Tag: Anaheim Ducks


PHT Morning Skate: EA Sports predicts the Ducks will win the cup


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

EA Sports’ NHL 15 simulation engine predicts the Anaheim Ducks will win their second Stanley Cup in franchise history this spring defeating the New York Rangers in seven games. According to the simulator, Anaheim will require seven games in each round knocking off the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild before dispatching Rangers in the final. Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf will take home the Conn Smythe Trophy scoring nine goals and 26 points in 28 games.(EA Sports)

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In attempt to reduce the number of Habs’ fans attending games in Ottawa during the first round of the playoffs, the Senators pulled a page out of the book of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators and restricted who could purchase tickets. However, the restrictions on billing addresses have created a huge secondary market online. (The Hockey News)

Another day, another Calgary Flames-themed parody song. This time a couple of Flames’ fans teamed up for a Flames-themed rendition of ‘It’s all about the Bass’.

This probably isn’t the Stanley Cup Canadiens fans are hoping for this spring, but a Montreal bar has made a replica of the trophy out of bacon.

PGA Tour member, and noted Calgary Flames fan, Graham DeLaet has added a sign of his allegiance to his clubs:

(Photo courtesy EA Sports)

Pressing Playoff Question: Which coaches are coaching for their jobs?

St Louis Blues v Nashville Predators

Ken Hitchcock

Hitch has been on notice since last year’s opening-round exit — St. Louis’ second in as many years — and he confirmed it earlier this month, explaining that his future is tied to getting out of Round 1.

“There’s always going to be a question for players and coaches until we win a first round. But it’s a question I’m not afraid to answer,” Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “I don’t know the answer right now but this team is built to go long in series, long in games. We’ve won a lot of games late. We’ve been at our best in the second and third periods. We know we can go the distance.

“Like everyone else I won’t know until it plays out but I’m looking forward to answering the questions.”

St. Louis is 8-13 over its last three playoffs, a record that gnaws at management. The Blues have spent plenty of money on its core group of players, and added high-priced free agent Paul Stastny following the Chicago ouster. The pieces are in place for a Cup run — now — which is why Hitchcok was delivered a message in the form of a one-year extension last May.

That message?

“Making the playoffs no longer is good enough,” Blues GM Armstrong said. “There’s some franchises that are losing in the first round that had good years. We’re not one of them.

“We’re a franchise that lost in the first round that did not meet its expectations.”

Mike Johnston

Consider, for a moment, what Johnston said upon getting hired in Pittsburgh:

“The bottom-line expectation for me is that, from training camp through the first part of the season, everything we do is setting the table for the playoffs. The score is relevant, but it’s not as relevant as the habits that we are going to have to make us successful in the playoffs.

“This is a group that wants to win. They’ve won the Stanley Cup, and I believe they want to do it again.”

The first-year bench boss set the bar with those remarks, and it remains to be seen what happens if he falls short.

We almost got a preview of it on the final day of the regular season, only for Pittsburgh to beat Buffalo and secure the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. While it was hardly the type of qualification many — including Johnston — envisioned, the Pens did make it to the dance (and there is something to be said for that, especially since L.A. and Boston didn’t.)

But as Johnston said, his job wasn’t about getting Pittsburgh into the playoffs. It was about doing something once they got there — and now, things get interesting.

Last week, Pens GM Jim Rutherford didn’t give Johnston a vote of confidence, though that was because Rutherford doesn’t like votes of confidence. Regarding the head coach’s job security, Rutherford said Johnston did “a good job under difficult circumstances.” CEO David Morehouse said much of the same, explaining that “we never even had discussions about people’s jobs,” adding, “we’re very happy to be where we are.”

Management is giving all the right answers, but it’s telling that people are asking the questions.

Bruce Boudreau

Boudreau has a great track record in the regular season, with 363 career wins and a Jack Adams trophy on his resume.

Boudreau does not, however, have the same track record in the playoffs.

His lifetime mark — 27-30, a .474 winning percentage — includes just three series wins and zero appearances beyond the second round.

What’s worrisome this year is that a recurring issue throughout Boudreau’s career — goaltending — is once again a factor. He’s yet to decide between John Gibson or Frederik Andersen as his postseason starter, carrying on a rich and colorful tradition:

• In 2009, his second playoff appearance with Washington, Boudreau yanked Jose Theodore in favor of Semyon Varlamov.

• In 2010, after vowing “there is no short leash” for Theodore, Boudreau yanked him in favor of Varlamov. Again.

• In 2014, he played three different netminders. Andersen started the Dallas series, only for Boudreau to shift to Jonas Hiller. Hiller then beat the Stars, started the L.A. series, only for Boudreau to go back to Andersen… and the Danish netminder promptly got hurt. But instead of going back to Hiller, Boudreau threw in Gibson, fresh off a recall from the AHL.

• The Ducks blew a 3-2 series lead, and lost to the Kings in Game 7.

History, as they say, has a way of repeating itself. Wonder what happens in Anaheim if it does.

Have to mention…

Mike Babcock, who isn’t so much coaching for his job as the Red Wings are playing for him to remain their coach… Jack Capuano, who could be feeling some heat if the Isles don’t show much in the opening playoff round.

Pressing Playoff Question: Which teams should be most worried about their goaltending?

Nashville Predators v St. Louis Blues

Short answer?

Several of them.

The long answer is, well, longer — just consider what’s about to transpire. Goalies in Ottawa (Andrew Hammond), Detroit (Petr Mrazek), Vancouver (Eddie Lack), Winnipeg (Ondrej Pavelec), Minnesota (Devan Dubnyk) and Tampa Bay (Ben Bishop) will all be making their postseason debuts, and we still don’t know who’ll start in St. Louis (Brian Elliott or Jake Allen) or Anaheim (John Gibson or Frederik Andersen). Nashville’s Pekka Rinne ended the year mired in a slump, and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury’s postseason struggles are well documented.

So yeah, just a few goaltending concerns out there.

Let’s start with the unresolved situations in St. Louis and Anaheim. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock hinted Elliott may be the guy based on his body of work against Minnesota this year, but refused to confirm anything — possibly because Allen was the better goalie down the stretch. Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau was even more coy, opting not to elaborate on Gibson’s health (he’s dealing with an injury) or how it could impact the starting goalie gig.

Clear as mud. Moving along…

In Vancouver, head coach Willie Desjardins won’t confirm the obvious — it’ll be Lack, not Ryan Miller, who’ll open against Calgary. Lack took over for the injured Miller in mid-February and impressively backstopped the Canucks to the postseason, with Miller getting just one start over the final two months of the season, a shaky 6-5 OT win over Edmonton in the season finale.

The real question with Lack is the length of his leash. As mentioned above, he’s never made a postseason appearance — a far cry from Miller, who has over 50 on his resume, and was Vancouver’s starter for the majority of the season.

The Vancouver situation is not unlike Ottawa’s. There, Andrew “the Hamburglar” Hammond will roll into the playoffs as the club’s white-hot No. 1, on the heels of a remarkable regular season in which he lost just once — yeah, once — in regulation. But like with Lack, one has to wonder what happens if Hammond falters; sitting behind him is veteran Craig Anderson, who had himself a fine year (2.49 GAA, .923 save percentage) and, lest we forget, won a playoff round for Ottawa in 2013.

Detroit’s in a similar boat to the Canucks and Sens. Jimmy Howard, the No. 1 for most of this year, has been parked in favor of rookie Petr Mrazek. It’s a roll of the dice from Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who’ll be relying on Mrazek — he of the 40 career NHL games — over Howard, who has 45 career playoff games.

Once place with no playoff veteran is Winnipeg, where both Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson are headed to the postseason for the first time. Pavelec’s the No. 1 based on his clutch work down the stretch — the Czech netminder posted three consecutive shutouts to close out his year — but it’s important to note that, for long periods this season, Hutchinson was the Jets’ go-to guy and only had 10 fewer starts than Pavelec did.

Then there’s Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

There’s no question about who’s No. 1 — Bishop and Dubnyk are locked in — but certain unknowns remain. Bishop should’ve gained some much-needed playoff experience a year ago, only to miss the Lightning’s entire opening-round playoff loss to Montreal with a dislocated elbow. How will he respond to the pressure this year? The same question can be asked of Dubnyk who, with his 29th birthday just weeks away, is the oldest of the goalies making their playoff debuts (and the most improbable.)

Finally, there’s Rinne and Fleury. The former hasn’t been very sharp since the All-Star break, going 12-11-4 with a 2.48 GAA and .911 save percentage — a far cry from the Vezina-worthy numbers he posted in the first half. Fleury’s hardly been Pittsburgh’s problem, but he now finds himself in unfamiliar territory; with a defense wrecked by injury and an offense that’s struggling to score, the Pens almost need Fleury to go out and win them some games (as opposed to past years, when all they needed for was him not to lose ’em.)

Scrolling back, that’s 10 of 16 playoff teams mentioned in this article.

Think goaltending might be a hot topic this spring?

Advantage: Andersen? Ducks’ Gibson deals with injury

John Gibson

The situation seems almost eerily familiar: the Anaheim Ducks have one of the best records in the NHL, yet they lack an obvious starting goalie. An injury might just make the decision for Bruce Boudreau, however.

John Gibson appears to be injured, which could give quite the advantage to Frederik Andersen, at least early on. Gibson (pictured) may have been injured during a Friday practice, the OC Register reports:

The Ducks are saying little about it at this point but Gibson may have been hurt during their practice Friday morning at Anaheim Ice before traveling to Phoenix.

There’s a chance that Andersen would have been the No. 1 guy anyway. There’s also the chance that Gibson won’t miss a single postseason game.

Still, it’s hard to deny the impression that Andersen gets the edge for now. If Ducks’ history repeats, we may just see both young goalies (or possibly veteran call-up Jason LaBarbera) before this coming postseason concludes.

Update: The Ducks made LaBarbera’s recall official.

Jackets prospect Reilly going pro — but maybe not for Columbus

2014 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship - Semifinals

The saga of Blue Jackets draftee Mike Reilly has taken another turn.

Reilly, a Hobey Baker candidate that Columbus took in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, announced he’s leaving the University of Minnesota and will turn pro next season, but played coy as to where he’d sign.

“[I] will not be returning [next season] and will know more after the [World Championships] tournament,” Reilly said, per the Star-Tribune. “I don’t want to talk too much about my situation.

“But I am going to worlds the 25th [of April] and I’m very excited.”

Reilly is expected to be named to Team USA for the Worlds, which will be played in the Czech Republic from May 1-17, allowing him to further stave off a decision about his professional future. If he doesn’t sign with the Jackets before June 1, he becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with a different NHL club.

That’s important, because the 21-year-old defenseman is held in high regard. He’s a two-time All-American that, this season, became the first d-man in nearly 20 years to lead the Golden Gophers in scoring. The Jackets want him in the fold, now, and haven’t been shy about expressing as much.

More on that, from the Dispatch:

[Jackets GM Jarmo] Kekalainen and company have tried hard to woo him.

Last spring, they played host to him at Nationwide Arena for the two home playoff games against Pittsburgh. When the Blue Jackets played in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 19, Reilly watched the morning skate with Davidson and Kekalainen. When the Blue Jackets traded defenseman James Wisniewski, Kekalainen mentioned Reilly as a player who has a clearer path to an NHL job.

“Mike Reilly is having a great year in Minnesota,” Kekalainen said. “He’s a prospect we believe in, and he’ll be stepping into some big shoes with our organization. We look forward to getting him signed.”

The feelings don’t appear to be mutual, however. Reilly’s repeatedly deflected questions about signing in Columbus and now, Golden Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel is following suit.

“I talked to [Reilly] last week when we had our season-ending meetings. Mike is going to sign, it’s just a matter of who he’s going to sign with. He’s got options,” Guentzel told the Star-Tribune. “He’s going to make a decision sometime in May [or June] what he’s going to do.

“He’s 21 and he’s earned that right and opportunity, and he’s in a good situation. I really respect how much Columbus has tried to go after him and I think he’d be in a good situation there, but he has to make the decision that is best for him.”

Should Reilly balk on signing with Columbus and go unrestricted, he’d be following in the footsteps of Kevin Hayes and Justin Schultz, who spurned the teams that drafted them — the Blackhawks and Ducks — to sign with the Rangers and Oilers, respectively.

It’s also worth noting that Reilly’s dad, also named Mike, is a minority owner of the Minnesota Wild, which has led to speculation that the younger Reilly could opt to sign with his hometown team.

Update: As pointed out in several places, Reilly’s coach at the Worlds is (pending formal announcement) Todd Richards — the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Which could make for an interesting dynamic.