INSIDE HOCKEY » St. Louis Blues http://insidehockey.com Get Inside! Wed, 06 Aug 2014 17:05:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Wolves Fall Flat, Drop Both at Home http://insidehockey.com/wolves-fall-flat-drop-both-at-home http://insidehockey.com/wolves-fall-flat-drop-both-at-home#comments Sun, 11 May 2014 15:51:39 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58657

The Chicago Wolves had been beyond sensational at Allstate Arena entering the postseason. Their pure dominance at home was the primary reason as to how Chicago captured the Western Conference’s second-seed, as well as home-ice advantage in each of the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Wolves closed the season 22-1-3-2 at Allstate Arena.

After winning two of three games at home in the opening round of the AHL playoffs, Chicago fell flat on consecutive nights at home and dug themselves a 2-0 hole against the Toronto Marlies in the Western Conference semifinals. Toronto took game two by a score of 4-2.

“We’ve got to do the same in their building,” said Shane Harper, who scored the first of Chicago’s two goals.

Much like the first game of the series, Toronto built an early lead and was able to extend. Just one minute, four seconds into the opening period, Carter Ashton forced a turnover in behind Wolves goaltender Jake Allen and got the puck to the front of the net where Peter Holland finished it off for the game’s first tally.

“We made some tremendous blunders early and it’s just so hard to come back from that,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson.

“They’ve got a really opportunistic team,” said defenseman Taylor Chorney. “We’ve got to limit our mistakes early in the game.”

Brandon Kozun fed Trevor Smith on the doorstep during a three-on-two rush to open up a two-goal advantage for Toronto and Josh Leivo roofed one past Allen to make it 3-0 before the end of the first frame.

A stronger second period for Chicago yielded no reward despite the Wolves slowing down the pace of the game and opting for a possession-oriented approach.

“We’ve got to find a way to do that to start the game,” said Chorney.

Again, much like in game one, Chicago was able to battle back and pull to within a goal of the Marlies in the third period.

Harper burst into the offensive zone after being sprung by Chorney pass through the neutral zone and finished top shelf past Marlies netminder Drew MacIntyre to get Chicago on the board.

“We needed one to jump us into attack mode,” said Harper.

Dmitrij Jaskin redirected a point shot on the power play with the net empty to make it a one-goal deficit, but the Wolves could not complete the comeback as Jerry D’Amigo put one into a vacated net to seal the game two victory for Toronto.

“We’ve just got to find a way to come out and fly in the first five minutes like we’ve been playing in the third periods,” said Chorney.

The series now heads to Toronto for the next three games with Chicago needing to take two in order to keep their playoff run alive.

“They showed it’s possible to go into an opposition’s building and win two games in a row,” said Chorney. “That’s something we have to take in Toronto.”

Chicago is 2-6 in series when dropping each of the first two games of the series.

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Special Teams Mishaps Cue Game One Loss http://insidehockey.com/special-teams-mishaps-cue-game-one-loss http://insidehockey.com/special-teams-mishaps-cue-game-one-loss#comments Sat, 10 May 2014 12:25:15 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58643

Special teams have seemed to dictate the Chicago Wolves’ success throughout this season, playoffs included. Friday night was a prime example of that as the Wolves failed to convert on three power play chances, including a crucial third period man-advantage with Chicago down two goals. The Wolves also surrendered two power play goals, both in the opening period, which allowed Toronto to build an early lead en route to a 5-2 victory at Allstate Arena in game one of the Western Conference semifinals.

“You can’t give them much, they’ve got too much firepower,” said Michael Davies, who scored Chicago’s second goal of the game. “We’ve just got to stay out the penalty box.”

The Marlies converted on two of their five power plays in the game. Chicago killed off just 70.4 percent of its penalties in round one of the playoffs after posting the league’s fourth-best penalty kill (85.6%) during the regular season.

Toronto scored early in the second frame to open up a three-goal advantage. However, a mid-second period spark from Christian Hanson allowed the Wolves to get back in it. Mark Cundari rifled a perfectly placed pass that caromed off the end boards to the front of the net and Hanson was there to clean it up and get Chicago on the board.

In tight along the side boards, Ty Rattie made a beautiful tap pass to Davies, who beat Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre to make it a one-goal deficit for the Wolves, but that was as close as they would get.

“We thought we still had a chance, but it was just too much to overcome,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson.

After Mark Cundari nearly tied the game in the opening minutes of the third period with a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar, the Marlies scored the game’s final two goals to seal away the game one victory on the road. Carter Ashton gave Toronto a two-goal lead when he whiffed on a breakaway from the blue line in, but had the puck redirect off Wolves goaltender Jake Allen’s stick and in.

“What are you going to do,” said Anderson.

Chicago and Toronto will see a 24-hour turnaround before facing off again in game two of the series Saturday night back at Allstate Arena.

“We’ve just got to come back tomorrow, stay within our systems, and keep the game five-on-five,” said Davies.

MacIntyre recorded 37 saves in the win for the Marlies.

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Late 2nd Period Surge Powers Wolves to Semis http://insidehockey.com/late-2nd-period-surge-powers-wolves-to-semis http://insidehockey.com/late-2nd-period-surge-powers-wolves-to-semis#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 18:48:17 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58592

Following a 7-2 home loss in game four, Chicago Wolves head coach John Anderson was asked if he was nervous heading into an ensuing do-or-die game five situation against the Rochester Americans.

“We just got beat 7-2 at home, so I’m not nervous at all,” said Anderson sarcastically Friday night.

Those nerves were intensified in the decisive game five after Rochester held a 2-1 lead nearing the conclusion of the second frame.

After Shane Harper scored the opening goal of the game just a few minutes in, the Americans responded with the next two and grabbed the lead. Both Rochester tallies came via the power play.

However, a late-second period surge from the Wolves sprung Chicago back into the lead and into the Western Conference semifinals, where they will face the Toronto Marlies.

“Sometimes you have to go through a little hell to get to heaven,” said Anderson.

Brent Regner found a loose puck in the slot after Michael Davies lost the puck on a wraparound attempt and sniped it past Rochester goaltender Andrey Marakov for the equalizer. The power play tally came with two minutes, 32 seconds to play in the period.

With just 26 seconds to play in the frame, again on the man-advantage, Dmitrij Jaskin tapped home a centering pass from the side of the net to put Chicago ahead.

“Nobody cared on our team who was going to score that one,” said Jaskin. “We just tried to play for each other.” Jaskin’s power play tally proved to be the game-winner, his second of the series.

“They kind of had us on the ropes there,” said Regner. “The power play came up huge.”

From there, it was all Jake Allen for the Wolves. The AHL’s most outstanding goaltender made a crucial pad save on a one-time attempt at the side of the net with the Wolves on the penalty kill to preserve what was then a 3-2 lead for Chicago. It was an impressive rebound performance for Allen after surrendering five goals on 17 shots in game four.

“I told myself after that I wasn’t going to allow them to score again,” said Allen.

Taylor Chorney added an empty net goal with a tick over one minute to play in the game and was mobbed in front of the Chicago bench before time ran out.

“They gave us all we could handle,” said Allen. “We closed it down when we needed to and that’s all that matters.”

Chicago improved to 8-3 all-time in postseason elimination games with the win.

Game one between the second-seeded Wolves and third-seeded Marlies will take place Friday night at Allstate Arena. The two teams split the season series, with each game being decided by a single goal.

“We’re going to have our hands full there,” said Allen. “It’s going to be a challenge but I’m sure the boys will be ready.”

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Amerks Hammer Wolves to Force Game Five http://insidehockey.com/amerks-hammer-wolves-to-force-game-five http://insidehockey.com/amerks-hammer-wolves-to-force-game-five#comments Sat, 03 May 2014 15:48:55 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58563

It was just one of those nights for the Chicago Wolves. Recently named the Bastien Memorial Award winner as the AHL’s top goaltender, Jake Allen had a less than impressive performance Friday night at Allstate Arena and the Rochester Americans rolled over the Wolves 7-2 in game four of the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

“We haven’t had one of those games for a long time,” said Allen. “Just one of those nights.”

Allen had allowed just two goals in the opening periods through the first three games of the series, but saw a four go up on the scoreboard after 20 minutes in this one. The first two tallies for the Americans came just eight seconds apart, less than two minutes into the game. The Wolves trailed 4-1 after the first.

Chicago had chances to close the gap, but failed to convert on consecutive power play opportunities midway through the second frame. Seconds after serving his time, Frederick Roy stepped onto the ice and wristed a breakaway shot past Allen to give Rochester a 5-1 lead. Allen would exit after giving up five goals on just 17 shots and was replaced by Matt Climie.

“We still thought we had a chance even after the end of the first period, but we gave them a chance to add on to it and they did,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson.

Christian Hanson redirected a point shot off a offensive zone face-off win to cut the lead deficit to 5-2, but minutes later, Brayden Irwin tapped home a loose puck in front through traffic and past Climie to give the Americans a comfortable four-goal cushion heading to the final period.

“When you’re down by that much you try to hang in there as long as you can,” said Anderson. “We just couldn’t recover.”

Johan Larsson tallied Rochester’s third power play goal of the game in the final frame to add insult to injury. The seven goals allowed set a new season-high for the Wolves.

It was just Chicago’s second regulation loss at home over its last 30 games at Allstate Arena, where the decisive game five will take place Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a new game, that’s all it is,” said Allen.

The Wolves are 7-3 all-time in do-or-die situations during their postseason history.

“There’s so many things that go in your mind,” said Anderson. “That’s why it’s the playoffs.”

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Stars Down Blues, Clinch Final Playoff Berth http://insidehockey.com/stars-down-blues-clinch-final-playoff-berth http://insidehockey.com/stars-down-blues-clinch-final-playoff-berth#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 12:23:39 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58120

There will be hockey in Dallas after most people file their tax returns by the April 15 deadline this year.

Following a long and sometimes painful five-year absence from the post-season, the Dallas Star exorcised the franchise’s demons Friday night by clinching their first Stanley Cup playoff berth since the 2007-08 campaign with a resounding 3-0 victory over the visiting St. Louis Blues before an appreciative sellout crowd at American Airlines Center. The throng gave the team a standing ovation at game’s end, after which team members waved their sticks in appreciation, and team captain Jamie Benn personally thanked the fans for their support. The post-game celebration featured forward Rich Peverley, sidelined for the rest of the season after enduring a heard-related incident on March 10, celebrating in street clothes with his teammates at the Stars’ bench.

“That (post-game celebration with the fans) was great, maybe a little bit of a sigh of relief,” said Tyler Seguin, the team’s leading scorer. “We’ve been working for this all season since training camp and all our fans have stuck with us over the last few years so it’s nice to make the playoffs for them and for ourselves.”

The white and green-clad Stars (40-30-11 for 91 points) wrapped up an opportunity to play for Lord Stanley of Preston’s chalice because they hold the first tie breaker over 9th place Phoenix (36-29-15 for 87 points), a 36-30 advantage in regulation and overtime wins (ROW). Phoenix, which recently suffered through a five-game winless streak, visits San Jose Saturday before hosting Dallas Sunday to finish the regular season.

“I am so damn happy,” said coach Lindy Ruff, who is not usually given to such outbursts. “Our team played awesome.  I was worried that we were a little tight to start the game but, man, did we start to skate and did we start to compete.  I’ve got to give my club credit for putting up the battle they did.  When we had the chance to put them down, we put them down and we took advantage of a team that had seven or eight of their players out of the lineup.”

Dallas, which won for the fifth time in its last six home games, also defeated marquee goalie Ryan Miller, whom the Blues acquired from Buffalo prior to the trade deadline as a key piece for their Stanley Cup push, for the 3rd straight time in a St. Louis uniform. The Stars finished their five-game season series against the Central Division’s Blues by capturing seven of a possible 10 points, winning twice (once in overtime) and losing once in St. Louis to go with an overtime loss at the American Airlines Center.

“Five years for sure (is a long time),” said Benn. “It feels good to get this win. It means a lot, every kid dreams of playing in the playoffs and trying to win the Stanley Cup. I believe we have a great group this year that can do some damage. We earned it tonight and we’ll finish that game in Phoenix and move on to Game One (of the playoffs).

“I thought our team played great tonight and we definitely earned this,” added Benn. “We stayed loose before the game. We just wanted to go out there and work hard and have fun. We believed in each other all year and we just played a great game tonight.”

Defenseman Trevor Daley broke a scoreless tie just over eight minutes into the 2nd period with his career-best 9th goal of the season and 2nd in two games. Daley tallied on a breakaway, pulling the puck to his backhand and clipping it over Miller’s glove to give Dallas a 1-0 lead. The play was created by captain Jamie Benn, who won a brief scrum at center ice and head-manned a short pass into open ice where Daley was able to outrace the St. Louis defense.

Daley helped create the Stars’ second goal on a power play, keeping the puck in the St. Louis zone and feeding Benn at the side of the Blues’ net during a power play with eight minutes left in the 2nd period. Benn’s  goalmouth feed was one-timed into an empty net by Tyler Seguin for his team- and career-high 37th goal of the season and a 2-0 Dallas lead.

“On the power play goal, the pass itself was hard enough to catch but to shoot it from that angle and to hit that part of the net was an incredible shot by Tyler and a great set-up by (Benn),” said Ruff. “It was a big goal for us”

Dallas outshot St. Louis, 21-6 in the 2nd stanza and 30-13 for the final 40 minutes (40-22 for the game) while taking complete control of the match. The Blues hardly resembled a team battling for the Central Division and Western Conference championships, losing for the 5th straight game and failing to match Dallas’s energy or ability to control territorial play. They were playing without star forward T.J. Oshie, who sustained a head injury after he was hit by Minnesota forward Mike Rupp on Thursday night’s 4-2 Wild victory. Rupp received a match penalty and subsequently suspended for four games by the NHL.

Dallas kept pressuring St. Louis into the 3rd period as forward Ryan Garbutt scored his 17th goal to make it 3-0 early in the session. Garbutt deflected home a point shot by defenseman Alex Goligoski that was set up by a pass from veteran forward Vernon Fiddler, who has contributed eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) in his last 10 games.

“On the third one for (Garbutt) to get his stick on it, well the bench was elated because it provided us breathing room,” Ruff said. “We hadn’t had a lot of room to breathe.  We had one go off the stanchion where (goalie Kari Lehtonen) had to make an incredible save and those are the breaks that can do you in when you don’t have much breathing room.

“I thought it was a playoff-like atmosphere,” Ruff added. “You feed off that at times.  The energy when that third goal went in was like everyone else in the building took a breath and said breathing room…order me another beer.  It’s just a warm up for the playoffs.  Our fans can knock the lid off this place if we give them the chance.”

Lehtonen made 22 saves to notch his career-high 5th shutout and improve his record to 33-20-10. He preserved a shutout with a goalmouth save against Blues rookie forward Ty Rattie with 11 minutes remaining. The 33 wins are one less than his career high achieved with Atlanta (now Winnipeg) in 2006-07 and in Dallas during the 2010-11 season.

Dallas defenseman Brenden Dillon did not return for the 3rd period after suffering an upper-body injury.

“I’ll confidently sit here and say if we can play like that I think we can play with anybody in the league,” said Seguin, who was voted by his teammates as the club’s nominee for the National Hockey League’s King Clancy Memorial Trophy given annually to the NHL player ‘who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.’ “We worked hard and faced adversity this year like any team, but there hasn’t been too many games where we walked away and said we weren’t the hardest working team out there. I think we earned every win this year we’ve gotten.”

Dallas Stars Player of the Game –  Trevor Daley

The talented defenseman broke a scoreless tie with his career-high 9th goal of the season, then set up an insurance goal by keeping the puck in the St. Louis zone during a power play that resulted in a goal by teammate Tyler Seguin. The victory over the Blues helped Dallas clinch its first Stanley Cup playoff berth since the 2007-2008 campaign.

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Photo Gallery: Blues vs Flyers (03/22/14) http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-blues-vs-flyers-032214 http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-blues-vs-flyers-032214#comments Sun, 23 Mar 2014 02:59:49 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57665

The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the visiting St. Louis Blues by a score of 4-1.

Three Star Selections
1st Steve Mason (#35 PHI)
2nd Scott Hartnell (#19 PHI)
3rd Jakub Voracek (#93 PHI)

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Defensive Miscues Lead to Stars’ Sweep of Wolves http://insidehockey.com/defensive-miscues-lead-to-stars-sweep-of-wolves http://insidehockey.com/defensive-miscues-lead-to-stars-sweep-of-wolves#comments Sun, 16 Mar 2014 23:36:57 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57456

Last night, the Chicago Wolves said they wanted to get off to a better start against the Texas Stars following a sluggish effort in last night’s contest.

“We’ve got to come out with more urgency,” said Taylor Chorney after last night’s loss.  “Tomorrow we’ve got to find a way to start fast.”

For 46 seconds, that was the case in a 3-2 Wolves loss. Chicago (35-19-5-2) netted the opening goal after Sergey Andronov picked off a pass in the offensive zone and slid the puck to Keith Aucoin, who rifled it into an empty net to give the Wolves an early 1-0 lead.

However, a trio of Wolves misplayed the puck behind the net just 46 seconds later, and Kevin Henderson scored the easiest of goals alone in front of a vacant net to get Texas (38-17-3-5) on the board.

“We threw it behind the net and gave them a freebie,” said Anderson. “Any advantage we had was lost right there.”

Henderson gave the Stars the lead in the second period, and Ty Rattie tied it late in the third with his team-leading 24th goal of the season to send the game to extra time.  However, early in the overtime period, Mike Hedden tapped home the game-winner, set up by a turnover in the defensive zone by Taylor Chorney. Miscues and mental mistakes were the theme for Chicago in the loss.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson. “Just us not being smart.”

The Wolves struggled all season against Texas, winless in all four meetings.

“They’re a good team,” said Anderson. “They take the guns right out of our pockets.”

Since pulling to within a single point of division-leading Grand Rapids, the Wolves have struggled, and have dropped to seven points back.

“We’re not going to change,” said Anderson. “We just have to win our games.”

In other Wolves news, Dmitrij Jaskin was recalled to parent club St. Louis, presumably due to an injury to Vladimir Tarasenko. Jaskin has been recalled six times by the Blues this season.

“Those are the perils of the American Hockey League,” said Anderson. “It gives other guys a chance to step up play hard and show their stuff.”

 

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St. Louis: The Stealth Team http://insidehockey.com/st-louis-the-stealth-team http://insidehockey.com/st-louis-the-stealth-team#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 22:16:44 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57029

Whisper it quietly but the St. Louis Blues have stealthily taken over first place in the Central Division. Although they have gone 2-2-0 since resuming play after the Olympic break, the Blues have retained their lead in the division and are four points behind Anaheim for the top seed of the Western Conference and the President’s Trophy as well.

This season has a quest for redemption for Ken Hitchcock and the Blues. After suffering two first-round defeats to the L.A. Kings during the last two seasons St. Louis has thus far played this present season with a grim determination and an indefatigable desire to overcome the gremlins which have dogged the Blues franchise in playoffs past and bring this team to the Stanley Cup finals—and the Cup.

The challenge for Ken Hitchcock is not so much tactical as it is psychological. Hitchcock in a 2013 interview stressed the need to foster that inner willpower that transcends physical injuries or unlucky breaks during the regular season; to maintain and harness it so that in the end, the team not only triumphs physically but also psychologically as well.

Chicago’s Cup victory last season is a classic example of this and Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to take communion from that same cup and stand glorified and regnant as Stanley Cup champions. Already this season the Blues have dominated their division rivals with a record 15-0-1 record (their only division loss has been to the Winnipeg Jets).

Their path to first place has been an ensemble effort: The two Alex’s: Steen and Pietrangelo supplying the offense; Center Jaden Schwartz displaying superb two-way skills on the ice; Power forward Chris Stewart providing the muscle; while Center David Backes pulls the trigger on the power play. As always with a Ken Hitchcock team the defence remains fundamentally strong. The Blues are third only to Boston and the Kings in defence and penalty-killing but the Blues are not one-dimensional. They rank among the top five in the NHL in overall offense, defense, and in their special-teams.

They also are playing with greater meanness and venom, ranking in the top five in the NHL team penalty minutes. One senses in the Blues an edginess and a desire to get the regular season out of the way so they can show their real stuff in the playoffs. But they’ve gone only 7-11-2 against the NHL Pacific Division and that will be a troublesome factor come playoff time; especially if they face the top three teams in the Pacific: Anaheim, San Jose, and Los Angeles. The Blues are 1-8-0 against all three teams.

Still the acquisition of goalie Ryan Miller and center Steve Ott is meant to overcome these deficits. Miller has earned two gritty victories for the Blues while power forward Ott lends strength and character to a young team like the Blues.

Like Joel Quenneville of Chicago, this season offers Ken Hitchcock a golden opportunity to advance himself in the pantheon of NHL coaching. According to my rating system, if Hitchcock maintains his present pace and wins the Central Division title then he will have leapfrogged over such hockey coaching luminaries such as Punch Imlach, Lester Patrick, and Tommy Ivan in terms of career value regardless of whether the Blues win the Stanley Cup or not. If the Blues do win the Cup then Hitchcock will rank among the top five greatest hockey coaches of all time.

If the Blues fail to win the divisional title or the Cup but are still able to maintain their present pace Hitchcock will still enter the top ten ranks in terms of career value.

His stint in St. Louis can be seen as hockey’s ultimate challenge to a truly great coach who not only teaches but in his own words constantly learns from his players and his assistants alike; and by learning from his players and subordinates it helps Hitchcock remain the great leader of hockey players he has always been and will always be.

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Why Mess with Success? http://insidehockey.com/why-mess-with-success http://insidehockey.com/why-mess-with-success#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 14:36:33 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=56880

A local pundit in LA this week proved conclusively that you don’t need to know much about hockey to be in the newspaper by suggesting that the Ducks need to work at a trade before the deadline. What would they want?

I’m not going to tell you his suggestion as a way of keeping you guessing about who it was, but I will say that this lifeboat doesn’t have any holes that need plugging. Rather, the team clicks along at a great rate, outpacing their rivals over the entire NHL by at least a few points (Chicago, leading the other side of the West) and as many as a large handful (Boston, leading one half of the East) coming into Sunday.

In terms of numbers, they’ve never been better. They haven’t had a start this good in team history, with the previous best in 2006-07 at 80 points through a similar number of games.

The Ducks have also never led the entire NHL in points this deep into a campaign. And their current record of 43-14-5 is third in the shootout era (post-lockout 2005). Through 61 games, the club has never scored more goals (200), and they’ve never let in fewer (146).

They returned from the Olympic break with five medals. Getzlaf and Perry won gold. Silfverberg won silver. And Selanne and Vatanen bronze. Cam Fowler and Jonas Hiller came home empty-handed.

Looked at another way, answer this question: what part of the team would you remove and what would you replace it with, if you were GM? Their goaltending is outstanding. They score. They win. They don’t let goals into their own net.

The team’s first line is clicking with a total of 74 goals (Sunday they had added to that before period one was even over). Their third line is one of the best shutdown units in the league (that’s Koivu, Winnick, and Cogliano). Their fourth unit is bruising and graceful both, with Nick Bonino, Kyle Palmieri, and Patrick Maroon in there most nights and big bruiser Tim Jackman, he of the 89 PIMs, waiting his turn when the team wants a more finesse fourth combo.

Maybe next year, the team will need some help, with Selanne slated to go and Koivu perhaps on the waning end of his career. The second line, in fact, is the one great unknown, not just for next year, but going into the playoffs. The simple question is whether Selanne can keep his Olympic momentum going into the NHL post-campaign. He has been rested this year, having appeared in just 48 games to date. And if the team keeps winning, bets are good that he won’t play any of the back-to-backs (that is, not both games), of which the team has three remaining. But that aside, right now, to disturb things might be foolish.

The good news about the schedule, Selanne notwithstanding, is that the Ducks are going to play most of the rest of their games on the West Coast, with five of their ten away contests being against Vancouver, San Jose, or Los Angeles. So time zone changes will be few.

Back to that second line for a minute. It’s got Selanne on it, Beleskey, and Jakob Silfverberg, and some nights, it’s there, while others it’s not. Sunday evening with the Hurricanes in town, the trio was largely invisible. It’s not that you expect scoring every evening, and on this night, Perry, Getzlaf, and Penner had contributed two goals directly and another via Penner and Perry assists on a blast from Beauchemin that tipped up off a Carolina defenseman’s stuck and went between Cam Fowler’s leg pad and trapper. But they need to be visible, to use their speed, to, at least, force the other team to play some D. And more than not this season, the second line hasn’t done that. Having said that, one has to note that with Selanne out for some games and Silfverberg injured early and having played in only about half the team’s games to date, perhaps their chemistry hasn’t had a chance to work.

Of course, one question already being voice is the old “what happens to the President’s Trophy winner most years?” And the answer is that one’s perception is that they flame out in the playoffs. Three of the past six have lost in the first round of the post-season. Bad. But good: that the other three have been to the Stanley Cup Finals, and two of those have won.

So pity the Ducks or praise them, but winning that trophy isn’t the worst thing in the world. The teams that lose early, incidentally, are those which are notorious for underperforming in the playoffs—Vancouver, San Jose, and Washington—no matter how they do in the regular season. So you might say that it’s coincidental in the first place that they ended up getting the trophy and then going down fast after they do. The Ducks, by contrast, have their playoff chops well-established, with the exception of last year, when they went out early to the Red Wings. And that very fact might be the reason that they shouldn’t fear the hardware. They’ve had their lesson in starting well and ending with a fizzle.

The theory the above-cited expert was referencing, let it be said, was that it takes a different kind of team to make the playoffs than what the Ducks have been during the regular season—more buttoned-down. Tighter in their defense.

With that, there are essentially two alternatives. Either that’s true or it’s not; and either their coach can coach that kind of team or he can’t. Let’s assume it’s true, and let’s assume that you mess with the lineup and add a couple of guys. That still doesn’t tell you anything about whether Boudreau is going to be able to adjust. Maybe he wouldn’t, and then you’ve got a couple of guys in a lineup unfamiliar with them. And if they’ve come from a team that was hopelessly bad, that means that two guys who to this point in the year have been with the Ducks now have their hopes of a Stanley Cup dashed for the season, and whether you think NHL players are human are not, the tears that you saw from the Buffalo players when they talked about losing Ryan Miller tells you that they are, and that they care about what happens to their mates.

Naturally, now that I’ve said all this, making a big trade is exactly what the Ducks will do. So to hedge that bet, I’ll call it a defenseman. I mean, who wouldn’t like a big, solid bruiser who can control play? That’s what they had in Pronger the year they won the Cup. Is there one of those out there? That’s for someone else to figure out. But if there is, then that guy is a lot easier to fit into an existing lineup than a forward. But if they do add on D, they’ll have to shoehorn that player into a lineup that already boasts size on D (Beauchemin), skill (Fowler) and speed (Sbisa) and which is good enough to have sent Sammi Vatanen to the minors, bronze medal still swinging from when they placed it around his neck. So what are you gonna do to make room for someone else on the blueline?

Stumped? Is your impulse to go back to a critique of that second line and try to see who might fit there? How many deadline deals for a forward have paid off, and how many haven’t. Let’s see. Iginla. Any further questions?

On the Carolina game, a few tidbits. The Ducks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, then stretched it to five. All the players who talked after said that they’d never had a start like that this year, and that this was them playing their best. But the game ended up 5-3, with Carolina firing a total of 52 shots at Frederik Andersen, 26 in period three. Thus it was that the coach and Andersen had harsh words for the finish.

On Andersen’s, you have to read between the lines. “If we can play like that [first period] we’re going to win a lot of games. But we’ve just got to keep it up for sixty minutes.” He added, “We’ve got to find a way to play like that for a full game.”

The coach was more direct: “We played two different games. In the first half we were as good as we can be, and in the second half, we were probably as bad as we can be. . . . It’s something we have to correct, and it’s been a habit when we’ve been up on teams this year, that we let our foot off the gas. They always get one or two that they shouldn’t get.” He contrasted the good effort in a 1-0 win on Friday against the Blues, but then said, “It’s not the right way to play.”

He said that he isn’t ready to talk about a playoff push, but then later commented, “That’s why, if we want to win anything in the playoffs, we have to be mentally stronger,” and when asked how he’ll address the letdown, “I’ve already relayed that message.”

Ducks Notes
The Ducks beat St. Louis on Friday night 1-0. In that game, Jackman was in, Silfverberg out in what perhaps is a portent of the playoffs in terms of the Ducks needing the biggest lineup they can ice. Of course, the scoring winger wouldn’t be the one watching from above in the post-season. Who might? Someone like Palmieri or Bonino perhaps.

The Ducks signed Jackman to an extension this week—two years at about $600 grand. Pretty interesting day when that’s a low NHL salary. Heck, at that rate, it would take him more than ten years to make what Getzlaf makes in a year. But it would take the average high school teacher about 100 years to make Getzlaf-level dough. Pretty stupid, that.

Coach Boudreau won his 300th game in under 500 tries (496). This is faster than anyone, ever, but remember that all of the next three—Toe Blake, Mike Babcock, and Glen Sather coached all or in part at a time when not every game had to be a win or a loss. Knock out the ties, and you’ve got a stat that matters. Still, as Captain Getzlaf said after the game

Please read the nice review my book Pond Hockey got, here.

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Mancari to Florida in Blues Trade http://insidehockey.com/mancari-to-florida-in-blues-trade http://insidehockey.com/mancari-to-florida-in-blues-trade#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 01:33:38 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=56854

On Sunday afternoon, the St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers agreed to a trade of minor league players. The Blues sent forward Mark Mancari to Florida in exchange for forward Eric Selleck.

Mancari has spent parts of nine seasons with the Chicago Wolves, Rochester Americans and Portland Pirates at the AHL level, along with appearing in 42 career games at the NHL level with Buffalo and Vancouver. The 28-year old native of London, Ontario was second on the Wolves in points at the time of the trade (9 G, 22 A). He has scored 20 or more goals in seven seasons in the AHL and has been a two-time 30-goal scorer.

Selleck expects to bring a physical presence to Chicago’s lineup. The 26-year old has notched 692 penalty minutes in 240 games with the San Anotnio Rampage (AHL) and Rochester. He has appeared in two career NHL games, picking up one assist and 17 penalty minutes.

In a separate deal, the Wolves acquired defenseman Doug Janik from the San Antonio Rampage (AHL) for future considerations.

Janik, 33, has appeared in 190 career NHL games with Buffalo, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Montreal, notching three goals and 16 assists. He also has participated in six NHL playoff games, scoring one goal. This season, he has tallied one goal and seven assists over 13 games for San Antonio.

 

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