Once-mighty Ducks have reasons for optimism

duckstrio.jpgEveryone from Ducks beat reporter Helene Elliot to PHT’s own Brandon Worley have written off Anaheim making the playoffs because, frankly, they don’t have much of a chance. At all.

It’s natural for fans to be disappointed with a failed playoff run, especially since the Ducks managed to sneak in last year and make a lot of noise. Looking at their roster, it’s not exactly as if they sport a threadbare group. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Scott Niedermayer and Jonas Hiller are all great-to-elite players (which showed when they represented their countries in the Olympics, along with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu).

Elliot explains the Ducks’ troubles quite well.

The Ducks are done and won’t make the playoffs this season. And for a lot of reasons.

Their defense is porous, their injury list too often led by key players like Selanne, Saku Koivu and Joffrey Lupul (out 38 games after back surgery and complications).

Indeed, it looks like Anaheim is better off looking at next year and beyond. The good news is that while the Ducks will go into the summer with a host of difficult questions to answer and plenty of holes to fill, they have a promising foundation of young players. The bad news is that the team may be hard pressed to make quick improvements to their troublesome defense with the probable retirement of Niedermayer and (as Earl Sleek will tell you) the team’s self-imposed budget.


Still, the team has the aforementioned rugged trio of Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan to go along with Hiller. If the Ducks are lucky enough to convince Ryan to sign for Getzlaf-Perry money, they’d have those 4 players for about $20 million. That’s not a bad value for such a solid core, all entering the prime of their careers.

I wasn’t crazy about the trade that sent Pronger to Philadelphia, although I can see the logic if Anaheim was being pressured to extend the aging star defenseman. My beef was that Joffrey Lupul is a bad value considering his $4.25 million salary and the fact that he’s never scored more than 53 points. No doubt, though, even with the Flyers making the playoffs, it still was a big deal that the Ducks received two first rounders, well-liked prospect Luca Sbisa and a conditional third rounder.

GM Bob Murray will have to make some great decisions (and draft picks) as the Ducks’ transition from old to young goes from incremental to dramatic. After all, it is likely that Koivu, Selanne and Niedermayer are in their final season with Anaheim (and possibly the NHL). There’s reason to believe that the Ducks might see some long term gains. The question is: how short term will the pain be?

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    Goalie nods: After blowout loss, ‘Hawks start Darling against desperate Bolts

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    It wasn’t a good performance from Corey Crawford in Saturday’s 7-0 loss in Florida — the Chicago starter was hooked after allowing four goals on 25 shots.

    Of course, it wasn’t a good night for the guy that replaced Crawford, either.

    Scott Darling was torched for three goals on six shots against the Panthers, but now gets the first crack at redemption — Darling will start tonight when Chicago gets back into action in Tampa Bay.

    The Lightning are hopeful they’ll have as much success against Darling — and maybe even Crawford — as the Panthers did on the weekend. Tampa Bay is desperate for points, and heads into tonight’s action sitting three points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are idle tonight, but the Isles — who have 82 points, to Tampa Bay’s 81 — are in action, hosting Nashville.

    So it’s a big night for Tampa, to say the least. Appropriately, Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start, after stopping 29 of 30 shots in a big OT win over Detroit on Friday.

    Elsewhere…

    Eddie Lack is 5-1-1 in March with a .931 save percentage, so he gets the call as the ‘Canes host the Red Wings. Petr Mrazek goes for Detroit.

    Roberto Luongo is still out, meaning James Reimer gets yet another start for the Panthers (he scored the shutout against Chicago over the weekend). Robin Lehner is in goal for Buffalo.

    — We mentioned the Isles-Preds game above, and it’ll be Thomas Greiss in goal for the host team. It’s his second straight start, having played in Saturday’s loss to Boston, and it comes ahead of the recently recalled Jaroslav Halak. No word yet on a Preds starter.

    Jake Allen‘s ridiculous month (7-1-1, .951 save percentage) continues with a start against the Coyotes. Mike Smith will be in goal for the visitors, looking to snap a five-game personal losing streak.

    — The Flames will stick with Brian Elliott when they host the Avs tonight. No word yet on a Colorado starter.

    Sharks’ Haley suspended one game for Jarnkrok sucker punch

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    The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has come down on San Jose tough guy Micheal Haley.

    On Monday, Haley was suspended one game for his sucker punch of Preds forward Calle Jarnkrok, near the end of Nashville’s 7-2 over the Sharks on Saturday.

    “Haley forcefully punches a player who is off balance, not engaged in the confrontation and not even looking when the punch is thrown,” the DoPS explained, via video. “This is a forceful punch on an opponent who is not able to defend himself at the time.”

    The DoPS did acknowledge Jarnkrok’s hit on Haley that preceded the punch — Jarnkrok was given a boarding minor on the play — and also noted that Haley explained he was seeking retribution for said hit.

    In addition, the DoPS acknowledged this was Haley’s first offense.

    As a result of the suspension, Haley will now miss San Jose’s next game — tomorrow at home against the Rangers — and will be eligible to return on Thursday, when the Sharks take on the Oilers in Edmonton.

    Haley will also forfeit $3,472.22 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

     

    Cassidy says Bruins ‘overused’ Rask early on

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    Some interesting comments today from Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, after goalie Tuukka Rask returned to practice.

    Cassidy’s remarks came in the wake of Saturday’s big win in Brooklyn — a game that Rask missed with a lower-body injury.

    “He had a good practice today,” Cassidy said of Rask, per CSN New England“He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year … and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.”

    It remains to be seen which netminder will get the nod tomorrow against Nashville at TD Garden. Anton Khudobin stopped 18 of 19 shots in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Islanders. After a 1-5-1 start to the season, the 30-year-old backup has won his last five starts.

    But Cassidy insisted today that Rask is the Bruins’ “No. 1 goalie.”

    “He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important,” said Cassidy. “When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision.”

    Couture seeing dentist today, Sharks hoping for the best

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    Logan Couture took a puck to the face Saturday in Nashville, forcing him to leave an eventual 7-2 loss to the Predators — and leave it without all his teeth.

    Today, the San Jose forward is seeing the dentist. The hope, according to head coach Pete DeBoer, is that Couture’s injury isn’t as serious as initially feared.

    “You see him the next day, the swelling wasn’t as bad as we thought,” DeBoer said Monday, per CSN Bay Area. “He’s seeing the dentist today, and going to have some dental work done. But, I think the initial prognosis is that we feel pretty fortunate that with the amount of damage compared to what it could have been.”

    The slumping Sharks, losers of six straight, have seven games left in the regular season. They host the Rangers tomorrow.