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Anaheim Ducks 2013-14 Season Preview

In Hockey on October 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm

While I was away, I wrongly put aside the contributions of others to the season previews. Stepping in for the Ducks preview is our lone contributor to the site, Pierre Canard.

2013 Recap
The Ducks pleasantly surprised their fans last year, while quietly compiling the second best record in the west last year, going 30-12-6. Riding the resurgent Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and an outstanding goaltending duo, Anaheim’s first complete regular season under Coach Bruce Boudreau was a success, with the Ducks winning the Pacific Division.

The Ducks entered the first round of the playoffs to face the Detroit Red Wings. To say there is a history between these two teams in the postseason is an understatement. Recent history(2006-07, 2008-09) had the winners eventually making it to the finals, and to put it bluntly, these teams don’t like each other.

This series was no different, with the series going to 7 games and the Red Wings advancing. Over the summer, the Ducks saw some major changes on the roster, but thankfully for them (and the entire league) Teemu Selanne returned to the team, as per norm, using a hilarious video, for his final season. How will the Ducks do? Let’s take a look.

Forwards
For the better part of the last decade, the Ducks have had one of the best duos in the NHL in Getzlaf and Perry, who both signed long term deals during last season. Longtime line mate Bobby Ryan was finally traded to Ottawa after years of speculation, with the Ducks getting highly touted prospects like Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen in return.

GM Bob Murray didn’t stop there, and brought back Dustin Penner on a 1 year deal, so I guess “Out with the old, in with the new old-er??” . The Ducks youth movement saw great improvement with Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem and Nick Bonino showing they will be big names in the organization sooner than later. Veterans like Dan Winnik, Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano, and elder statesman Teemu Selanne round out the offense. Of note, Cogliano had a spectacular season  last year (13g, 10a), including a gutsy performance coming back into a game where he had his teeth knocked out, without missing a shift.

The Ducks seem to have a balanced attack, but it will depend on Dustin Penner finding his old groove with Getzlaf and Perry, a continued (and tangible show of) growth by the younger guys, and consistent contribution from Teemu Selanne and company.

Anaheim did struggle mightily in the face-off circle last year, and had power play issues at times too.  Hopefully the young blood helps with this, otherwise another early playoff exit may be in the cards. Anaheim lacks a gritty enforcer type, a role that Brad Staubitz could not fulfill, and this will be an issue in the rough and tumble West.

Defense
On paper, Anaheim has quite the capable defense. On paper. Last season, Francois Beauchemin had a Norris trophy level season, playing on a bad knee but putting up an outstanding 24 points (6+18) in 48 games, being a +19,  and playing lights out great hockey all season.  Despite having reconstructive surgery on his knee in the offseason, he has played  games this preseason and should be good to start.

As usual, Cam Fowler had a solid season, with Sheldon Souray providing welcome offense early in the season, before struggling defensively in the second half of the season, and Sheldon will miss a big chunk of the season this year, while recovering from an off season wrist injury. Ben Lovejoy, who the Ducks acquired for next to nothing (2014 5th round pick), was a revelation, playing as a solid 2nd pairing defenseman. Lovejoy earned a 3 year extension over the offseason.

Sadly, Luca Sbisa took a step back in his development(and was benched during the season for it) is also injured and doubtful for the seasons start, and Bryan Allan, who was brought in to be a defensive specialist, was at times a liability on the blue line. Dependable vet Toni Lydman chose not to return to the NHL, and at the time of this writing was rumored to be considering retirement. Anaheim rookie Sami Vatanen, small but a fantastic power play quarterback who we saw briefly last year will likely make the team out of camp, and could be joined by rookies Hampus Lindholm, a capable two-defender and absolute giant (6-6, 253lbs) Nolan Yonkman, a 32 year old player who finally seems ready to make the jump to the NHL. Journeyman Mark Fistric was signed when Souray’s injury was announced, and will provide the team a depth defenseman with NHL experience.

Goaltending
If there was ever a way to illustrate “embarrassment of riches”, Anaheim’s incredible depth in net would be the perfect example; Two great NHL #1 capable goalies in Jonas Hiller, and last season’s “rookie” surprise Viktor Fasth, two fantastic goalies in the AHL who are capable of being solid backups in Fredrik Andersen and Igor Bobkov, and American hero John Gibson, who probably makes the AHL team, and has time to develop into the sure fire #1 he will be eventually.

You might see Anaheim moving one of the NHL level goalies at some point this season, likely Hiller, but Anaheim fans would be content to ride out the duo this year.

The Hat Trick

1. Defensive Woes
Anaheim needs to solidify its defensive corps, in a hurry. At the rate things are going, the Ducks will not make it very far unless its defense stays healthy and every member contributes. Last season saw a big drop off between Fowler and Beauchemin, and with injuries compounding the already shaky situation, the gap on the blue line needs to be closed-quickly.

2. Who Scores the Goals?
Losing Bobby Ryan costs Anaheim a 30 goal a year guy. It is not impossible to expect Dustin Penner and Jakob Silfverberg to fill that void, but it isn’t reasonable to expect them to “hit it off” immediately. Further, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are not getting younger seeing their numbers trail off last season, and Andrew Cogliano’s season might have been an over performance and it might be a stretch to get the likes of Etem, Palmieri and Bonino to fill that void. It may be a return to the “score by committee” tactic next year. With Getzlaf and Perry now secure in long term deals,

3. Anniversary!
It’s TWENTY years of the Ducks this season! Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?  There’s the outdoor game versus Los Angeles in Dodgers Stadium,(ICMYI- that is in California… how can that possibly go wrong?). There is the throwback game where the team will pay tribute to the Original 93-94’ Mighty Ducks, and all sorts of celebratory things throughout the season. The Ducks have the opportunity to make a big splash on the national stage with the additional coverage; and hopefully capitalize on it. And, despite the fact that they are no longer the Disney team, who wouldn’t love a fairytale ending or Teemu’s career?

Prediction
Anaheim will be in the mix this year, assuming the defense holds up. Strong goaltending and a potentially lethal offense should offset initial defensive woes. Anaheim benefits from the re-alignment, and should feast on teams like Edmonton and Calgary, despite facing challengers like LA, San Jose and Vancouver. Third in the Pacific.

Must-Follow Ducks Twitter Feeds
I am Pierre Canard, and as usual, I thank the D.A.R.T. Board for the opportunity to post a piece.  Feel free to go at it with me on twitter @SargeTheDuck. Apart from shameless self promotion as “the Ducks fan to follow”, I would suggest you take a look at my buddy Kyle Nicolas  @ACKyleNicolas and the always in-the-know Eric Stephens (Anaheim’s beat writer) @icemancometh.

I’ll add to this. Follow along with the Battle of California’s Jer and former BoC writer Earl Sleek. That is, if you like humor, cartoons and profanity to go with your Ducks talk.

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Previewing the Ducks-Red Wings Series, with a Special Guest Host

In Hockey on April 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Today April 30, 2013 marks a special day in the history of this blog, as we are running our first ever guest piece. We here at The D.A.R.T. Board enjoy visitors, and joining us for a last minute preview of the Anaheim-Detroit series is the one and only Pierre Canard. As the only Ducks’ fan I have ever come in contact with, I had a moment of weakness when I asked Pierre to lend his thoughts to the Ducks’ first round matchup.

So boys and girls, without further ado, here is Pierre’s take on the Ducks-Wings series (which may not be as awesome as mine, which you can read here).

Anaheim started off hot and fast, posting an impressive record that was overshadowed by the Chicago Blackhawks historic streak. While the Ducks streak out of the gate went relatively unnoticed, the team comfortably “flew under the radar”, building up an impressive lead that, with the exception of a bit of a slide towards the end of the season, cemented the teams second Pacific Division title.

Detroit on the other hand, struggled out of the gate, (understandably so) in the Red Wings first season post-Lidstrom. The team saw the obvious lack of defensive depth exploited initially, and had struggled with injuries up front. Detroit closed out the season very strong, on the backs of Jimmy Howard, and the still reliable forward depth.

The teams faced off three times this season, with the road team always winning. Detroit won 2 games (back to back) in Anaheim, where the Ducks were outclassed.

I am obviously biased towards the Ducks, but the depth that Anaheim has had is something any team would desire. With 6 players with 10 or more goals, and even more depth throughout the line up, the Ducks are team that easily rolls 4 lines.Ryan Getzlaf (fresh off an extension) has returned to form, and the other omnipresent threats like Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry (who also re-signed with the Ducks), are complimented with pleasantly surprising performances from Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Palmieri. Defensively, this team is built very well, with Francois Beauchemin enjoying a career year, Sheldon Souray enjoying his own resurgence. Cam Fowler has been struggling with injuries this season, with solid depth further in the line up in Luca Sbisa, Toni Lydman and Bryan Allen rounding out the rotation. Ben Lovejoy, a mid season pickup was a revelation, has played his way into the lineup. The Ducks also enjoy a terrific depth in net, with Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller posting 15 wins each.

Detroit has seen Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Val Filppula get support from younger blood in Dan Cleary, Justin Abdelkader and Damien Brunner in scoring, but beyond the top 6, this team struggles mightily in scoring depth. (However Jordin Tootoo is a constant threat to Anaheim’s sanity; in his time with the Predators he was a constant thorn in the Ducks side, and always got the Ducks off their game). Defensively, Detroit simply has no real threats beyond Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall. The drop off cannot possibly be expected to compete in a long series. Jimmy Howard looks to carry the load for the Red Wings.

My Take:

Detroit and Anaheim always have great playoff battles- Detroit stormed into the playoffs, while Anaheim did cool off towards the end of the season. Detroit’s hot streak worries me; this is a team that can still do damage despite the depth limitations. Jimmy Howard quietly has had another good year, and is capable of stealing games for his team. Anaheim’s depth is intimidating, and should be able to wear down Detroit over the series. This will make for some great TV, and I have Anaheim winning the series in 6 games.

I would like to thank the owners of this blog for the opportunity to post my incoherent thoughts on this series. Feel free to agree/disagree/stir up some arguments with me on Twitter @SargeTheDuck.

And there you have it! If you like Pierre’s take on the Ducks, follow him on Twitter because there’s plenty more where that came from. If you didn’t like it, tell me and I’ll be sure to let Pierre know on the 7th of Never.

The Goaltending Foxhole, Part Four

In Hockey on November 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

Now this is where things get fun. We’ve already looked at the first three levels of goaltenders. Please, feel free to go back and read them if you haven’t already. Today, we take a look at some of the game’s top goaltenders that have a quirk or have struggled in crunch-time. Some of these guys don’t fall into the “Talented But Unproven” category, simply because their talents have been on display for more than half of a season. Yet, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of them. This section will be called:

The Enigmas

Ondrej Pavelec
The man that has been tapped as the Jets’ goaltender of the foreseeable future, Pavelec has impressed me on more than one occasion with the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. He’s also made me shake my head on more than one occasion at his play. I know his team has been awful defensively since he’s been with the big club, but he’s been prone to bad goals as well.

If Sergei Bobrovsky is going to be an NHL number one goalie, it may not be in Philly

Sergei Bobrovsky
Bob came out of nowhere to be an early season stud for the Flyers in 2010. Then, it appeared that he got a little worn down by the longer NHL schedule, and he wasn’t near as strong in the latter part of the season. Played well overall, the Peter Laviollette decided to play hot potato with his goalies in the playoffs. Now Bobrovsky sits behind Ilya Bryzgalov in the Philly net. Tough breaks for Bob.

Ray Emery
The oldest member of the list, Emery has backstopped a team to the finals, battled injuries and personal demons only to fight his way back to form last year. Emery doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt here because of the amount of time he was on the shelf over the last few years. We won’t know if he can take a team to the Finals the same way he did with Ottawa in ’07. Unless someone loses each of their current goalies.

Craig Anderson
A guy that played a few pretty good seasons as a backup into a starting gig, Anderson was at his very best when he helped take Colorado back to the playoffs in 2010. The biggest problem for Anderson since then is the fact that he’s been playing for some of the worst defensive teams in the league in Ottawa and last year’s version of the Avalanche. Anderson’s numbers this year haven’t been great, but he’s stolen a few games for the Avs.

Michal Neuvirth is currently learning behind Tomas Vokoun in Washington

Michal Neuvirth
The only thing getting Neuvirth on this list is the fact that he was the guy last year in Washington. Neuvirth was great in the regular season and against the Rangers in the playoffs. But since the Tampa series, Neuvirth has been incredibly bad for a good team. If he’s going to be the guy going forward for the Caps, he’s got to show more.

Semyon Varlamov
The talent is there, without question. But injuries and the inability to get in a groove have held Varlamov back over the last few years. This season, the Avalanche gave up a ton to get him from the Capitals, and they’ve been rewarded with inconsistent play thus far. It’s been the story of his career. But, from reading The Goalie Guild (which had a big help in the inspiration for this list), the Avalanche don’t have a goaltending coach for Varly. Hopefully, he’s been listening to J.S. Giguere.

Without Brian Elliott, the Blues may be one of the league's worst teams

Brian Elliott
Before you call me an idiot for putting Elliott this high, hear me out. The guy has been a good goalie since he came into the league. Not great, but good. He helped get the Senators to the playoffs a few years ago with some great play. He was atrocious last year for two of the league’s worst teams in Ottawa and Colorado. St. Louis took a flier on him this year, and they’ve been rewarded with outstanding play from Elliott. Elliott helped take Wisconsin to a national title as a senior, and he was even playing well before Ken Hitchcock arrived in St. Louis. I can’t put him higher though, because I don’t know if this will keep up and the Blues go back to the guy they’re paying a lot of money to. Speaking of him…

Jaroslav Halak
What the hell happened, Jaro? He never had a chance to take the top spot in Montreal, takes the Habs on a magical playoff run two years ago, gets a chance in St. Louis to be the top guy last year and plays very well early. Then, the wheels fell off and Halak hasn’t been able to re-gain the form he showed at times in Montreal. He’s been victimized by bad goals, yet he makes a save or two per game that brings you out of your seat. I know he’s capable of getting white-hot, but that hasn’t happened for quite some time. Thanks, Jaro, but you can take a seat.

Cory Schneider
Yes, this choice does break the rules listed at the top. But it’s my list and I can do what I want with it! There’s no question the Schneider is going to be a number one goalie somewhere in the NHL. No one knows if it’s going to be in Vancouver or elsewhere though. He’s been lights-out this season playing in relief of Roberto Luongo. He was also great last year and was called upon to take over for Luongo in a clinching playoff game. If I’m any team that needs a plan in net for the future, I would get on the phone with Mike Gillis right now. I’m talking to you, New Jersey.

Tuukka Rask
Rask is being very patient behind Tim Thomas. He has the chops to be a top guy, and he took the Bruins to a series win in 2010. He was also in net for the team’s collapse against the Flyers that year too, so I have to dock him for that. He fits in above Schneider because we’ve seen more of Rask over the last few years.

Mike Smith is thriving in the Desert this season

Mike Smith
Now that he’s out of goaltending hell in Tampa, we’re finally able to see what Smith can do as a goalie. He’s healthy and he’s been great for the Coyotes this year. As good as he’s been this year, it has yet to be seen how he does over an entire season. He’s also fun to watch because of how well he handles the puck. Talk to me in a few months with Smith.

Corey Crawford
It took him some time, but Crawford now has a stranglehold on the Chicago net. He was a blast to watch last year, and he nearly won the team’s game seven in Vancouver last year by himself. He continues to get better, and it may not be too long before Crawford is one of the league’s elite goaltenders. My only concern is how quick his coach likes to give his goalies the hook. All it takes to possibly put Crawford back on the bench is a 4-5 game stretch of poor play.

Kari Lehtonen
I had an incredibly hard time trying to figure out where to put Lehtonen. He’s been great since he arrived in Dallas, nearly taking a lesser-talented team to the playoffs last year. He also got out to a great start this season for the Stars. From what I had been told, it was because he dedicated himself to getting in shape and getting healthy. That gives me the idea that he could give up if things are going south. He battled injuries and some bad hockey teams while in Atlanta, but was good the year he took them to the team’s only playoff appearance. He responded by getting abused by the Rangers in his only playoff action. So until he can prove that he’s worthy of being a top goalie, I have no choice but to put him here.

Jonathan Quick
Another guy that’s been great since he was handed the keys to his team, Quick is putting up great numbers for the Kings once again this year. He’s also got to deal with Jonathan Bernier behind him, who could take that spot at any time. My biggest issue with Quick is how badly he’s fallen apart in the playoffs. Yes, he stole LA’s two (nearly three) wins last year against the Sharks in the playoffs. But he was taken to the woodshed by Vancouver the year before, and had he not collapsed in game three against San Jose, who knows how that series ends. Yes, I was smiling the entire time I typed that. Perform in the playoffs, young man.

Jonas Hiller
When he’s good, he’s really good. But Hiller’s high points came the year he led the Ducks to a playoff win as an 8-seed (my smile is no longer present) and last year before he came down with vertigo. Hiller returned this year to what has turned out to be a pretty bad Ducks team, and his numbers have suffered. I’m not going to throw the guy to the wayside, he’s still plenty talented and can steal games if he gets hot. Catching with his right hand is also a different look for shooters. But I need to see him put together a long stretch before thinking about moving him up.

Antti Niemi is the only goalie in this section to have started for a Stanley Cup winner

Antti Niemi
While I had a friend tell me he thinks Niemi deserves to be an elite goalie, I can’t put him there yet. Yes, he’s won a Stanley Cup. Yes, he’s carried two teams to great seasons. But his Cup had more to do with the team in front of him than anything, and he’s been leaky in a few playoff series over the last two years (LA and Vancouver last year, at times against Philly in ’10). So until Niemi can put together a season AND playoff season where he’s lights-out, then his ascension to the elite could come quickly. For my own sanity, I hope it’s this season. The good news is that he’s been superb for the Sharks this season and is a big reason why they’re the top defensive team in the West as of right now.

Jimmy Howard
This guy is on the fast-track to an elite level. I even hate having him here. Howard took the league by storm as a rookie, but he regressed a little bit last season, posting less than impressive numbers. Howard erased any concern that his team had about him in the playoffs, posting solid numbers in 11 games. This season, he’s gotten off to a great start and has kept the Red Wings in the hunt for the top spot in the conference. The only issue I have, and this is based off the times I’ve gotten to see him the most (the playoffs against San Jose), is that he’s prone to giving up a bad goal that can swing some momentum. He appears to be the Red Wings’ guy going forward though, so all is good in Detroit’s net.

Ilya Bryzgalov hopes to get his game turned around in time for the playoffs

Ilya Bryzgalov
Bryzgalov just missed out on the elite level, and anyone that’s seen him play in Philly this year can understand why. He was outstanding in Phoenix for four years, posting great numbers for teams that aren’t as talented as others in the league. However, we could be seeing that those results were a product of Dave Tippett’s system since Mike Smith is having success. There’s no question Bryzgalov is a talented goalie. He’s openly said he’s had some confidence issues in Philly so far, and now we’re starting to see Sergei Bobrovsky get more playing time. He demanded big money, got it, and is slacking. It’s almost as if he’s using the more talented team in front of him as an excuse to let his guard down. That’s not how it works, in the end you still have to stop the puck, Breezy.

Well that covers it for The Enigmas. We’ve finally reached the elite. Come back tomorrow, when I reveal the one goaltender that I want in net for one game only.

And please, react to me! I enjoy the feedback.