By Ryan Lambert
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Remember last season, when Corey Perry went on a ridiculous run of success and scored 25 goals in 30 games after the All-Star Game and won the Hart and the Ducks ended up finishing fourth in the West?
People forget that the big-time Cinderella run they went on wasn't, in the end, as season-saving as history would lead us to believe. Yes, they were in 11th place on Feb. 24, but that was more like a three-way tie for ninth and, more to the point, just two points behind Calgary for the eighth and final playoff spot. Before the season ended the Ducks picked up 31 points with 15 wins and an overtime loss over the next 21 games.
So what happened this year is that the Ducks started winning in a similar fashion, and everyone started saying this was another story of the Cinderella Ducks, getting back in action.
Which is only half-true.
Yeah, the Ducks went on an unbelievable run from early January through to mid-February, improving from 10-22-6 to 27-25-10. Again, they played to a 17-3-4 record in 23 games, actually improving on their points-per-game pace from the streak a year ago. But the final loss right before the incredible run started came on Jan. 4, when the Ducks were 14th in the West — not tied for ninth — and 19 points back, not two.
So the huge push has certainly improved the team's playoff chances. By the time they suffered two consecutive regulation losses for the first time since the streak began — on Feb. 27 and 29 — to Colorado and Buffalo, they'd leapfrogged just one team in the standings. And as they lost three of their last four, the one win coming against Calgary at Honda Center, where Calgary hasn't won in closing in on 2,500 days, they, not surprisingly, failed to improve upon that position.
This morning, they sit 13th in the West, despite the absurd amount of winning. They're now at least no longer in the double digits as far as their distance from a playoff spot goes. They're seven points behind San Jose for the final playoff spot in the West, but it seems to be breaking down.
(Coming Up: Toews injury worries; the Jeff Carter trade is working; brilliance from Stars, Eriksson; gay players in hockey; big injuries for Flyers, Red Wings; Prust fights Lucic; Adrian Dater hypocrisy; Sabres sweep the West; Don Cherry vs. Brian Burke; and a trade that finds Cory Schneider with the Devils.)
There's a lot to be said, one supposes, for getting "hot" at the right time, and the Ducks clearly didn't do that. They got hot too early, after being cold too long. Win even a quarter of those early losses and the climb back seems a whole hell of a lot more tenable. Heck, get hot two weeks later and we're looking at a legitimate run to a playoff spot that should have the teams Nos. 7-12 in the West really worried about their chances. But midnight has come too early.
Maybe things could have gone a little better on the way to this point. Maybe The Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan trio doesn't start quite so poorly (or in Getzlaf's case, start playing un-poorly at any point in the season). Maybe whatever was wrong with Jonas Hiller gets sorted out a little bit sooner. Maybe Randy Carlyle gets fired right after Thanksgiving — the official point when teams start looking at that sort of thing, we were all told — when the Ducks lost nine of 10.
Doesn't matter now, for all the talk that Anaheim was doing great and Toronto was doomed over the last few weeks, the Leafs were never in as bad a position as the one into which the Ducks placed themselves. In fact, Toronto has more points in fewer games and is closer to an Eastern playoff spot.
They're 5-4-1 in the last 10, and are once again neither scoring nor defending particularly well. The Leafs have to win 23 points from their remaining games 17 to make the East's predicted postseason threshold of 90 points. The West's will be higher that that. Usually it's around 95. Last year it was 97, and they also have more competition for that last spot.
If the Leafs are dead (and believe me, they are), then the Ducks are deader. They need about 29 points from their 16 remaining games. Two losses and their season is almost certainly coming to a premature end.
So it was fun while it lasted, Anaheim, but the party's over.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Hey, just because the Ducks stink doesn't mean you shouldn't go to their games. If you buy discounted tickets through this site for tonight's game against Edmonton, you can raise awareness for suicide prevention. Some of the proceeds from each ticket go to an Orange County-based foundation. So go peep Teemu and Taylor Hall and all those guys for a good cause.
Boston Bruins: One imagines that Brandon Prust regretted this decision immediately.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres drilled Vancouver on its home ice to wrap up a 3-0 West Coast swing and give them 13 points from their last seven games. Hey, can THEY make the playoffs? (No.)
Calgary Flames: Similarly, I think it's really cute that the Calgary media is still entertaining ideas of the Flames making the playoffs. Coming into last night's game, which they lost by the way, they'd won one of their last six.
Carolina Hurricanes: Getting all worked up over a call that cost the 'Canes a game against Tampa seems like a productive use of everyone's time. Fans are actually getting in contact with the officials' union to complain about it. Gee whiz, guys.
Chicago Blackhawks: No Jonathan Toews for the remainder of the team's road trip. He's missed the last six games and it's starting to look like it could stretch on a whole hell of a lot longer than that.
Colorado Avalanche: Colorado hosted Pittsburgh on Saturday and Pens fans filled the rink. Then, Pens fans being Pens fans, they all chirped Denver residents for not supporting their team. So, here is Adrian Dater saying Denver isn't a bad market even though no one's showing up. Hey remember two years ago when Dater said the Predators shouldn't be in the NHL… because no one was showing up? No, me neither.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash to rest of Western Conference: "You're welcome and also trade for me the second the season is over for the love of god please get me out of here look how good I am oh god!"
Dallas Stars: Some kinda run the Stars just went on, eh? They're 6-0-1 in the last seven, having taken down Calgary at the Saddledome last night.
Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Jimmy Howard left yesterday's game against Chicago with a lower body injury and will be evaluated. Howard missing any amount of time would obviously be bad, bad news.
Edmonton Oilers: Tom Renney would really like to see his players stop whining to the officials about every perceived penalty against them that goes uncalled. Wish more coaches would say stuff like this.
Florida Panthers: Meanwhile, Kevin Dineen would really like it if you could go ahead and not give him a ton of credit for the Panthers actually being kind of good this year. That credit goes to that new GM for spending a billion dollars on guys who are capable of playing in the NHL, a first for Florida in this decade.
Los Angeles Kings: Boy is that Jeff Carter trade ever working out for the Kings (right now). They've won three of four since he came aboard and on Saturday he scored his first two goals for the franchise.
Minnesota Wild: Does anyone want to be the Wild's goaltender? Not really, you say? Okay, just wondering.
Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Plekanec was 1 for 15 at the dot in Saturday's loss to Toronto. How far we've come from him being "one of the best two-way forwards in the game" or whatever the Montreal media was pushing last year.
Nashville Predators: Apropos of nothing, the Nashville Predators' victory song is Lionel Richie's "All Night Long." They should have traded for Mike Commodore.
New Jersey Devils: A case of a headline getting worse as it goes on: "Devils' Zach Parise suffers…" (that doesn't sound good!) "left hand injury" (NO!) "in 1-0 loss to Islanders." (*throws self out window*) Anyway, he may or may not have a broken hand. Ouch.
New York Islanders: This right here is Matt Moulson's 28th goal of the season. Remind me again why he never gets brought up when people discuss top scorers in this league. Only he, Phil Kessel, Daniel Sedin and Steven Stamkos have scored that many in each of the last three seasons.
New York Rangers: What an unbelievable Rangers/Bruins game Sunday afternoon. The Rangers got pushed around pretty much the entire time and still won 4-3. Both these teams are just so good.
Ottawa Senators: Actual lede from yesterday's letdown loss to Florida: "All of the Ottawa Senators deserve to be spanked for this one." Like look, man, I know Erik Karlsson is young and all but this seems fairly inappropriate.
Philadelphia Flyers: Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros are both out indefinitely. The Flyers are going to have to start holding raffles in the building to suit up defensemen pretty soon.
Phoenix Coyotes: After they lost one game, that in overtime, in the entire month of Feburary, the Coyotes have lost their last two, to Calgary and Columbus. They play at Pittsburgh tonight. Oh and the Stars tied them for the division lead last night. That too.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins have won five games in a row and scored 23 goals in those contests and only allowed seven and I guess what I'm saying is they're really great.
San Jose Sharks: Could the Sharks miss the playoffs? They've won two of the last 10 games and are a mere point above Los Angeles for eighth. Yeesh.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues recently went on a six-game road trip and only gave up 12 power plays in those games. They killed all of them, and haven't given up a power play goal since Valentine's Day.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Victor Hedman will probably be back in the lineup tonight for Tampa. He missed four games with an upper body injury that was not a concussion.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Looks like the Leafs have the highest percentage of local talent in their system of anyone in the NHL. Hmmmm. A total of 13 Toronto-area players are in some way controlled by the Leafs, along with two who have gotten time with the big club this year. Well there ya go, Don Cherry.
Vancouver Canucks: Wait did I miss a memo? Did the Vancouver media resolve to run Daniel and Henrik Sedin out of town again? I'll dig my "They're just not first-line players" memorabilia out of storage.
Washington Capitals: Did you ever live in a world where you'd hear someone on the Capitals saying, "Our power play is killing us. Absolutely killing us." Hard times in the nation's capital, and no one has answers.
Winnipeg Jets: Zach Bogosian likely won't be playing in the Jets' next three games but it's not like two of them are against hot teams or anything.
Gold Star Award
Really great story from Puck Buddys on the gay high school hockey player who recently came out of the closet to his family, team and school. Congratulations, Nick Kleidon. Go Breck.
And we should also be really proud of the three dozen or so NHL players who came out in support of You Can Play, which is already doing a ton of great work. Hopefully more do so in the very near future. This is a big deal.
Minus of the Weekend
Roberto Luongo gave up three goals on seven shots to Buffalo on Saturday night. Two were to Ville Leino!
Play of the Weekend
Loui Eriksson, this isn't fair or nice.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "canucklehead" is trying to help Devils fans cope with the loss of Marty Brodeur.
Cory Schnieder + David Booth + Chris Tanev + 1st
Adam Larsson + Rights to Zach Parise + Cond. 1st and 3rd if Parise does not sign
Offered him a million dollars. Turned us down flat.