Thursday, March 24, 2011
Ducks: Teemu Selanne continues to age well
By Dan Arritt
ANAHEIM—This is really starting to get old.
Teemu Selanne, the everlasting 40-year-old right wing for the Ducks, scored the tying goal with 6.4 seconds remaining Wednesday night against the Dallas Stars in a game for eighth place in the Western Conference standings.
The visiting Ducks seized the opportunity afforded by Selanne and won in overtime, 4-3, absconding with two points from Dallas and keeping their nameplate at No. 8 in the West.
Selanne’s latest heroics came three days after he scored the tying goal against Calgary with 2:01 remaining, giving the Ducks a chance to win in overtime, 5-4. His last three goals have tied the score in the final minutes of regulation and each time Anaheim followed up with an overtime winner.
Four games in all have repeated that finish since Feb. 11, twice against the Stars and twice against the Flames, the two teams currently breathing down the collar of the Ducks for the final playoff spot.
He’s the first player in NHL history to score four tying goals in the final three minutes of the third period in the same season.
“He just continues to find a way to deliver in clutch situations,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said following the victory against Calgary.
Anaheim will need all the help it can get when it plays at Nashville today at 5 p.m. PT. The Predators are one point and one spot ahead of the Ducks in seventh, and are led by standout goalkeeper Pekka Rinne, who is second in the league in goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.930).
Selanne said he doesn’t have any secrets to his late-game and late-career productivity. He’s long been known for finding the seams and soft spots in defenses, especially when they’re a player short. His last two goals came with the man advantage.
Like most veterans, Selanne takes extra steps to ready himself for the rigorous demands of the NHL, from getting enough rest to proper nutrition and stretching. None of that would matter if he didn’t still love playing the game, however.
“That’s the only reason I’m still around,” he said.
With every point, Selanne seems to pass another legend in the record books. With his goal Wednesday, he moved ahead of Pierre Turgeon for 30th on the all-time points list (1,328). On Sunday, he passed Dave Andreychuk and Brendan Shanahan for 49th on the all-time assist list (699).
Teammates have always marveled at Selanne’s conditioning, but it’s his desire that’s stands out most this season.
“When he got that attitude, combined with the working out and stretching, it does magic,” said Jarkko Ruutu, a Finnish native like Selanne. “He hasn’t lost a step and his skating ability is the key to getting in these scoring areas.”
In fact, Selanne is having so much fun he’d rather not think about whether he’ll return next year. He’ll turn 41 on July 3—which happens to be the 41st anniversary of another historical Anaheim moment, Clyde Wright's no-hitter for the Angels, the first in franchise history.
While Selanne recognizes the clock is ticking on his NHL career, others do not.
. “I don’t look at his birth certificate,” Carlyle said. “The one thing I do notice is the size of his children because I saw them when they were babies and then now, all of a sudden, they’re 13, 14, 15 years old.”
Selanne’s three sons, Eemil, Eetu and Leevi, are between the ages of 10 and 15 and his daughter, Veera, turned 3 in December. The boys play hockey and Selanne said they really enjoy coming to his games. Selanne also credited his wife, Sirpa, for providing the support and encouragement to continue his career.
“She’s so good,’ Selanne said. “She just tells me, ‘Whenever you make your decision, just let me know.’ Obviously, she wants me home but at the same time she knows how much I love this game.”
Carlyle, when asked how much longer he feels Selanne can continue, shrugged his shoulders and said, ’10 years?’
“I don’t think there’s anything holding him back,” Carlyle said. “As long as he can stay healthy and feel strong in his abilities to continue to make a contribution.
"I think that’s the most important thing for a player, is that their self-worth and their value never diminishes in their own mind and that their body tells them that they can get through the grueling schedule.”
Selanne’s body is obviously telling him to enjoy the ride.