Monday, April 27, 2009

First Round is Over

Sharks Drown at the Pond

In game 6 of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the San Jose Sharks lost to the Anaheim Ducks with a score of 4-1. With their win, the 8th-seed Ducks eliminated the top-seeded Sharks from the playoffs in the first round.

From the start of the game, fans knew they were getting what they paid for. As soon as the puck dropped, San Jose Shark player Joe Thornton and Ryan Getzlaf dropped their gloves for a pre-game brawl following the intensity of the last game in San Jose and setting a standard for a physical game tonight. Both players were sent to the penalty box in the first two seconds of the game with a five-minute major apiece.

The Ducks seemed to like the penalty box, as they spent most of the first period in it. 17 total minutes were served in the first period, including the five minute fighting major. Calls for roughing, elbowing, tripping, slashing and hooking all earned various Ducks players two-minute minor penalties, giving the Sharks the opportunity they needed for their first, and as it turned out, only goal. Just under a minute into a penalty by James Wisniewski for slashing, Sharks player Milan Michalek got a goal past Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller for the first goal of the game. Just two minutes later, Sharks player Patrick Marleau headed to the sin bin on a hooking call to give the Ducks a two minute powerplay, but Corey Perry only needed 14 seconds of the man advantage to score on Evgeni Nabokov.

The Ducks earned their second and third goals halfway through the second period. Teemu Selanne earned his first goal of the playoffs on a powerplay goal after a hooking call on San Jose player Torrey Mitchell. Barely two minutes later, Francois Beauchemin would get his first goal since coming back from a torn ACL in November. As the Ducks pulled ahead, the intensity of the fights increased. The second period ended much the same way as the first period began, with a melee that earned Ryan Whitney and Ryan Getzlaf penalties for fighting and roughing, and Sharks players Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski penalties for boarding, fighting and roughing.

Soon after the third period began, another fisticuffs broke out, again earning several players a trip to the penalty box. With the Sharks under pressure to tie the score back up, and the Ducks desperate to hold on to their two-goal lead, tension between the two teams causes gloves to drop and fists to fly at every possibility. The Ducks were determined to put the game away with a final goal by Ryan Getzlaf in the last three minutes of the game, with set-up assists by Drew Miller and Rob Niedermeyer.

Both teams had 12 penalties each, adding up to 30 minutes of time spent in the sin bin. It was just a mark of how physical the matchup was.

Jonas Hiller (the Shark killer!) had an outstanding 37 saves to keep the Ducks ahead for the win. Throughout the series, he's been the determining factor in all their wins with unbelievable saves. In the six-game series, Hiller stopped 211 of 221 shots. With a strong defensive line and a top-notch goalie, the Ducks overcame the top-seeded team in the NHL for the first round win in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.

While the Sharks have earned the President's trophy for winning the most points in the league during the regular season, their quest for Lord Stanley's Cup ends tonight. Meanwhile, the Ducks have become the fifth team to upset the NHL's best regular season team in the first round since the 1967-1968 season. They've also become the eigth team that was seeded at #8 to eliminate a #1 ranked team in the first round since the 1993-1994 season.

The Ducks will next face Detroit, on a date to be determined. While the upset of the #1 ranked team in 6 games is certainly something to celebrate, Detroit promises to be a much more difficult hurdle after sweeping Columbus in four games.

It seems that our history for the 2008-2009 season is still being written.

Lets Go Ducks.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Interesting to Note...

A friend brought up that the Ducks seemed to be mirroring the Colorado Rockie's 2007 season. While I hesitate to compare the great sport of hockey with something so mundane as baseball, I noticed a difference that perhaps the Duck's latest sucess has a lot to do with their vetrans, and not so much the incapability of the Sharks but their inexperience in the playoffs.

Allow me to defend this by first saying that since the 2005-2006 season, the Sharks have not had as many playoff games as the Ducks have, obviously due to the fact that the Ducks completed the quest for the cup in 2007. Compared, the Sharks have completed 40 games in the past 4 seasons, while the Ducks have been to 48.

A closer look at some of the players is also revealing. If you look at Joe Thoron, he's played 304 games since the 2005-2006 season with 96 total goals in those regular season games. In the playoffs he's got 40 total games played and only 6 goals to show for that. Experience really does make a difference. Teemu Selanne has played in 253 games as a Duck since 2005-2006 and has had 127 goals during that time. In the playoffs since then, he's been in 48 games and has 13 goals during that time. Incidentally enough, Ryan Getzlaf has also been in 48 playoff games since 2005-2006 and has also scored 13 goals in that time.

The Ducks have 12 players from the original 26 that won the cup in 2007. In addition to those vetrans, they have Bret Hedican who won the cup with the Hurricanes in 2005-2006. 13 players with extended playoff experience can only help your team.

The Sharks have 6 players on their current roster with a Stanley Cup Championship ring, all from other teams, as the Sharks have yet to win a championship thus far.

Both teams continue their quest for the cup tomorrow at 7:30 at the Honda Center. The series is now 3-2 in favor of the Ducks. If the Sharks win, it will tie the series, making it do-or-die for the Ducks on Wednesday. Should the Ducks win tomorrow, they will advance to the next round, playing the 2nd seeded Detroit Redwings.

Lets Go Ducks

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I love the playoffs.

In the fourth game of the series, the Ducks now lead 3-1 after their decisive 4-0 victory tonight at the Honda Center.

The win is largely attributed to the outstanding efforts of so-called rookie Bobby Ryan and netminder Jonas Hiller. Ryan scored the first two goals of the game and Hiller had 31 saves for his second shutout of the series.

The first period lacked nothing but a score. Three San Jose penalties for tripping, holding and roughing, and two for Anaheim for tripping and roughing offered plenty of opportunity to score, but after a combined 18 shots (10 for the Sharks and 8 for the Ducks) in the first period, nothing had gone in for either team.

Bobby Ryan broke that stalemate, and a pane of glass while he was at it. His first goal came at 6:33 in the second period off a wrist shot that slips by San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Three minutes later, he was slammed into the boards and shattered the piece of the glass separating the two benches. It took the maintenance crew a good 20 minutes to clean up the pieces of glass and replace the pane before the game could resume. 29 seconds after the impromptu break, Ryan scores again, putting the Ducks ahead 2-0.

Midway through the third period, Corey Perry sends in a shot by Ryan Getzlaf for the Duck's third goal of the night. Five minutes later, in the last few seconds of the game, Andrew Ebbett puts the game out of reach as he scores on an empty net for a final score of 4-0.

The game tonight was critical for the Ducks after Tuesday's loss at home. By keeping penalties at a minimum, (the Sharks had only two man-advantage power plays tonight) they were able to play disciplined hockey. It was undoubtedly a physical game, but the Ducks were consistent and diligent in fighting for the puck and breaking up the Shark's opportunities to score. Brent Severyn, the color commentator for the Ducks radio broadcast said "The Ducks chewed out the forecheck of the sharks, and Chris Pronger and the rest of the Duck's defensive core had pinpoint passing out of their own zone. They schooled them."

Decisive and motivating, the Ducks will have some momentum as they return to San Jose for game 5. With a win on the road, they will knock the Sharks out of the playoffs and move on to round 2.

The first round of the playoffs have already ended for some teams in both divisions, as the Redwings eliminated the Columbus BlueJackets with four straight wins. The Bruins wiped out the Montreal Canadians in four games and the St Louis Blues were also eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks.

Its now down to 13 teams fighting for the most renowned trophy in all sports. Lets Go Ducks.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Playoff Time!

The Ducks are up two games in the first round of the Western Division championships against their rivals, the detested San Jose Sharks. The Ducks won the first games in the San Jose Shark Tank, against a relentless Shark offense and some pretty tough calls by the refs.

It would not be the first time that the Ducks defeated a top seeded team in a four-game upset. The 2003 season was noted for their triumph over both the first and second seeded teams in the Quarter and Semifinals. Although they barely lost in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals that year, they've shown before that they are a force to be reckoned with in the post-season. The Ducks have what it takes to win in the playoffs, even with a rocky season. Much of the credit for their success is due to the vetrans on the team, who have seen many playoff games including one Stanley Cup Championship.

The Sharks lack that experience, and so far it shows in their first two games of the playoffs.

The Ducks return home for the next two games on Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30pm.

Lets Go Ducks!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Like a big Shark in a little Pond

The Ducks lost 3-2 to the Sharks at the Honda Center tonight, after winning in the Shark Tank in San Jose the previous night with an astounding 5-2 score.

Tonight's game seemed to progress from a very controlled and disciplined first period, to the eventual chaos that called for 15 penalties in the third period alone.

From a team that is ranked 3rd for the shots/goals percentage for powerplays in the NHL, the Sharks were expected to take advantage of any penalty opportunity they could. The Ducks, incidentally ranked second for earning the most penalty minute on average per game (18 minutes- almost an entire period spent a man short) needed to be disciplined tonight, to lessen the opportunity for the Sharks to take advantage.

Even with those seemingly ominous stats, the Ducks surprised everyone by scoring the first goal of the game shorthanded. After Andrew Ebbet earned a minor for holding the stick, Petteri Nokelainen somehow escaped the Duck's zone with the puck on a breakaway, and scored on his own rebound after San Jose goaltender Brian Boucher turned away his first one-on-nobody attempt, just five minutes into the first period.

The Sharks waited a whole period to tie up the game with a goal from Jeremy Roenick in the opening minutes of the middle stanza. It would be the only goal of the game that was scored with a full team on each end of the ice. Ten minutes later, Shark player Jody Shelley was slammed off the ice into his bench by an impressive hit by George Parros and His Mustache. Incensed by the hit, Shelley shoved Parros and His Mustache and earned a penalty for slashing. Corey Perry added salt to the wound by scoring on the ensuing powerplay, knocking in an erratically bouncing puck to put the Ducks ahead by one.

Their lead was soon lost as Sharks player Joe Pavelski got the puck between the posts past Hiller to tie the game at 2, on a powerplay after a Rob Niedermeyer penalty for charging.

In the last period, Drew Miller and Chris Pronger earn two separate penalties a minute apart, leaving the Ducks down two men and putting Jonas Hiller to the test. Miller was caught holding, earning a two-minute minor, and as Pronger was looking to clear the puck out of the zone, his enthusiastic pass sent the puck over the glass, earning him an automatic delay of game minor penalty. The Ducks were able to kill the holding penalty, but still down one player for the delay of game call, Sharks player Jonathan Cheechoo shot the puck past Hiller for the go-ahead goal that would eventually win the game.

The scoring was over, but the penalties kept coming. Corey Perry gently voiced his disagreement with some of the calls the refs made, including the call on his hi-sticking. It would only add to the tension of the last few seconds of the game. As the final horn sounded, every player on the ice dropped his gloves and brawled with the closest opponent to him. Five misconducts, five roughings, and a goalie interference later, the players leave the ice, the Ducks surrendering to San Jose with a final score of 3-2.

Jonas Hiller had another consistent game tonight, blocking 23 shots out of 26 attempts, allowing only one even strength goal. The fisticuffs of the endgame not included, the Ducks earned 7 penalties, successfully defending five and scoring a shorthanded goal on one.

With this loss, the Ducks are still not shut out of the playoffs, although they are only in 7th place, two points ahead of Nashville, and two points behind Columbus. The Ducks play Dallas on Friday, where a win could mean a tie for sixth in the division, and a clinched playoff spot.

At the top of the Western Conference resides the San Jose Sharks, who now have 115 points over the Detroit Redwings who have 109, which is a three game lead. The Calgary Flames are another six points behind Detroit, rounding out the top three in the Western Conference. In the East, the Boston Bruins continue to lead, with 112 points, followed by the Washington Capitals with 104 points, giving them a four game lead. In third place, the New Jersey Devils trail the Capitals by only one game with 102 points.

The Ducks only have two more games left in the regular season. If they're going to make a run for the playoffs, I might as well blog about it.

Lets Go Ducks!