Phoenix 7, Ducks 4.

The first game of the NHL preseason is a haphazard ritual, its beauty comparable to gargling the morning breath out of one’s mouth at the crack of dawn, its timing and coordination no better than of a pack of hyenas attempting to divide a carcass of raw meat.

There is no need here to romanticize the hockey-viewing experience of 12,544 announced spectators at Honda Center — it was pretty ugly — but there were a few takeaways.

First, the quick and dirty game synopsis:

Igor Bobkov played roughly the first 30 minutes and John Gibson played the last 30. It was the first NHL game action of any sort for either goalie (Bobkov was at last year’s NHL camp and did not appear in an exhibition game), but the seven goals couldn’t totally be pinned on them. “We’ve got to work on defensive-zone coverage. That’s what we have to work on, obviously,” head coach Randy Carlyle said.

Sean Zimmerman, Kyle Palmieri, Andrew Cogliano and Nate Guenin scored goals for the Ducks, who never led in the game. The offensive effort wasn’t much to blink at, either.

“We just seemed to be slapping the puck around in too many situations,” Carlyle said. “From our standpoint it’s an evaluation game.”

On with the evaluating then …
Continue reading “Phoenix 7, Ducks 4.” »

Notes from rookie scrimmage.

It was tempting to leave Anaheim Ice on Thursday with a broad set of generalizations, but the Ducks’ rookie scrimmage amounted to a one-hour snapshot of a portion of the organization’s prospect pool.

Twenty-two players have been invited to the six-day camp that began Thursday. All but one was at the rink Thursday morning — a team spokesperson said that goalie Igor Bobkov’s flight into California was delayed. Maybe Bobkov knew something the other 21 didn’t: Of the players on the ice for the intrasquad scrimmage, the goalies had the least fun.

The final score was 9-6, apropos for the 4-on-4 game of river hockey that featured no hitting and plenty of uncoordinated improvisation. John Gibson, the 39th overall pick at last week’s Entry Draft, and Iiro Tarkki, whom the Ducks lured from Finland this summer, absorbed all of the burden.

Tarkki gave up the nine-spot, but faced more shots than Gibson (by my unofficial estimate) and made the more impressive saves. The 6-foot-3 netminder, who turns 26 today, is not ready for the NHL, and the Ducks will be happy if he and Bobkov can upgrade the goaltending picture in Syracuse. Gibson struggled early but seemed to settle down. He’ll have up to four seasons at the University of Michigan to iron out the kinks before he ever plays a game in Anaheim.

Goals were scored by Chris Wagner (4), Emerson Etem (2), Joseph Cramarossa (2), Devante Smith-Pelly (2), Andy Welinski, Tim Heed, Andreas Dahlstrom, Brett Perlini and Radoslav Illo. Rickard Rakell was at the rink but didn’t scrimmage because his equipment hadn’t arrived. Neither did Jake Newton, who is battling illness.

Those are the facts. They can be overestimated. I did longer interviews with Justin Schultz and Rakell, and will save their stories for a later post.

Since it was the only scrimmage that will be open to the public, here’s a few snap judgments:
Continue reading “Notes from rookie scrimmage.” »

Goalie John Gibson highlights Ducks’ Day 2 haul.

John Gibson, a goaltender from the U.S. National Development Program, was the first of six picks by the Ducks on Day 2 of the NHL Entry Draft.

Initially projected to be the first goalie selected in the draft, Gibson went to the Ducks with the 39th overall pick – one slot after 6-foot-5 Swedish goalie Magnus Hellberg, who went to Nashville. The 18-year-old told reporters in St. Paul that “my goal at the beginning of the season was to be the first goalie taken but that’s the way it worked out.”

Gibson, a 6-foot-3 native of Pittsburgh, backstopped Team USA to a gold medal at the 2011 Under-18 World Championships in Germany. He posted a 2.34 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage along the way to earn Best Goaltender of the tournament honors.

The Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, struggled with a goalie tandem of Jean-Phillippe Levasseur and Timo Pielmeier last season. Igor Bobkov, a 2009 draft pick, could turn pro next season (he’ll be 20) and Finnish free agent Iiro Tarkki was also signed to help shore up the position, but Gibson probably won’t join the pro ranks for another two seasons at least.

“I’ve just got to see how the next couple years play out,” Gibson said. “When you’re
ready, you’ll be there. I’ve got to see what they need, the best
development for yourself, so I’ll take it one step at a time.

“It’s definitely a great organization. I’m really happy to be there. I’m really thankful they drafted me. I’m thankful they have a lot of good young talent coming up so hopefully in the near future I can be there and help the team out.”

The Ducks finished their draft day by selecting center William Karlsson (second round, 53rd overall), center Joseph Cramarossa (third round, 65th overall), defenseman Andy Welinski (third round, 83rd overall), left wing Max Friberg (fifth round, 143rd overall), and defenseman Josh Manson (sixth round, 160th overall).