bad coach, it's just that everyone gets so nervous that nothing works out.

8:22 PM: Second period should start in a few minutes. I've decided to try and change the Sharks' second-period mojo by putting on my never-before-worn Jeremy Roenick jersey. Just ripped the tags off and put it on. Here goes nothing.

8:20 PM: On a whim, I decided to liveblog this game starting from the second period (the dogs are fed, wife's feeling sick and went to bed early). Initial impressions: I've seen this trick before by the Sharks -- play hard for the first period, shoot the crap out of the opponent, and only walk out with one goal. If things follow the typical Sharks pattern, they'll only get four shots this period and give up two.

Kings Gameday: For Eff's Sake....

Los Angeles Kings (9-13-1, last in West) @ San Jose Sharks (11-8-3, 1st in gay)

7:30 PST, FSN West

Kings' Record in November: 3-6-1

Will everyone please calm the fuck down? I know the Kings are on a little bit of a losing streak, but still, there’s no reason to panic. For all the gloom and doom, they’re only 7 points out of a playoff spot because the West is the weirdest thing this noble writer has ever seen. (Seriously, look at the Central and tell me there’s not some sort of voodoo going on there.) If the Kings win 4 games in a row and all of a sudden they’re back in the thick of it and everyone starts making reservations for the playoffs. Breathe, people; it’s a long season.

What bothers me more than people who overreact to the ups and downs of the season are the people who try to give a team fatal flaws like they’re in some sort of Goddamned Greek tragedy. The Kings’ fatal flaw? They’re “soft.” What does that even mean? Do teams enjoy checking Lubo because he’s all cuddly? (I like to think he actually is, by the way.) This perception is only reinforced when the Kings play the rogues to the South because they led the league in fighting last year and won a Cup, so that of course was the reason they won. For the last time, and this can’t be stressed enough: FIGHTING HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DUCKS’ STANLEY CUP. If I had to rank it somewhere, I’d put it right below Earl’s cartoons and right above George Parros’ moustache. The Ducks didn’t win the Cup because they fought; they won because they were good at hockey.

"His skin is so soft I could punch all day!"

Besides, who cares if the Kings aren't tough? I mean, it’s not like John Zeiler is getting hit and then immediately crying on the bench. I tend to think the whole emotional impact of checks and fights are overrated among fans anyway, but even if it is real, the Sharks, Red Wings, and Senators all manage to do just fine. You only really hear about teams being soft when they lose; why is that?

Now, I’m not a world-renowned psychologist (I’m only renowned in the former Yugoslavia), but I think it’s because fans (and writers) get mad when a team loses a game and want the team to retaliate in some way. They want an indication that the team is as mad as they are, shown through a check or a fight; when that doesn’t happen, they decide the team has no “heart.” It’s an easy reaction, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean we have to go with it. The Kings are all hockey players and they’ve all bled and sweat more than we’ll ever be able to fathom to get to where they are. Now, if someone wants to deride a player’s actual ability at the sport of hockey (Jon Klemm comes to mind; seriously, Nagy wouldn’t have helped us in that game?), then I’m all for it. These little psychological profiles from afar, though, are getting really, really annoying.


Jaroslav Modry is gone for a while as he has gone back to Slovakia or the Moon or wherever the fuck he’s from to see his sick dad. That okay, I guess. Jon Klemm will be taking his place, and I can pretty much guarantee that after tonight Jon Klemm will be my least favorite person on the planet. Let’s run down the checklist:

Not good at hockey? Check.

Old, and therefore unlikely to improve the team long-term? Check.

Old, and therefore a beneficiary of the ol’ “Veteran Presence” card? Check.

One of Crawford’s buddies? Check.

He sucks, but Goddammit he sucks with HEART.

Yeah, that should about cover it. If I were Peter Harrold, and I just got passed over by Jon Klemm to go to the NHL, I’d be pretty pissed right now.


The Kings play the Sharks again this month up in San Jose, where they’ve already won 2 games this season. The Sharks are well-versed in this whole “this team is soft” mantra, which always seemed ridiculous to me because they’re usually one of the biggest teams in the NHL. Why is it that making a run at someone when there head is down makes you tough, but being able to hold off a defender while also making a beautiful pass does not? I will bet 10,000 Sleek bucks that if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup this year credit will go not to Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau or Milan Michalek or Evgeni Nabokov, but to Craig Rivet and Doug “Don’t Call Me Doug” Murray. When that happens, my head will explode.

Prediction: Kings lose, 2-3. They will be up 2-1, but then the Jon Klemm effect will take hold. That’s how he rolls, baby: shittily.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ducks Gameday—Bertuzzi: more notorious than productive

Anaheim Ducks (11-9-4, t-3rd in west) at Vancouver Canucks (12-9-2, t-3rd in west)

I am sick as a dog today, so I'll try to keep this short and sweet. Tonight will be Todd Bertuzzi's first game against Vancouver since he was traded away for Luongo, plus it will be Anaheim's first game against the Canucks since eliminating them in five games last spring. Of course there's plenty of reaction from the Vancouver side of things: Canucks and Beyond, Canucks Hockey Blog, the Yankee Canuck, Orland Kurtenblog, and Waiting for Stanley all have some pregame that's much less congested.

While I understand why Todd Bertuzzi gets the spotlight today, it should be noted that Duck fans are still waiting to get some acceptable production out of the $4 M monster; despite playing the easiest 5-on-5 minutes on the Ducks, Bertuzzi has the team's worst 5-on-5 goals-against rate. Here's a comparison to the guy with the toughest 5-on-5 minutes in the league (source: Behind the Net, min. games = 5, min. TOI = 5).
Todd Bertuzzi, 10 games played
Strength of Opposition: -0.18 (589 / 628)
Strength of Teammates: -0.31 (565 / 628)
Plus per hour: +2.44, Minus per hour: -3.05, Diff per hour: -0.61

Sammy Pahlsson, 19 games played
Strength of Opposition: +0.33 (1 / 628)
Strength of Teammates: -0.23 (510 / 628)
Plus per hour: +1.69, Minus per hour: -1.44, Diff per hour: +0.24
We'll see how well Bertuzzi is able to pull a season together, but at this point, he's got a lot of improving to do. Carlyle has sheltered his minutes as best as he can, now Bert has got to find a way to start outscoring some of the worst opposition in the league.

See also: my poem about Bertuzzi's concussion and my Bertuzzi-inspired comic book series.

Prediction: Lost a little bit in this preview is the fact that Roberto Luongo has only managed to beat J.S. Giguere once in eight tries last year, and that victory took two overtime periods to achieve. He's still the only goaltender to beat Giguere in a playoff OT game, but other than that has had a real difficult time being the better goaltender when going head-to-head. Giguere keeps the Luongdomination going tonight: Ducks 4, Canucks 2. Goals by Kunitz, Sutherby, Pahlsson, and Schneider; Bertuzzi finishes a -2.

Go Ducks.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

BoC Gameday—Sitting on One-Goal Leads

Los Angeles Kings (9-12-1, t-14th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (10-9-4, t-8th in west)

Not too much to add today, though it is striking how tight the west has become: 4 points separate the 2nd seed from the 13th seed. Still, I wonder how it might look for the Ducks if they hadn't blown 3rd period leads in 5 of their last 6 games?

You do know what happens when you try to sit on a one-goal lead for too long, right?

Prediction: Ducks 3, Kings 2. Goals by Perry, Pahlsson, and the invisible ghost-of-a-player we call Bertuzzi.

Go Ducks.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kings Gameday: Uh-oh

(I went ahead and combined these two gamedays because I figure I’m going to be too upset to write one after tonight’s Sharks game. Also, this computer sucks so there's no pictures today; maybe if Earl is drunk again he can help me out. Wait, what am I saying? When Earl gets drunk again maybe he can help me out.)

Los Angeles Kings (ugh) @ San Jose Sharks (good) and Anaheim Ducks (also good)

7:30 & 5:00 PST, FSN West & FSN Prime Ticket

Kings’ Record in November: 2-5-1

[EARL EDIT: Two of the better-dressed Kings fans on their way to Staples...]

Bender: I can’t see what’s happening, are we boned?

Leela: Yeah, we’re boned.

Wow are the Kings playing bad right now. I fortunately missed the last game, but apparently the Kings were about as spry as an aging hound dog with no teeth. Also, the dog is dead. The Kings have lost 5 in a row and have been outscored, 18-7 in the process. (Weren’t we just on a winning streak? What the hell happened?) Now, the Kings have back-to-back games against the two top teams in the Pacific Division. Oh, and Alexander Frolov is out at least a week with a groin pull.

Yeah, we’re pretty boned.

Both Calder and Raitis Ivanans might play this weekend, but that’s kinda like leaving a hospital after finding out you’re HIV+ and then discovering a twenty on the ground; it’s like hey, cool, you have twenty bucks, but you also still have AIDS.

I don’t know what happened with the Kings. I still feel like this is just a down cycle and they’ll pick it back up soon. I mean, they played very well against Anaheim a week ago, the puck just didn’t bounce for them. On the other hand, they just got their asses handed to them by PHOENIX. Do you realize we’re tied for last in the Western Conference? That’s insane!

[EARL EDIT: If Rudy's writing doesn't melt your heart, this is all I can offer.]

I don’t know, maybe the Kings pull out a win this weekend. Maybe Kopitar picks his game back up, and maybe we get a few bounces that go our way. Maybe this can be the start of a turnaround that leads us to a playoff birth (which is only 7 points away). Maybe. But I’m not optimistic.

Prediction: Aggregate Score: Durks 8, Kings 5. Goals by… I don’t know, who’s scoring on this team right now?

(Oh, what am I thankful for? I guess that the Kings have a 22 year-old rookie currently leading the AHL in points. Teddy Purcell was picked up by Lombardi last year as a free agent. Can’t remember that happening when Dave Taylor was our GM.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thank You Kevin Lowe

This Thanksgiving weekend all Sharks and Ducks fan are thankful. Sharks fans and Ducks fans agreeing on the same thing you ask? Ever since Kevin Lowe's ultra aggressive actions during free agency, NHL general managers have had to be pro-active with their Restricted Free Agents. Ever since Lowe signed Dustin Penner away with an outrageous contract offer, both Brian Burke and Doug Wilson have been busy signing their own RFA's before another GM pulls a Lowe and offers an unmatchable offer. Burke has signed both Getzlaf and Kunitz (don't worry Perry you are next) and Wilson has done the same with Michalek and Carle. In past years, GM's would look at their UFA's knowing their RFA's would not be in danger of signing since they could match any offer and the penalty for signing anyone was costly (4 1st round picks?) This has made GM's look at the core of their team and make sure they are signed before they reach Restricted status.

[SLEEK EDIT: I added this picture because I'm drunk!]

Will the Sharks ever play another game? Once again the Sharks are on an extended break. This time an unusual 1 week break between games once again allows Ron Wilson to start Nabby in every game this year and I don't see this changing anytime soon. After the game tomorrow, the Sharks have another 3 days off so no reason to rest Nabby for at least another week.

Ducks Gameday: Round-by-Round BryzgaLove

Phoenix Coyotes (9-10-0, 1 point ahead of L.A.) at Anaheim Ducks (10-9-3, 2 points behind S.J.)

When I reflect on Ilya Bryzgalov, of course I think of the affable goofball, one who is unable to get through a single interview without me falling off my couch laughing. But there is of course another side to the guy—the capable netminder who's stepped in each of the last two playoff years to save the Ducks when Giguere was suddenly unavailable. In total, Breezy has a 9-5 playoff record in 926 minutes, with a stellar 1.68 GAA and a .937 sv%.

To put that into perspective, he's got more playoff wins and minutes than Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Dipietro, Tomas Vokoun, Vesa Toskala, Andrew Raycroft, and three-time cup finalist Martin Gerber, just to name some more expensive options out there.

But let's take a look back at how he got there:

2006 Round One: Calgary Flames
2-1, 3 GA on 93 shots in 226 minutes. 0.80 GAA, .968 sv%

Breezy's start in this series was a complete surprise, because Giguere had just beaten Calgary in the last regular season game just four days before. Somehow, though, Giguere had suffered a hip injury and was a shocking scratch for G1, and Bryz lost his debut 2-1 nearly 10 minutes into overtime. Giguere came back for the next four starts, winning two, but clearly was not recovered—he ended the series with a 3.87 GAA and a .845 sv%. So with the team facing elimination, Bryzgalov started the last two games, allowing only one G6 goal and silencing the Red Mile in G7.

2006 Round Two: Colorado Avalanche
4-0, 4 GA on 121 shots in 256 minutes. 0.94 GAA, .967 sv%

Sweeping Colorado was an incredible feat in of itself; in 25 series since moving from Quebec, the Avalanche had won at least two games in every best-of-seven they had played in. To add to that, Bryzgalov kept the high-flying Avs off the scoreboard until G3, setting the post-1930 playoff shutout streak record at 249:15, more than four regulations without a goal-allowed. It was really a huge win for the franchise, as it meant that the Ducks had toppled the typical "big three" in the west (along with Detroit and Dallas in '03), a fairly incredible triple-feat. You can see some more fun facts about that series in my second-ever BoC post.

2006 Round Three: Edmonton Oilers
0-3, 9 GA on 71 shots in 177 minutes. 3.06 GAA, .873 sv%

The stats line on Breezy looks bad here, but really mostly this is a result of a crazy third period in G3. In G1 and G2 Bryzgalov limited the Oilers to 2 goals in each game, but on the other end the Ducks only managed 1 goal in each game. In the 3rd period of G3, with Anaheim trailing 1-0, things exploded on both ends. By the end of regulation the scoreboard would read EDM 5 - ANA 4, and Bryzgalov's postseason was over. Giguere came back and won a G4, but lost when the Ducks were held to one goal again in G5.

Yeah, that series was a tragedy, as the Ducks lost a lot of momentum with the long layoff after sweeping Colorado. However, I do believe I was the first person to predict Anaheim's cup championship when I wrote this drunk blog-title on 3/27/06: "I didn't say Ducks in seven; I said Ducks in '07!!!"

2007 Round One: Minnesota Wild
3-1, 8 GA on 113 shots in 230 minutes. 2.09 GAA, .929 sv%

Another playoff year, another surprising non-start by Giguere. Here Bryzgalov re-established his clutch postseason play, outdueling Backstrom and the Wild through the first three games of the series, all one-goal wins. He got pulled for good in G4 (through no real fault of his own), and only made one relief appearance after that. Not only was Breezy crucial for advancing past the first round, but in the larger scope of things, how important was it that Giguere was able to deal with his family issues and get a fresh late start in the playoffs?


I guess my main point is that it's wrong to underestimate the contributions of Breezy; I don't know whether the Ducks would have advanced past the first round in either of the last two playoffs without him. He was the victim of a logjam behind $6 M Giguere, and as a result the Phoenix Coyotes got an absolute gift off the waiver wire (see my latest Fanhouse cartoon for a visualization of that).

It's fair to condemn Burke for not getting anything in return for the valuable netminder, but it is true that the trade market for goalies is fairly dead, and I doubt Burke is well-liked enough in the GM community to get any trade favors. So far, Jonas Hiller seems to be an adequate replacement, so I don't think it's hurting the team any, but we'll have to see what happens if Giguere pulls up lame for another playoff round.

I'm actually kind of expecting Hiller to get the start today. I have no inside information or anything, but I read Carlyle as a guy who won't push the "Giguere v. Bryzgalov" storyline just for its own sake. Besides, it's important that Hiller get a start fairly soon to show why Breezy was suddenly expendable, and a home game against Phoenix may be just the ticket. That said, I'm fairly mediocre at predicting Carlyle's moves; don't put much stock in my predictions, either.

Prediction: Ducks 4, Coyotes 1. Hiller makes good on his backup start; goals by Beauchemin, Bertuzzi, Pahlsson, and Sutherby.

Go Ducks.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What are you thankful for?

Just thought I'd get a bit into the Thanksgiving spirit and reflect on one of the main things this Ducks fan is particularly grateful for on this holiday. Feel free to leave your own thanks in the comments, hockey-related or not.
  • Thank you, Ottawa Senators:
    Outside of the cup finals, the Sens have had quite a calendar year 2007. They ended their 06-07 regular season by winning 40 of 62 games after January 1st, won 12 of 15 games in the first three rounds of the playoffs, won all seven of their preseason games, and now have won 16 of 20 games to start this season. All told, that comes to 75 wins in 104 games (72%), with an impressive goal differential of 296 - 190, better than a goal difference per game.

    Suffice to say that there are a lot of stretches over 2007 where the Senators would have killed last year's Ducks in a seven-game series; fortunately May 28 - June 6 wasn't one of them. Outside of the Ducks (who did it twice in five games), the Sens haven't suffered consecutive regulation losses this entire calendar year.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kings Gameday: What Worries Me

Los Angeles Kings (8-11-1, 4th in Pacific) @ Phoenix Coyotes (8-10, 5th in Pacific)

6:30 PST, FSN West

Kings' Record in November: 2-4-1

A lot of people are currently lamenting the state of the Kings after their two-game-shut-out-ohgodwhy-streak. To be honest, it doesn’t bother me too much; I don't think the Kings' recent inability to score goals is going to be a long-term problem. I’m not happy with how the Kings have been playing, but I’m optimistic they can turn it around tonight against the Coyotes. That doesn’t mean I don’t worry about the Kings sometimes, though. I had trouble getting to sleep last night because I was thinking about Anze Kopitar.

Over on Inside the Kings, Dean Lombardi mentioned how he plugs people in boxes to set up how the Kings are looking in the future. As an intellectual exercise, I did this with the Kings, and the first thing I did was pencil Kopitar in as our top-line center. Right after I did that, though, I began to vacillate. I mean, right now Kopitar is our top center and best player, but will that always be the case? What I mean is, can he be the guy on a Stanley Cup winning team?

I’m a big believer in what Lombardi is doing with the Kings; I've always felt that the way to build a Stanley Cup team is by building from within and then getting complementary pieces through free agency. But that strategy doesn't work unless you develop that elite-level player. The only Stanley Cup champion I can think of that didn’t have an elite offensive player over the last 10 years were the Devils, but they had Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, and Scott Stevens’ elbows. On the other side of things, look at the Sharks. I mean, yeah, they were good because of their excellent farm system, but they didn’t really become Stanley Cup contenders until they got Joe Thornton. That’s what worries me: do the Kings have that player? Even if Kopitar becomes the next Mats Sundin, is that enough? I don’t know.

Prediction: Kings win, 4-2. Goals by Cammy, Moulson, Willsie and Stuart. 3 assists by Kopitar.

Update: Alright, I just read this in the Kings Report over at latimes.com and it pissed me off. Crawford had a quote about how a penalty kill goal allowed by the Kings was the result of a miscommunication between Patrick O'Sullivan and Matt Moulson:

"The goal . . . was a young mistake made by two young forwards," Crawford said. "They both went to the outside and the inside needed to be protected. It wasn't much of a mistake and [the Stars] took advantage."

Huh, does that quote strike anyone as odd? I'll give you a hint: Who is usually partnered with O'Sullivan on the penalty kill? Give up? (Quitter.) Moulson was out there because O'Sullivan's regular linemate on the penalty kill, Michal Handzus, was in the box. (Of course, it can't be Handzus' fault because he's in the league for 10 years and was therefore "doing too much to try and help his team," right?) They could have been 10-year veterans and still made that mistake because they'd never been on the penalty kill together before. And why was Moulson even out there anyway? Frolov played excellent on the penalty kill last year, why not him?

There's been a couple of quotes like this, where Crawford excuses a problem with the team by waving his hand and claiming, "Ahh, they're young." (He did it the other day when discussing the top line, saying that they were trying to score on every shift. Those selfish sons of bitches.) The problem on this team isn't the young players. Don't use them as a scapegoat just because you didn't do your job.

Ducks Gameday—Five year extension for Getzlaf

Anaheim Ducks (10-8-3, t-4th in west) at Dallas Stars (9-7-4, t-7th in west)

Man, there is just so much news to cover I don't know where to begin. I guess the lesson is don't take a vacation; Burke likes to break the big news just when your back is turned.

First off, let's take a look at Getzlaf's megadeal extension: 5 years averaging $5.33 M a year. Matt at BoA put together a nice table that puts it in line with a few other extension deals, and I'm more than comfortable with this dollar amount. It's not the 15 years I had been advocating earlier in the summer, but Getzlaf is really a kid you can build an offense around--good size, range, and creativity, plus a pretty wicked shot. He'll be a talent no matter what sort of tight-checking or free-flowing hockey the league develops into. He's grown up in sheltered minutes, sure, but last postseason he did lead the Ducks in scoring and in power play scoring, and he's leading the team in scoring this year as well.

We'll see what this means for Corey Perry's extension, who was 2nd in playoff scoring and is currently 2nd in team scoring, but I'm not averse to throwing big money at the kids; it's at least consistent with the marketplace. Next year should be very interesting, by the way. It'll be the year when most every contract comes to an end; the Ducks seem designed with a built-in "out strategy", which seems like a reasonable notion coming out of the lockout. Here's the list of contracts that come to an end next year: Scott Niedermayer, Mathieu Schneider, Todd Bertuzzi, Andy McDonald, Todd Marchant, Rob Niedermayer, Francois Beauchemin, Sammy Pahlsson, Travis Moen, Shane Hnidy, Kent Huskins, Brad May, George Parros, and even Randy Carlyle and Brian Burke. So far only Chris Pronger, J.S. Giguere, Ryan Getzlaf, and Chris Kunitz are signed beyond 2008-09; with Perry that seems like a pretty solid core to build around.

You can leave a comment on that, or any of this other news I'm brushing over.

Also this weekend: Ducks trade a 2009 2nd round choice to Washington for center Brian Sutherby. My inital response: who? Two things about Burke, though: he loves checking centers and hates second round picks. More to come on that I'm sure.

Also this weekend: Ilya Bryzgalov is a Coyote! I wrote a bit on that while on vacation, and I'll have more to say on that come Friday's post.

Also this weekend: The Ducks win their fourth shootout in a row! Sure it was a battle between the Ducks (the team with the most franchise shootout losses) against the Sharks (the team with the fewest franchise shootout wins) but that doesn't mean I didn't make a Fanhouse cartoon post about it.

Tonight's opponent, the Dallas Stars, is the team that's benefited the most from shootouts (22-6); since the lockout they lead the league in shootout wins and winning percentage. I guess it's interesting to note that both the Ducks and Sharks have beaten the Stars in a shootout (without even using a third shooter!), though it took each teams four tries to do it.

The Stars are 12-4-2 against the Ducks since the lockout, including 2-0 this season. They've outscored the Ducks this season 8-1, with the only ANA goal coming on a 5-on-3. Still, I'm optimistic. The Ducks seem to play well when I'm unable to watch, which will be the case tonight.

Prediction: Ducks give me something to be thankful for and win it in a shootout. Regulation goals by Pahlsson and Kunitz; shootout winner by rich man Getzlaf.

Go Ducks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Meg Post: Where's the Curling?

No team-building curling tournament for San Jose this time - the team is using their second extended break of the season for something a little bit more useful: practice.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy. Practicing hockey? But why?

Because they need it, that's why. The team put together a few impressive victories, but it was clear in the game against Anaheim that this is not a team that can win a seven-game series against the western conference powers. They kept it close against the Ducks by virtue of great goaltending and some lucky breaks (Ozonlinsh, you magnificent bastard!), but the Sharks spent way too much of the game trapped in their own zone. You have to imagine that the team that comes out of the west is going to have to beat either Anaheim or Detroit, and right now the Sharks just don't seem to have the power to do that.

I know I already put this, but Meg came up with a better caption: "Meerly Chillin'."

So, it's practice time! As reported on the team's website, the Sharks engaged in an extended skirmish where the veterans faced off against the younger players. They had everything from four-on-four hockey to a final shootout (finally! A shootout the Sharks can win!). The veterans obviously had the proven talent, with Thornton, Marleau, and Nabokov in goal. It was the younger players that won the day, however, with Michalek leading the way in front of Thomas Greiss in net and superstar Douglas Murray patrolling the blueline.

A few short-takes from the long break...

-Kyle (where did the yellow visor go?) McLaren remarked that Greiss was "good in the shootout, just like he was in training camp." Does that mean we can expect a crazy goalie-swap just prior to the shootout some time in the future, straight out of Mighty Ducks II (I think)? Probably not. But still, if it's true, the option is on the table as long as Greiss stays with the team.

-Shaved Ice has an interesting post discussing a quote by GM Doug Wilson. Wilson told the local paper "we're certainly not satisfied with where we're at" regarding the team's chances for success at the end of the year.

-Michalek is expected to return in the Sharks' next game against the Kings. In other Milan news, the victory celebration following the skirmish led to this quote: “I love the guys and I love their hugs.” I'll just let that one speak for itself.


Rob Blake's full name is Robert Bowlby Blake.


His middle name is BOWLBY. B.O.W.L.B.Y.

"Hey, nice stop out there Bowlby." "Good ol' Bowlby, how's it going, Bowlby?" "Been bowling lately, Bowlby?" (This is the point where he'd kill me, and my dying words would be, "Damn you... Bowlby...")

This is another reason I couldn't be an NHL GM:

"Hey, this Rob Blake guy seems pretty good, let's take hi- wait, his middle name is Bowlby? What the hell? Screw that nerd, let's take Scott Luik instead."

Bowlby. I can't say it without laughing. Imagine if that was his first name. His name would be Bowlby Blake.

Hehe. Bowlby.

(This is how I choose to deal with my anger when my team gets shut out 2 games in a row.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kings Gameday: On Line Changes

Los Angeles Kings (8-10-1, 4th in Pacific) @ Dallas Stars (8-7-4, 3rd in Pacific)

5:30 PST, Fox Sports West

Kings Record in November: 2-3-1

Marc Crawford is a lunatic. We’re all used to it by now. He’s constantly tinkering with his lines, moving Frolov up then down, putting Handzus on the 2nd line and then the 4th, throwing out lines like Nagy-Kopitar-Willsie (that’s 3 guys from 3 different lines, mind you), and treating poor Patty O’Sullivan like it’s the 1840s. (“Want to be on the 2nd line? No Irish allowed! Back to the 4th line with you!”) I finally said, “Eff this,” during the 2nd Ducks game, when Crawford was desperately trying to get the upper hand on Randy Carlyle and I swear Carlyle was pulling his lines off right after the whistle just to fuck with Crawford. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure there was one point where the Ducks went to the bench and then just skated back out. (Note: This didn’t actually happen, but you believed it , didn’t you?)

That's the same look I have on my face when I watch the Kings.

This mania has been exacerbated by the injuries to Kyle Calder and Raitis Ivanans; both guys were pretty much set in their lines (Calder on the 3rd, Ivanans on the 4th), but their loss has given Crawford free reign to throw everyone around. Also contributing to the problem has been Crawford’s phobia of Nagy. Nagy is getting 10:03 minutes of even strength ice time per game, below Matt Moulson, Michal Handzus, Derek Armstrong, Brian Willsie. This seems weird to me, because it doesn’t seem like Nagy has been playing poorly at all.

Still, through all this, I haven’t said too much. I figure, Marc Crawford is an NHL head coach and I’m sure he has a reason for everything he does that is probably above my hockey knowledge. It seems weird to me, but nothing more.

Then he split up our top line in the last game.

No offense to you, Marc, but how fucking stupid do you have to be? That’s retarded. That's dumb. If this was the Old Testament, Yahweh would cover your house in locusts for such stupidity. Thor would strike you down for such an offense against the gods. Vishnu himself would do something Hindu-y in retaliation. Your excuse was bullshit, too:

"We're looking and saying Fro is playing so well right now, we put Cammy and Fro together and opponents will have to decide do we shut down Cammy and Fro or try to play our top people against Kopitar. That's the notion. Yesterday, we didn't get enough from anybody.''

Oh, really? I thought the whole point of "Alexander Frolov & Incompetents" was that Frolov would provide secondary scoring by himself while our top line was studly as fuck; now that Frolov is doing what he’s supposed to, your response is to change it so Kopitar is on his own? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever read, and I’ve read my writing. Do you not understand that you're left with the same situation that you had before, but with Frolov and Kopitar now switched? Seriously, what the hell?

You don't even want to know what that goat is going to do.

You know who the Kings need as a coach? They need a more even-keel guy, maybe someone who puts video into his pre-game rituals. You know, a guy who wears golf shirts, and who knows how to get teams into the playoffs, and who’s about to be fired for no other reason than he’s been with the same team for a while and there needs to be change. You know anyone like that?

Prediction: Kings win, 3-2. Goals by the dynamic Kopitar-Cloutier-Santa line, which will be broken up by the middle of the 2nd.

Do not adjust your monitors

Hell hath frozen over:

Save Sandis Ozolinsh, save the world

Normally after a 2-1 shootout loss to the Ducks you would have to point to the exceptional play of Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray or Anaheim forward Sammy Pahlsson, big game performances by goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov or Jean-Sebastien Giguere, or the shootout goal by public enemy #1 Corey Perry, but without a doubt the highlight of the game came on the above goalline sequence from Sandis Ozolinsh.

With the game tied at 1-1 in the third, Ozolinsh sees that the trajectory and the momentum of the puck will carry it over the line. He makes a diving stab with the blade of his stick with about an inch to spare. The puck barely trickled wide right of the far post. The Sharks pressure Anaheim for the remainder of the third period, and a scoreless OT preceeds a shootout loss to the Ducks. Without this play, the Sharks would have had a monumental task evening up the score given how tight Anaheim was playing in its own zone.

Losing to Anaheim is about as painful as listening to slam poetry on ESPN Sportscenter, but salvaging a point in the standings could play a factor in the final days of the Pacific Division playoff race. More notes and photos from the game will be posted here shortly.

Above photos are a little blurry because I took a photo of kids with a Pronger sign seconds before this play. Every time Pronger touched the puck, the crowd joined together to boo as loud as possible. A couple of times when a player fainted a pass to Pronger, the crowd boo'd prematurely. With the retirement of Theo Fluery, with Ed Belfour plying his trade in Sweden, Chris Pronger may be the most hated opponent ever to play at HP Pavilion. The displeasure has traveled with Pronger as he moved from St Louis, to Edmonton, to Anaheim, but after the game Sharks fans lined up 3 deep to ask him for an autograph on his way off of the ice. In San Jose, the Sharks are marketing games with the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings as California Cup games.

Boom goes the Bryzgalomite

Ilya Bryzgalov 1, rest of the world 0.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

BoC Gameday-Ducks/Sharks: Live in the Now

Anaheim Ducks (9-8-3, 2nd in Pacific) @ San Jose Sharks (11-7-2, 1st in Pacific)

(Surprise, Cockfags! Earl’s gone this weekend so I, Rudy Kelly, am valiantly picking up the torch and writing about the Ducks. Don’t worry, though, I'll keep my hatred to a minimum, and I’ll even refrain from making fun of Corey Perry.)

This season’s edition of The Office is hilarious. Dwight has taken his character to a new level this season and I enjoy seeing Jim struggle to grow up. Still, you can’t go on a message board or talk to an ardent fan of the show without being inundated with cries of, “The show is over the hill!” or, “They should cancel it before it gets worse!” or, “I’m a virgin!” People constantly do this; they refuse to recognize what they have because (in their minds) it’s not as good as it once was. What does this have to do with hockey? Well, since you asked, this phenomenon is right now occurring in Anaheim.

The Ducks are a good team this year. Sure, they’re having a little trouble scoring, but they still have one of the best defensemen in the game, a very reliable goaltender, three forwards in their early 20s who are all talented in different ways, the best defensive forward in the NHL, a great GM, and an excellent back-up goalte… wait, scratch that last one. But still, the Ducks should easily make the playoffs. And yet, nobody can talk about this year’s Ducks team without somehow referring to last year’s. Sure, Schneider’s good, but he’s not Niedermayer. Yeah, Bertuzzi played well before he got hurt, but Selanne scored over 40 goals last year! And Shane O’Brien… well, nobody gives a fuck about Shane O’Brien, but you get the idea.

Anaheim, I don’t like you and you don’t like me, but I’m going to give you some free advice: forget about last year. The picture on the right ain't happenin' again. If Niedermayer and Selanne come back, great, but until then maybe you should be focusing on Drew Miller. I know last year was amazing and you’d give anything to go through that season again, but you can't relive the same moment twice. Even if those two old guys come back, there’s no guarantee you’ll be just the same as last year; in the salary cap era, shit changes real quick. Forget what you had and focus on the damn good team you have now.

Prediction: Ducks win, 4-1. Goals by Kunitz (x2), Pronger, and (why the hell not?) Pahlsson.

(Oh, I guess I should have a drawing in honor of Earl...)

Damn, so close.

Kings Gameday: Manic Depressive

Los Angeles Kings (8-9-1, 4th in Pacific) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (7-10, 5th in Pacific)

1:00 PST, Fox Sports Prime Ticket

Kings Record in November: 2-2-1

If hockey players could be mental conditions, Alex Frolov would be manic depression. (Quick rundown: Joe Thornton is agoraphobia, while Darcy Tucker would be penis envy.) He’ll go from being the worst player on the ice (unless he’s playing with Derek Armstrong) to being the best, seemingly within days or even minutes. Kings fans were gnashing their teeth at his play early in the season (when he was overcoming a groin injury), but now they’re feverishly trying to get a write-in campaign for the All-Star game on his behalf. It’s still early in the season, but could this be the year that Frolov finally figures it out? Yes, I think so.

He'll pass it eventually...

So, what really has changed about Frolov’s game this year that makes me think that? Well, he’s creating scoring opportunities, not finishing them. He has 4 goals and 15 assists on the season, a ratio way out of whack with his almost 1:1 ratio last year. I don’t have a magical answer to solve this little puzzle, but if I had to guess I’d say this was because he’s not playing on a line with Mike Cammalleri anymore. Frolov has to do a lot of the playmaking this year for his line (which has included Derek Armstrong, Ladislav Nagy, Kyle Calder, Matt Moulson, Brian Willsie, Michal Handzus, and Patrick O’Sullivan), so that means that he’s probably not going to be in the position to score as many goals. Instead, he's carrying the puck in and dishing it off.

I'd say this speaks well of Frolov's chances to keep his point production up. I don't have any concrete evidence of this, but I think it's fair to say that guys who are primarily goal scorers are more inconsistent than guys who get assists. Why? I assume it's because goals are a lot harder to create on your own, while you get another guy to work with (ha!) when you dish the puck off. This made more sense in my head, but you get what I'm saying.

I’ve been rooting for Frolov since his first year back in 2002. He’s a very gifted player who can completely take over a game when he’s on the ice. Even when Cammy passed him up in terms of production last year, I still would have picked Frolov if I could only keep one. It’s nice seeing Frolov up at the top of the King’s stat totals; the key is seeing if he can stay there.


That dude in the background is totally laughing at his shirt.

The Coyotes picked up Ilya Bryzgalov today; no word on if his helmet will be covered in famous coyotes or not. ("I like this coyote, is wily.") He would have been nice to have on the Kings, but Phoenix really needed a goalie and were higher on the waiver wire, so they snared him. I was worried that Ilya is in net tonight against the Kings, but then I remembered they were still the Coyotes. (This is going to bite me in the ass, I know it.)

Prediction: Kings win, 4-3. Goals by whoever Frolov is playing with, plus one by Kopitar.

Ilya Bryzgalov is a Coyote

Here's the TSN link.

I'm going to have more on this next week, but for now there's just a few things worth saying.

I've read a lot of people that talk about how much money the Ducks are saving against the salary cap, freeing up space for the possible returns of Scott Niedermayer and/or Teemu Selanne. The problem I have with this story is that it's got to be recognized that Bryzgalov is playing for dirt-cheap this year. His salary (per NHLSCAP) is $1.36 M, with a cap hit of $1.18 M. With the season about 20% done, let's just say his cap hit for the remainder of the year is something like $900k. Meanwhile, his replacement Jonas Hiller will be paid $850k this year, but for a whopping cap hit of $3.20 M. I'd assume that whatever bonuses are in that latter number are unattainable for the Swiss goalie, but let's call the rest of the year $640k. That's a whopping savings against the cap of $260k, which doesn't buy much at all against Scott's $6.75 M contract or Teemu's TBD contract (last year he made $6 M with bonuses).

Also, it's important to note that Bryzgalov was in no way a liability to the team; he was the emergency-starter for each of the last two playoff years, and has more or less been the main goaltender for four of Anaheim's last seven playoff series (depending on how you want to define "main goaltender"). He definitely was the opening goaltender for four series, and closed out two of them. He has the longest postseason shutout streak in my lifetime (beating out J.S. Giguere's '03 number), largely built against the high-flying Avalanche. It seems absolutely amazing to me that a goaltender with the lowball salary and highball postseason success couldn't be traded in today's league, but I've had low expectations ever since the seemingly poor returns for Tomas Vokoun or Vesa Toskala last summer.

As much as it might pain rival fans to admit it, I think the departure of Bryzgalov has very little to do with Scott and Teemu, and really has more to do with Bryzgalov trying to be a #1 and Hiller being promoted to the big leagues. Apparently I am being rushed out the door right now (go Irish?), but for a really interesting take, go read Lowetide's take. I mean, right now!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Guest Post: The Phoenix Coyotes Are Great Self-Esteem Boosters

(My good friend and fellow meerkat enthusiast Megalodon wrote an incredibly long write-up about the Sharks heading into tomorrow night's game. I'm sure P.J. or Cheechew or Mike will come up with something tomorrow, so I figure I'll put this up today. Enjoy!)

"Shouldn't one of us keep watch?" "Nah, it's just the Coyotes."

A lot is still up in the air about the Pacific Division, sure. But after this past week, we can say one thing for certain: the Sharks are way better than the Coyotes. No matter what else happens, nobody can take that away from us. The Sharks seem to have their game back now. I was pessimistic, but what turned things around for me was, strangely, the recent game against Dallas. The Sharks played great in the first period, then they decided to try sucking for a while. That didn't work very well, and Dallas came back in the third. Earlier in the season, the Sharks would have completely folded, and Dallas probably would have gotten another goal in regulation. This time, the Sharks managed to wake the hell up and win in style in the shootout. The team showed perseverance and confidence that was lacking earlier in the season.

Bragging about beating the Coyotes is like Rudy bragging about having a bigger dick than Megalodon.

No team is going to play at their best every minute of every game (except Ottawa, your 2008 Stanley Cup Champions). Against Dallas, the Sharks finally demonstrated an ability to rebound.

That's definitely a good sign.

Douglas Murray, Teal Jesus.

What we are finally seeing now is the team that everyone picked before the season to win the Stanley Cup. Thornton and Setoguchi are doing exactly what Thornton and Cheechoo did - but Setoguchi is a way better player, so the sky is the limit for them. Marleau came out of his coma, Roenick is surprisingly productive, and all the rest of the offensive cast is finally producing like they should. Nabokov is looking like he wants to play 83 games this season if possible. Defense, which worried me before the season, now looks like one of the top squads in the league. Rivet is always amazing, Ozolinsh has been a great spark out there, Vlasic is playing Pronger-like minutes (minus the elbows and the muggings), and Douglas Murray is my new Jesus. (Ed. note- I wanted to change his name to "Doglas," but Meg pointed out that made it sound like he didn't have a dog, and that was sad.) All of a sudden, the Sharks look great wherever you look.

Even when tragedy strikes, they manage to make it a positive. This was in the San Jose-Phoenix game summary:

Sharks defenseman Craig Rivet, who missed tonight's game with a leg injury, spent the entire game on the bench as a coach. Following the win, his teammates awarded him the game puck."

This definitely shows that Rivet is a great leader on the team. You don't hear a lot about him, but this kind of thing gives you a glimpse of what's going on under the surface. He's been around longer than guys like Vlasic, Carle, or his usual line-mate Murray, and it's clear they're learning a lot from him. I hope he sticks around for a long time.

Milan Michalek (elbow strain), Marcel Goc (back spasms) and Craig Rivet (leg) are all listed as day-to-day."

The Sharks have won their past few games without Michalek. It's great that they can afford to give him time to really heal up, and when he comes back that just makes the team that much better. It's hard to know where to stick him, because the current lines are producing so well, but even on the fourth line he is always a threat.

Goc is a great kid, and his blog rules, but I don't really think he's good enough to be on the team consistently. Maybe that will change.

Cheechoo - Thornton - Setoguchi

Rissmiller - Marleau - Bernier

Grier - Mitchell - Roenick
Brown - Pavelski

Ehrhoff - Semenov

Ozolinsh - Vlasic

Murray - McLaren

The Thornton line is really interesting, since Setoguchi and Cheechoo are basically the same player (they even look alike). We'll see if it stays like that.

Semenov is clearly San Jose's worst defenseman, and when Rivet comes back it should probably be Ozolinsh - Vlasic, Murray - Rivet, and McLaren - Carle. Ehrhoff will get some playing time at the expense of Murray, but the intensity and physical presence that Douglas brings is missed when he's not there.


Expect this in the Ducks game, but with a punch to the groin thrown in.

The Ducks will be first or second in the Division at the end of the year. They've put together some good games recently and seem to have found what makes them win. They're playing physically and the top line is really producing. If the Sharks and the Ducks both keep it up, the battle for the Division championship will be intense.

The way I see it, the Pacific Division has three tiers. First, there are the Sharks and the Ducks, who should both be going for first place. Then you have the Kings, who are a team on the rise, and Dallas, who are definitely declining. It's likely that only one of those teams will make the playoffs at the end of the year, so it will be interesting to see who comes out ahead. The third tier is Phoenix. The third tier is also known as the "Shitty Tier."

A lot of Anaheim's skill comes from their physical play. They can push the Kings around because the Kings have a lot of skilled guys who aren't that big and then some guys like Scott Thornton and Raitis Ivanans who can play physical but who suck at hockey. The Sharks are the team you would design if you wanted to counter Anaheim - everyone is big, everyone can play physical, and you can't push anyone around. Tomorrow, I'm looking for Anaheim's top line to probably score a couple, countered by Joe and Setoguchi continuing their streak. The Sharks have the edge in secondary scoring, though, and Roenick will get a garbage goal to give San Jose the win, 3-2.

Oh yeah, and I sure hope somebody in San Jose is in charge of watching Ducks games, because that top line just keeps trying that "off-the-boards" move. It worked against the Sharks last time and it worked against LA on Thursday. Let's figure out something to do to stop that play, okay guys? And why don't we try that sometimes, too?

That is all. Go Sharks!