SoCal NHL teams have made their doctors rich(er) this week, as both the Kings and the Ducks have been rolling sick wards in the past few days. The Kings’ woes were detailed in my story last night after their shootout loss to the Islanders.
Now it’s the Ducks. They’ve got two great young goalies, Andersen and Gibson. Only they don’t. The latter is out for six weeks with a groin injury. The former is battling ongoing leg tightness which has kept him out of the starter’s spot for the week. He was not dressed for the teams’ game on Halloween in Dallas. He’s missed two games since, on IR. Now, he’s starting again with Arizona in town.
In his absence, the Ducks have had Jason LaBarbera step in, a longtime pro and perennial backup who understands the importance this chance has given him.
He was in AHL Norfolk for last Friday and Saturday, then was pressed to travel the country to Anaheim on Sunday to play in the NHL arena of the Ducks. He won the game for them, then took the Isles to OT before the Anaheim team lost on a power play goal. With Andersen feeling better as the week ends, he’ll be on the backup bench again, but he also seems to recognize that this could be a chance for him.
Perhaps this is the more true because of rumors floating out over the Pacific Ocean which have either Martin Brodeur or Ilya Bryzgalov coming to the team, or in the latter’s case, coming back to the team. LaBarbera said to reporters that he has always been the “other” guy, and that he’ll take his opportunities where he finds them. Nobody could fault his play, least of all his coach, who praised him especially for his tough play on Wednesday, when he faced over 30 shots in that OT loss to a team that’s not the slouch they used to be. Just to cite Darryl Sutter from Thursday, post-loss in LA, “That’s a good team we faced tonight,” and the fact that the Isles escaped SoCal with four points tells the tale well.
The goaltending in any case has been stellar. Coming into Friday, the Ducks were third in the NHL in GAA (1.93) and had allowed the fewest goals through 14 games ever in club history, with 27 opposition tallies. This is in part helped by their PK, which was firing at 83%, or 12th in the league.
On an interesting side note, Andersen backed up on Wednesday night. But on Friday of last week, Dwayne Roloson, retiree and now goaltending coach (called a “consultant” in these here parts), had to suit up and sit on the end of the bench, sweating no doubt lest he be pressed into action.
Continuing with the Ducks and their medical maladies, both of their stars (if you need to ask who, you aren’t reading enough of my columns here at IH—Getzlaf and Perry) had the flu mid-week and missed the game against the Isles. Getzlaf was back in shape for Friday’s game, but Perry, leading the league in goals with 11, was still out. The team next plays on Sunday evening, in an unusual 6pm start, and no doubt by then, he’ll be his old self.
Perry, by the way, was the NHL’s First Star of the Month for October, which is the sixth time in the history of the franchise that a Ducks’ player has won that award. Three different players have done it, and Perry was the last one, taking it in March 2011.
Now here’s a useless stat: Perry was the sixth player in 29 years to record multiple hat tricks (two) in the first seven games of the season. Listen up, stats wonks—it only matters if your numbers are round or fives, like fifth player, 30 years, ten games. Otherwise, it’s just baseball-style pointlessness. “He’s the fourth player to record two singles on the day after his birthday in the last 21 seasons.” Who freaking cares?
But his absence was surely an issue? Kesler didn’t seem to think so, or at least, he was kind of stymied when asked the question after Friday’s game. “Obviously he’s a big part of this team, a big part of this organization and a leader in the dressing room. Collectively, we’ve been picking up the slack, and hopefully he comes back soon.” In short, he didn’t have anything to say.
Getzlaf was more particular. “It’s just different. For me it’s different . . . . As a group we’ve gotta fill that void collectively, but for me personally it’s different. There are plays where I know he’s there, and there’s nobody there. Those are things I’ve got to adjust to.”
Wednesday night, Emerson Etem was granted a spot in the lineup due to the absence of the two players just mentioned. Media reports indicate that he was slated to be scratched otherwise. He scored his first goal of the year and has an intact record now, having played every game of the season. Friday he was also in the lineup.
Who was out? Dany Heatley, who one Ducks insider told me he just thought looked done. He was in against the Isles for about 12 minutes, but he was ineffective. Twice in a row, he got knocked down and didn’t seem to have an answer.
Not sucking up Obamacare dollars (yeah, right) anymore is the now-healthy Bryan Allen. He started the season on IR with a hamstring injury and a later-reported bicep tear. He decided against surgery for that according to the local paper and is now in the lineup once more.
Still on the sick list: Kyle Palmieri, Ben Lovejoy, who fractured his finger in a fight, Mark Fistric, and Sheldon Souray. What? That guy? Yeah, he’s listed as out for the 2014-15 season, just like he was for the 2013-14 season. He last played 44 games the year before that.
So that’s six guys hurt or sick, with two just back from the doc’s office.
There are thus two questions left to answer: with Perry out, who plays on the top line, and with Allen in, who sits on D? Last first: the Ducks dressed the following D on Wednesday: Stoner, Fowler, Beauchemin, Manson, Vatanen, and Lindholm.
What would California be without a Manson nearby? The Ducks have one, but he’s not Charles, and not even Marilyn, He’s Josh, and he’s actually played the last three games before Friday night. His minutes are 12:30, 18:23, and 14:16. These are his debut games. He is big, at 6’3” and 217, and young, at just past his 23rd birthday. He was drafted in round six of 2011 out of college (Northeastern University) and played nine games in the AHL for Norfolk last season before starting this year there. Just like so many Ducks before him, he’s a Prairie boy, a native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. From Anaheim, that’s an 1852-mile drive taking 29 hours, assuming the roads are not impassable due to snow.
But with Allen back, Coach Boudreau had the luxury of going with a slightly more veteran lineup, and Manson was scratched in favor of Allen. Allen played with Sami Vatanen, so it was one giant and one small (but very confident) guy.
Now to the forwards. The top line featured Getzlaf, Smith-Pelly, and Maroon.
Second was what I’ve been calling (respectfully) the third line of late, which was Silfverberg, Beleskey, and Kesler. Note that in the past the third member of that line has been Cogliano.
Third is now Cogliano with Etem and Karlsson, and bringing up the short minutes were Tim Jackman, Rackell, and Nate Thompson.
Cogliano is the team’s ironman, and the league’s second-most durable player as of now, having started every game since the first one of his career, now at 554. Jay Bouwmeester of St. Louis is the tops in the league with 730 games in a row. The record is held by Doug Jarvis, at 964.
Friday, Boudreau wasted no time using all four groups. With 1:19 gone in period one, he made his third change, getting his fourth line onto the ice. The energy worked as the Ducks were up 2-0 and leading in shots 9-2 by the time nine minutes had gone by in the period. The first goal was on the power play, and the second came off a great check in the left corner by Matt Beleskey, who was rewarded with the goal after a pass-shot-save sequence between Kesler and Karlsson which resulted in a rebound that Beleskey floated toward the net and over Mike Smith. Things went downhill from there.
To recap the game quickly: the Ducks came out firing and were shortly up 2-0. They then started to play a disorganized game, and within 58 seconds in period two, their lead evaporated. They took their timeout. They stuck with their line combos. And the game ceased its scoring until the shootout.
Shane Doan of the Coyotes explained the game from his team’s point of view: “They came out with so much speed early and were kind of dictating the play, and we recognized that we had to be a lot better than that. Second period obviously we started off with more jump. It started before the first period ended and we tried to carry it over. We got some momentum off the power play, and we started to get some energy and we picked our feet up and played with more compete. We got a little bit of a kick in the butt from Tipp [Coach Tippett] and that got us going. The Ducks can really wheel, and we were back on our heels at the start.”
“If you come in here and get a win, it’s huge.” Phoenix did that with their shootout success, where each team got a goal, then the Ducks failed and Arizona scored. Then the Ducks failed, and that was that.
Please read my new book, Coming Down the Mountain: Rethinking the 1972 Summit Series. You might like the introduction chapter, which is about the life of the hockey memorabilia collector. Ron Ellis is interviewed.