I just witnessed a display of true goalie grit tonight. But it was painful to watch.
Ducks stopper Ray Emery, who has miraculously come back from a right hip surgery a year ago that would have ended most any athlete's career, played in his first playoff game since 2007 tonight at the Honda Center in Anaheim against the Preds.
He stopped 31 saves and made some key stops on a Nashville offense that was rolling over the Ducks the entire third period. So, then, what's the bad news for Emery?
For anyone in the rink paying close attention, it was clear that Emery was favoring his right leg. He was constantly stretching it during TV timeouts, barely putting weight on it while skating to and from the bench, and clearly didn't have full extension or strength in the leg as we had seen in his solid play at the end of the season. Emery's mobility in the crease grew increasingly hampered throughout the game, but a noticeable decline in his play occurred during a goalie interference collision in the first period.
Luckily for him, however, his team played solid shut-down D and the Preds got very few high-percentage shots through to him.
Insiders tell Stop Da Puck that Emery's "lower body injury" is in fact his right groin. These Honda Center insiders also tell me that the Ducks had hoped to rest Emery for Game 2, but Dan Ellis' poor performance in Game 1 put an end to that best-case plan.
In the short term, the Ducks' gamble paid off and they got the win, evening up the series 1-1. But as I watched Emery limp off the ice after the game I couldn't help but wonder if he will be in any condition to start again in Game 3 Sunday night in Nashville, let alone finish out what is sure to be a punishing series.
I don't have a crystal ball, and if I did I would be in Vegas putting all my money down on my predicted Stanley Cup winner. But I think a safe bet is that Dan Ellis will return to this series at some point. For the Ducks' sake, if Ellis returns in relief they must be hoping he doesn't once again play as shaky as a cameraman at a Girls Gone Wild party.