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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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I Can’t Believe I Let This Guy Back In…

In Hockey on May 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Just kidding. But seriously. Once again I take a quick step aside in favor of Pierre Canard, who has had some time to pull himself together after the Ducks’ loss in game seven to the Red Wings, only to grace this brilliant blog with his outlook on the second round. I haven’t proofread any of this (just like all the other posts!), so bare with this poor guy as he dives into round two.

Take it away, Pierre!

Before anyone asks me to dissect the Wings-Ducks series, I have only one thing to say- I hope that this is not the way that Teemu Selanne, one of the classiest guys in the history of professional sports, ends his career. I am still not ready to do a post mortem on my beloved Ducks just yet. (I still need to digest this loss).

Now that I have no horse in the race, I am going to give a quick prediction on each series, so, I present you with my round one predictions…

PIT wins in 5 /WAS wins in 5/MTL wins in 6/TOR wins in 7
CHI wins in 4/ ANA wins in 6/SJS wins in 5/STL wins in 7

As you can see, I have a spectacularly poor 3/8 record.
On to round 2…

In the East, we see:

(1)   Pittsburgh Penguins vs (7) Ottawa Senators

There’s no real history to this matchup… (They’ve only met four times out of the last eight years, and then there’s that Cooke-Karlsson thing, but who remembers that?). Ottawa is the team that won’t die, is peaking at the right time, and basically ground out Montreal in the 1st round. They have a talented youth core, and a good, playoff tested leadership group in Chris Neil, Jason Spezza (who may be close to returning) and Daniel Alfredsson as well.

The Penguins on the other hand, suffer from a lack of depth issues, with guys like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang, Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrow, and a resurgent Chris Kunitz, who is a proven winner in playoff series, the Penguins seem like a sure thing. However goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a total collapse in his game, and the Penguins are now relying on the under-rated yet dependable Thomas Vokoun. Vokoun has shown some great play in the past, but a team questioning its goaltending in the playoffs is always a bad sign.

Penguins win in 7, outlasting the Senators.

(4) Boston Bruins vs (6) New York Rangers

Original Six matchup, part one.

Both teams stumbled to get where they are- Boston just about made my Toronto pick famous by barely surviving that series. New York has failed to live up to expectations all year, an atrocious season start and guys like Brad Richards and Rick Nash proving inconsistent in the playoffs. Both teams see their goalies streaking at the right time.

Boston, to me has the depth to win this series. This is probably the most battle tested team in the playoffs, (and we all have a soft spot for the city of Boston after the marathon tragedy).  This is almost exactly the same team that won the cup a few years ago, and is poised to do some real damage in the playoffs.

New York on the other hand, has great talent up front but cannot seem to get it all firing at once. In my mind, John Torterella might have his job on the line if the Rangers bow out early again. The team however lacks defensive depth in my mind, and cannot match the Bruins size.

This series going to feature a great goaltending duel, and will make for great TV, but I see the Boston Bruins winning in 6. Boston out muscles the Rangers, plain and simple.

Onto the West, where we see,

(1)   Chicago Blackhawks vs (7) Detroit Red Wings

Original Six matchup, part two.

Chicago has been the team out of the west to beat all season. From opening day, this team has been very formidable, and waltzed into the playoffs. Detriot on the other hand, is still Detroit. Despite the losses of names like Stuart, Lidstrom and Holmstrom, they remain a constant threat as the Ducks discovered.

Chicago has the obvious edge in roster depth, and steam rolled Detroit in the regular season winning all 4 meetings. The Hawks have excellent leadership (and talent) in proven playoff names like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Towes, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Daniel Carcillo, with a resurgent Ray Emery proving a capable backup to Corey Crawford.

Detroit has done well so far with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Justin Abdelkader leading the charge, and the defensive core, while the young defensive lineup led by the always physical Nik Kronwall has performed well thus far. Goaltender Jimmy Howard played a lights out great first round, but the team has to be worn down from a long series with a lot of travel.

I think this series should be a good battle, Chicago faces a great test, but I don’t think Detroit has the energy left to compete in a drawn out series. Chicago wins in 6.

(5)   Los Angeles Kings vs (6) San Jose Sharks

Ahh, the battle of California,  “non-traditional “ markets that (including Anaheim) seem to always ice great teams. Obviously, I would have loved my team in it, but here we go…

Los Angeles wins games and series by pounding the other team into submission, and has a compliment of scorers that can do damage. This team is almost identical to the team that won the cup last year, with the most noticeable addition being Robin Regher, a defensive rock that allows guys like Drew Doughty to jump into the rush. The Kings have a great goalie in Jonathan Quick. The team must be at least a little bit banged up from the series with St. Louis, where the teams were hitting each other at a terrifying rate. (The kings stormed back from a 2-0 series deficit, to win it in 6).

San Jose on the other hand, has been relying on great goaltending from Niemi, with excellent scoring from young talent in Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, evened out with experienced veterans like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. The leadership is complemented by guys who might not playing but will be in the locker room in Marty Havlat and Scott Gomez. Good blue line talent in Danny Boyle, Scott Hannan, Brad Staurt and Brent Burns keeps the team competitive. Raffi Torres has been on his best behavior and gives the Sharks a nice weapon that can be used to at least partly counter the Kings grinding strategy. The Sharks also swept the perennial “challenger that chokes” Vancouver Canucks. The team is rested, which might lead to a bit of rust, but will benefit them in the long run.

This series goes long, and the Sharks outlast the Kings in 7. The Kings, in my mind, are going to be drained out by the end of this series.

I am Pierre Canard. Thanks for reading my incoherent ramblings on round two. Feel free to disagree with me on twitter @SargeTheDuck. Now excuse me, I think I am going to be sick… I just spent half a page complimenting California hockey teams that are not from Anaheim.

Hopefully you’ve got someone to hold your hair on this one, buddy. And you also get to shave, which has become a problem for yours truly.

LET THE MAYHEM COMMENCE!

I am Ryan Thomas, and I approve this post. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22 and beg me to let you write for this blog. I can be bought for the right price.

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.