The Anaheim Ducks dropped the season series to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second year in a row, and did so despite having a strong analytic-stat showing against an Eastern Conference side that was expected to be a Stanley Cup contender while starting perilously near-.500 over two months. Presenting the Best and Worst of the Ducks-Lightning tilt in their final meeting of the regular season in Anaheim:
Worst: Pah. Manga wonjee kohkpa, oong Duck?
This is a mere statement of fact about how tough Ben Bishop makes the modern NHL game. There are only so many 6'7" men on this planet that are both flexible enough and have the reflexes/reaction time to be able to be a top flight NHL goalie. It's enough to make a fellow flexible 6'6" stiff like myself think they could've at least made the ECHL like Maple Leafs hero Garret Sparks. But it just so happens that the Lightning saw something in Bishop that both St. Louis and Ottawa were willing to pass on.
That being said, Bishop is a goalie that had lost 52 of his 188 NHL appearances before yesterday. He has a losing record against just seven NHL teams. While Anaheim may not be used to facing a sizable, tall, modern goalie like Bishop, they'd better figure it out soon with Jacob Markstrom showing signs of being able to turn Ryan Miller into the league's most overpaid backup.
Best: Brian Hayward Is Right About Goalie Equipment
It's the fashionable, hipster thing for hockey bloggers to bag on their local commentary team for being over the top homers. Yet, for all of his Ducks homerism (and surely it's paid him well as a non-playing hockey person over the years), Brian Hayward has etched out a career that spanned more than 350 regular season NHL games and an Ivy League education (he was a four year letter-winner at Cornell) to earning an NHL spot as an undrafted free agent.
The point that Hayward has made about the length of Ben Bishop's pads should not be seen as sour grapes, or a former pro upset about how the 'kids these days' have it. Look for yourself, here's a comparison of Hayward's pads as an undrafted early-year NHLer with the original Winnipeg Jets against a modern gigantalor goalie in Bishop:
Don't focus on the 80's lead leg, look at Hazy's trailing left leg. Surely equipment technology has improved from the time he was in the league, but Hayward has a strong point about the permissible size of a modern NHL goalie's pads. Remember Islanders GM Garth Snow and his hilariously ridiculous cheaters? Snow was also the goalie that wore the comically oversized football pads while helping backup Ron Hextall and the Flyers to the '97 Stanley Cup Final. That Snow's late-90's and early 00's equipment doesn't look all that out of place compared to the modern, oversized goalie tells you all you need to know about the 'modern NHL scoring issue'.
Best: Cam Fowler, Leader.
With this post being entirely subjective, I want to thank Cam Fowler for being both extremely verbose, and also extremely detailed in his verbiage when evaluating the team, the power play, and more after the loss to Tampa Bay. While it may be personal bias of hearing someone mention the same thing that we harp on for #ACPod, or even the simple usage of terms like 'zone entry', it's nice to hear a player on the team that has adapted to being able to speak the modern language of the game.
At 23-years old Fowler is still a young-un by NHL standards. Yet for a player that has spent as many games with a franchise as Scott Niedermayer did, to hear their in-depth, high hockey IQ POV is a luxury for fans of the Ducks. When a team has less history than all but four teams in the league, it's important to have players like Fowler that can both be relied upon to babysit an aging defender like Kevin Bieksa, but also regularly provide a positive contribution to the team.
Worst: Not Only Did You Not Win, You Didn't Even Get A Point!
With the Ducks chasing both the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes, points are at an absolute premium. We've pointed out on 'Anaheim Calling: The Podcast' that only 3/16 teams from the last two full years of a Divisional playoff setup have made the playoffs in spite of being on the outside looking in after American Thanksgiving.
Anaheim is one of those teams now, and has to make up not only three points to jump Vancouver, but at the least four points to jump Arizona, or at most eight points if the Coyotes win their games-in-hand. There's a reason why head coach Bruce Boudreau made mention of the fact that the team can ill-afford to give away points, even if facing non-conference opposition, because for as bad as the Pacific Division has been, that final spot has to be earned. One can talk a great game like Ryan Kesler has, but he and his fellow line mates need to do everything in their power to keep/raise their level of offensive production to make that statement come true over the final five months.
3) Victor Hedman
With this being a Ducks site I fully expect to get crunched for this selection, but Hedman played the most minutes of a Tampa Bay defenseman (26:03) and only Fowler ( 26:43) played more minutes in the game. For Hedman's troubles, he blocked five shots, had a pair of takeaways, and with his three shots on goal finished even in the traditional goal-differential metrics. Also, despite having played 18:45 more than Nikita Nesterov (the top shot attempt differential defenseman at +5), he finished second on the team for whole game shot attempt differential at -2.
2) Corey Perry
304 goals as a Duck, now comfortably in the spot as the second-highest goal scorer in franchise history. His answer after the second period goal when asked by Julie Stewart-Binks about seeing space against Bishop was classic: 'I didn't, just grabbed it and tried to shoot on net.' Both hilariously understated Worm, but also a telling thought of what the Ducks expected it would take to beat Bishop.
1) Ben Bishop
He's very good at his position, and in an era where the regular NHL goalie's average height has jumped more than four inches from the end of the 90's to the 10's, the Lightning deserve credit for finding the best of the tallest. Invader Zim and everyone else aught be listening to him. The Tallest rule.