Monday, October 24, 2005

Round 1 - Mighty Ducks vs. Queens - Set to begin!

It's been way too long since I've been able to say this, but ladies and gentlemen we are finally on the verge of the greatest rivalry in the history of Southern California professional sports. Yes, on Tuesday, October 25th, 2005, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim will take the ice to take on the Los Angeles Queens in a regular season game.

I am looking forward to this more a fat man looks forward to an all-you-can-eat buffet! I will try to contain myself for now and give you my completely biased preview of the game.

The Queens are off to a great start, unfortunately, though they have taken leads of 4-0 and 2-0 and turned them in to regulation losses, so even if the Mighty Ducks somehow get behind early in this game it is no reason to panic. I think Jeremy Roenick has been injured since opening night, only playing in one game since. No word on what his injury is, other than being embarassed to wear glitter in an NHL game. Some Queens fans have contacted me to tell me that he has in fact played every game this season, but that can't be. He'd have more than just one point since opening night. I mean, after all, this guy make $5 million a year! There's no way a guy making that much money, and with a mouth that big, could actually have just one point in eight games. Surely he's been out injured.

Andy Murray, who is still trying to clear his throat, will stick with his goalie rotation and start Jason LaBarbera whether he deserves it or not. He has played very well so far this season, but he's not a good goalie at all and as long as the Ducks can get some shots up on him they will torch him for an easy win. He's also played some bad teams. Beating Phoenix and Columbus is nothing to brag about, beating an Edmonton team on the second night of back-to-back road games is nothing huge and beating Dallas looks easier every day. He's also never faced more than 30 shots in a game. If the Ducks can show him more rubber than a free hooker, they'll win easy.

Sean Avery will probably play in this game, and chances are very good he'll throw some cheap shots and run his mouth. Fine. Right now he's that kid that teases the dog on the leash just out of the dog's reach. Eventually, the leash will snap and the dog will kill him. I hope to be watching the night that happens. I've said too much about that no-talent piece of shit already and until he actually grows some balls and decides to drop the gloves with ANYONE, I will refuse to discuss him any further.

I'm told that Luc Robitaille is still on the Queens, but again, that can't be right. The dude has to be in his 40's by now and he wasn't exactly torching the league under the old rules. If he is in the line-up, great, it's one less player we have to worry about stopping.

Pavol Demitra is on the Queens now. Too bad he didn't bring any talent with him from St. Louis. I've watched the Queens play and it's hilarious watching Demitra with the puck looking for someone to pass to. You can almost hear his thoughts, " Robitaille...LUC Robitaille? Really? No. Good God, where's the talent on this team? Holy shit! I'M the talent on this team!"

The Queens have a young kid named Dustin Brown that likes to hit hard. He also likes to take dumb penalties, so count on at least one big hit and at least one dumb penalty from him tomorrow night.

Finally, there's Michael Cammalleri. He lit up the AHL last year and for some reason the Queens fans still call him a young prospect. Dude has played almost 70 games in the NHL now, he's not a prospect. Corey Perry is a prospect, Cammalleri is a younger version of Andy McDonald.

Before I leave you, a few predictions:
1. Queens fans will be foaming at the mouth before, during and especially after this game.
2. Kostopolous, Avery & Brown will all take at least one penalty that comes as a result of being over-aggressive.
3. Avery will start a fight by either hitting someone late, hitting someone illegally or by making racist comments. He will then refuse to fight and Queens fans will applaud him. This is less of a prediction and more of a guarantee.
4. George Parros and Kip Brennan will get into a fight.
5. Joffrey Lupul will be the best player on the ice for either team.
6. The Mighty Ducks will win 4-3.

Folks, enjoy the game and remember that no matter what happens, we've got seven more of these still to come this season!


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ducks singing the Blues in St. Louis

The Anaheim Ducks (I refuse to call them 'Mighty' until they start playing like it) lost their second straight road game and third of their last four games when they were beaten 3-2 by the St. Louis Blues last night at the Savvis Center.

The Blues, who stink, had only one win on the year coming into the game and were without Keith Tkachunk. The Ducks were without Sergei Fedorov, who is still nursing a groin injury, and Jason Marshall who is still out with a broken nose. Anaheim did get Sandis Ozolinsh back and he immediately paid dividends by scoring his first goal of the year in the first period to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. The Ducks started strong in this game with a good effort, lots of speed and dominated the play through the first 20 minutes. They killed all three penalties but also went 0-2 on the power play. Anaheim outshot St. Louis 12-9 in the first period.

The Ducks started the second period with the lead and on a power play, but did nothing. As has been their problem this season they came out flat in the second and the Blues started to get the momentum. That momentum was turned into a goal when the Blues scored a power play goal to even the score 1-1. Then, the Ducks got some very bad news as starting goalie J.S. Giguere was forced to leave the game with a groin injury. Ilya Bryzgalov replaced him and held the line to keep it tied after two periods. St. Louis outshot Anaheim 15-8 in the second period.

The third was more of the same as St. Louis got the most scoring chances early on. The Blues took the lead with another power play goal as the Ducks penalty kill continued to stink worse than an overflowing outhouse. It seemed to be a bit of a wake-up call for the Ducks as they finally started playing hard. They got a few power play opportunities and promptly did nothing with them. Then, with 2:56 left in the game they got another power play. This time Randy Carlyle pulled Bryzgalov to give the Ducks a 6-on-4 advantage and that's what it took to score as Teemu Selanne slammed home a rebound of a Rob Niedermayer wrist shot to tie the game at 2-2 with just 1:18 left. It appeared that the Ducks were going to get at least a point and then take their chances in overtime.

But, the Ducks decided to stop playing and promptly gave up a Blues goal. Eric Brewer scored just 19 seconds after Selanne to give the Blues a 3-2 lead with less than a minute to play, and that's how it would end.

The Ducks gave a much better effort than they did in Minnesota on Sunday, but it still was not enough. The "special" teams are awful for Anaheim. They are the same kind of special as the Special Olympics. The power play flat out sucks and the penalty kill is not much better. The Ducks are fine at even strength, but until they improve both of their special teams units they will continue to struggle. They've lost two in a row and are heading into Detroit tomorrow night where they will most likely get their asses kicked. No Fedorov, no Giguere, no penalty kill and no power play = no chance against Detroit.

The Ducks have already called up Michael Wall to serve as a back-up goalie as Giguere will have to miss some time with his groin injury. This is what is called piss-poor news for the Ducks. I am not a big believer in Bryzgalov as he was not even able to keep his starting job in Cincinnati last year. But, he's the starter for now until Giguere heals.

Six games down, 76 to go. If things don't get better soon, it could be a LONG 76 games.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ducks Drop Superlatives - Lay Egg in St. Paul

The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim dropped all superlatives from their game against the Wild on Sunday with a 4-1 loss that wasn't as close as the score would indicate. By dropping superlatives, I mean that instead of the Mighty Ducks they were the Ducks. Instead of the power play, they went on the play. Their special teams could better be described as crap. Yep, the team completely laid an egg in this one, and thus the picture you see below - which is actually Randy Carlyle dropping said egg sometime during the first period.

There was very, very little to be happy with in this game if you are a Fowl Fan. The only Mighty Ducks player that played well was Ilya Bryzgalov, but unfortunately he didn't start and was only brought in once the game was already 4-0.

In the first two periods the Ducks had nothing going. They looked like crap and made the Wild look like the greatest defensive team to ever put on skates. Anaheim had no speed, created no offense and did nothing on defense except pass to no-one and take bad penalties.

The Ducks, who entered the game with one of the worst penalty killing units in the league, promptly gave the Wild two power plays. Minnesota, who has one of the best power plays in the league, took advantage and scored on both of them. The Ducks got a power play and used the infamous "dump-and-don't-chase" style that Anaheim fans know and love from the Pierre Page days. Through the first two periods the Ducks had a whopping 12 shots on goal, none of which were remotely good. An ECHL goalie would have had a shutout going into the third, much less Manny Fernandez.

Usually the Ducks start out great and then fade. Tonight, it was the exact opposite. They started out horrible and then, once the Wild had a 4-0 lead in the third, they played pretty well. Bruno St. Jacques got a goal in his first game with the Ducks to keep them from getting a shutout, but for the most part this game was a horrible, horrible effort from the Mighty Ducks.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ducks lose to Predators in shootout

After what seemed like a week off, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim finally returned to the ice tonight when they lost 3-2 to the Nashville Predators in a shootout.

The line-up was exactly the same as on opening night as Dustin Penner was a healthy scratch and Jonathan Hedstrom was still out of the lineup with a sore groin. J.S. Giguere got the start in net.

The Ducks scored first when Samuel Pahlsson scored his first goal of the season off an assist from rookie Corey Perry. Perry now has points in each of his first two NHL games and is playing very well for a 20-year old. The first period was dominated by the Mighty Ducks but ended just 1-0 in favor of Anaheim.

In the second period, the Predators took control and tied the game when Yanic Perreault scored on the power play. Like the first period, the play was dominated by Nashville but they only managed one goal and the game was tied heading into the third.

Early on in the third Perreault scored again to give Nashville their first lead. That seemed to wake the Ducks up as they played very well from then on and created a lot of scoring chances. Eventually, Petr Sykora lit the lamp for his first goal of the year and the game headed to overtime tied at 2-2.

Thanks to matching penalties, the overtime started with some 3-on-3. The Ducks were gassed, though, and created very few scoring opportunities. They did a good job of keeping the Predators from scoring so we went to the shootout.

The first to shoot for the Ducks was Sergei Fedorov. He had nothing left in the tank and looked like he was going in slow motion as he approached Thomas Vokoun. His shot was stopped and it was Steve Sullivan's turn to shoot for Nashville. He tried to beat Giguere to the goalie's right but Giggy was able to stop him.

Next up was Teemu Selanne, who flew in on net and tried to go five-hole. Vokoun made the save. Marek Zidlicky was next for the Predators and he either shot wide or Giguere got it with his glove. Still no goals with just one shooter left for each team.

Andy McDonald was the surprise pick for the third Ducks shooter and he made a great move to his backhand but Vokoun was able to get just enough of it with his stick to force it wide. I say that McDonald was a surprise pick because Sykora was flying in the third period and had a shot that rang off the post in addition to his goal. I would have gone with the hot hand, but Ducks coach Randy Carlyle went with Mighty Mac.

The Predators last shooter was none other than Paul Kariya and he buried a gorgeous shot in the top of the net, beating Giguere high glove side for the win. It was vintage Kariya to wait for the goalie to drop just a little bit before firing a laser past him. Great goal, and a win for the Predators.

The Ducks still earned a point for the loss, though, and that is enough to move them into first place all by themselves in the Pacific Division. They started the season with two road games against Conference foes and came home with three of the possible four points. If they can go .500 on the road this year, I think they'll have a great chance of winning the Division.

A few other thoughts on the game tonight. I have to say again that Ryan Getzlaf is not ready for the NHL. He's not comfortable on the ice and is still timid. I'd rather see him in Portland getting top line minutes and gaining confidence, and I'm not sure what Brian Burke sees in his game that makes him keep him in the NHL. Why not dress Dustin Penner, especially since you're playing Getzlaf on the fourth line? Once Hedstrom is healed and ready to play I expect to see him dressed and Getzlaf either scratched or sent down.

The chemistry on this Ducks team, from the outside looking in, appears to be fantastic. I'm not talking about the play on the ice, either. I'm talking about the guys playing hard for each other, sticking up for each other and enjoying each other's company. I've seen many players smiling, laughing and joking around with each other both in practices and on the bench during games, and I don't remember seeing that in the past. Also, in tonight's game I saw something that I either haven't ever seen, or haven't seen in a long time...Teemu Selanne got pissed off.

It was late in the third and Petr Sykora crashed the net. Vokoun covered the puck and here came Danny Markov to cross-check him from behind. Selanne saw the whole thing and lost his mind trying to get at Markov to even the score. A scrum ensued, one which saw Scott Niedermayer manhandle Kariya, and order was restored. Seeing that, though, made me realize how willing this team is to defend each other. I can see Fedoruk, Moen or Brennan doing that, but to see Selanne do it told me that everyone on this team, not just the goons, has every other players back. That's good to see and I think it will help this team win a lot of games.

I thought Giguere played well, again, and he gave the Ducks a chance to win. At the end of the day, that's all you want out of your goalie. Hopefully he can steal a few wins during the course of the year, but if he can just keep the team in the game and give them a chance to win, I will be very pleased with him.

Finally, the style of play is great to see. The Ducks go hard after the puck and throw a lot of checks. Vitali Vishnevski is becoming a physical presence on the ice, which is what we've all been hoping for for years. He laid out Martin Erat in the neutral zone tonight and had a few other very solid checks. The Ducks are fun to watch, and not just because they are my favorite team but also because of the way they play the game.

Two down, 80 to go. The Mighty Ducks are in first place and things are good! Thanks for reading, and any comments you've had, even if it's just a note to let me know you read it, would be appreciated. Just click on the comment button below.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ducks win season opener 5-3 over Blackhawks!

Last night was opening night in the NHL with all 30 teams playing, but the only game we care about here on the Unofficial Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Blog is the Mighty Ducks/Blackhawks.

First off, the healthy scratches were Dustin Penner and Jonathan Hedstrom. J.S. Giguere got the start in net against Nikolai Khabibulin. The Hawks scored first at 8:22 of the first when Mark Bell put in a rebound from right in front of the crease. 1-0 Chicago.

However, the Ducks then got a two-man advantage and made good use of it as Teemu Selanne scored his first goal of the season with just one second left in the two-man power play. Petr Sykora and Corey Perry got the assists, and for Perry it was his first ever NHL point. The goal wasn't the prettiest one Teemu has ever scored, as it went off his pants, then a Blackhawks defender before finding the back of the net. But, they all count the same and the score was tied 1-1.

With 2:30 left in the first, the Blackhawks were on a power play. That's when Joffrey Lupul jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone and raced in on net. His shot went five-hole on Khabibulin and barely trickled past the goal line for a shorthanded goal that gave the Ducks their first lead. Again, not pretty - but they all count the same. 2-1 Ducks at the first intermission.

The second period saw more of Lupul's talent as he beat two Blackhawks defenders along the left-wing before cutting back to the slot and beating Khabibulin, again through the five-hole, for his second goal of the night. This was the first pretty goal the Ducks had scored, but they all count the same! Kip Brennan and Keith Carney picked up the assists and it was 3-1 Ducks!

Chicago would answer with a goal by Curtis Brown to make it 3-2. Less than a minute later, though, with Anaheim on a power play, Scott Niedermayer re-directed a Sergei Fedorov slapshot past Khabibulin to give the Ducks a 4-2 lead. Andy McDonald also assisted on the goal.

Again, Chicago would answer. This time it was Rene Bourque who scored his first NHL goal with just under four minutes to play in the second and it was 4-3 at the second intermission.

With the Ducks shorthanded early in the third, they struck again. Andy McDonald led a rush up the left wing before throwing a shot on net. The rebound went towards the right face-off circle where Rob Niedermayer somehow backhanded a one-timer top shelf for his first goal of the year and the Ducks second shorthanded goal of the night. The defense, from that point on, played great and Giguere was fantastic as Anaheim held on for a 5-3 win!

A few of my thoughts on this game. First of all, the team looked great. Joffrey Lupul looks very determined to be a star player in this league and to never play in the AHL again. Everyone was flying early on thanks to the adrenaline of opening night, but the Ducks pressure was obvious throughout the night. There were a lot of good scoring chances, for both teams, throughout the night.

Scott Niedermayer flat out kicks ass. This guy is so smooth and so skilled it's unreal. He's by far the best defenseman the Ducks have ever had and it will be a pleasure to watch this guy play in Anaheim for the next four years.

Corey Perry looked very nervous, and understandably so, but he also looked good. He had many scoring chances and as the year goes on he'll get his. I still think that Ryan Getzlaf could use some time in Portland to get more comfortable, but he wasn't a liability either.

Ruslan Salei is going to hav to work on his conditioning. He was gassed late in the game and took some dumb penalties as a result of being out of position or unable to keep up with opposing forwards.

Todd Fedoruk introduced himself to former Duck Todd Simpson in the second, and the two fought to a draw. It's great to have him, Kip Brennan and Travis Moen all dressed in the same game as you know the Ducks will not ever be physically intimidated when they are present. Speaking of Brennan, he had an assist and did a great job on the forecheck. He could be a great player for the Ducks if he continues to play like that.

Giguere looked fine. He looked like he got hurt late in the third, and I haven't heard more about that yet, but he finished the game and earned his first of what we all hope are many wins this season.

The new style that Randy Carlyle and Brian Burke have the Ducks playing is a lot of fun to watch. They were very aggressive in going after the puck and threw a lot of checks. It was opening night, so we'll see if they can keep that up for a full season. If so, we should be very entertained.

One game down - 81 to play. So far, so good. Any day that the Mighty Ducks win is a good day. If the Queens also lose that day, it's a great day. If the Angels win a playoff game the same day, it's a fantastic day! Yesterday was a fantastic day!