This is Anaheim Calling to the hockey world.
Teemu Selanne defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in Wachovia tonight, putting the Ducks on the board late in the 3rd, knotting the tying goal with seconds left and scoring the only goal of the shootout in a 3-2 Anaheim victory. Hiller was phenomenal as well, making 33 saves for the second consecutive game, stopping some point blank chances in overtime and using his pads to shut the door on all three Philly snipers in the shootout.
But one disturbing trend continued into tonight's game: the Ducks gave up another PPG. That makes 7 power play goals against in 4 games. The Ducks go shorthanded around 6 times a game, and are surrendering a little under 2 goals a game on the PK. Arthur, do you think these Penalty Kill woes will continue, and does the Ducks new scoring depth make this penalty problem less of a threat?
First, we shouldn't gloss over Selanne's play tonight. He's playing like it's 1999. He really did beat the Flyers. I hear the Anaheim Ducks were in attendance for the game, but I didn't see enough to confirm that.
I don't think we can really point to tonight's game as a continuation of special teams trouble. The referees like to penalize both of these clubs based on reputation, and the result was an officiating train wreck. There were bad calls, phantom calls, make-up calls, punishing players for trying to draw penalties, missed high sticks and trips-- oh, and they sent Artyukhin to the box at the end of the 3rd after swallowing their whistles for most of the period. They suddenly remembered they'd only raised the orange-triangle-arm on the Russian once. It's hard for either team to find its stride under those conditions, which is why both Flyers goals came on the man advantage. Maybe the Ducks should send a video of tonight's game to the NHL to show them how ridiculous reputation calls make their officials look.
I suppose the Ducks could take a second pass at playing clean and quiet hockey, but it was so disastrous last year that I think these penalty kill woes will and SHOULD continue. The secondary scoring minimizes the value of goals against to a degree, but I'm much more encouraged by what Dave Farrish is doing with the PK units. I mean, he's got Joffrey Lupul's legs and active stick out there (Lupul killing penalties? It must be the beginning of an avant-garde movement in NHL coaching). There's more than one way to skin a cat, and he's certainly using the new players to find some alternatives to having a giant defenseman clearing the front of the net.
Ultimately, we're doing well even strength and Farrish is still working on the PK units. It's much too early to worry about this.
The Penalty Kill is still a concern for me. The loss of Pronger has made protecting the net so much more difficult. I've been noticing how much more willing opposing players are to patrol the crease. The Pronger goal on the power play came off a screen. Hiller never saw the shot. I think the inability to clear the crease is going to be a bigger problem throughout the season unless somebody toughens up. The Western Conference teams live in front of the net, and we need to do a better job protecting it. Another part of killing penalties is the puck movement that was a problem during the Minnesota game. We can't just keep giving the puck back to the team and letting them rebuild the attack. The Ducks have the speed and skill up front to be a nightmare shorthanded, they should be able to spend more time keeping the zone and fighting off the penalty, similar to what we saw against Boston. Not to mention that it doesn't seem like we are taking less penalties this year, which means we have to stop giving up so many power play goals.
Finally, I think that fixing the PK is imperative because, even though the scoring lines will eventually mesh, we currently cannot protect ourselves in high scoring games. The 6 we scored against Boston might have been an anomaly. Right now, we look more like a 2-3 goal per game team, which won't be enough to compete with the Red Wings and Sharks if we're giving up 2 power play goals a game.