Tag Archives: Brandon Montour

2018 Offseason Preview: Anaheim Ducks

The theme of aquatic birds continues in DtFR’s offseason preview series, as it’s time to tackle the Anaheim Ducks’ priorities regarding their pending free agents.

Featuring a playoff roster with an average age of 28.5-years-old, logic would indicate the Ducks are in their prime. However, even though they’ve qualified for the postseason for six-straight seasons, they’ve failed to advance beyond the first round in half of those appearances – including a four-game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks this April.

One of the biggest concerns about this Anaheim club is it plays an old-fashioned, grind-it-out style that simply doesn’t mesh well against the increasingly quicker and technically-sound opponents.

In simpler terms, the Ducks need to get younger and faster.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

One of the easiest ways to get younger is with a solid draft class, and Anaheim will have that opportunity with the 23rd-overall selection.

If one of the mock drafts I’ve compiled (all of which are available at Elite Prospects) are correct, I’d bet on General Manager Bob Murray selecting D Alexander Alexeyev (Red Deer Rebels), C Ryan McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads), D Rasmus Sandin (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) or D Bode Wilde (USNTDP) with his first round selection.

If there’s one thing the Ducks’ scouts know, it’s definitely defense. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are all solid blueliners 26-years-old or younger that will service this organization for years to come, and I’d only expect Alexeyev, Sandin or Wilde to join the group if they’re deemed truly worthy.

That’s what makes McLeod such an attractive option. Even though the 18-year-old is all but ensured at least one more season with the Steelheads, Anaheim’s deep defense gives it the opportunity to invest in restocking its attack.

McLeod had a breakout season in 2017-18, registering 26-44-70 totals in 68 games played (1.03 points per game), followed by 2-3-5 marks in his six postseason appearances. If he can take command of the club following the potential departure of brother F Michael McLeod (12th-overall pick by New Jersey in 2016) and lead Mississauga on a deep playoff run, Anaheim could happen into a stellar young forward.

Pending free agents

Let’s tackle Anaheim’s easiest position first: goaltending. G John Gibson and G Ryan Miller are both under contract for one more season, so the Ducks will likely make no moves in this department. The most important note here is making sure Murray reserves money on the back burner for Gibson next summer (he’ll be an RFA, for those that care about those sorts of things). He currently has a touch over $9 million in cap space this season and a whopping $23 million to play with in 2019-20.

Along the blue line, D Kevin Bieksa (UFA), D Brandon Montour (RFA) and D Andy Welinski (RFA) are all looking for jobs, but I’d argue that only Montour is truly worth a big-time contract.

Montour’s 20:28 time on ice per game was fourth on the team, and the same can be said for his .4 points per game. At 24-years-old, he’ll be worth every penny of any contract he receives to play an imposing presence as a top-four defenseman.

Having just turned 37-years-old Saturday following a 0-8-8, -13 season in 59 games played, it’s hard to see a way Bieksa returns to Anaheim for a fourth season. That makes signing Welinski –  the Ducks’ third-round pick in 2011 – to a low-cost, two-way contract all the easier to swallow.

Instead, the toughest decisions for Anaheim will be made in the forwards room. RW J.T. Brown, W Jason Chimera, C Derek Grant, W Ondrej Kase, F Chris Kelly, LW Nick Ritchie and F Antoine Vermette are all looking for contracts this summer, with all but Kase and Ritchie being of the UFA variety.

Regardless of type, Kase is by far the most important free agent on Anaheim’s plate this summer. He reached the 20-goal plateau in his second season in the NHL, and he needed only 66 games to do it. He may not compare to RW Teemu Selanne (I mean, the Finnish Flash did score 76 goals in his rookie season compared to Kase’s five), but I believe he’s fully ready to climb into a top-six position with F Rickard Rakell to lead this Ducks team when F Ryan Kesler and C Ryan Getzlaf depart.

In a similar fashion, fellow 22-year-old Ritchie should also receive a fresh deal to keep him in Orange County. While not quite the scorer Kase is (he managed only 10-17-27 totals in 76 games played this season), Ritchie is an excellent third-liner that still has more than enough time to develop into a real weapon from his position. Get him a bridge deal for a cap hit under $1.25 million and move on.

Anaheim’s most important UFA is Grant, a player that provided 12-12-24 totals in 66 appearances this season from his position on the fourth line. Coming off a one-year, $650 thousand deal, he’ll likely sign for cheap to give the Ducks four solid centers.

The rest of the UFAs (Brown – 27, Chimera – 39, Kelly – 37, Vermette – 35) either don’t fit with the “get younger” plan or simply aren’t worth the money (looking at you, Brown). Anaheim can either promote a forward from its organization (I like pending RFA F Kalle Kossila) or acquire another from outside to fill its 13th forward position.

Sharks sweep Ducks with 2-1 win in Game 4

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For just the second time in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks have swept a playoff series. The Sharks defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 2-1, in Game 4 at SAP Center and advanced to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result of the win.

Tomas Hertl scored the game-winning goal in the third period to give the Sharks their first postseason series sweep since they defeated the Vancouver Canucks in four games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

San Jose goaltender, Martin Jones, stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced for a .968 save percentage in the win. Meanwhile, John Gibson had 22 saves on 24 shots on goal for a .917 SV% in the loss.

Marcus Sorensen (3) continued his incredible postseason run so far and got the home crowd roaring early in the first period after he followed up on his own rebound and beat Gibson to give San Jose a 1-0 lead. Brent Burns (1) and Melker Karlsson (3) had the assists on Sorensen’s goal at 5:43 of the first period.

Ducks blueliner, Hampus Lindholm, took the game’s first penalty when he tripped Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi late in the period. San Jose was not able to convert on the ensuing power play.

After 20 minutes, the Sharks led the Ducks 1-0 on the scoreboard. San Jose also led in hits (13-6) and takeaways (6-3), while Anaheim led in shots on goal (10-9), blocked shots (10-2) and faceoff win percentage (64-36).

The second period brought a shift in momentum as Anaheim got their first power play of the night after Joe Pavelski was guilty of tripping Marcus Pettersson a little past the seven-minute mark of the period.

Though they were not able to convert on the man advantage, the Ducks kept the pressure going until Nick Ritchie slashed Kevin Labanc and forced Anaheim to go on the penalty kill.

A few minutes later, Timo Meier, got his stick up in the face of Rickard Rakell and the Ducks went back on the power play. San Jose killed it off and promptly took the game’s next penalty with a minute remaining in the second period.

Eric Fehr took the skate of shame to the sin bin for hooking Ducks defender, Josh Manson.

As time was ticking down, Ryan Getzlaf fired a shot on goal with less than a second remaining in the period. The Ducks celebrated, but after a quick review, it was confirmed that the clock read “0.0” as the puck went past Jones.

Anaheim outshot San Jose, 14-6, in the second period. The Ducks also led in blocked shots (12-11) and faceoff win% (54-46) through 40 minutes of play. San Jose had a slight advantage in hits (20-19) and the lead on the scoreboard, 1-0. Neither team was successful on the power play through two periods (with the Ducks having gone 0/3 and Sharks, 0/2).

With a minute remaining on Fehr’s penalty and a fresh sheet of ice thanks to the second intermission, the Ducks attacked the Sharks early in the third period with ferocity.

Just 27 seconds in the period, Getzlaf entered the zone on a three-on-two breakout and threw the puck to Rakell who fired a shot past Jones. Anaheim thought they had tied the game on the power play, but Sharks head coach, Peter DeBoer, challenged the call on the ice on the basis that the Ducks entered the zone offside.

After review, it was determined that Getzlaf entered the zone offside and the call on the ice was reversed. No goal, still 1-0 San Jose.

Evander Kane took a stick up high from Brandon Montour a couple of minutes later and the Sharks were given their third power play of the night. Anaheim’s defense stepped their game up killed off the penalty, keeping San Jose scoreless on the man advantage. The Sharks would finish the night 0/3 on the power play.

Melker Karlsson then caught Andy Welinski with a high-stick of his own while losing his balance and was sent to serve a two-minute minor penalty. The Ducks were unable to put one past Jones on the power play, but they were getting some quality chances and building momentum for the inevitable.

Jakob Silfverberg sent a quick pass to Ryan Kesler who was awaiting behind the goal line. Kesler received the pass and quickly threw the puck to Andrew Cogliano (1) who was crashing the net and fired a quick redirection shot point blank on Jones to tie the game, 1-1.

Kesler (2) and Silfverberg (1) were credited with the assists on Cogliano’s first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 7:53 of the third period.

Less than a couple minutes later, Getzlaf went to work on getting the puck out of his own zone with a lackadaisical clearing attempt around the boards. Instead of working the puck into the neutral zone and forcing San Jose’s attack to retreat and get back onside, Marc-Edouard Vlasic was able to scoop up the loose puck and throw a shot on goal.

It was then that Tomas Hertl (3) was able to redirect Vlasic’s shot through Gibson’s five-hole and put the Sharks back on top, 2-1. Vlasic (2) picked up his second assist of the series on Hertl’s goal.

The quick response from the Sharks was enough to motivate the home team that was already feeding off of the energy inside SAP Center.

Gibson vacated his net for an extra skater with less than two minute to go in regulation, but even after Randy Carlyle called a timeout with 1:01 left on the clock after a stoppage in play, the Ducks were not able to tie the game and force an overtime.

San Jose had completed the sweep at the sound of the final horn.

The Sharks had won Game 4 by a score of 2-1 and finished the night leading in hits (28-27). Anaheim finished the night leading in shots on goal (31-24) and 0/4 on the power play.

For the first time in 19 years, the Anaheim Ducks were swept in a playoff series.

Having already witnessed the Vegas Golden Knights’s 1-0 victory in Game 4 against Los Angeles on Tuesday night, the San Jose Sharks know exactly who they’ll be facing in the Second Round. Vegas and San Jose will meet for the first time in the postseason at T-Mobile Arena for Games 1 and 2 as the Golden Knights will continue to have home ice in the next round.

Sharks win 8-1 in Game 3, can sweep Ducks on Wednesday

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The San Jose Sharks had a night of firsts on Monday at SAP Center. Eight different goal scorers contributed to the most goals in a Stanley Cup Playoff game in franchise history for the Sharks as San Jose beat the Anaheim Ducks, 8-1.

As a result of the win, the Sharks can sweep the Ducks Wednesday night on home ice.

Martin Jones had 45 saves on 46 shots against for a .978 save percentage in the win— setting a franchise playoff record for most saves in a regulation game— while Anaheim goaltender, John Gibson, made 19 saves on 24 shots against for a .792 SV% in 39:43 time on ice in the loss. Ducks backup goaltender, Ryan Miller, made nine saves on 12 shots faced for a .750 SV% in relief for Gibson.

San Jose didn’t waste much time getting on the scoreboard as Logan Couture (2) picked up his 2nd of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs just 3:44 into the first period on a follow up chance. Mikkel Boedker (2) had the only assist on the goal and the Sharks led 1-0.

Just past the halfway point of the first period, Ryan Getzlaf jumpstarted a deep rut to the penalty box for the Ducks all night by being penalized for holding Sharks forward, Joonas Donskoi. The Sharks were unable to convert on their first power play of the night.

Instead, Timo Meier was penalized for hooking Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg shortly after San Jose’s man advantage ended. As such, the Ducks went on the power play and promptly capitalized about a minute later with Rickard Rakell (1) scoring a power play goal to tie the game, 1-1.

Brandon Montour (1) and Getzlaf (2) had the assists on Rakell’s game-tying goal at 13:40 of the first period.

After 20 minutes of play, the score was 1-1 with Anaheim outshooting San Jose, 11-8. The Ducks also led in hits (24-8) and faceoff win percentage (63-37). Meanwhile, the Sharks had a 5-4 advantage in blocked shots and led in takeaways (6-0), as well as giveaways (3-2) through one frame. Anaheim was 1/1 on the power play in the first period and San Jose was 0/1 on the man advantage.

The second period opened similar to the first period in that San Jose scored early.

Joonas Donskoi (1) passed the puck to Evander Kane who flipped it back to Donskoi for the shot on net and the Sharks went ahead, 2-1. Kane (1) had the only assist on the goal at 1:15 of the second period.

Almost two minutes later, Marcus Sorensen (2) received a pass from Donskoi on a quick transition, deked and scored on Gibson to make it 3-1 San Jose. Donskoi (1) was credited with the assist on Sorensen’s goal at 3:41 of the second period.

Then things settled in for about ten minutes until Eric Fehr (1) got the puck on his stick around center ice, brought it into the offensive zone with great hands, deked past Anaheim’s defense and made it 4-1 for the Sharks. Sorensen (1) and Melker Karlsson (2) notched the assists on the goal at 13:43 of the period.

Less than a minute later, Ducks forward, Nick Ritchie received two penalties after the whistle— a minor for slashing San Jose’s captain, Joe Pavelski, and another minor penalty for roughing against Pavelski. Sharks defenseman, Dylan DeMelo, picked up a roughing minor against Ducks defenseman Derek Grant.

All of the penalties came at 14:28 of the second period with the Sharks ending up on a 5-on-4 power play, until Ducks defenseman, Francois Beauchemin, slashed Logan Couture about a minute later.

San Jose called a timeout before taking advantage of their 5-on-3 power play at 15:59.

It only took Tomas Hertl (2) 50 seconds to score on the two-man advantage, giving the Sharks a four-goal lead, 5-1, at 16:49. Pavelski (4) and Couture (2) picked up the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Hertl’s power play goal.

With 40 minutes in the books, San Jose led, 5-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed, 30-24, in shots on goal to the Ducks. Blocked shots were even at 10-10, while Anaheim led in hits (34-18). The Sharks led in takeaways (10-3) and giveaways (8-5) after two periods and were 1/3 on the power play. Meanwhile, Anaheim did not see any power play time in the second period and was still 1/1 on the man advantage.

Seeing as they were already losing, 5-1, Ducks head coach, Randy Carlyle figured he might as well throw his backup goaltender to the fire and Ryan Miller replaced John Gibson in goal to start the third period.

Sorensen was assessed a minor penalty for holding Marcus Pettersson 5:09 into the third period, but the Ducks were unable to get anything past Jones on the ensuing power play.

Then things only continued to worsen for Anaheim.

Ryan Getzlaf was clearly disinterested by the time the third period rolled around and he let it be known in his undisciplined effort, amassing a slashing penalty and a roughing penalty at 7:22 of the third period. San Jose then went on a four-minute power play and was sure to take advantage of their special teams play.

Pavelski (1) had the puck on his stick with time ticking down on the Sharks power play and beat Miller clean through the five-hole to make it 6-1, San Jose. Meier (2) and Donskoi (2) had the assists on the goal that upped San Jose’s lead from four to five.

After Getzlaf lost his mind, Corey Perry went off and cross-checked everything in sight (that’s a bit of an exaggeration, he only cross checked Kevin Labanc and was sent to the penalty box). Speaking of Getzlaf, he must have said something that a ref didn’t like because as Perry was being assessed his minor penalty at 11:12 of the third period, Getzlaf picked up a 10-minute misconduct, ending his night at SAP Center.

San Jose did not score on the ensuing man advantage.

Eric Fehr tripped Perry moments later and was sent to the sin bin, but the Ducks were not able to convert on the man advantage.

Moments later, Ryan Kesler slashed Sharks blue liner, Paul Martin, and didn’t get to sit for too long in the box as Evander Kane (3) redirected a shot on goal from Marc-Edouard Vlasic to give San Jose a 7-1 lead with yet another power play goal. Vlasic (1) and Couture (3) assisted on Kane’s goal at 17:16 of the third period.

At 19:24 of the third period, Brandon Montour slashed Fehr and the Sharks converted on yet another power play 12 seconds later to make it 8-1.

Timo Meier (1) pocketed the goal after Chris Tierney fired off a shot while falling. Tierney (1) and Labanc (2) had the assists on what was a franchise playoff record 8th goal of the game for San Jose at 19:36 of the period.

Despite being outhit 43-24 and outshot 46-36 by the Ducks, the San Jose Sharks emerged victorious with a power play that went 3/7 on the night compared to Anaheim’s 1/3 on the man advantage.

At the final horn, San Jose had defeated Anaheim, 8-1, and as a result now has a commanding 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 at SAP Center. The Sharks have outscored the Ducks 13-3 through three games into the series and can sweep Anaheim at home on Wednesday night. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 10:30 p.m. ET and viewers outside of the respective local markets can tune in on GOLF channel in the United States and SN1 and/or TVAS2 in Canada.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #84- What’s the Problem, Senator?

Nick and Connor discuss the hullabaloo regarding the fallout of the Ottawa Senators and whether or not they should trade Erik Karlsson (thereby tanking and rebuilding). A quick look around California reveals contenders and pretenders, while All-Star talent and rookies are also reviewed.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 5

Player of the Week: Nikita Kucherov

Tampa is kind of making these choices too easy every week.

The hottest team in the league continued to roll, and the hottest line in the league followed suit. Linemates Vladislav Namestnikov (4 goals, 1 assist) and Steven Stamkos (1 goal, 5 assists) were certainly no slouches, but Kucherov’s 2 goals and 7 points in 3 games were easily the most impressive output of the week, especially considering both goals and 6 of those points were in the first 2 games of the week.

Kucherov is even being talked about as having a shot at 50 goals in 50 games. While it’s certainly still quite a ways away, it will definitely be interesting to see if he can reach the fabled mark.

Team of the Week: Toronto Maple Leafs

Fans of Steve Dangle’s LFR series will know that this was a week chock full of victory puppies.

After a very shaky stretch that saw the Leafs nearly fall all the way back to a .500 record after a scorching start, things looked increasingly bleak as they learned they’d be without superstar Auston Matthews heading into this week’s 4-game schedule. But the loss of #34 seemed to light a spark under his teammates’ collective tails.

Toronto opened the week hosting the Golden Knights and whoever they could find willing to throw on some goalie pads (we love ya, Max) and the two squads treated us to an extremely fun night that ended in a 4-3 Leafs victory on the strength of a silky shootout goal from Mitch Marner. They would follow that effort up with a 4-2 victory over Minnesota, heading into a back-to-back home-and-home with arch rival Boston.

Now, the Bruins are more Providence than Boston right now as they deal with a slew of injuries, particularly in the forward group, but credit them for putting up one heck of a fight at the ACC on Friday night as they came just 60 seconds from victory before James van Hockey (who notably had 4 points in the 2 games against the Bruins) tied the game and sent it to overtime. In overtime, Patrick Marleau touched the ice, so the team he played for won the game. (If you’re not familiar with Marleau’s ridiculous GWG stats, go have a look. Legitimately about 1/5th of his career goals have won a game.)

Saturday night the Leafs would wrap up a Matthews-less week 4-0 after a 4-1 victory over the Bruins in Boston, with backup goalie Curtis McElhinney shining in net. The Leafs now get 4 days of rest, riding a boatload of momentum, and likely will see the return of Matthews the next time they hit the ice. Maybe hope your team doesn’t play them anytime soon.

Game of the Week: Los Angeles Kings 4 @ Anaheim Ducks 3 (OT), Tuesday November 7th

The NHL likes to think of Wednesday as rivalry night, but boy were they a day late this week.

What was easily the most entertaining game of the year to this point (in this humble writer’s opinion) saw some fantastic stat lines. 7 goals, 79 shots, 54 hits, 51 penalty minutes, and 12 power plays should tell you what sort of game you missed if you didn’t happen to catch this barn-burner.

To put the insanity of this game into simple terms, Jared Boll opened the scoring. Yeah, that Jared Boll! Isn’t that spectacular?! Like, okay, Brandon Montour did 99% of the work and just had his wrap-around attempt bounce onto Boll’s stick so he could hack it into an open net, but who really cares? Somebody get that man a cookie.

Sami Vatanen would send the Ducks up 2-0 later in the 1st just as their power play opportunity expired, and for most of the 1st period the Ducks looked like they had the game by the throat. If not for some simply spectacular goaltending (see also: strategical flailing) by Jonathan Quick, this game could have gotten out of hand early. But after watching their goaltender perform miracles for most of the opening frame, the Kings decided maybe they should help him or something, so Anze Kopitar figured he’d go ahead and score a goal with just over 3 minutes remaining to send the teams to the locker rooms with Anaheim leading 2-1.

The second period saw less offense and more punches in the face. Jonathan Quick attempted to help Derek Forbort ruin Corey Perry‘s day, but the referees felt that someone with a full cage getting into fisticuffs with someone who isn’t wearing a full cage isn’t decidedly fair, so Andy Andreoff (great name, btw) had to go to the penalty box and feel Quick’s shame for him. Jared Boll would later fight Andreoff, I would assume feeling that Andy should earn his own time in the penalty box and not just bum it off of others. Oh, also Rickard Rakell and Adrian Kempe scored goals, so that was kinda neat.

The Kings absolutely mugged the Ducks in the 3rd, racking up 17 shots on John Gibson to just 6 mustered against them, but only Dustin Brown managed to get one past the Anaheim netminder, so off to bonus hockey we would go, knotted at 3. It would take nearly 4 minutes of 4-on-4 madness to decide the game, but finally Nick Shore would complete the Kings’ comeback and end a terrific night of hockey and shenanigans.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Jarome Iginla is still unsigned (podcast listeners will appreciate that), but he says he’s not ready to retire. I think he should play on a line with Jagr in Calgary, and we can nickname the line the Geri-hat-tricks or something like that.

Roberto Luongo picked up career win number 455 this week, passing Curtis Joseph for 4th all-time in that category. I’m pretty sure nobody above him is better at self-deprecating Twitter humor, though, so really he’s probably the greatest of all time.

Brian Boyle scored his first goal since returning to the Devils lineup, and his celebration was pretty much the most sincere display of happiness that doesn’t include a dog that you’ll ever see.

The Hockey Hall of Fame inductee class of Danielle Goyette, Clare Drake, Jeremy Jacobs, Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi, Teemu Selanne, and Paul Kariya was one for the ages, and if you need a solid laugh, check out the back-and-forth between longtime friends Selanne and Kariya, some of the finest chirping you will ever find.

Anaheim Ducks 2017-2018 Season Preview

Anaheim Ducks

46-23-13, 105 points (’16-’17), 1st in the Pacific Division

Eliminated in the Western Finals by Nashville

Key additions: Francois Beauchemin, Ryan Miller

Key subtractions: Jonathan Bernier, Emerson Etem, Shea Theodore

Offseason Analysis: The Anaheim Ducks made the 2017 Western Conference Finals before falling to the Nashville Predators in seven games. The Ducks were the bullies of these playoffs, as they put “beating” a team to multiple meanings. They threw a lot of hits (31 per-game, to be exact – the third-most in the Western Conference playoffs) and actually injured a lot of players during the postseason. Now, no one likes to see injuries, especially as a result of dirty hockey, but that wasn’t the case for Anaheim as their hits were clean, impactful on the game and enjoyable to watch.

For me, the Western Conference has always played a finesse game compared to the East’s physical, rough-and-tough action, so it was nice to see Anaheim step up and bring the opportune physicality to the West. And the best part? It worked in their favor and almost earned them a berth into the Stanley Cup Finals.

Heading into the offseason, the expansion loomed over a Ducks roster loaded with young NHL defensemen. If you were to ask any analyst, they would’ve told you they were looking for a trade. But, they never found that trade partner and ended up losing young defenseman Shea Theodore to Vegas. This is not the worst case scenario as Theodore was kind of a depth player, but not a regular in the lineup. I feel they got lucky as they could’ve lost Brandon Montour, a great puck moving defenseman who anyone in the league would be lucky to have on their team.

The Ducks’ big offseason moves were adding Francois Beachemin and veteran goalie Ryan Miller. I like both of these moves. I have already brought up the young defense core in Anaheim, so adding a veteran defenseman in Beachemin, who managed nearly two blocks-per-game last season, will add experience and even more grit to this defensive core.

The Ducks upgraded their backup goalie by adding Ryan Miller. Miller, who posted a .914 save percentage for a 2.8 GAA last season as Vancouver’s starter, can help as the Ducks continue to develop John Gibson as their number one goalie. Given he’s playing behind a superior defense now, Miller can also add a few more wins where last year’s backup Jonathan Bernier (.915 save percentage and 2.5 GAA) did not.

Offseason Grade: C

This offseason was pretty quiet: Anaheim didn’t make a big splash, instead electing to keep its core players and snag some small upgrades. The Ducks will be a postseason team again this year, to no one’s surprise. They will have more competition at the top of the division, but they should have home-ice advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. Will they have the same luck this year in the playoffs? I don’t think so; I think they will struggle to get out of first round. The team could’ve made bigger moves to add more offensively, but as a whole they will still be a force in the Western Conference.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals– May 20

Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks– Game 5

The Nashville Predators are one win away from continuing to make franchise history and advancing to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final thanks to a 3-1 victory against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Saturday night. 

Nashville’s Pontus Aberg scored the game winning goal in the 3rd period and Pekka Rinne made 32 saves on 33 shots faced for a .970 save percentage in the win. Anaheim goaltenders, John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier split time in goal, as Gibson left the game after the 1st period with a lower body injury. 

Gibson stopped all 10 shots he faced in the 1st period, while Bernier made 16 saves on 18 shots against for an .889 SV% in the final two periods of play.

The Predators take a 3-2 series lead back home to Bridgestone Arena for Game 6. Nashville can advance to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history with a win on Monday night.

After 20 minutes of play, the game was still tied, 0-0. Shots on goal were even, 10-10, and the Ducks were leading in hits, 15-13, as well as giveaways, 4-3. Nashville led in blocked shots, 7-6 and went 0/1 on the power play, while Anaheim went 0/2 on the man advantage in the 1st period.

Chris Wagner (2) kicked off the game’s first goal at 12:46 of the 2nd period to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. Wagner promptly fired a shot on a rebound off of Rinne’s glove after Brandon Montour had initially threw the puck on goal. Montour (7) and Jakob Silfverberg (5) collected the assists on the goal.

Filip Forsberg took a penalty for hooking Sami Vatanen with six minutes remaining in the 2nd period. Anaheim failed to convert on the man advantage and took a penalty of their own when Josh Manson was sent to the box for cross checking Forsberg shortly after he was released from the sin bin.

Nashville was on the power play for just the second time of the night, trailing 1-0 on the scoreboard until Colin Wilson (2) was at the right place at the right time. With less than a minute remaining in the period (and almost 10 seconds left on the power play), 

P.K. Subban shot the puck from the point, only to have it blocked before it could reach the net. That’s when Colton Sissons freed the loose puck and found Wilson in the slot, who then threw the rubber biscuit on goal and beat Bernier to tie the game 1-1 at 19:19 of the 2nd period.

After 40 minutes of play, the Ducks led 23-21 in shots on goal, 13-11 in blocked shots, 26-19 in hits, 5-2 in takeaways and 10-7 in giveaways, but the scoreboard still read 1-1. Statistically speaking, Nashville was close, but not too close.

Scoring chance for scoring chance was matched by each team through the first 10 minutes of the 3rd period. The Predators caught Anaheim’s defense lagging behind a play as they broke out on a rush, whereby Aberg crashed the net and dove for a rebound. Aberg (1) shot the puck while diving, leaving Bernier with no time to recover and square up to the shot in desperation.

Aberg gave Nashville their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 11:01 of the 3rd period. Forsberg (6) and Mattias Ekholm (8) were credited with the assists. The goal was Aberg’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal. He has one career regular season goal that he scored back in November, while also amassing 31 goals for the Milwaukee Admirals (t-3rd in the AHL) this season. 

Bernier was forced to vacate his net in the closing minute of the game for the extra attacker as the Ducks were desperate to defend their home ice advantage. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned, as Nashville’s Austin Watson (2) stumbled upon a loose puck and fired it on goal from his just about the blue line in his own zone.

Watson’s empty net goal was unassisted at 19:12 of the 3rd period and put Nashville up by two goals.

The Predators finished the game 1/2 on the power play, while Anaheim failed to score on all four of their special teams advantages. The physical series has continued to claim more casualties, as Gibson indicated he would be good to go for Game 6, but is officially pending evaluation before Ducks head coach, Randy Carlyle makes a decision.

Anaheim led in shots on goal, 33-29, blocked shots 18-15, hits 32-25 and in giveaways 15-13 at the conclusion of Game 5 on Saturday night.

With the 3-1 victory, the Predators take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6— on home ice— Monday night in Nashville. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET. Fans looking to watch the game can tune to NBCSN in the United States, while Canadians can catch the action on CBC and/or TVA Sports.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals – May 14

 

Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks – Game 2

With a 5-3 victory at the Honda Center Sunday, Anaheim leveled its Western Finals series against the Predators at 1-1.

Three goals is all the Predators needed to beat Anaheim in Game 1. In Game 2, both clubs had already reached that mark by the 30:41 mark.

First it was the Predators with a two-goal surge. Ryan Johansen (Third Star of the Game Viktor Arvidsson and Roman Josi) was the first to score, burying a wrist shot 4:18 into the contest. James Neal (Johansen and Mattias Ekholm) followed that up 4:14 later with a backhanded power play shot to set the score at 2-0.

Next up was an Anaheim attack, though it was split in half by the first intermission. Second Star Sami Vatanen (Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler) got the Ducks on the board with one minute remaining in the first period, followed by Jakob Silfverberg (Rickard Rakell and Cam Fowler) only 39 seconds into the middle frame.

Vatanen’s marker was a special one not only because it leveled the game at two-all and was his first postseason goal since last year’s series with the Preds, but also because it was the Ducks’ first power play goal in their last 22 attempts.

The Predators once again took the lead 7:59 into the second period thanks to a Filip Forsberg (Arvidsson) wrap-around offering, but First Star Ondrej Kase (Shea Theodore and Josh Manson) leveled the game at three-all only 2:42 later.

Neither John Gibson (.909 save percentage) nor Pekka Rinne (.846 save percentage) would yield a goal in the third period, which proved to be a major problem for Nashville considering Nick Ritchie‘s (Getzlaf and Brandon Montour) tally with 2:53 remaining in the second period.

The play started when Montour passed from the near point of his defensive zone to Getzlaf at center ice. The captain one-touched his bank pass off the near boards to the eventual goalscorer, who took possession in the face-off circle to Rinne’s right. Ritchie ripped an impressive snap shot over the goaltender’s stick shoulder for what proved to be the youngster’s second game-winning playoff goal of his career.

Through Rinne was pulled for the extra attacker with 2:08 remaining in regulation, the Predators still couldn’t manage a goal to level the game. Antoine Vermette (Getzlaf and Fowler) made sure to make Rinne pay for vacating his post by burying a wrister with 44 seconds remaining to ensure the Ducks’ victory.

After a four hour flight to Nashville (yet six hours according to a clock due to time zones), Game 3 in the now best-of-five will be played Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern time at Bridgestone Arena. Though American viewers are limited to NBCSN, Canada is being serviced by CBC, SN and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – May 3

For the first and second rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 4

With a 3-2 victory over the Capitals at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday, Pittsburgh has pulled within a win of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth time in the last decade.

After the events of Game 3, two things could have happened in this contest. The Penguins could have taken to the ice with intentions of revenge for Matt Niskanen unintentionally downing Sidney Crosby with at least the fourth concussion of his career, or they could let the scoreboard do the talking.

Since Mike Sullivan and his club still have intentions of hoisting the Stanley Cup for a second straight season, cooler heads prevailed and they decided on the latter option.

Of course, missing Crosby and Conor Sheary – both first-liners – will put a damper on the offense no matter how brilliant Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin perform. That’s where First Star of the Game Marc-Andre Fleury comes in.

Just like he’s done for most of his appearances this postseason, the veteran goaltender posted another exemplary 60 minutes. Though the Capitals fired 38 shots at him, he saved all but two for a solid .947 save percentage.

As far as scoring is concerned, almost all the action – save Second Star Patric Hornqvist‘s (Olli Maatta and Matt Cullen) marker 4:39 into the game – occurred in the second period when the Capitals scored three goals.

Wait, three?

Officially recorded as Guentzel’s eighth goal of the playoffs, Dmitry Orlov started Washington’s scoring with his right skate at the 3:51 mark. It looks like he intended to catch the puck with his skate then collect with his stick, but the second half of his plan never came to fruition. Because of that, Guentzel’s shot deflected into Braden Holtby‘s net to set the score at 2-0.

But the Caps didn’t waste any time getting that goal back. First up was Third Star Evgeny Kuznetsov (Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson), who buried his wrist shot from the at the 7:21 mark to pull Washington back within a goal. Nate Schmidt (T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk) followed that marker up 72 seconds later to level the game at two-all with his first-ever postseason marker.

After Washington had tied the game at two-all, the Penguins defense clamped down. In the remaining 31:27 of play, they allowed only 17 shots to reach Fleury’s net. That effort was led in large part by Ian Cole, who blocked three Capitals shots in addition to his team-leading six hits by the end of the game.

With that in mind, it’s only fitting then that the game-winning goal belongs to one of Pittsburgh’s blueliners. Buried with 8:36 remaining in the second period, Justin Schultz (Malkin and Guentzel) banged home a power play slap shot over Holtby’s stick shoulder for the final tally of the contest.

The Capitals certainly had their chances to score at least one more goal in the third period to force overtime. They had all the momentum in the final frame and maintained possession in their offensive zone most of the time, but were done in by a questionable penalty with 1:52 remaining in regulation.

On initial look, it seemed like Oshie’s stick caught Nick Bonino in the face when they made contact in the far corner behind Fleury’s net. The penalty for that is, of course, a seat in the penalty box for hi-sticking.

But a replay later, the truth came out: the stick only caught Bonino’s shoulder – the eighth-year center sold/embellished/flopped (pick your favorite) to force the Caps to the penalty kill, effectively neutralizing any chance of an equalizer.

Of course, that’s only part of the story.

Guentzel actually suffered a hi-stick from Andre Burakovsky late in the third period that went uncalled, even though the officials knew he was bleeding.

And of course, this was all played out a year after this same narrative was played out by the exact same players. That time, Oshie was crossing Matt Murray’s crease and Bonino hit him in the chest in Game 5. Though a stick came nowhere near his face, Oshie threw his head back in faux pain to draw a penalty and force off elimination for one more game.

In either case, Penguins fans see the Oshie penalty as a makeup call.

Pittsburgh’s first opportunity to advance to the Conference Finals is scheduled for Saturday at 7:15 p.m. Eastern time at the Verizon Center. American viewers can look for Game 5 on NBC, while Canadians will be serviced by CBC, SN and TVAS.

 

Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers – Game 4

After trailing 2-0 – in more ways than one – the Ducks beat Edmonton 4-3 in overtime at Rogers Place to make their Western Conference Semifinals matchup a best-of-three series.

Third Star of the Game Drake Caggiula (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Patrick Maroon) did so well to tie the game with 102 seconds remaining in regulation. The rookie’s first postseason goal was struck only seconds after Cam Talbot was pulled for the extra attacker.

It was a typical grind-it-out style tally we’ve come to expect in the playoffs. He took advantage of John Gibson being unable to contain Nugent-Hopkins’ initial shot from the far face-off circle and collected the rebound to bury the puck over the netminder’s glove shoulder.

And only 2:27 of action later, it was all for naught.

Following intermission, the Ducks exploded onto the ice. Beyond Ryan Kesler losing the face-off to open overtime, Anaheim did not let the Oilers do anything else. 35 seconds into the fourth period, Adam Larsson tried to fire a puck at Gibson, but his shot was stopped by First Star Ryan Getzlaf.

Getzlaf maintained possession following the block and began Anaheim’s attack into the offensive zone by passing to a streaking Second Star Jakob Silfverberg. Silfverberg couldn’t take control of the puck and lost possession to Oscar Klefbom, who passed to Larsson.

Once again, Getzaf had other plans than letting the Oilers dump the puck into the neutral zone or start a counterattack. He intercepted Larsson’s pass and dished across the face-off circles to a waiting Silfverberg, who absolutely ripped a wrist shot past Talbot to end the game and level the series at two-all after losing both games at the Honda Center.

Making the Ducks’ victory all the more impressive is the fact that Edmonton effectively dominated the first period. Milan Lucic had the Oil riled up as they were hitting in the first period like it was going out of style. In total, Edmonton threw 37 hits before Silfverberg’s game-ending marker, led by both Zack Kassian and Lucic’s five blows apiece.

Lucic (Leon Draisaitl and Mark Letestu) was eventually rewarded for his physical play by scoring a power play goal with 4:22 remaining in the first period. Similar to Caggiula’s tally to force overtime, it was a hard-nosed goal struck from Gibson’s crease after he didn’t collect Draisaitl’s initial shot.

Only 2:05 after that, Connor McDavid (Draisaitl and Maroon) caught Gibson sprawled on the ice following a botched diving save to set the score at 2-0, the same score that read going into the first intermission.

Then Getzlaf happened.

The Ducks’ captain was involved in all four goals on the evening, starting with his first of two tallies only 97 seconds after the start of the second frame. After receiving a pass from Brandon Montour from the far point,  he rang home a wrister to pull Anaheim within a goal.

Unfortunately for him, that goal was slightly controversial. Talbot was not caught off-guard for this tally, but was instead fighting to see around Corey Perry.

Screens are perfectly legal in hockey, and a very effective way to produce goals. Perry rushed towards the crease from the far boards to act as one, but bounced off Larsson in the process. That slight change of direction changed his course from screening Talbot to making contact with Talbot.

The nudge was enough to force Talbot off his spot and the netminder immediately threw his hands up in frustration. That led Todd McLellan to quickly challenge the play. Though the officials deliberated for a few minutes, they ultimately decided to count the goal even though contact with the goaltender is clearly made.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think it should have counted. But then again, I don’t wear black-and-white stripes to hockey games.

The Ducks’ relentless, 21-shot attack in the second period continued 3:56 later when Rickard Rakell (Getzlaf and Perry) did his best tic-tac-goal off Getzlaf’s pass from the far post of Talbot’s net. Getzlaf passed across the crease to Rakell, who was waiting in the slot, and the right wing beat Talbot to the near post with his fast hands.

Getzlaf completed the surge on an unassisted slap shot  with 5:35 remaining in the frame for his seventh goal of the playoffs. Of all the goals the Oilers defense allowed in this contest, this is the one they want back the most.

After Talbot had saved Rakell’s initial wrist shot from the slot, Nugent-Hopkins had the puck on his stick near the far corner of the crease. Instead of quickly dumping the puck to allow his team to fight another day, he remained motionless and looked for a pass to start a counterattack. Getzlaf took advantage and attacked the puck through Nugent-Hopkins’ stick to bury it five-hole.

With hosts in this series having yet to successfully defend home ice, these remaining three games will be must-see TV.

Speaking of, the pivotal Game 5 is set for Friday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time at the Honda Center. Residents of the United States will find the contest on NBCSN, while Canadians should tune to either SN or TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – April 30

For the first and second rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators – Game 3

With a goal per period, Nashville beat the Blues 3-1 at Bridgestone Arena Sunday to take a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference Semifinals series.

While the Predators played well, it certainly didn’t hurt that St. Louis struggled to find any rhythm for most of the contest. That became no more apparent than during the second period when the Notes didn’t register their first shot on goal until 7:01 remained in the frame, their first of only four in the second period and 13 in the final 40 minutes.

Of course, that shot was the one that ended up being St. Louis’ lone goal of the game. Alex Steen takes credit for deflecting Alex Pietrangelo‘s initial shot from the near point past Third Star of the Game Pekka Rinne to set the score at 2-1.

That tally was struck exactly 10:30 after Nashville’s game-winner, the first of Cody McLeod‘s (Colton Sissons and Mattias Ekholm) postseason career. McLeod certainly earned the marker after receiving Sissons’ pass from the near boards in the slot. He couldn’t make full contact on his initial attempt, but Jake Allen could not freeze the puck. The enforcer-turned-striker took advantage and lifted his backhanded shot over Allen’s left pad to then set the score at 2-0.

Second Star Roman Josi (Sissons and Harry Zolnierczyk) tacked on an insurance tally with 5:49 remaining in regulation, but it is First Star Ryan Ellis who has truly been impressive so far this postseason. Thanks to his pure snap shot (Filip Forsberg and P.K. Subban) with 9:26 remaining in the first period, he has registered eight points in these playoffs, a total that ties the incredible Erik Karlsson for most by a defenseman in the 2017 postseason. In fact, it could be argued that Ellis has been superior to the Senator so far, as he has achieved his production with two more goals and one fewer game played.

Game 4 is scheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time. NBCSN will televise the game in the United States, while Canada will be served by SN and TVAS.

 

Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers – Game 3

The Ducks seem to enjoy playing in Alberta, as they beat Edmonton 6-3 at Rogers Place Sunday night to pull within a victory of tying their Western Conference Semifinal.

Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery. That’s usually said around the trade deadline or during the offseason, but the Ducks took advantage of the three-hour plane ride to formulate an offensive gameplan that produced three goals before the Oilers could react.

That attack started only 25 seconds into the game courtesy of a Rickard Rakell (Second Star of the Game Ryan Getzlaf and Brandon Montour) snap shot, followed 5:08 later by First Star Jakob Silfverberg‘s (Third Star Hampus Lindholm) wrist shot. Getzlaf completed Anaheim’s first period attack by scoring a snapper with 8:09 remaining in the frame.

But the Ducks weren’t in the clear yet. Patrick Maroon (Kris Russell and Leon Draisaitl) scored a tip-in 40 seconds before the close of the first period, followed by Anton Slepyshev (David Desharnais and Russell) and Connor McDavid both burying the puck before the close of the second period’s ninth minute to tie the game at three-all.

That’s when Anaheim reclaimed control of the contest – and this time, they would not yield.

McDavid tied the game at the 8:40 mark of the second period. Chris Wagner (Josh Manson and Shea Theodore) scored the game-winning goal only 48 seconds later.

Though Theodore does get an assist, this play truly starts when Manson receives his pass in the Ducks’ defensive zone and advances into the attacking third. Once he crossed the blue line, he bounced a pass off the near boards to Wagner. The first-year Duck took possession and fired a slap shot from the face-off circle all in the same motion to send the puck towards Cam Talbot. The goaltender should have been able to make the save, but he seemed to be caught off-guard. That led to him trying to awkwardly use his blocker to deflect the puck in mid-air, which ultimately led to his giving up a five-hole goal.

Though the Ducks managed only one goal in the second period, Wagner’s tally represented all the work being done on the defensive end of the ice. John Gibson faced 14 tough shots in the second frame and allowed only two tallies. If not for him, this game could have been a true barn-burner – a situation that would almost certainly favor the Oilers.

Silfverberg (Manson and Theodore) and Ryan Kesler (Silfverberg) provided the two insurance goals at the 4:56 and 10:38 marks, respectively, to ensure the Oil had no chance of another comeback.

The Ducks’ opportunity to tie the series at two-all is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern time. NBCSN will broadcast the game in the United States, while Canadians should tune to either SN or TVAS.