It’s Anaheim Ducks Day at PHT

16 Comments

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team?  The Anaheim Ducks.

For more entries in this series, click here.

The 2013-14 season for the Anaheim Ducks may have struck fans as being eerily similar to the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

The Ducks finished on top of the Pacific Division and this time around they had the best record in the Western Conference to go with it. Instead of being upended in the first round, like they did in 2013 to the Detroit Red Wings, they were bounced in the second round at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.

Having a tremendous regular season only to come up short in the postseason has become an all too familiar trait for Bruce Boudreau coached teams, but you could give a pass on last season as the Kings were just beastly once they got going. That won’t do much to calm down fans who had to watch their hated rivals celebrate their second Stanley Cup in three years.

On the upside, the Ducks got another incredible season from Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Getzlaf led the team in scoring with 87 points while Perry was tops in goals with 43. Getzlaf’s effort was good enough to put him second behind Sidney Crosby in Hart Trophy voting. Perry joining him on the top line gave Anaheim one of the most potent first lines in the league.

Anaheim got career-years from Nick Bonino and Mathieu Perreault and an offensive resurrection from Andrew Cogliano. Teemu Selanne had an up-and-down final year in the NHL scoring nine goals with 27 points in the regular season and feuding with Boudreau to shining again in the playoffs with two goals and six points before riding off into the sunset… We think.

The Ducks also saw their defense step up big offensively led by Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. Fortunately for them, they’re all young.

Youth was key late in the season as well as forwards Kyle Palmieri, Devante Smith-Pelly, Emerson Etem, and Jakob Silfverberg all played key roles. They also saw Patrick Maroon emerge as a power forward as well.

In goal, things were a bit of an adventure as they went from Jonas Hiller to Frederik Andersen to John Gibson in the postseason. Gibson’s performances in the playoffs and Andersen’s during the season essentially made Hiller expendable. The Ducks even dealt Viktor Fasth to Edmonton at the trade deadline to further clear up their glut of goaltending.

Offseason recap

Adding Ryan Kesler in a deal with the Vancouver Canucks was an inspired move to help them keep up with the Kings and Sharks up the middle. Losing Nick Bonino to do it was the proper price as who knows if he’ll have another season as good as his 2013-14 season again. Of course, who knows if Kesler will return to his Selke Trophy-winning form. He has to stay healthy.

We’re pretty sure Selanne is going to retire. At the very least they’re going to hang his number in the rafters in January. At worst, he’s going to play one more year in Finland. Either way, he’s out of the equation and they’ve moved on by signing Dany Heatley to a one-year deal. If he can produce more than Selanne’s 29 points from last season, it’s a win.

They locked up Vatanen to a two-year deal and also added Clayton Stoner from the Minnesota Wild to a bizarrely lucrative four-year deal. The Ducks did lose Jonas Hiller to the Calgary Flames and forward Daniel Winnik to the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agnecy but with their young players all graduating, they’re not crushing departures.

If things go awry this season, at the very least all Ducks goalies have pretty sweet masks to look at.

P.K. Subban gets a warm tribute during his return to Nashville

Getty Images
2 Comments

It would have been silly for Nashville Predators fans to boo P.K. Subban during his return to “Smashville.”

Subban didn’t choose to be traded from Montreal to Nashville, and he didn’t elect to be sent from Nashville to the New Jersey Devils, either.

Sports fans aren’t always so rational, though. Really, it makes sense: spending so much money, time, and emotional energy on a game isn’t exactly the most rational thing to do. So there was some concern about how Subban would be received, especially since he’s already booed in an honestly uncomfortably large number of NHL arenas already.

Subban and others can breathe a sigh of relief, though, as while not everyone greeted Subban with open arms in as literal a way as Roman Josi did with their hug on Saturday, the team gave Subban a fantastic welcome back tribute video:

Not only does that video include some of Subban’s great moments during his three seasons with the Predators (that Stanley Cup Final appearance, a Norris Trophy win), it also captures some of the off-the-ice qualities that make Subban so fun and entertaining (and make people sometimes get perplexingly, maybe troublingly mad about him). He got up and decided to sing some Johnny Cash upon arriving in Nashville, was a fantastic charitable presence, and was a lot of fun.

(No Listerine was spilled in the making of the ad, but you can’t have it all.)

Anyway, good on the Predators and their fans for welcoming P.K. back.

As a reminder, Montreal Canadiens fans greeted him with love upon his return, too:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Avs’ rising star Cale Makar shaken by hit from Bruins’ Marchand

6 Comments

The Colorado Avalanche have done a masterful job, for the most part, when it comes to rolling with injury-related punches to key players such as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. They have to hope that Saturday didn’t send another such haymaker their way.

Rising star defenseman Cale Makar (who just fell under a point per game on Saturday with 28 in 29 contests) was clearly shaken up by a hard hit by Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

It didn’t seem like a heinous hit by Marchand, although there are some who wonder if it was a bit high.

Either way, Makar’s reaction is troubling. You can see him shake his head multiple times following the hit, which gives the impression that he could have suffered a concussion. That doesn’t guarantee that Makar did, but it’s a situation to watch — and one the Avalanche should absolutely be careful about.

The Avalanche ended up beating the Bruins 4-1 on Saturday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Laila Anderson, bone marrow donor attend Blues game

Leave a comment

If it got a “little dusty” at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday, that’s understandable, because the continued story of Laila Anderson meeting Kenton Felmlee, her bone marrow donor, is sure to make most get a case of heightened allergies.

(Is that a leak from the ceiling? /Sobs)

Anyway, Felmlee was Anderson’s guest during Saturday’s Toronto Maple Leafs – St. Louis Blues game, giving the two another chance to bond, and beyond that, for Anderson to thank Felmlee for helping her in her battle with the rare immune disease HLH.

It’s great stuff, even if the actual Blues game isn’t going so great for St. Louis.

This longer clip from their first meeting earlier this week is worth watching, unless you don’t want people to see you openly weeping’n’stuff:

(Personally, I’d say it’s worth it.)

MORE ON LAILA ANDERSON AND THE BLUES:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks’ Miller scored an awesome water bottle breaker in OT

1 Comment

Over time, you can become jaded as a sports (and specifically hockey) fan.

Stories about abusive coaches, lockouts, fans booing players for simply no longer being on their teams — it can sap some of the joy of the game.

Thankfully, we have highlights, and I can’t think of many simpler joys than someone scoring a goal and absolutely obliterating the goalie’s water bottle in the process. (As long as no one gets too dehydrated in the making of such films.)

Vancouver Canucks winger J.T. Miller did it one better on Saturday: he scored an important goal that way. Miller presented the ultra-rare OTBBGWG (overtime bottle-breaking game-winning goal) as the Canucks beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-5 in OT.

Bask in the glory of that goal in the video above this post’s headline. Here’s a fun alternate angle:

By the way, Miller continues to be a deadly offensive weapon for the Canucks. This one-goal, one-assist output extended his current point streak to an impressive eight games (5G, 6A for 11 points). Overall, Miller has 31 points in 30 games during his first season in Vancouver.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.