Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Need to know: These Ducks are sure flying
By Scott Burnside
• Anyone who isn’t taking the Anaheim Ducks seriously might want to start after the Ducks handed the red-hot San Jose Sharks their first regulation loss of the season, clipping them by a 2-1 count Monday night. Perhaps more interesting is that Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau went with 30-year-old first-year netminder Viktor Fasth in the big Pacific Division tilt as opposed to Jonas Hiller, who has struggled even as the Ducks have rolled to a 6-1-1 record. Fasth, twice goaltender of the year in the Swedish elite league, is now 3-0-0, and while no team playing as well as the Ducks wants to introduce the term "controversy" into its lexicon, the fact remains that Fasth is forcing the Ducks to re-examine their goaltending situation. Sheldon Souray, a key offseason acquisition by Ducks GM Bob Murray, scored the winner for Anaheim, which now heads off on a six-game road trip. One disappointing element of the big win was the announced crowd of just 14,324, several thousand short of a sellout at the Honda Center. The Sharks, meanwhile, can’t complain about their lot in life, as they still own top spot in the Pacific Division standings with a 7-1-1 record and are a point off the league lead, currently held by Chicago.
• Speaking of controversy, the goaltending saga in Vancouver continues to slide into the surreal, as Roberto Luongo, whom the Canucks are trying to deal, started his fourth straight and guided the Canucks to a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory over Edmonton. The Canucks, winners of three straight, trailed 2-0 midway through the game but rebounded with three unanswered goals. All three goal scorers for Vancouver -- Jannik Hansen, Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev -- delivered their first of the season. For Tanev, who scored with 20 seconds left in overtime, it was his first-ever NHL goal. Luongo stopped 23 of 25 as the Canucks moved to 5-2-2 and into first place in the Northwest Division.
• Now, here’s a good illustration of what it means to have your best players on the ice. Recently signed unrestricted free agent Jamie Benn scored his first two goals of the season and added an assist as the Dallas Stars edged the Colorado Avalanche 3-2. These two teams have similar records around the .500 mark, are currently outside the playoff bubble and are looking for consistent offense to help support what has been good-to-great goaltending. Monday night, the Stars got that offense from Benn, who missed training camp and the first part of the season resolving contract issues. The Avs, meanwhile, continue to dither over a contract for unrestricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly, who led the team in scoring a season ago. The Avs were 1-for-5 with the man advantage Monday but overall rank dead last in the league on the power play. Tick tock.
• As for those who were counting out the Phoenix Coyotes after a tepid start, such pronouncements might have been a tad premature, as Mike Smith has returned from injury and appears to be recapturing his all-world form of last season. Smith stopped 21 or 22 to pace the Yotes to a 2-1 victory over goal-starved Minnesota on Monday. Smith is 2-0-1 in his last three games and has allowed just three goals as Phoenix has improved to 4-4-2. Just 9,508 made up the announced attendance in Glendale. Yikes. The Wild, meanwhile, have lost two in a row on the road and managed just two goals. They are 26th in goals per game in spite of the infusion of talent since last season.
• It might have taken longer than some expected, but the Carolina Hurricanes were able to produce a score sheet that featured goals from both Jordan and Eric Staal. Jordan Staal netted his first goal of the season (he’d collected six assists before and added a seventh Monday), and brother Eric continued his torrid pace with his seventh as the Hurricanes defeated Toronto 4-1 at the Air Canada Center. The win evened the Canes’ record at 4-4, and Cam Ward silenced doubters for at least one night, as he was terrific, turning aside 41 of 42 Leaf shots. The Leafs, 1-0 losers Saturday against Boston, were once again stymied offensively. Phil Kessel, for those keeping score at home, has now gone nine games without a goal. Ouch.