As head coach in 2006, six of his Mighty Ducks players were named to their respective national teams to take part in the Winter Olympics. Only five were actually affected by the extra workload, since Scott Niedermayer did not play for Team Canada because of an injury.
But the circumstances (if not the uniforms) were similar at the time of the last Olympic break – Anaheim was in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, on the cusp of a playoff berth, and staring down a 25-game fight to the finish once the Games were over. The club proceeded to go 16-8-1 and improve to sixth place by the end of the season.
Barring a miracle, history will not repeat itself this year.
The Ducks’ migration south from Vancouver is not complete yet. And why would it be, with the myriad of medals to sort through – seven of them, the most of any team in the NHL – not to mention the gamut of emotions that come with them?
Maybe it’s not that surprising that goaltender Jonas Hiller, whose Swiss team was eliminated by the United States in the quarterfinals, chose not to watch the gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada on Sunday.
“I had family in town. I’ve seen enough hockey games until the end of the year. I didn’t really feel like I had to see hockey again,” Hiller said.
While he was practicing in Anaheim, Brendan Mikkelson’s sister picked up a gold medal in Vancouver.
Meaghan Mikkelson is a defenseman on the Canadian women’s national team that beat the U.S. 2-0 for the gold medal on Thursday.
“She was really excited,” Brendan said Monday. “I was really excited for her. She put in four years of work. It’s a lot of work she put in.”
Meghan, two years Brendan’s senior and also a Saskatchewan native, played for four years at the University of Wisconsin.
Brendan Mikkelson believes the national pressure on the women’s team was just as great, if not greater, than it was on the men’s.
“There’s a lot more parity in the men’s game,” he said. “The women’s game has come a long way the last 10, 15 years, but it’s still not as far as the parity goes. There’s six or seven teams on the men’s side that could have won it all. On the women’s side, Sweden had a pretty solid goalie. They’re coming along. Finland’s getting a lot better. I don’t want to say anything bad about the other countries, but they’re a ways behind. There’s almost more pressure there because there is less competition.
“They almost have a gun to their head. The men’s team did, too, but … that’s the best way to put it: win or nothing.”
Ryan Getzlaf’s second-period power play goal certainly seemed like an inconsequential insurance marker at the time. Canada was comfortably ahead 2-0, Roberto Luongo might have been blogging in between shots, and before the crowd was asking for “U-S-A.”
Then Slovakia decided to make it interesting, scoring twice in the game’s final five minutes to set up a frenetic finish. But Getzlaf’s goal held up, and Canada held on to set up a Sunday rematch with the United States.
Getzlaf’s backhand swipe of a Corey Perry rebound was the only goal by a Duck on Friday. Perry and Chris Pronger picked up the assists. Getzlaf and Pronger also assisted on Brenden Morrow’s first-period marker and Scott Niedermayer picked up the secondary assist on the game’s first goal, a tip by Patrick Marleau at 13:30.
Ex-King Lubomir Visnovsky and current King Michal Handzus did all the scoring for Slovakia, which plays Finland for the bronze medal on Saturday night.
Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne won’t be playing for gold.
Bobby Ryan and Ryan Whitney will be after a big win Friday over the Finns
Team USA sent a message by scoring all six of their goals in the game’s first 12:46, chasing goalie Miikka Kiprusoff after the first four, and matching their most lopsided win of the tournament. Whitney and Ryan were held scoreless; Ryan sustained a head injury midway through the third period but remained on the bench and did not appear (on TV) to be bleeding.
Patrick Kane scored twice and Ryan Malone, Paul Stastny, Erik Johnson and Zach Parise scored goals for the U.S.
Selanne’s decorated Olympic career will come to an end Saturday night against the loser of tonight’s game between Canada and Slovakia. He and Koivu were held scoreless, their team’s only goal coming off the stick of Antti Miettinen, after Tim Thomas had relieved U.S. starter Ryan Miller in goal.
For the Ducks, the benefits of having a wealth of players participating in the Olympics extend beyond organizational pride.
Anaheim’s eight Olympians are considered non-roster players by the NHL until after their national team is eliminated in Vancouver. That means that goaltender Jonas Hiller, whose Swiss squad lost to the United States on Wednesday, became the first to officially re-join the Ducks – the league added him to the active roster at 2 p.m. today.
Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, Corey Perry, Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Whitney, meanwhile, are giving Randy Carlyle and Bob Murray some vacant roster spots to play with until they’re gone from the Games.
On Thursday it was announced that Dan Sexton, Timo Pielmeier, Brendan Mikkelson and Brett Festerling had been recalled from the minors, and both Sexton and Pielmeier were among the 16 players in practice Thursday. Mikkelson and Festerling were still en route from Toronto, where they had been playing with the American Hockey League’s Marlies.
“This is when the NHL-level team, the parent hockey club, has to be
selfish,” said Carlyle, who expected no additional recalls. “I’ve been on the other side of it and it’s not a lot of fun
when those things happen. But the reality of it is, we made a decision
that’s in the best interest of the Anaheim Ducks. They can come
complement us in this time.” Continue reading “A new opportunity for Ducks’ youth.” »
The Finns and Czechs seemed destined to go to overtime tied at 0 until Niklas Hagman scored on the flukiest of goals with 6:26 left in the third period.
Czech defenseman Pavel Kubina ventured behind his own net to retrieve his helmet, while Hagman simultaneously fired between the legs of Tomas Vokoun. After grabbing his helmet, Kubina looked up to see the puck in his own net.
Valtteri Filppula later scored into an empty net, sending the Suomi, including Ducks teammates Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, into the semifinals. They’ll play the United States on Friday at noon.