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The NHL Preseason Experience: The New Zealand Perspective

I got to take in some preseason action in Anaheim

NHL: Preseason-Vegas Golden Knights at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If you were not already aware - I live in New Zealand. So for me to actually attend a Ducks game (has happened three times total in the years I have followed them) let alone a preseason game, is a rarity.

Through spontaneous coincidence, I was in Canada attending my a friend’s wedding mid September so I made sure to fly via California on the way back and take in some of Ducks’ training camp. Alas, the wedding was the same weekend as the open scrimmages so I was unable to get to those.

So if you were at the Ducks vs. Kings game on the 22nd or the Vegas game on the 24th and heard a guy with a funny accent attempt to communicate plays and mumble obscenities mostly directed at Kevin Bieska, then that was me!

Based off of those two games - here are my thoughts:

Friday September 22nd - Ducks v Kings.

You might recall that this was the Ducks first preseason win - but it didn't look like that was going to be the case after the first period. The Ducks by rights should have found this game all too easy - the Kings had left half their team — the better half at that —in China. Leaving essentially the Ontario Reign guest starring Brandon Prust to contend with a Ducks squad made up of a half and half of Gulls and Ducks regulars.

The Kings controlled play in the first whilst the Ducks looked completely out of sorts. The only real highlights were two fights, the first featuring Scott Sabourin and Brandon Prust and the second between Boko Imama and Mike Liambas. Sabourin didn’t seem entirely prepared or ready for his fight — I know he had done much better in fights whilst with the Gulls. Liambas led the AHL in PIM last year, so he fared a little better.

The seats I had were lower bowl — second row from the glass near the goal line for the Kings in the first, Ducks in the second and Kings again in the 3rd. That said — I watched in horror as the Kings took the early lead on the lone goal of the first period. Even so, I celebrated with much aplomb as the Ducks proceeded to provide the reverse #2ndPeriodExperience and pot two goals in the 2nd. The first: a beauty of a tic-tac-toe passing play finished off by Rakell on the powerplay and the later a point shot that somehow made its way though traffic by my home-boy Jaycob Megna.

A goal by Mitch Hults in the third looked like a filthy pass by Wagner on the jumbotron but yeah - it was down the other end of the ice for me. Aside on that - lowerbowl/near the glass seats seem like kind of a waste of time if you have to watch the other ice action on the jumbotron. Oh yeah, Megna got the second assist on that one too. Mah boy!

Matt (not so) Luff (ly) made things interesting after some sustained Kings Reign pressure in the 3rd but Silfverberg got the insurance marker on a goal mouth scramble that again was hard to see from the other end of the ice but apparently resulted in an automatic goal since the net was knocked off.

Post Game Notes - from someone who doesnt get to the Pond that often (again because of that whole 12 hour flight thing):

  • Pettersson played very well - I had my initial doubts about him when I saw him in the streams of the rookie tournament games because he seemed so very thin and lanky for his height. My concern being his frame would not be able to withstand the rigors of the North American game - but after seeing him take punishment after punishment right in front of me; I can confidently say - kid can handle himself.
  • Montour didn’t play so good in this game - was hard to put a finger on it; but he seemed to be trying to do too much or perhaps was having to cover for Beauch who was hugely to blame for the first Kings goal.
  • Say what you want about the Kings and their prospect depth but they CLEARLY know what they are doing with goaltenders. Jack “Noodle Soup” Campbell was outstanding for the first half - keeping the Kings not only with the lead but in the game. Cal Peterson was equally as good despite allowing the eventual Ducks barage. He memorably robbed Kase (I think?) on a point black chance after a brilliant setup from Rakell. Recent results speak for themselves — Peter Budaj was a reclamation project that they turned into Ben Bishop.
  • Kevin Bieska was terrible — even worse in person.
  • Ryan Miller was brilliant -- made a bunch of savy veteran plays and eminiated an overall calming presence.
  • Obnoxious Kings fans although apparently an unavoidable annoyance of Ducks v Kings games were surprisingly polite when not loudly moaning minimalist pronouns such as “NOTHING!” whenever the Ducks could not capitalize on their beloved AHL-level goaltenders. Although the one behind me did not seem to know that the rest of his team was in China I should not have been surprised given his only vocabulary seemed to consist of 1-2 syllable negative adjectives.
  • Despite the rivalry, other aspects of the arena were very congenial - for example nobody complained when fans of either team cut in on haphazard urinal lines in the mens room.
  • If you missed it on the AC twitter account — some legend wore a “Harambe - #69” Ducks jersey and made it on the Jumbotron during one of those “Dance Cam” gimmick arena entertainment pieces. INSTANT HERO.

The second and last game I saw was the Sunday 24th: Ducks v Golden Knights game.

This was to be a slightly mortifying embarrassment to watch but one that did not leave me massively disappointed because hey — at least I still got to watch my boys play live in person.

The pond was super quiet despite it being a Sunday - I blame the lack of discounted pricing for preseason action (seriously Ducks brass - what gives?).

I was rocking my Chiefs jersey (yes of Slapshot fame) which was also the jersey of my last Ice team in Auckland before I moved to Nelson. I got a few comments and even got to have a selfie with “Ned” the “crazy fan” of the recent moment in all the promo material and hype vids. Super cool dude.

The Ducks iced a line-up consisting of Getzlaf and Perry with Giovanni Fiore in place of a mysteriously dinged up Patrick Eaves. The kid-line of Max Jones, Sam Steel and-protector Scotty Sabourin. Ritchie, Kase and Kossila on another line and finally a sort of hodge-podge energy/shutdown line of Rasmussen, Tropp and Kopacka. On D - Fowler was paired with Welinksi, Montour with Cooper and Larsson with Holzer. I just remembered all of those lines off the top of my head almost week later and full of jetlag so I am kind of stoked with that.

Without beating around the bush the Ducks had plenty of chances in the early going (largely thanks to the “Kid” line) but it was Vegas that was able to capitalize. All three Vegas goals were as a result of point shots through traffic. This is an expansion team that realises they need to keep it simple and keep it simple they did. Infuriatingly so. By the third goal I was silently fuming that nobody seemed to have figured out their grand plan of getting it back to the point whilst wreaking havoc in front.

What small glimmer of brilliance that shone amidst a frustratingly close-but-far game of chances for the Ducks was the strong play of Scotty Sabourin. He played well with the kids and when Carlyle recognised this and slapped Rasmussen on with he and Jones — he made a nifty soft-hands play to backhand a rebound in. A lot of the post game comments on twitter were that based on his play in that game alone — he had earned a spot over fellow face-puncher Jared Boll. But apparently that was not meant to be.

The Ducks didn't do much else and Fiore made it only a tad less humiliating with a last minute score from an impossible angle for a final score of 4-2. The Vegas “Vets” came to play and the Ducks elder statesmen did not.

Post Game Notes:

  • I sat in a different spot this time - the 410 section with a good view of both ends of the ice. Brilliant location — I could see plays develop and never looked at the Jumbotron once except to maybe laugh at the kids on Drum cam.
  • I had valley-boys on one side of me who seemed more interested in talking about types of coffee and fantasy teams than watch the game - whenever they asked who a player was I answered right away but either they didn't hear or understand me or were just completely ignorant. Either way - made me feel slightly saddened for Duck-fandom.
  • MAF was good and seemed to be thriving - he is going to steal some games this year.
  • Vegas is going to do some willful damage if teams don't find a way to stop their simplistic overload the o-zone style.
  • Tyler Wong is good, very very good.
  • Montour played much much better in this game - could it be he was not paired with Beauchemin? Too small a sample size to tell but he was all over the place and in a good way.
  • Charging $12.50 for a beer is criminal and akin to gross human rights abuse.
  • Kevin Bieska did not play but was in costume as “Mitch” the well intentioned fan with the weird accent. He “won” a signed Kevin Bieska puck during the skate shuffle and proceeded to give it away with quote “Nope: Don’t want it” — Touch’e Kevin.