Anaheim Ducks (1-1-1) at Philadephia Flyers (3-1-0)
Broad Street Hockey can now assume the task of fending off anti-Pronger trolls.
It's tough for me to put together a solid remembrance piece on Chris Pronger -- how can I properly do justice to the three years of intimidation, suspensions, and opponent hatred, not to mention the Ducks' Stanley Cup? Pronger is for sure a unique game changer -- a top shutdown defender with fantastic offensive skills -- and if it weren't for his two elbow suspensions in the '07 playoffs, he would have been my shoo-in for Conn Smythe. He was easily the most-booed Duck in visiting arenas, which was impressive considering his competition, plus he's useful in front of a microphone -- I do tend to overprioritize things like that.
Thank god he's on the east coast now, or we'd probably get to see a lot more of this:
The Flyers have gotten off to a quick start with Pronger aboard, winning their first three games before a late loss to the Penguins -- it feels similar to how the Ducks' stormed out of the gate after first acquiring Pronger, though in that Cup season the Ducks didn't suffer a regulation loss until their 17th game. Still, we've seen firsthand the additive power of Pronger -- put him on an already-playoff team and watch out! Talent inserted at the top of a lineup has a nice trickle-down effect of success -- lower players get sheltered into easier roles, and results improve across the board.
What was most awesome about Pronger's three years in Anaheim was the fact that it was really three years of Pronger + Niedermayer, an unreal combination of talent. Pronger was the perfect complement to Scotty, it seemed -- Niedermayer was a rover, Pronger was an anchor -- but both were workhorses. When played apart (as was the norm except on power plays), the duo was able to keep lesser defensive partners afloat and control most minutes of a game. When played together (power plays plus special occasions like shutting down Spezheatledsson or Thorleauguchi), they were unbelievable. By the end of Pronger's time in Anaheim, the power play configuration essentially became Pronger at the point and Scotty at the front of the net, Holmstrom-style -- Pronger's point presence definitely gave Scotty extra license to roam.
I'm still in favor of moving Pronger, btw -- even with the Ducks' struggles and Philly's early success, Pronger had to be moved before that next contract was signed. Philadelphia is now carrying the risk of Pronger's next over-35-multiyear-contract; that's something that likely Anaheim couldn't afford to do. Besides, Luca Sbisa has looked great and Joffrey Lupul has fit in so far (Killing penalties? OMFG!), and I'm still excited for the draft picks, however late in the first round they are.
Still, we had some good fucking times, Pronger. After the jump, a walk down memory lane -- some of Sleek's favorite BoC Pronger-themed art.
Waa! Gimme back my superstar! -- 10/4/06
Pronger's first visit back to Edmonton -- 11/27/06
The B.A. Baracus of the Ducks' A-Team, from G5 of the WCF's gameday post -- 5/20/07
Pronger, Brad May, and Todd Bertuzzi in comic form -- 7/19/07
Sketch in preparation for Ducks/Kings in London, England -- 9/18/07
Pronger (x3), Bertuzzi, and May get featured as part of my updated Duck! logo -- 4/6/08
Corey Perry's elbow acts under the influence of the Captain -- 1/11/09
The Prong-orail, devastating NHL cities after his departure -- 7/9/09
I guess I should be clear -- even though most of these cartoons are mockeries of Pronger's evil side, I'm still a huge fan of the guy -- hey, I'm a sucker for winning. If he stays on the east coast, I probably won't boo him again for the rest of his career (I was a hearty booer before Pronger was a Duck; in fact it was tough not to reflexively boo the guy his first few games -- he had just eliminated the Ducks a couple months earlier). And while I tend to make fun, I've definitely spent a lot of internet ink defending Pronger's elbows and skateblade -- now that he and Brian Burke are gone I figure most of our comment trolls are headed elsewhere.
Godspeed, Pronger. Seriously, dude -- thanks for everything. Worth every penny.
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Incidentally, it's weird how this road trip schedule has gone for the Ducks, at least in regards to baseball playoffs. On Tuesday, the Ducks played in Minnesota, same day as the Twins played their one-game AL Central playoff (Twins and Wild both won in extra innings). On Thursday, the Ducks played in Boston, same day as the Red Sox opened in Anaheim (Bruins and BoSox both got blown out). Today, the Ducks play in Philadelphia, same day as the Phillies play in Colorado. Tomorrow, the Ducks play in New York, same day as the Yankees try to eliminate the Twins. While the timing of visits to these cities do make hockey feel of secondary importance, I guess there's positivity in this trend -- next week the Ducks return to Anaheim, which suggests that the Halos will still be playing. Go Angels.
Prediction: Did you know? In the four seasons since the lockout, the Ducks have earned a win against every other team except one -- they are 0-2-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Let's end that today -- Ducks 3, Flyers 2. Goals by Sbisa, Lupul, and Ryan. Naturally, elbow by Pronger.