Skating Wounded

The Anaheim Ducks have spent a lot of time putting bandages on booboos recently. Those wounds have been of varied sorts, from the flu to upper- and lower-body problems to those of a more psychological variety.

Huh? Do they need counseling? Not quite, but apparently the team feels that it needs more toughness. This perhaps hearkens back to an earlier era. The team that won the Cup in 2007 was a rough-tough bunch, having shed their “Mighty” label a year prior. They had guys like Brad May on board to do the nasty stuff. Since then, Parros has gone and nobody has replaced him, for the simple reason that hockey in the West is a skilled game where the luxury of a meathead can’t be afforded. But the Ducks felt, apparently, that they were being whacked around some, and so they went out and traded for Tim Jackman, a bruising winger whose most recent stop was Calgary. His career numbers show about ninety fights in the NHL.

His single-season high is 19 fights in 2008-09, In 2011-12, he had 14. That sounds like a lot, until you compare George Parros’s numbers. He has four seasons over 20 fights, with a high in 2010-11 of 27. (No comments, please, about how to put an Ivy League education to work.)

And it didn’t take Jackman long to show his mettle. He and BJ Crombeen got into a fight in the middle of a play, not one of those staged deals. Unless you count the fact that one team’s meathead (Jackman: 11th game of the year, 41 PIMs coming in, leading the Ducks by a factor of nearly double the nearest next guy, Bryan Allen with 28 minutes in 24 games) met another’s (Crombeen: not so meaty in fact—21minutes in 19 games). In fact, look at those numbers, and look at the Tampa Bay roster. Two other people have more PIMs, many more. Radko Gudas has 63 (coming in; that would soon change) and Ryan Malone has 35. So what Jackman did, in fact, was select a middleweight to act as his welcome to the Ducks dance partner. Hmm.

It was all for nothing, in the sense that the Ducks’ somewhat unlikely fisticuffian hero on this night was rather slight defenseman Luca Sbisa. In period one, and not long after Jackman’s tussle, Radko Gudas hit Andrew Cogliano at the boards, a tough, somewhat dirty hit. Last time these teams played, which was a week ago, he had run Selanne in a similar way. This time, Sbisa had seen enough, and he came flying in from the blueline and attacked Gudas. They fought, and it was no “I’ll hold your sweater and keep you at arms’ length” affair. Sbisa KOd the guy with an overhand right that made it home over top of the linesman’s arm. Gudas went down with Sbisa on top of him, still punching. In fact, it was better than that. Gudas had started to fall, and Sbisa pulled him up, then smacked the s*&% out of him and sent him down.

Serves the guy right, and a fight like this reaches back to the history of the league and the reason guys have fought since the start—to even scores. To make things right. Because of the code.

Sbisa, by the way, is 6’2” 198 pounds. Jackman is the same height and 225. And Gudas is 6’0” and 204. He is also slightly menacing in his oddball shaving pattern, a kind of ex-con look. Apparently, Sbisa’s been taught to look past that kind of intimidation factor. Sbisa averages two fights a year, in case you need perspective. Gudas has three AHL seasons where he recorded more than ten fights.

The other Ducks woes, to enumerate them, include Koivu suffering from a concussion. He’s close to returning, and he is skating, but he’s not entirely symptom-free, and so is still not practicing with contact. Getzlaf had an unspecified upper body injury and missed three games. Matt Beleskey broke his thumb and was out for more than 15 games. Jakob Silfverberg has a broken hand and has been out for weeks (since Oct. 25, to be exact).

Daniel Winnik bears the results of getting a puck in the mouth on the Ducks’ recent road trip, and he now wears one of those bottom cages to allow for healing. It might have affected his vision in one instance, when he and Cogliano went down two-on-one and he put a pass just too far for Cogliano to handle.

The worst hole to fill right now is Francois Beauchemin. He hit the boards head-first on Wednesday night and was put on IR just before the game. In his absence, the Ducks dressed defenseman Fowler, Sbisa (he missed more than a dozen at the start of the year), Lovejoy, Fistric, Lindholm, and Allen. Most have played most games of the year except Sbisa, with the exception of Fistric. He has appeared in just five to date, including Friday evening.

On the evening, Coach Boudreau used his heavy horses on D like the team isn’t about to go to Phoenix for a game tomorrow night. That is, Fowler got 25 minutes; Lovejoy got just short of 25; Allen got near 24; and Lindholm was over 20. Shorter use went to Sbisa, who played 16:40 (but don’t forget, he sat after fighting) and Fistric, with just 15.

And just to make things complete, in a kind of incomplete sort of way, in warm-ups, goalie Victor Fasth sustained a lower-body injury and did not appear, even on the bench to back up. He is just off of a fourteen-game injury break. In his place, Hiller was outstanding, as was his opposite number, Ben Bishop.

In case you haven’t read about the game Friday night yet, by the by, here’s a quick look at the action: nobody scored in the first period, despite great chances on both sides. By midway through the second, each goalie had made at least two spectacular saves. Make that three. For Hiller, these were two high glove snatches that he emphasized by swinging his right arm, his catching hand, high into the air after the save. His third was a leg save on JT Brown. Bishop had made a leg save on a wrister that was cleverly floated through a crowd to the net and another two stops on breakaways by Andrew Cogliano.

The game went to OT as one of the tightest, best contests in a long time. Neither team had scored, and each goalie had made a load of saves. For Hiller, that was 28. For Bishop, 40. OT proceeded wide open, each team trading chances with the other. Martin St. Louis could have won it with a semi-break in on the left side and a quick shot. Hiller hugged the post to stop it. Then, with 5.2 seconds on the clock, the Ducks’ captain, Ryan Getzlaf, charged down the ice on the left side and barged to the net. He fired a blistering wrist shot and followed the puck in, got a part of the rebound, and then heard the roar of a near sellout as the puck hit the goalie on his left rib pad and redirected into the open cage, just crossing the line with two Tampa Bay players diving for it. The Ducks ended with 42 shots, and the Lightning with 31. As you might imagine, the goalies were two of the three stars, with the other being Getzlaf.

One other set of notable moments included a couple of makeup calls that the refs made. In one, Mathieu Perreault apparently pushed the puck with a hand after the faceoff. Fair enough, except that it didn’t look on replay like he had done that at all. The linesman called that one, but a referee then called Filppula for interference immediately after. It wasn’t the best performance of the year for the guys in stripes, but then again, they’re human.

Ducks Notes
The Ducks celebrated Scott Niedermayer with a special recognition before the game.

It was the team’s first 1-0 OT win since Nov. 4, 2008, which was in LA. For nostalgia’s sake: Pronger had the winning goal and Giguere the shutout win with 35 saves.

The team had not won 1-0 at home (regulation or OT) since October 4, 2011, when they beat San Jose. Hiller was in net for that one, too, and had 31 saves.

The club is 9-0-1 at Honda Center this year, their best home start ever. The Ducks are presently the best team in the NHl at 16-6-3 935 points) through 25 games. That last number is a slight cause for worry. They have played more games than anyone in their division, in some cases as many as three more. In fact, both teams below them in the Pacific, San Jose and Phoenix, have played 22 games.

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