Posts Tagged ‘luca sbisa’

A lower body injury (LBI) limited Sami Vatanen to under 5 minutes in the OT win against the Sharks. Sami didn’t dress Sunday against the Avs. Luca Sbisa is out with a mild ankle sprain. Ducks and Luca insist their just being cautious. Take that to mean he would be day-to-day in the regular season. Ducks already are without 1/3 of their top six from last season following Toni Lydman’s retirement and Sheldon Souray’s soft tissue tear in his wrist. Francois Beauchemin is projected to be ready to the start the season. Projected is the operative word though. That’s 66% of last of last season’s Top Six D, injured, retired or rehabbing.

No further reports on Vatanen’s LBI are available. The story began with an oft-repeated Eric Stephens tweet but no official word has come from our Ducks. The best we can do is hope it isn’t one of those nagging ow-eez that keep out of the lineup.

In the meantime, Bryan Allen and Mark Fistric become Top 4 D-men on our Ducks depth chart. Kyle Cumiskey has 139 regular season and playoff games with the Avs. Acquired from Colorado in Oct./2011, he has yet to play a regular NHL game with the Ducks.

Hampus Lindholm has turned some heads in camp but respected blogger Collin Insley has expressed concerns about how easily he seems to get knocked off the puck. It should be noted that GM Bob Murray has said the 6th overall pick in 2012 is “only 19.” Nobody has any doubt Lindholm will be a good one but he needs to get much stronger on the puck for NHL hockey.

The gossip blogs, with their focus on the Canadian and big market teams, are ignoring our Ducks challenges on the back-line. Murray runs a very tight ship as to leaks especially compared to his more transparent and master media manipulating predecessor Brian Burke. Even the oft speculated Bobby Ryan trade caught everyone by surprise.

Leafs unsigned RFA Cody Franson is far and away the best unsigned free agent available. His rights might be acquired for a non-roster prospect other than Lindholm or John Gibson. Franson is 6’5″ 213# who scored 4 goals and 29pts in 45 games last season. THN player profile describes him as an inconsistent offensive Dman with size. Franson is reportedly looking for a one year contract at $3m.

Given Leafs limited cap space and Morgan Reilly and comeback Paul Ranger having great camp and good camps respectively; Leafs have little need for Franson.

GM Bob Murray has always shown a preference for picking from the bargain bins and discount racks. While there’s no doubt an apparent need for back-line, Look for Murph to give the kids a chance, ready or not.

Where are they now? Former Duck goaltender Jeff Deslaurier has signed a professional tryout contract with the Penguins AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Deslauriers 29, hasn’t played in the NHL since going 2011 with our Ducks. He went 3-1 with a SP of .903. The move is widely viewed as insurance due to losing Tomas Vokoun indefinitely to blood clotting issues.

Ducks have some interesting parts and pieces. Everybody makes tangible and intangible contributions. This post is about the latter. In this post we’ll identify some of those intangibles and pose the question; Can this Ducks team come together and realize it’s potential?

After a great short season, our Ducks entered the playoffs with great expectations that were quickly dashed by the Detroit Red Wings in a thrilling series. Consequently, Coach Boudreau has defined this campaign as “Unfinished Business.” It’s a great goal defining mantra designed to motivate the players both individually and collectively. Identifying Bruce Boudreau’s most impactful intangible is so easy. It’s his humanity.

To understand the humanity in Gabby take a look at how he honors 9/11.

Gabby’s personal unfinished business is playoff success and get the most from his own personal OT game.

You could have knocked me over with a feather as I read Francois Beauchemin will probably start the season just 4.5 months following reconstructive knee surgery. Beauch is the kind of man whose respect other men aspire to earn. This man played through serious injury to become included in the Norris Trophy conversation. A feat even more amazing when one considers Beauchemin isn’t unanimously considered a top pairing D-man. He’s also not thought of as a heart and soul player though his heart and soul is his greatest single intangible contribution to the team.

Ducks best players, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are just entering their prime. Getz having earned his way into the Hart Trophy nomination. Pears has already earned the MVP award.
Bob Murray, at the urging of the Ducks captain, has reunited The Twins with their Cup team line-mate, Dustin Penner. Pancake appears committed to get a career that seemed to waiver off track during his two seasons with the Kings. Will returning to Anaheim do for Penner what it did for Teemu Selanne?
What was once the Kid Line on our Ducks Cup team is now Top Line expected to lead the team back into the elite of the league.

There’s also a very impressive veteran contingent led by Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. They will be joined at mid-season by Sheldon Souray. The contributions made by this group reaches far beyond their combined stats. They lead by example and the shared wisdom accumulated through a combined half century of NHL experience.

Ducks have a couple-3 other vets, Andrew Cogliano, Daniel Winnick and Bryan Allen who play an accountable and responsible brand of hockey. Cogs is an NHL Iron Man who can play all three forward positions and in any situation. He is our Ducks Swiss army knife. Contributions of Winnick and Allen are best measured in the reluctance of opposing players to battle position or the biscuit.

The cherry may well be the youth contingent that is made up of 8 guys well positioned to take the loosely defined next step in their respective careers.
Cam Fowler, Nick Bonino, Jakub Silfverberg and Kyle Palmieri. All four are counted upon to make significant offensive contributions.
Level-headed and well grounded, Emerson Etem will continue to play ES and PK. He will have to start scoring to earn PP time.
Peter Holland, Patrick Maroon and Sami Vatanen will be given an opportunity to establish themselves as bonafide NHL players.
If there’s one guy who needs to play with desperation, it’s Luca Sbisa. Only 23, Luca has 5 NHL seasons and 236 regular season games behind him. In all that time he hasn’t established himself as much more than a 3rd pairing, spot played D-man. It wasn’t that long ago many of Bob Murray’s Kool-Aid drinkers were predicting Sbisa would make us forget Chris Pronger. He doesn’t need to be great but he does need to become consistently accountable and responsible.

The aforementioned 8 most represent the affirmation “Unfinished Business.” They bring the naivety, passion and energy of youth.

Vying for spot duty are role players Matt Beleskey, Mark Fistric, Devante Smith-Pelly and Brad Staubitz.

Backing the guys up is arguably the best goalie tandem in the NHL. Each of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth have earned the trust and respect of their teammates. Having trust in your goaltenders is quite possibly the single most impactful intangible benefit.

Steve Whitney has been catching the eye of many bloggers early in camp. Speed is eye-catching and Whitney floats around the rink at mach speed. He isn’t likely to make the show this year. Conversely, Rickard Rakell has failed to make a positive impression anyone during the first half week.

These Ducks might well be a year or 3 away from finishing their unfinished business. They do have a broad range of complimentary skill sets on the roster. Additionally, they have depth to replace the various parts lost to retirement or diminished skills internally.

In this sense, these Ducks are organizationally structured similarly to our Cup winning team that prospered with 9 sophomores on the roster.

We may have even finally replaced Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer though it will have taken 5 D-men to do it. Fowler and Vatanen for Nieds and Souray, Beauchemin and Allen for Pronger.

The talent is there for these Ducks to push themselves into NHL elite status. The questions are; will it all come together? Will they remain healthy? Will they peak in the playoffs?

It’s really beginning to sound like that Meatloaf diddy:

I want you, I need you
But there ain’t no way
I’m ever gonna love you, now
Don’t feel sad, ‘cuz
2 out of 3 ain’t bad

First Murray doesn’t leave cap room, then yesterday NHL.com reports, “

“If he’s sure he wants it bad, then we’ll make it work,” Murray said. “Whatever I have to do. I don’t care when he tells me. We’ll find a way. We’ve got lots of cap space [and] we have enough contract [room].”

Who is this putz to question Teemu Selanne’s desire? His professionalism? I’ve occasionally referred to Bob Murray as a B Market Bozo and he continues to live down to that estimate.

And how does he make cap room? Another salary dump? Send one of Penner, Cogliano or Sbisa to Norfolk? Maybe Teemu will play for the league minimum?

The thing here is, if you think a guy is done and you don’t want him back at least show him, yourself, your employer and your employer’s customers enough respect to say so. Teemu at least, deserves that much.

CBS Sports also thought the Murray’s comment newsworthy. A poster had an interesting comment:

redwings1969

Teemu is a first ballot hall of famer and one of the best to ever play in the NHL.   Unfortunately though he’s just not the same player anymore ( can’t be at 43) and regressed in a big way last year.  The overall stats don’t even tell the story, not at all.   This 12-12-24 line is actually flattering to say the least.   After he scored 5 goals and 16 points in his first 18 games the last 2 months of the season didn’t go so well for him.   In his last 28 games Teemu only scored 7 goals and added 1 assist to that for a total of 8 points during that time period.   In a league with a hard cap unless he agrees to play for 1 million dollars I don’t think he should come back.  If he couldn’t produce for the final 2 months of a 48 game season, how can he produce for 82 games at 43 years old?

Who knows what caused Teemu’s slump as the season wound down. What I saw is that he paced himself. He can still jet through the neutral zone. What he didn’t do was make the sharp quick cuts and dekes. Guys who Teemu deked out of their cups just a year before were now timing him and tying him up.
In other words, the north/south speed is still there but the agility wasn’t. The problem with Teemu’s slump is that he wasn’t getting as many scoring chances. He couldn’t put himself in position to score as often.
This contrasts to Corey Perry’s playoff scoring slump that wasn’t the result of fewer chances. All players will tell you that so long as the chances are coming they try not to be concerned about slumps.

I shoot straight enough to recognize what I don’t know. I don’t know what caused Teemu’s slump. Was it Bonino going out with his injury? The compressed schedule? An undisclosed injury?

I do know what I saw though.

Yesterday, czhokej and I indulged a rare chance to hang out, share a salad, flirt with waitresses and chat Ducks hockey. The food was tasty, the waitresses good sports and the chat compelling. Here are some quick hits:

First up was the top line and all the events surrounding it. New contracts to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The Bobby Ryan trade. The signing of Dustin Penner. cz pointed out that Dustin Penner was the top scorer on the Kid Line during our Ducks Cup year.  Pancake was brought in to stabilize the top line. If he’s successful much of the day-to-day roster and roles fall into place. If not, coach will continue to rotate guys off and on, in and out through a seemingly endless search for consistency.

A couple of minutes into the now annual is Teemu coming back, we realized we weren’t sure where he would play. As if to punctuate the moment a mushroom rolled off my fork. Saku’s role has changed and Teemu isn’t a checking line player. First line? For now Dustin Penner is penciled in alongside the Big Dogs. Second line? Does he have enough left to beat out the up and coming Emerson Etem? First unit PP? Teemu lost that job to Nick Bonino and Bobby Ryan last season. When he did get first unit PP line it came when Getzlaf was moved to the point.

If Penner fails, maybe Teemu is the solution on the top line. Much of Penner’s success or lack thereof actually depends on which Getzlaf hits the ice in October. Is it the dominating player we saw during the shortened season or do we get his evil twin, the perimeter playing Giveaway Getz who glides around the ice instead of skating? Eight million doesn’t seem to buy what it used to get you.

While I see Ducks Iron Man Andrew Cogliano as trade bait, we wondered if he would return to the checking line. Cogliano and Emerson Etem showed genuine chemistry on the PK. Could they continue to be a dangerous duo in ES situations?

Coach has said he expects bigger things from Matt Beleskey next season. Could Matt produce those “bigger things” alongside Koivu & Winick? Beleskey would be the shooter and adds a physical element to the checking line.

Nick Bonino will center a line. There’s plenty of competition among his potential linemates. Selanne, Etem are the leading candidates on RW. Palmieri, Silfverberg on LW.

cz notes that Cam Fowler was much improved defensively last season. I noted Scot Niedermayer’s influence as Cam seemed to be taking that rover-D role and trying to control the tempo when he has the puck.

We both hope for more offense from the back line. I see it coming from a luckier and less snake bit Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen. cz is keeping faith with Luca Sbisa. We think Sheldon Souray will take a few games off in back to back and 3 games in 4 nights situations. Though he and Beauchemin should be counted on for 5-6 goals.

The goaltending is solid to spectacular.

Replacing Bobby Ryan and possibly Teemu Selanne won’t be easy. Still, these Ducks could be a real offensive powerhouse next season. Consider, Perry 35-40, Getzlaf 25, Penner, Etem & Palmieri 20+, Bonino, Cogliano, Silfverberg 15+, Koivu, Beleskey 12, Fowler & Vatanen 10. That’s over 200 goals without anybody having a career year or exceeding expectations. Add a handful of goals each from Beauchemin, Souray, Sbisa and the fourth line. All of a sudden we’re enjoying a team that can score anywhere and anytime.

With excellent goaltending behind them the 2013-14 Ducks are a well-organized team primed for success.

Summer is what former Kings GM Dave Taylor called hockey’s financial season. We agree. With money and contracts in mind, we take a look at our Ducks following the Bobby Ryan trade.

Conventional wisdom dictated that if our Ducks were to move Ryan it would be for a 2nd line center, not cap room. If we have come to expect anything from Bob Murray it’s that he is unconventional. In his post trade interview, Murph said “Anytime you can upgrade and make your hockey team better and stronger and deeper, you try to do it….”

Ducks are definitely deeper but the better and stronger parts remain to be seen. Murph didn’t mention team speed but we’re definitely faster regardless of who replaces Ryan.

Cap Status:

In the hours following the Ryan trade, Saku Koivu re-upped for one year at $2.5m about a million less than his previous stipend. Obviously, he left money on the table. Today, Ducks announced RFA Matt Beleskey has inked a 2 yr commitment reportedly to be for $2.7m.
Kyle Palmieri and Teemu Selanne remain unsigned as of this writing. Murph did say he expects to chat with Teemu sometime next week
Per CapGeek, Ducks have 22 players signed with $7.84m in cap space. Palmieri and Selanne will likely cost in the $4.5 -5m range, leaving nearly $3m in the cap float. This represents some hard-earned flexibility going forward.

The Roster:

Coach Bruce Boudreau sets his forward lines identically to how previous coach Randy Carlyle did. Gabby sets two guys together and rotates a third in and out, up and down the depth chart. At the moment, he has exactly two sets of two forwards, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry; Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnick. Everything else is to be determined at camp.

Nick Bonino, Peter Holland and Rickard Rakell resume their competition for the two open center spots. This year they could be pushed by Antoine Laganiere and William Karlsson.

At LW, Emerson Etem, Matt Beleskey and newcomer Jakub Silfverberg will each get an opportunity to make The Twins twosome a go to threesome. Patrik Maroon will also get a look. The Twins enjoyed Devante Smith-Pelly and gave him lots of encouragement two seasons ago. DSP shouldn’t be ruled out of the mix but he is a long shot to break into the top six at this point. Max Friberg will be looking to make an impression.
Kyle Palmieri is currently RFA and will certainly compete for the top spot if and when signed.

On RW Corey Perry is a lock on the top line. Pencil in Andrew Cogliano to remain alongside Koivu/Winnick on the checking line. This leaves two spots open. Emerson Etem and Matt Beleskey can play either wing giving Coach options. Devante Smith-Pelly and Brad Staubitz will be looking to earn some TOI. Newcomer Stefan Noesen is eager to move up and could but he’ll probably start the year in Norfolk.

On the back line Ducks will enter camp with a top 7 vying for spots. Write in Francois Beauchemin and Cam Fowler as next season’s TOI leaders. Ben Lovejoy earned a spot among the top 4. Sheldon Souray will keep his role on the PP but could see reduced TOI in ES situations as the season drags on.  Bryan Allen, Luca Sbisa and Sami Vatanen  will compete  for #5-6 spots. Hampus Lindholm could make that decision very difficult.

Ducks are loaded between the pipes with Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth. Rookies Frederik Andersen , John Gibson and Igor Bobkov will likely compete for spots in Norfolk.

Trade bait:

One of Hiller, Fasth or Andersen. Andrew Cogliano, Luca Sbisa.

Needs:

1 top six center, 1 top four D-man

Summary:

Unless a great trade opportunity is presented look for our Ducks to open camp with the current roster. Those who fretted our team had become top heavy are probably having a cow since the Ryan trade was announced.

This team will be in serious trouble if Ryan Getzlaf doesn’t dominate from puck drop in October. A slow start will be a disaster not only on the ice but also reflected in the revenue streams occurring at the gate, on television and in merchandise sales.

Ducks fans can and should expect more from Corey Perry and Cam Fowler in the stat department. Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri look ready to produce 20+ goal seasons. Andrew Cogliano, Saku Koivu, Jakub Silfverberg and Matt Beleskey, Nick Bonino and Peter Holland must provide consistent secondary scoring.

Any additional scoring we get from the blueline and the depth forwards is a bonus.

The goaltending is strong and can overcome defensive lapses and give the team a chance to win most every night. Each of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth has shown the ability to steal a game our guys really didn’t deserve to win.

Overall it’s way too soon to make a projection or prediction.

The noise is coming from fans and Gossip Girl websites so it’s not serious at this point. I get it though. Corey Perry had an off-year and playoff so we should trade Bobby Ryan. Viktor Fasth had abdominal injury so what’s the first thing folks want to do? You got it, trade Bobby Ryan.

The so-called logic here is that we’re fine at forward and need help on the back line. I love declarative statements because there’s just no ambiguity in the shortsightedness. I’m not sure any team in the NHL can afford to lose two top six forwards in the same year.

The other top six forward we’re going to lose is Teemu Selanne. Even if Flash returns he won’t be coming back as a top six, first unit PP, 25 goal scoring near point a per game player. Father time took that Teemu Selanne away from us.

If you’re seriously proposing trading Bobby Ryan you must hope that the promising but still unproven Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri will replace the 55-60 goals that we get from Ryan and Selanne.

Far too often teams make the mistake of weakening an area of perceived strength to improve an area adjudged to be weak. Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi for Ryan Whitney was such a trade. Usually this type of trade only works to the extent you get beat a little differently. The team doesn’t improve overall.

Not only are those pounding TRADE BOBBY RYAN NOW on their keyboards using flawed logic, it’s really dangerous if for whatever reason Etem and/or Palmieri don’t move forward and Teemu shows his age.

Luca Sbisa is a horse of a different color. With Vatanen and possibly Lindholm moving up the depth chart, Luca could easily slip to 7th or lower. No team wants to pay an AHL player $2.175MM.

If we move a top nine forward, the guy most likely to go is Andrew Cogliano. I think that will prove regrettable but Murray will need the cap saving if really does intend to bring Selanne and/or Koivu back.

Wings won because of their foot speed and ability to get to the loose pucks. They got to the loose pucks, took control and won. We had plenty of opportunities to put them away and we just didn’t finish.

Yes we missed Toni Lydman but one guy isn’t the reason you lose a series. We lost because we didn’t put them away sooner. The longer the series went their confidence went up and we seemed frozen in time and space. We had no response. Detroit elevated their game and we didn’t. As a team we didn’t have it to elevate.

One look at the plus/minus screams foot speed on the blue line is a serous issue. Beauchemin, Souray and Sbisa our 3 weakest skaters were each minus-2 on the series. Our better skaters, Fowler (3), Lovejoy (4), Allen (1) and Lydman (1) were each on the plus side.

I really don’t want to wade deep into the weeds but essentially the Wings won because we couldn’t skate with them. Everything else, their puck possession, passing and positioning, came off their skating and ability to win faceoffs and be first on those precious loose pucks.

One of the things I didn’t notice until Game 7 was how Detroit was beating us in the low slot.  They were getting two guys down low. One guy positioned on the top of the crease to screen Hiller. A second was roaming 3-6 feet out and picking up those loose pucks and rebounds.

Many unknowingly and incorrectly blame Hiller for those rebounds but that is not how hockey is taught or played at elite levels. The goalie is responsible for making the first save. It’s the job of the skaters to either get on the rebound or tie up the opposition so that they don’t get second and third shots. The only bad goal in tonight’s game was Filppula’s.

One thing our Ducks gave us this year is hope. For the first time since the Pronger trade and the retirement of Scot Niedermayer our Ducks appear to be getting better instead of worse.

The immediate future looks very bright. Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri are obviously keepers. Pending UFA’s Ben Lovejoy and Dave Steckel will probably be resigned. Steckel could join Winnick and Cogliano on the checking line. Nick Bonino won himself a center spot this season. Rickard Rakell and Peter Holland will compete for the other spot.

Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan can be expected to bounce back from off years and poor playoff performances.

There are only three, maybe four roster changes I see going into next season.

Luca Sbisa will be challenged to keep his spot by Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm. Luca has four of the five skills necessary to play the game at the NHL level. His ability to read, pickup or see a play developing and properly react to it is questionable.

Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu represent difficult decisions because both could be tempted to return for the Olympics. Though it isn’t at all certain that either could win and hold their Ducks job against the up and coming kids next season. I’d much rather see each of them move on their own terms rather than be pushed out.

Sheldon Souray’s lack of foot speed became exposed as the season wore on and certainly in the playoffs. He could be, actually should be, bought out. He’s another guy who I have too much respect for to watch get pushed aside. Watching Rob Niedermayer get the hook and be told he couldn’t play anymore was sad. It’s understandable that some guys just won’t come off the ice until you shoot ‘em and drag ‘em off. I just think it’s sad to pull the trigger.

So I’d much rather see Teemu, Saku and Sheldon leave now before younger guys push them out.

Ducks next job is cleaning out their lockers and exit interviews. It was a tough year for a few players. There will no doubt be some retirements and maybe a buyout over the summer. Our next task is preparing for the draft where our Ducks will 22nd overall. Definitely not high enough to snag a player likely to help immediately.

One goal and just that quick our Ducks move from the hockey season to the financial season. Our attention turns from the ice to the front office.

For me, I’ll share with you on this thread before taking some time off.

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.

Prediction

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.

At the mid-point you have to say that 18-3-3 is no longer a great start. It’s a great half-season. In an 82 game schedule our Ducks would be just rounding the quarter pole. The season is different. It’s a sprint rather than a grind.

At the team barbecue last summer Ryan Getzlaf talked about it taking a team to win. On the day he signed his new contract Bob Murray talked about how Getz has grown into the role of captain. No doubt Ryan Getzlaf is now showing the promise of realized potential. If it weren’t for that pesky Sidney Crosby, Getz would or should be the leading Hart/MVP candidate.

As he said himself, it takes a team to win. While Ryan Getzlaf is the most dominant force our send over the boards, he is only part of what makes this Ducks team the most successful, in terms of won/lost record.

The goaltending tandem of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth have kept our Ducks in games and given them a chance to win every time out.

“It’s a 180 degree turn from last season,” Hiller noted, “Last year we played not to lose. This season we’re playing to win.”

Playing to win is an attitude missing from our Ducks since the 2009-10 season. That Cup team had a swagger to it. This team is more humble. It’s a quiet confidence reinforced by the belief in a record of 18-3-3 and trust in your teammates.

Our Ducks Cup team played aggressive in your face hockey. As the brash Chris Pronger said of opposing teams and their fans, “(We like to) Send ‘em home cryyyyying.” This team issues a “Show us what you’ve got” challenge then proceed to pick the opposition apart with quick strikes before working the clock and shutting down the opposition.

Getzlaf calls it boring hockey. Purists would agree. To fans, winning is never boring.

Corey Perry deflected the temptation to “think bigger” when prodded by OCR beat reporter Eric Stephens. “I think we take it one game at a time. I mean we’re at the half-way point and we still have a lot of hockey left. If we keep continuing to play the way we are, we’re going to put ourselves in a good position.”

Perry added, “We play our system. Everyone in here knows what’s going on, what they’re role is and adapting to it.”  That sounds remarkably close to Ryan Getzlaf’s summer, “It takes a team” mantra.

Probably the guy most responsible for our ducks newly earned self-confidence is coach Bruce Boudreau. Upon arriving in December of 2011 “Gabby” found a room disheartened as though the life had been sucked out of it, as one former Duck described it.

Coach knew the team had the top end talent to compete with anybody. He set out to find out if the team had the necessary complimentary and supporting role players. Immediately the new coach set about to rolling four lines and spread the TOI more evenly throughout the lineup. Nothing changed in that first month as our Ducks continued to lose. Then along about Christmas of 2011, starting with Saku Koivu and Jonas Hiller and spreading one by one throughout the roster our Ducks began to buy into the new program.

The team went on an incredible run that ended with a thud the moment the trade deadline came and went.

During the financial season GM Bob Murray set about to make our Ducks more like the Big Bad Ducks of the Brian Burke era. The incoming included the underrated Daniel Winnick, a rejuvenated Sheldon Souray, match-up specialist Bryan Allen and enforcer Brad Staubitz.

The last main ingredient is the infusion of youth that Bob Murray either drafted or acquired by trade. The maturation of Nick Bonino and Matt Beleskey as reliable and trusted everyday players, is complimented by the breakthrough of Kyle Palmieri. Luca Sbisa seems to have discovered the secret to consistency. The shuttle from Anaheim to Norfolk is paying dividends as prospects such as Emerson Etem, Peter Holland and Pat Maroon have exhibited measurable growth with every trip to and from.

In part two I’ll take you through the change in the system. An excellent primer is to start here, where Scott Cullen uses advance stats to prove that center lane drives, or carrying the puck over the blue line results in measurably more shots and scoring chances than the dump, chase and cycle attack.