Save of the night: Corey Crawford goes wild to rob Bobby Ryan

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford may not make too many starts, but he made it count yesterday leading the Blackhawks to a 3-2 overtime win over the Ducks. The win snapped the Ducks six-game winning streak and it was thanks to saves like this one on Ducks star Bobby Ryan that helped him get it done. Perhaps Crawford has a future in floor gymnastics after this.

Bobby Ryan's position shuffle moves him back to left wing

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bobbyryan3.jpgBobby Ryan’s preseason of intrigue takes yet another turn, this time a predictable one. While Ryan was being tried out at center to attempt to give the Ducks three strong centers with Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan, and Saku Koivu, it appears that head coach Randy Carlyle didn’t like the way things were going and will move Ryan back to left wing. Only difference this time is he won’t be on the wing with Getzlaf and Corey Perry, according to the Orange County Register’s Curtis Zupke he’ll be riding shotgun with a couple of old guys.

The idea was that Ryan, the team’s leading goal scorer last season, could use his playmaking skills up the middle of the ice and help give the team depth at center with Ryan Getzlaf and Saku Koivu able to fill out the other center spots on the top three lines.

Carlyle is apparently wavering from that idea, though, because he had Ryan back at his natural left wing position Thursday, with Saku Koivu at center and Teemu Selanne on his usual right wing spot.

“It’s not that we’re throwing it out the window,” Carlyle said of the experiment of Ryan at center. “We put him back at left wing for now and we’ll see how that develops.”

All right so he’s still tinkering and that’s good, but if you’re going to put Ryan at center, letting him continue to hone his game at that position throughout the preseason would seem like the right idea. After all, you don’t want a guy to be feeling his way through things during games that count in the standings. Then again, I’m not the NHL head coach here and Randy Carlyle is, so maybe I should shut my face about this.

Still, having Ryan playing on the same line with Koivu and Selanne sounds like a perfectly acceptable solution as well. With Matt Beleskey getting his shot to run with Getzlaf and Perry, loading up one line with all your scorers on a team that’s not offensively loaded comes off as risky. Figuring out a way to spread the wealth is the right move for Anaheim, but with the amount of guys they’ve got that can put the puck in the net they don’t have a lot of options to make it work.

Potential risks and rewards to the Ducks playing Bobby Ryan on the power play point

Thumbnail image for bobbyryan4.jpgIt doesn’t take an expert to figure out that it’s been a strange and busy summer for Bobby Ryan. First, he waited months to reach a five-year, $25.5 million deal to stay with the Anaheim Ducks. Then Joe passed along word that the winger might end up moving to the center position this season. The newest wrinkle is that the team is giving Ryan a shot on the power play point, according to Curtis Zupke of the OC Register.

The idea is to utilize Ryan’s ability to shoot and find teammates. It may not stick, but Coach Randy Carlyle clearly isn’t afraid to move some pieces around and might try it when the team opens a two-game preseason trip Friday at San Jose.

“I think when you have skilled players, and he’s one of our most skilled players, we think it would be foolish not to put him in as many offensive situations as possible,” Carlyle said.

“We’ll give it a whirl.”

Ryan played that point position briefly in the American Hockey League, so it’s not entirely new. Ideally he would have defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky man the right side and play as a “rover” with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne down low.

A power play with Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne, Visnovsky and Ryan? Now that’s the kind of results you’d like to see from a mad experiment.

That being said, I’ve often been critical of the practice of placing forwards on the point during the power play. While that might give you a boost in offensive firepower, it also subjects you to shorthanded goals. Zupke points out that the Ducks gave Ryan Getzlaf a try at the point but nixed that plan when the shorties became too much to handle.

Ryan has some experience playing defense, though, so this idea might hold a little more weight. The team will miss Scott Niedermayer’s “roving” presence on the power play, so you cannot blame them as they look to fill that void. If Ryan can be responsible enough in his own end, putting him at the point might just be crazy enough to work.

It could just as easily be a quickly forgotten training camp experiment too, though.

Ducks forward Bobby Ryan to get tried out at center during training camp

bobbyryan4.jpgDucks forward Bobby Ryan’s summer was one that was a bit distracted by contract negotiations and discussion over whether or not he might be traded because of said negotiations. Now that he’s signed on for the next five years and ready to go, the Ducks and GM Bob Murray have a new challenge in store for him: They’re going to try him out at center during training camp.

Murray said the rationale for the Ryan experiment at center is to have three strong lines. “Bobby played a few games at center at the end of last year, and Randy (Carlyle, Ducks coach) and I both liked what we saw,” Murray said Friday at Honda Center, while players were undergoing their annual pre-camp physicals and fitness tests. “It gives us more options.”

Murray didn’t say which players would fill out the lines if Getzlaf, Ryan and Koivu center the top three lines, respectively, but he and Carlyle  obviously want to look at different combinations.

“Like in baseball, you have to be strong up the middle,”  Murray said.

Ryan is a 30-goal scorer with potential to do more as he gets older and moving him to a playmaking position at this point in his early career is a fascinating decision. Whether or not this means the Ducks may have concerns with their depth at center or if they’re worried about the workload on Saku Koivu is really unknown here but something you have to wonder about.

The team does have enough at center to fill out four lines, but after that, the depth gets a bit scary. Getzlaf, Koivu, Todd Marchant and Kyle Chipchura make up the current center roster and adding Ryan into the mix relieves one of Marchant or Chipchura from their duties and likely to the wing.

Then again, maybe this is just a comfort move for Teemu Selanne. After all, with Paul Kariya sitting out this season due to concussion issues, maybe Teemu just wanted to have anyone wearing #9 riding shotgun with him this season. If Bobby Ryan keeps getting called “Paul” I hope he’ll understand why.

2010 NHL Free Agency: Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks agree to five-year, $25.5M deal

Thumbnail image for bobbyryan3.jpgAbout a week ago, it appeared that the Anaheim Ducks and Bobby Ryan just about signed a new contract. Staying consistent with the Ilya Kovalchuk Groundhog Day spirit of this free agent summer, it took all this time for the actual deal to be finalized. Various sources including Ducks beat reporter Eric Stephens report that they reached a five year, $25.5 million deal today.

That $5.1 million annual cap hit is $400K less per year than the $5.5 million annual value we originally anticipated. While that seems small in wacky hockey Monopoly dollars, it might be meaningful that Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf remain the club’s two highest paid forwards. Surely that matters in the grand scheme of crazy athlete egos. (Of course, Lubomir Visnovsky is the team’s highest paid player overall, so nothing really needs to make sense.)

Ryan will lose a couple years of free agency but still lands a hefty deal all things considered. The Ducks avoid that scary bottleneck situation when Perry and Getzlaf’s contracts expire and will enjoy a few years of comfort as Jonas Hiller and their three young power forwards are wrapped up for the near future.

Of course, the cash-strapped team could use a little help on their blue line if they want to be more than just a scrappy low seed in the Western Conference (if not a cellar dweller). Perhaps the team would want to roll the dice with expensive veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray? I would advise against that – after all, the Ducks need to spend their money wisely, not in a panic – but it’s an interesting thought, at least.

Either way, it’s a nice deal, especially for the Ducks.