Sunday, May 3, 2009

NBC Reschedules The Rolex Equestrian Championships

Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

Overtime. In four series, the Red Wings and Ducks had played past regulation SEVEN times. They'd played into a 3rd overtime session twice: Game 2 in Detroit's 1997 sweep of the Ducks and Game 1 of Anaheim's 2003 sweep of the Wings. They also played a double overtime game in the 1997 series-- that's 12 extra periods of playoff hockey in the last 12 years. Make it 15.

Those looking for parallels to the 2007 series-- where the hard work of Nicklas Lidstrom won Game 1 but the Ducks managed to edge Game 2 in overtime at the Joe --were not disappointed. One-minute into the third OT, Marchant intercepted a pass and nudged it back to Wisniewski, who quickly returned the feed to his center, already skating up ice. Criss-crossing into the zone with Rob Niedermayer, Marchant sent a snap shot high glove (where the Ducks had gone all game) and picked the top corner perfectly. As was the case in 2007, the Wings were sent to the airplane, 1-1 in the series, having lost a very winnable overtime game.

Now there were plenty of storylines in the roughly 101 minutes of hockey. NBC declined to talk about the Mike Brown hit today, instead focusing on the Randy Savage Flying Elbow that Kronwall laid into Ryan Carter in Game 1, fracturing the Ducks center's nose. They even lingered on a replay of a Game 2 aerial shoulder-to-shoulder check on Selanne. While the Red Wings not named Kronwall also played a physical game, they appeared to be dealing with some lingering rink rust. Hossa's line disappeared for the entire 2nd period, well-controlled by the Ducks' fourth line, but returned to form for the 3rd and overtime. Jonas Hiller made some mid-game adjustments of his own after guessing high early on (as he did so often in the San Jose series), and he cheated laterally instead, making for some spectacular glove saves.

Daniel, what was your favorite storyline of Game 2, and how do you think it will affect the rest of the series?

I think something that is being missed is maybe how good of a coach Carlyle is. He made some pretty big switches before the game, sitting Christensan and playing a relatively new Josh Green, who played fairly well. He also didn't hesitate to call out some of his stars -ahem- Selanne -ahem- for failing to produce and not watching their defensive assignments. And when he knew he had to squeeze some extra offense and keep things from getting too dull, he started moving Bobby Ryan back and forth between the first and second lines. I know that didn't result in the winning goal, but it did result in some really great shifts, shifts that kept us alive and the puck in Detroit's zone at a time when they were really buzzing the net. Anaheim did a great job adjusting, and that was the difference in the game. As you pointed out, Hiller started making adjustments and was untouchable through overtime. In the end those adjustments were what won us the game. Right now, I think Babcock is being outcoached, and if it stays that way, it'll be good for us.

Also, Randy Carlyle might not say anything, but if Scott Niedermayer can get called for tripping in overtime, why not Marian Hossa? He drove his stick into Beauchemin's skate when they were chasing the puck into the corner. Look, I'm not trying to say Niedermayer didn't commit that penalty. It was the right call, because it prevented the Wings from putting together a potential scoring chance. However, if a penalty is committed in the offensive zone, and it leads to quality chance, like Hossa's trip in the second overtime, then it needs to be called, too. This doesn't include a potential break where Ryan was held up at the defensive blue line so that a winger could get back on D. I'm not opposed to refs swallowing whistles, but keep it real. After they gave Detroit a chance to win, they didn't call another penalty. Throughout this game, they were calling very ticky-tack penalties, but letting some other fairly rough stuff go. I was just unhappy with the inconsistent penalty calling. Hopefully, that is one thing that will not carry over to game 3.

I think my favorite happening of game 2, though, was Andrew Ebbett. He took a knee-to-knee in the early goings of the 3rd and he played his ass off on that bum wheel. That kid is not the most talented, in fact he'll probably never be worth more than 50-60 points a year, but he came through big in this game. If he comes out of the game, then Carlyle undoubtedly double shifts Getzlaf like he did in game one, and we all saw how well that turned out. Getzlaf was gassed in that 3rd period. Ebbett showed all the heart that the playoffs are supposed to pull out of you. No one is going to really talk about it, but it was obvious he was playing hurt and still making some good things happen. So, just so you know Ebbett, we noticed, and we're proud of your effort. Thanks kid.

That's all I've really got. It was a great game, on both sides. I think Detroit out-hitting us had more to do with home scoring than with Detroit actually dictating the game, physically. We did a better job staying out of the box, but it still got us a little in the end. Overall, I liked our performance and I'm trying to think of something good to cook Tuesday night to keep the magumbo going.

For me, the story of this game was the Bottom Sixers. There was so much talk about how Detroit was impossibly deep, and Anaheim would be forced to lean on its top line. No doubt Detroit is deep, and getting a tying goal from your third line at the end of the 1st period is big-- almost as big as getting a game-winning goal from your third line in the third overtime.

When Murray moved Pahlsson and Moen, Carlyle tried a pastiche of players on the third line. And you've heard me knock them for various reasons. Most ostensibly when I told you that Marchant was too small to shut down the Iginlas of the world. But here's the thing I've overlooked. Since Rob Niedermayer came to the Ducks, I've always marveled at how such a naturally gifted scorer could play the role of a defensive winger. He's not a two-way forward so much as he's a cagey vet. Marchant's the same way. He scored when we asked him to score last year, just as Niedermayer scored when asked at the opening of this year. When your checking line has two cagey vets, you're guaranteed a line that will create chances while being responsible with the puck.

And that's what the third line did in Game 2. Smart pressure, smart shots and sound defensive play. They plugged away, and they were able to create a transition chance in overtime. And unlike Miller, who has no hands and no ability to finish at top speed, if you give Marchant or Niedermayer the puck on the rush, they still remember how this whole pick-the-top-corner thing works.

I was also very impressed by the Ducks' fourth line (Green, Nokelainen, Brown). Green won't be credited with a shot for that clank off the post, but he certainly seemed to earn his ice time for the afternoon with that one. The line also drew some key penalties in a game that was mostly whistle free. What they did best, though, was shut down the Holmstrom, Datsyuk, Hossa line for entire shifts early in the game. Babcock was forced to start using his fourth line to counter, and that just punished the top line further, as it kept them on the bench.

The Ducks certainly have issues at Top Six: defensive problems on both lines, chemistry problems on the second line. But their Bottom Six is firing on all cylinders, and they don't seem too far from being able to roll four dangerous lines in this series. If Carlyle can tweak the lineups-- and I think he was pretty close to what he wanted in overtime --I think he'll be able to use the home ice matchups to take the advantage in this series.


  1. I listened to the game on radio (the Anaheim feed actually, since they'd never play the Detroit feed here in Denver), and it sure sounded the whole game like the Wings were really sloppy. Carry the play for a few minutes, then get really sloppy for a little while. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Story of the season. I haven't gotten to watch my recording of the game yet, but is that a pretty accurate assessment?

  2. ARTHUR:
    Well, the 2nd period was terrible for Detroit. They let Anaheim carry the play. I think part of the reason they got that goal to open the 3rd was that Jonas HIller hadn't seen any action for 20 minutes.

    For the rest of the game, I really want to say that Detroit just couldn't roll four lines, and by overtime they had to roll five defensemen. Some of it was matchups. Babcock had success putting his 2nd and 3rd line out there against the Ducks 1st and 2nd lines. But also, the least effective line for the Wings seemed to be their top line.

    I want to say it was rink rust. Hossa was shaken up by a hit early on, but something wasn't clicking. Even when they were creating pressure in the 3rd and overtime, it was based on some great effort by Datsyuk, who sometimes looked alone out there. I said it in the post, but early on, Babcock was getting the matchup he seemed to want: his top line against the Ducks' 4tth line. But Hossa's line ended up playing defense for entire shifts. So, toward the end, Babcock was getting such a good effort out of Maltby's line that he went ahead and put them in against the Ducks' 4th line. That was telling. And I think the Wings inability to roll a steady 1-2-3-4 made it impossible to build any kind of rhythm in their attack.