Wading through data

During my “down time” I’ve taken to re-reading chapters I’ve written for Palm Trees and Frozen Ponds and scanning the interviews I’ve conducted over the past 5-6 years, and I’ve concluded many of you I’ve spoken to are right — that is A LOT of information.

So I’ve reached the conclusion that the first book needs to focus on youth hockey and the influences for its growth. So yeah, the pros will be covered to some extent, but not in the comprehensive manner I’d originally thought. That is a different dragon to slay.

So while I’m sure Stanley Cup-winning coaches Darryl Sutter and Randy Carlyle have compelling stories to tell. I KNOW men such as Buddy McKinnon, Ludi Graf, Jeff Turcotte and James Gasseau (among hundreds of others) do.

And that’s really the point — honoring the players, coaches AND PARENTS who made the growing youth hockey trend what it is today.

So we press on! Thank you for your patience and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

A side note: Graf, now 82, recently retired and U-T San Diego ran a nice story on his career.

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Maybe I should stick to youth hockey?

Well, that didn’t take long.

Within hours of writing this yesterday:

“Frankly, the Ducks take a lot of undisciplined penalties (they spend 14 and half minutes per game in the box, in the bottom six in the league) and seem to complain to the refs a lot … in addition to not always seeming prepared. Those factors point to the coach, but I remain convinced Randy Carlyle won’t be going anywhere. The ownership still remembers 2007.”

The Ducks promptly went out and defeated the Montreal Candiens … and then fired Carlyle.

Clearly predictions aren’t a strong suit in this corner.

A few thoughts on Bruce Boudreau‘s hiring (and maybe Bobby Ryan should contact movers now because I really don’t think they’ll trade him — if they ever were considering that option). I think Boudreau will bring a needed new voice and most likely tailor his coaching to the players’ strengths, and that bodes well for players such as Ryan, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, as well as their more offensively gifted defensemen.

A quick did you know on Boudreau — it was his apartment in Johnstown, Pa., that Paul Newman “lived” in during “Slap Shot”. That, if nothing else, bodes well for the Ducks.

Straying from youth hockey to the NHL for a moment

I had the opportunity to watch all three of California’s NHL teams in person during a four-day span recently, and I came away with the following impressions.

The Anaheim Ducks will have long road back to the playoffs. Duh, they’ve lost 16 of 18 games and can’t hold a lead.

I watched them give up four goals in the first nine minutes of the third period to Chicago and snatch a 6-5 defeat from what once was a 4-1 lead. And I don’t blame Jonas Hiller for the Blackhawks’ outburst, though he could have stopped a few of the goals in the third-period blitz. The Ducks’ d-zone coverage was willy nilly (to put it mildly) all game, and particularly so in the third.

But the Ducks’ problems extend beyond a leaky defense, which clearly misses Lubomir Visnovsky. If the top two lines don’t score, the Ducks don’t score.  23 games into the season no forward not named Selanne-Perry-Getzlaf-Koivu-Ryan has more than nine points.

But the top line of Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry-Bobby Ryan is a combined minus-29, so for all the offense they provide (45 points, including 21 goals) they give up a lot more. One forward you can’t fault is Teemu Selanne, who not only leads the team in points (22), but is just minus-3, a Selke Trophy candidate compared to his top-line brethren.

Rumors of a Ryan trade are flooding the Internet, and he’s an easy target given he has just 11 points in 23 games and a minus-6. But do you really want to trade a player of Ryan’s ability so early in his career? If they could pry Shea Weber or Ryan Suter from Nashville, OK. But unless you’re talking a franchise defenseman, forget it.

Frankly, the Ducks take a lot of undisciplined penalties (they spend 14 and half minutes per game in the box, in the bottom six in the league) and seem to complain to the refs a lot … in addition to not always seeming prepared. Those factors point to the coach, but I remain convinced Randy Carlyle won’t be going anywhere. The ownership still remembers 2007.

Monday, I watched the Kings shut out the Sharks at Staples Center.

The Kings played aggressively from the start and it paid off with some gritty goals. They also built a fairly substantial shot advantage, which few teams do to the Sharks.

But then the Kings seemed to get conservative and back roared the puck-possessing Sharks. In the end, goaltender Jonathan Quick was the difference, and he had to be. Once the Sharks gained control of the puck, they started to get power plays, and Quick was brilliant, often stopping second and third chances.

I expect both to be playoff teams, and it wouldn’t surprise me if both won a round, but I also saw some warning signs for both teams.

The Sharks were a bit careless with the puck, particularly on the blue line. Dan Boyle and Brett Burns are extremely talented players, but both had multiple give-aways. But both demonstrated how their puck-moving abilities also can spark San Jose’s transition game.

The Kings seem deeper than in years past, but they’re still missing a creative offensive player or two. Yes, Mike Richards helps their offense (and defense), but I still saw Anze Kopitar getting ganged up on. Simon Gagne is still a very good player, but injuries clearly have robbed him of something over the years.

When the Kings play aggressively, but don’t warm the penalty box seat, they’re tough to deal with. Sustaining that appeared problematic.

The difference, the Kings’ lockdown style could work in the playoffs if they can manufacture timely goals and stay out of the penalty box. I had the sense watching the Sharks that I’ve seen this before, which means a very good regular season and who knows after that.

Game 3 – Sharks-Ducks

ANAHEIM – That Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal between the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night was as intense of a game as I’ve seen in person in quite some time wasn’t a surprise.

What did surprise me were two things – both goaltenders left a lot of loose change in the slot and the Ducks’ penalty killing, which had been money to this point in the series, was not as effective.

San Jose’s first three goals came from defensemen, including two from Dan Boyle, and Rob Blake, who scored the Sharks’ first goal, hit captain Patrick Marleau with a touch pass on a power-play for the winner midway through the third period of the Sharks’ 4-3 win.

Three times the Sharks took leads in the first two periods, and three times the Ducks caught them. In the end, the chase got the better of Anaheim.

“They seemed to jump out of the gate earlier on us (than in Games 1 and 2),” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said afterward. “It seemed like we were battling back all night.”

Sharks coach Todd McLellan was pleased with his team’s start.

“That was our best first period, not only in the playoffs, but in a long time,” he said.

After being outshot by a 2-1 ratio during the first 30 minutes, the Ducks took control during the latter half of the second period and tied the score at 3 when Chris Pronger picked off Joe Pavelski‘s errant clearing pass between the circles and fired the puck inside the right post.

Marleau’s goal and a spirited Sharks effort late in the third sealed the outcome.

“We took a penalty in the middle of the period and it cost us,” Carlyle said. “We didn’t play to the level we did the two previous games.”

Other observations: Wonder why so many seats were left unfilled in all three levels of Honda Center? Econony? Apathy? Angels playing across the street? … The George Parros-Douglas Murray bout was a keeper. Parros was responding to a hard but legal blindside hit Murray had administered to Teemu Selanne a few shifts earlier in the first period. This was a fight out of passion, not for show, and the NHL would be wise to let these interactions go. It energized the building and both teams. … The Sharks held a huge shot advantage in the first period, but were outhit and dominated in the faceoff circle. When the Ducks narrowed the shot gap, the Sharks evened out the hit and faceoff departments. … Members of the media and scouts from other teams were out in droves Tuesday night. Hard for me to believe there are that many outlets covering the series. … A funny sight: several Ducks prospects (the Black Aces) who are in town to practice with the team during the playoffs as well as the club’s scratches sat together in the arena on Tuesday night. Wonder if the fans around them had any idea who the group of young men was.