Posts Tagged ‘Duck’

Old v. New

Detroit has been aging for 20 years and though the transition from Yzerman-Fedorov to Datsyuk (34)-Zetterburg (32) appeared seamless there isn’t a pair of emerging young stars coming up behind the Eurotwins.

Ducks are powered up front by the tandem of Ryan Getzlaf (27) and Corey Perry (27). These Twins were united a decade ago back in Cincinnati of the AHL.

It’s a battle of old Wings looking for more day in the sun against the Ducks emerging stars.

Flash and Dash v. Bash and Smash

These Red Wings are Chicago-lite. They can skate, wheel and execute the pretty plays. While the Ducks have players have skill they wear you down physically before taking you out.  It’s boxer v. puncher.

In this plot the Wings equalizer is long time Ryan Getzlaf nemesis Jordan Tootoo.  The Ducks captain will be challenged to keep his emotions in check.

The Goalies

Jimmy Howard has had a stretch run reminiscent of the 2003 J.S. Giguere. In his last ten games Howard has posted 3 shutouts and GAA of 1.44.

While no announcement has been made I expect Jonas Hiller to get the start. As impressive as Howard’s stats are, Hiller is 2-0 with .963 SP and a GAA of 1 in his last two games. Hiller is a money goalie as his playoff record 7-6 GAA 2.23 SP .942 attests.

Coaching: Tactician v. Motivator

Playoff success eluded Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau in Washington. In Anaheim, he has a more balanced team though.

For many Ducks fans Mike Babcock will always represent the one that got away.  His teams have won the Stanley Cup and Olympic Gold. You can’t argue with success.


With two relatively evenly matched teams, they get it done differently but each does get ‘er done, the difference is how well each is organized and the intangibles. Both of these factors weigh in favor of our Ducks.

Teemu Selanne has called this the tightest group he’s seen since the Cup winning team. It is also a healthy hockey team now that Luca Sbisa went full-bore at practice. The vets, including Getzlaf and Perry, know from experience that these opportunities don’t come along every year.

These Ducks are special. Four of them of them, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Sheldon Souray and Toni Lydman recognize that this may be their last best chance to win a Cup. Each is preparing to leave it all on the ice.

Another flock of Ducks, Ben Lovejoy, Matt Beleskey, Nick Bonino, Dave Steckel, Emerson Etem  are successful in large part because their coach has believed in them.

Still another flock, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, Andrew Cogliano are at or near the peak of their careers.

Two factors that can tilt a series are one-sided officiating and hot goal tending. Wings best chance of winning this series is the Ducks lose their cool and Jimmy Howard plays lights out hockey.

If our Ducks have accomplished one thing this season it is that they have risen to every challenge. They pushed the Blackhawks to the longest winning streak to start a season ever. When they had nothing left to play for they pulled themselves and finished strong.

The Wings represent a serious challenge not to be taken lightly. This is the best thing that could have happened to a team that consistently welcomes and responds to challenges.

Ducks in six.

#NHLDucks D Luca Sbisa (lower body) reported feeling good after going thru full practice and hopes to be available for Game 1 tomorrow.

Look for Ducks to split up Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray. Fowler will play w/Beauchemin while Souray will be w/Lovejoy for Game 1.

BB wouldn’t get into it but there’s a feeling Fowler’s speed alongside Beauchemin could work better against Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

Analysis: Separating Souray/Beauchemin makes sense. Genuine concern about Souray matching up against DAZzle Line of Datsyuk-Abdelkader-Zetterburg. Souray is a fine hockey player but he lacks the quick feet necessary to move with the DAZzle Line.
Ice’ followup post confirms this analysis.

Given Dan Woods tweet the 3rd pairing will be two of Allen, Lydman, Sbisa and Vatanen. My preference is Allen-Vatanen.

@SlashSkater At this point, I’d guess Allen and Lydman, but that could change, especially if Sbisa were ready to go.

Twitter was rockin’ last night after this blog reciprocated follows with  Ducks Fan Zone. Alex Adrian has a good eye for the game. Here’s a sample:

Beauchemin gets a penalty for not quitting on the play. Good times.

Is Bonino the Ducks heat & soul? is a good read as well. i challengethe notion that Bones is comparable to Pahlsson because it’s an apples and oranges deal in skills sets and roles. Otherwise, Adrian makes good points.

Also, getting Bones back improves our Ducks any time he’s on the ice. On the 1st unit PP he competes physically and distributes the puck; alongside Palmieri and Flash at ES he’s driving another scoring line and he’s helped the PK achieve a 89% efficiency rating of late.

Heart & Soul though? That’s high praise on a team with hardworking character guys, among them Flash, Cogs, Perry, Koivu, Winnick, Beauchemin, Souray, Steckel and Hiller.
Etem is showing heart & soul in the tradition of Todd Marchant. He’s learning it from the guys around him.
Getz has been making it look too easy to be included in a grouping of heart & soul guys ;)

What does a Gossip Girl do between the Trade Deadline and the off-season? Well if your Lyle Richardson @ Hockey News you begin predicting off-season moves. Ah well, the clarity born of veracity has been absent from his crystal ball long before ‘you can play’ decided to move forward without Sean Avery, its spokesperson.

It’s also what you do when you’re a one trick pony.

Here at BackCheck’s Blog we refer to the “off-season” as the financial season. Teams are looking at cap compliance and internal budgets. The player that movement occurs during the financial season is primarily UFA and RFA signings.

There is no off-season anymore. We have a hockey season that opens mid-September to the Stanley Cup. And a financial season that kicks off with the Entry Draft or first day of free agency, whichever arrives sooner in a calendar year.

BTW, Richardson links other people’s thoughts on Luongo, Montreal, Bozak and Ryan Malone.

As to Loungo, did the NHL inadvertently create a cap circumvention 5-hole  in that a team might re-sign a compliance bought out player? Could the Nucks say buyout Loungo then re-sign him? Or the Lightning Malone? Just askin’.

The good news for Ducks fans is that Bobby Ryan didn’t make the cut. This blogger’s hunch is that if Ryan (1 goal in 15 games and counting) has a poor playoff he’ll be gossip fodder all summer anyway. Gossip Girls will cue up the “Bobby Ryan going the way of Dustin Penner” chatter and Ryan to Flyers, Leafs or team du jour.

After Bonino to Fowler resulted in Fowler’s first goal of the year, maybe every goal slumping Duck should get a shift or two with Bones. Would sure make juggling lines easy.

Many thanks to yougetwhatyouputin for again stepping up to keep the blog going forward. This time a Trojan worm took down the desktop while a driver issue sent the laptop dark. The desktop is back up and running. The laptop will require a return to the repair shop.

You probably know the OCR has gone subscription based. As a result the Ducks no longer include the OCR in its Daily Clips email promo. The bummer is that practice coverage provided by the Ducks Official Website is inconsistent. We need to know who is on the ice, the lines and D pairings at practice. The purpose or theme of the practice, if there is one. Which goalie leaves the ice first on game day skates. If you would please email our Ducks and let them know how you want practices covered.

Ducks @ Kings:

Stakes: Ducks backed into the playoffs when Calgary beat Phoenix in OT yesterday. A win in RT will all but seal Ducks second Pacific Division crown in franchise history. IF our Ducks do win in RT a tie in their remaining five games will secure the Pacific.

Keys to the Game:

1. Match the Kings intensity. We can’t win unless we want to win.
2. Stay out of the sin bin. You just can’t give the Kings PP chances.
3. Be first on loose pucks. Do this and we know our Ducks are skating.
4. Win the physical battles.
5. Neutralize Doughty by forcing his partner (Reghr) to play the puck.

Many are noting that our Ducks have cooled somewhat. A glance at the recent record 5-6-1 Goal Differential minus 8  in the last twelve games supports the point. What the record doesn’t show is that our Ducks have been on an emotional roller coaster of late. Over this same span our guys took 2 of 3 against Dallas and beaten both the Kings and Blackhawks. In those five games that they got up for, our Ducks record is 4-1 with a Goal Differential of plus 6.

Injuries: Cam Fowler is questionable, Nick Bonino is expected back toward the middle of next week. Kings D-men Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene are out for the season.

Fowler’s absence significantly impacts the transition game. The work Scott Niedermayer has done with Cam this season is evident. While his progress isn’t showing up in goals and assists, Cam’s plus/minus has gone from minus-28 to minus-7. At least part of the reason is we spend less time in our zone when Fowler is on the ice.

With Cam out, look for the outlet/support player to be positioned closer to the puck.

May as well shout it! We might even meet up with them in the second season.

Gabby’s out selling it, “It’s pretty hard to treat it like another game. It’s the Kings versus the Ducks. And more importantly right now, they’re nipping at our heels for the division championship. They might look 10 points back now, but that can drop in a hurry.” (Yes I cleaned up the quote. Not for F-bombs but for syntax.)

Kings are hot having gone 6-1-1 in their last eight games. So get out your measuring sticks. This is exactly the kind of opponent, current Stanley Cup champ and regional rival, where contenders and pretenders are separated.

Coach is absolutely right. Kings are nipping at our heels. This is an opportunity for our Ducks to make a statement. Kings are heating up at the right time just as they did last year. Are we good enough to push them back in our own barn?

It’s never easy. Our guys could be without Ryan Getzlaf. He’ll be a game time decision.

“I think, and I’ve always thought this, that they’re the best team in the league for us to play against. There’s nothing to sway me from thinking that. They’re a challenge and they’re starting to rev it up. It’ll be a real test.”

This is a game in which the winner earns the right to swagger. Two Stanley Cup contenders meeting in the stretch run.

With or without Getz, it’s time for our Ducks to step up and claim in one voice, “Big Bad Ducks are Back!”

This team is more than a slogan of course. These Ducks can win with speed, skill, goaltending, physicality. These Ducks can shut you down, open it up in  shoot out style pond hockey and anything in between.

You need only your rally cap to be ready for this one.

When GM Bob Murray replaced former coach Randy Carlyle with Bruce Boudreau among his publicly stated reasons was that a new voice was needed. Out of respect for the departed Carlyle, the org insisted that Ducks wouldn’t change their style of play. Bruce Boudreau said our Ducks would remain a defense first team. Never mind that all teams in all team sport play defense first.

In Part I we covered the impact of the coaching change and the roster changes that led to our Ducks being a far more complete team than rec ent rosters. Our Ducks are now at least a reasonable facsimile of the template of the Cup winning edition.

Coach Boudreau has changed everything about how our Ducks go about playing hockey. We’ll  look at this by starting in our end assuming the opposition has the puck, gaining possession and transitioning to offense. Also at this point I will add that hopefully you won’t be reading this as criticism of Coach Carlyle, rather I’m illustrating the difference between the two systems. We’ll pass through the neutral zone, go on attack in the opposition end, loose possession and bring the play back to our end. In this form we’ll address what our Ducks are doing in each zone with and without possession of the puck.

At our end, gone is the pressure the puck carrier defense that so often led to a Keystone Cops style running around in our own end. Jeez, I hated that system when I first learned it at coaching seminars. The short answer is that requires too much of the goaltender. I refused to teach it and exploited opposition coaches, usually newbies who didn’t know any better, who did.

Under the new system we play a zone – man to man hybrid. A forward will stay with his check even down to the end boards, traditionally the area covered by D-men.

Defensively, our Ducks are focused on protecting the mid to low slot or high percentage shooting area through to the end boards. We do this from a standard 2-1-2 with the forwards and D forming a box and the center providing support from the middle of the box. We do break from the 2-1-2 formation when a forward, usually a winger, stays with his check down low.

This tends to leave the opposition points open. If you’re going to outnumber the opposition and provide support at the puck somebody somewhere will be open. Better that be the opposing D who may or may not get a shot through to the net or, just as often, pass or intentionally shoot wide looking for a favorable bounce off the end boards.

When we gain possession of the puck our guy has a few options. Most often the player knows which of these options is most advantageous instantaneously. If a lane is available you skate thepuck put of our zone. A short pass or share  to the player. this short pass or share is usually a cross ice, slightly forward or drop pass depending on where the support or outlet is positioned. Last is head manning the puck which may also be a stretch pass.

Reliance on the short pass is also a significant change from what we did previously. It has resulted in far fewer giveaways and turnovers. This isn’t the only reason we turn the puck over less often though.

As the play moves up ice across the blue line and into the neutral zone we employ one of two tactics. We either get through the neutral zone with speed ahead of the opposition or we must beat the trap. If the opposition has stuffed the neutral zone and set up a trap, the gap between our own forwards and D is shortened and we attack with numbers. At this point we attack the opposing blue line with numbers where we either dump and chase the puck or carry the biscuit into the opposition zone.

Maintaining possession as we attack the opposition blue line makes our Ducks less predictable than we were previously. You may have heard this described as center lane drives but the attack can come from any lane. Advance statistics have provided empirical evidence that maintaining possession results in more shots and scoring chances than the dump, chase and cycle.

As you’ve seen during games we still cycle. Under Boudreau’s system we tend to cycle the puck off a set play as a method of regrouping rather than as a primary means of attacking the opposition net.

Upon setting up in the opposition zone we have 3 set formations from which we attack. The favored set is the 1-3-1 which we establish most often on the PP but use ES when we get the opportunity. The 1-3-1 puts one guy manning the blue line, 3 guys across the zone from the face off dots across the ice and the fifth guy low. This 1-3-1 set will morph into a 2-1-2 with both D manning the blue line, a 3rd man high slot or along the blue line and two fore-checkers low in the offensive zone. The 1-3-1 also morphs into or a 1-2-2 with the 1 position low slot, corner or behind the net.

In the 1-2-2 we almost always have possession of the puck. In the 2-1-2 with the 3rd man high, we may or may not have possession.

The primary purpose of every scoring opportunity is to make the goalie move. It doesn’t matter so much how that is accomplished. It is why you almost always see at least one to three or more passes before the shot is taken. We are trying to force the goalie to open up his body to expose more shooting areas.

Strong positional play is also why you rarely see our Ducks giving up odd man attacks going back against us. Just like on defense we do send 3 and 4 guys low on occasion. This is almost always when we’re down a goal or two and playing high risk hockey in order to catch up.

The points I’m making here in this post is not so much the exceptions as in the immediately foregoing paragraph but rather the primary systems we employ. Regardless of whether your butt is in a seat at the rink or watching on tv, you can see all of these set formations as it happens and transitions.

Losing the puck and coming back is where each of our Ducks is really excelling this season. The one clue to how hard these guys are working out there is how often you see backside pressure on an opposing attacker. This is true grunt work in hockey.

If we have time to set up a trap we do, either in the opposition end or the traditional neutral zone trap. While backchecking we are also set up in a 1-2-2 or a 2-1-2 formation.

This has been a very long post but if you stayed with it I genuinely hope it has added to your appreciation and understanding of what you’re seeing out there on the ice.