With some of the uncertainty facing the Ducks’ goaltending situation over the last few months, it was both ironic and comforting the Ducks were able to lean on one goalie in getting two big wins to end the regular season.
|“They are very structured,” said Ellis of the Predators. (Barry)Trotz has them understanding their system very well. They stick to that and that really wins them hockey games. They are 100 percent into that system. They play it to a tee. They don’t give teams very many opportunities.” |
In starting both games of a back-to-back against the Kings, Dan Ellis
stopped 66-of-68 shots (including a season-high 43 saves in the season finale on Saturday) to lead the Ducks in two crucial victories. Along with a stint in relief of Ray Emery, who sustained a lower-body injury, on April 3 against the Sharks, Ellis played in a total of three games last week and totaled a 2-0-0 record, 1.21 goals-against average and .964 save percentage.
“With Dan Ellis
, if you look at his record (8-3-1 in 13 games with Anaheim after being acquired on Feb. 24 from Tampa Bay) since we’ve gotten him, it’s quite an amazing story,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “I think if it wasn’t for Ray Emery winning six in a row, Dan Ellis
would have played all of them. Dan has been very strong in the net for us. He’s been a great guy. When he hasn’t gotten into the net, he has gone out and worked harder to get it back.”
By virtue of those big wins last week, the Ducks shot up the standings from seventh to fourth place and will now have home ice advantage in their first round playoff series with Nashville. If Ellis continues to get the nod in goal, he’ll be facing a team with which he is quite familiar.
Ellis played with Nashville from 2007-10 before seeing his rights (and Dustin Boyd) traded to Montreal for Sergei Kostitsyn on the eve of free agency last offseason. His best season with the Predators was his first in 2007-08, when he claimed the No. 1 goaltender’s job with the team and led them to the playoffs with an NHL-leading .924 save percentage. He remained the top guy between the pipes until the next season, when current starter Pekka Rinne took over and pushed Ellis to backup duty.
“I had a great time in Nashville,” said Ellis, who faced his former team twice in the regular season (once with Tampa Bay and another with the Ducks). “They gave me an opportunity to get into the National Hockey League. If it wasn’t for them, I might be in Europe or having some other job. I owe a lot to them in terms of them giving my first chance to break in. I learned a lot from the players and coaches there.”
|“I had a great time in Nashville,” Ellis said. “They gave me an opportunity to get into the National Hockey League. If it wasn’t for them, I might be in Europe or having some other job. I owe a lot to them in terms of them giving my first chance to break in. I learned a lot from the players and coaches there.” |
He fully understands the type of game Nashville will bring to the table in the series, which kicks off at Honda Center on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. “They are very structured,” Ellis said. (Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz) has them understanding their system very well. They stick to that and that really wins them hockey games. They are 100 percent into that system. They play it to a tee. They don’t give teams very many opportunities.”
Under the tutelage of the only head coach the team has ever known in Trotz, Nashville is making its sixth playoff appearance in franchise history (all in the last seven seasons, though they’ve never advanced past the first round). They have been able to do that with a sound gameplan and sturdy defense. The 2010-11 Predators were third in the league in goals against per game (2.32) and fifth on the penalty kill (84.9 percent).
Helping the club achieve those marks were blueliners Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, arguably the league’s best defensive tandem. Along with being able to shut down opponents, they too can fill up the scoresheet. Weber, who has a cannon for a shot, had 16 goals (his fourth season with at least 15 goals since debuting in the league in 2005) and 48 points this year. Meanwhile, Suter led the Predators with 35 assists and a plus-20 rating. Both saw over 25 minutes a night in ice time, ranking among the league’s top 10 in that category.
“I can’t imagine there are two better defensemen together in the National Hockey League,” said Ellis of his former teammates. “They are right up there with anyone. They can do it all. They see the ice very well, skate well and are both strong leaders. They are both going to be All-Stars and Hall-of-Famers when their careers are over.”
Rinne has been another key ingredient to Nashville’s success this season, putting together his best campaign yet since taking over for Ellis between the pipes for the Predators. The 6-5 Finn set new career highs in games played (64), wins (33), goals-against average (2.12, third in the league) and save percentage (.930, second).
|“With Dan Ellis, if you look at his record since we’ve gotten him, it’s quite an amazing story,” Carlyle said. “Dan has been very strong in the net for us. He’s been a great guy. When he hasn’t gotten into the net, he has gone out and worked harder to get it back.” |
“He is the biggest reason why they are where they are,” said Teemu Selanne
, a fellow Finn. “We need to make sure he can’t see all the pucks and make him move side to side. That is the key right now. Any goalie can be effective if they see all the pucks. He’s a big boy. He’s goes into the butterfly and both feet touch the posts. You have to make perfect shots.
“Their whole team is very underrated. We can’t underestimate them at all. We have to do our job as good as we can. It’s going to be a tough series for sure. I’m expecting they are going to be low-scoring games. We’ll have to play very tight defensively.”
It remains up in the air if Ellis will be the guy between the Anaheim pipes trying to eliminate his former team. Jonas Hiller
, still battling through vertigo symptoms, continues to practice with the team and Emery skated before and after Monday’s session. If he does get the nod, Ellis said he will be ready.
“Playoffs are such a special and fun time,” Ellis said. You work so hard to get here. You want to prepare yourself, go out there and give it all you got. It’s a unique situation, but I think we have all been in it long enough now that we’ve grown accustomed to it. Everybody just prepares and practices like you are going to play. If you don’t play, then you go out there and you cheer your boys on.”