Ducks Take the Long Route

Why go? That’s the question fans of any losing team ask themselves. In the case of the Anaheim Ducks, hope is not lost, and the players keep saying things like “in the situation we are in” and ending the sentence with “so that’s why we’ve got to win every night,” and at least Monday night, they made good on it.

But boy, did it take a while. Eight rounds of the shootout, in fact, and finally, the team got its 47th and 48th points. Their coach said afterwards that when they reach 50, it will make a big difference, psychologically.

“Whether it’s home or the road,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said, “the biggest thing to me is getting into that fifty-point range. I mean, when you’re in the forties and the other teams are in the fifties or even at sixty, it seems so distant, but when you get into the fifty-point range, you see a light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn’t seem as far, whether it’s just perception or not. You get into that fifty-point [area] and all of a sudden, there’s fourteen teams bunched in between fifty and sixty, and it seems really realistic to [catch] the others. That’s what we want to do. Get into that fifty-point thing and then going on the road, it’s obviously . . . , other teams are in the middle of it, LA, Detroit’s just finished it, it’s a grueling schedule, but we’ve got to do it.”

Announced attendance was over 12 thousand, but it’s unlikely there were eight thousand in the arena. The top sections were, in many cases, mostly empty, and the luxury seats had gaps as frequent as Todd Marchant’s teeth. Yet those who were there were treated to a game in which the Flames’ Alex Tanguay fed Jerome Iginla for an almost-can’t-miss chance two-on-one in OT which Iginla missed by carrying the puck in too far. It was only one of a number of great plays that the two connected on, or almost did. Tanguey also thrilled the numerous Calgary fans in attendance by scoring the team’s first goal, and Iginla the second, back in periods two and three, respectively.

Fans also saw what was ruled a head hit by Luca Sbisa which cost him a five-minute major and a game misconduct. But his coach disagreed with the call. “Well, I didn’t see a five-minute major, it’s an accidental, two heads accidentally colliding and uh, um, that’s what I saw, and I’m sure that’s exactly what happened. And I don’t think any of the refs saw it, and I don’t know if the linesmen saw it, but that’s what they guess happened.”

Mr. Boudreau, thank you for your contribution to the NHL’s fine fund, because surely, when the East Coast wakes up Tuesday morning, that’s what’s going to befall the little man with the open mouth. It doesn’t matter that he’s right—the corporate types in the League offices don’t like their officials being criticized.

The Ducks didn’t do much to their lineup, merely switching two players between lines. Niklas Hagman went down to the fourth line with Parros and Rod Pelley, and Matt Beleskey came up to line two with Selanne and Koivu. That was the “Finnish line.” On this night, call it the “finishing line” as they scored the team’s second goal.

Hagman may have been disappointed at having been bumped, but he made up for it with the eventual shootout winner. “It’s a goalie that I’ve practiced a lot against,” he explained after the game, “so I don’t have that many moves, and he knows my go-to moves. I just tried to switch it up a little bit. I wanted to come with good speed, and I wanted to shoot it, and uh, luckily for me, he probably thought that I’m going to go with my backhand, so . . . .”

The attempts in the shootout went from the go-straight-in, stop and shoot technique (Koivu) to the wide-out to the dot angle (Perry) to Hagman’s approach. He went flying toward Kiprusoff, who by this point had pretty much adopted a standard technique: lean forward and stick the stick out, then flop to get a piece of the puck.

Oh, there was also the go straight in, then pull up and fire a slapshot wide idea. That was Getzlaf’s, and it was laughable.

Hagman blasted down ice, waited for the goalie to sprawl, then fired a bullet up over him under the crossbar. Beautiful. Hagman continued his explanation of the moment by saying, “I’ve gone so many times that you would have to say the goalie [has the advantage]. But I’ve had my times too, that I’ve beaten him. But not too many times.”

His goal made the shootout 3-2, and Calgary’s last shooter, Mikael Backlund, tried to slide the puck past Jonas Hiller, but it rolled back out, and stayed out of the net. The Ducks thus took the game 3-2.

In denying Kiprusoff the win, the Ducks stole his 300th from him. Hagman was asked about that, given that he played most of the past couple of seasons with Calgary. “I didn’t remember it during the game, but somewhere earlier in the day I read that he had 299 wins,” he said, then paused. “Too bad I had to ruin it, but that’s hockey,” he finished.

“We needed that one pretty bad, and I’m sure in the last thirty game there’s going to be a lot of games like that,” was Boudreau’s summation of things and prediction for the future. “We survived it, and we’re still going,” he later added.

Stay tuned, as the team faces Carolina at home on Wednesday, then goes away for the road trip from hell—amost the entire rest of the month of February, through Detriot, Pittsburgh, Florida, and Colorado with just one home date, Chicago on February 26th, to break it up.

Ducks Notes
Selanne is now a point behind Brett Hull for 21st all-time and one goal behind Shanahan for 12th all-time in goals. Come out Wednesday to see the possible milestone goal.

Brian reads from his new book, My Country Is Hockey, at Vroman’s in Pasadena Thursday at 7pm.

You can follow Brian on twitter @growinguphockey

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