[Ed. Note: Here at Anaheim Calling, we're all about promoting love and harmonious relationships. So much so that we're willing to entertain a little couples counseling on the site. Welcome back Duck Buddy, Ryan, and his Bruin-loving partner, Peter, to preview tonight's game. Both guys write for the awesome site Puck Buddys.]
Once or twice a year there is a game on the calendar that creates a divide in my home. As some of you may already know, my partner, Peter, is an avid Boston Bruins fan. Honestly, the Bruins maintain my allegiance when they are playing any other team then the Ducks. I probably watch 65 games a year with Peter. So for this special game I am inviting him to participate on helping me write this post.
Which reminds me, what are we betting on for this game?
Hello to all you Ducks fans. Sorry that you're meeting me today. 360+ days a year, I'm rooting hard for the Ducks. In my mind they are Bruins-West. Tough and skilled, they play the game the way that it should be played. They even both were built with the help of Brian Burke (thanks for Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight and Dougie Hamilton, Brian!) I really do like the Ducks, but tomorrow, I'll be wearing my Patrice Bergeron jersey and cheering for the black and gold.
A bet? Hmm, Bruins are playing the 2nd night of back to backs and I had a couple beers at tonight's win over the hated Kings, so I'd better be careful here. How about loser buys tickets to the next Bruins-Ducks game?
I'll take it. And with the back to back will we see Marto Turco in net? The Ducks always seem to come out strong against the B's. In fact I fondly remember the night we raised the banner against them. That was Peter's first game at the Pond. Teemu Selanne and Scott Neidermayer were serenaded by "one more year" chants - can we start those again now please?
Speaking of Bergeron, I do have to say that I have so much respect for him. I truly try to pattern my play (for the LA Blades) after him when I am on the ice. Ducks fan make sure to pay attention to the way Berg goes about his game. Always making the smart play, he's strong on the puck but creative. It's like what Saku Koivu was like in the prime of his career, with even more defensive responsibility.
I think we will see Turco tonight. Tim Thomas has found his game in his last 4 start (3 wins, 1.47GAA, .944 SV% and 1 SO), but he was bombarded a bit last night and a few weeks from his 38th birthday, the Bruins need to keep him fresh. [Ed. Note: 38 years old?? Practically a baby] Turco looked terrible and didn't last long in his only Bruins start so far, but hopefully he can be solid.
You're spot on on Bergeron, he defines the word "professional." He's a class act on and off the ice and a scary-smart hockey player. I'd also tell Ducks fans to keep an eye on #44, Dennis Seidenberg. He's an understated, but rock-solid defenseman who wears bizarre skates that you can literally hear on TV. He's also a big reason the Bruins were champs last season. He's a similar player to Francois Beauchemin, just a bit smoother and less gritty.
I'll help start a "one more year" chant for Teemu any time. Before I became a Ducks fan-in-law, I knew Teemu as the kid who scored 76 in Winnipeg and shot his glove out of the air (greatest celebration ever.) Watching him play over the last 5 years, I've been amazed at how skilled and crafty this guy is. He's still got wheels at 41 and he is deadly on the power play. I hope he plays until he's 50, he'd still probably put up 50+ points a year.
I don't think I can even fathom the Ducks in a post Teemu world, so I just remain in denial. Normally at this time of year I feel the push for the playoffs and then competing in the playoffs rejuvenates Teemu enough to make him want to come back for another year. This year I really don't know what will happen, but I hope that after leading the team in points, he decides that he has enough in the tank to come back. And, I really want him to spend time in camp with Emerson Etem. [Ed. Note: Brightside? Teemu's comments in yesterday's OC Register, "There is more inside me that wants to play than retire ..." Yippeeeee!]
It's really interesting how the Ducks and Bruins seasons have juxtaposed each other. The Ducks began the year with their best record since 200. Then went on to go into a tailspin that led to hiring Bruce Boudreau December 1st, and even then they did not recover from it until the turn of calendar. While the Bruins began 3-7, they then went on an absurd tear destroying everyone in their way en route to battling the NY Rangers for tops in the league. While Jonas Hiller finally returned to form of last year, scoring contributions came from multiple places, and the Ducks turned January and February into a potential playoff push, the Bruins injuries began mounting and their grasp on their division began to waiver. I suppose the only good thing in our house was that at least one team was winning on most nights, but the nights where both won were few and far between.
Since the trade deadline both teams have played mediocre hockey. However the Bruins playoff spot is nearly locked up, while sadly the Ducks are just awaiting the mathematical elimination.
Yeah, November, when Boston went 12-0-1 and were seemingly blowing every team out of the rink, seems like a distant memory to Bruins fans now. In 2012, the Ducks have seemed like the better team, but two good months of 2011 kept the Bruins in a fairly comfortable place in terms of a playoff invitation. The situation has been tenser lately, but the Bruins seem to be getting healthier lately and Rich Peverley may return to his spot on the Milan Lucic - David Krejci line tonight (filling in for the concussed Nathan Horton.)
While things might not be looking so rosy in Ducks-ville right now, the last few months have shown that this team isn't far off from being amongst the NHL elite. When they are at their best, the Ducks have been competing with everyone and their top-end talent is certainly better than most teams in the league. Hiller looks like the all-star we saw pre-vertigo and the youngsters (Nick Bonino, Kyle Palmieri, Devante Smith-Pelley, et. al) have been showing that they are ready to contribute on a nightly basis. I also think the Nate Guenin is a great addition to the Ducks blue-line. He reminds me a lot of Bruin Adam McQuaid, nothing flashy, but is tough, doesn't make many big mistakes and is willing to sacrifice his well being for a win.
To me, the difference between the Bruins still likely winning their division and the Ducks likely missing the playoffs can be summed up in #33, the 6'9 monster on the Bruins blueline. You put Zdeno Chara on the Ducks and they would be challenging for the top seed in the West. The Ducks haven't found that #1 guy to take over for Neidermayer and Chris Pronger, but hopefully Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler can continue to grow into that role.
While this has been a trying season for sure but it has been encouraging lately to see the development of our younger talent. There are things be happy about looking forward. I like seeing Smith-Pelley playing along Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, it's encouraging for finding a permanent linemate for them. Bonino's starting to come into his own and Palmieri getting a shot finally on a nightly basis. Andrew Cogliano has had a great first season in Anaheim. Sbisa has continued to make huge strides in his development. And Emerson Etem is waiting in the wings.
Like Peter said, not having a big strong #1 defenseman is ultimately our downfall. We are missing that shutdown defensemen to throw over the boards, not that finding one like Chara is possible. I know I have been pretty critical on Lubomir Visnovsky this season but even if he returned to his 68 point output of last season, he still is not #1 defenseman that can eat up those tough minutes and play the penalty kill. Beauchemin has been our best D-man all year long, but really there needs to be someone else. I'd love to see Murray go after Ryan Suter in the off-season, but that's getting ahead of ourselves.
Well, Peter, when the Ducks won the Cup in '07 you told me that there is a rule-when your team wins a championship, you can't complain for 5 years. Well next season marks season 6 since they won, so for your sake I hope they turn things around.
Thanks for spending some time chatting about the Bruins and Ducks with me. And I'm sorry that we will beat you today.