Ahhhhhhhhh. That feeling of the first cup of coffee in the morning or that feeling after a long nap on the couch on the weekend without the noisy kids in your face or that feeling of getting your NHL hockey dosage. Tonight I got mine. Not to say that watching my boys play youth hockey is boring or doesn't get the juices flowing, but there is nothing like today's NHL.
I watched the Ducks play the Kings tonight in the pre-season opener at Honda Center and I am happy to see the season is back under way. I know it is pre-season and not the same, but it is still NHLers skating, scoring, and hitting. Even had a good scrap tonight with our new Shane Hnidy.
Speaking of our new # 7 Hnidy, any Thrashers fans have any comment on what to expect with him? I remember seeing him last year and thinking he was a tough hombre. I thought the same thing tonight. Very tough guy, but not real swift footed. I questioned his defensive capability tonight as he racked up a -3 on the evening. It is still early, so he may be rusty.
The other D-man from the Ducks that I watched a lot was Maxim Kondratiev. He has great offensive skills and scored a wicked one timer slapshot goal in the upper corner that still has Cloutier shaking. He is very strong with the puck and makes excellent decisions. Without the puck though, he looked a little lost and struggled. I thik he was -2 on the night. I would have watched Pronger, but he spent the whole night in the penalty box. 4 minor penalties to help shake off the Stanley Cup rust. But think on the bright side, he got to rest in the penalty box and at least he didn't get suspended. You know I am kidding. Really though, he is an unmatched defenseman in the NHL and valuable to his team's success.
The Kings have a lot to be excited about. For you fans to the north, here is my take from tonight. Jack Johnson is the real deal. That kid can play the game and is a franchiser. Also, Brian Boyle struggled with some of the quickness of the game, but you will be pleased to know that he may be the next Chris Pronger. At 6'6", the kid can reach. He can pass and skate too. The Boston College fans out there can probably attest that he is good. I would not be surprised if the Kings kept on the big club and brought him along quickly. He had a good amount if icetime too.
At forward, old man Calder scored a highlight reel goal and had 2 on the night, but the guy who kept me watching was Gabe Gauthier. The SoCal kid himself who impressed me a few years ago in the Frozen Four playing for Denver. At 5'9", he may be short, but he is tough and he loves to buzz the net. He is always near the net or floating in open space. He had a nice goal and had a couple more one-timers that should have found paydirt. I just checked the scoresheet and he had the most icetime of all LA forwards. I see why. As for Cloutier, he was O.K. He was outplayed by JS Aubin as they split the game in half. Don't feel bad though, our Ilya Bryzgalov was outplayed by our wrong handed catcher too. The smaller JP Levasseur played a very strong game for the Ducks in the 2nd half. I feel bad that he gave up one goal, the fifth goal, on a 10 foot - 38 bouncer that had him moving all over the place to stay in front of it. Besides that blunder, the kid was very solid and some would say he was hot.
At forward for the Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf wore the "A" tonight which was interesting and I am happy for him. I know it will be short lived, but it is cool anyway to see it on him in the pre season. Ryan Carter stood out tonight, especially in the 2nd half of the game. He will stay with the big club this year and play at least 50% of the games. The other guy who surprised me was a kid named Brandon Segal. A forechecking coaches dream. Wow. He flys in on the forecheck and lays guys out. Kind of reminds me of the Banzai style of Chris Kunitz where it is a full speed check in to the end boards. I liked this kid. I see him hopefully getting some time on the 4th line throughout the year. Jason King looked good at times too.
Hate to add more pressure to the young kid, but Bobby Ryan was a disappointment. He looked like Cory Perry 3 or 4 years ago. I see the potential, but just didn't show it enough tonight.
I'll be back at HC on Sunday night when the talentless Coyotes come to town with their tails between their legs only to be kicked around by their masters and sent away with their tails still between their legs.