Sunday, 12 May 2013

Detroit Went Hunting

Two of the division winners in the Western Conference are done, sent home by lower seeds who, for whatever reason, were written off before the playoffs had ever started. Detroit, as they were told, was too old and filled with replacement parts, no longer the dominant team they were for over two decades. But like an old car in the Motor City that just was misfiring, the Red Wings were realigned and put back on the road. After some sputtering, things began firing right, and last night they took down the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks to advance to the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Contributions from some of the guys who regularly find the scoresheet were important, but, to me, the big goal was the Justin Abdelkader shorthanded marker. Abdelkader's goal at 16:37 of the first period put Detroit up 2-1, and it appeared to really take the wind out of Anaheim's sails after they had tied the game at 1-1 three minutes earlier.
I'm not sure what Fran├žois Beauchemin was thinking in trying to make a blind, spin-o-rama pass at the blueline to Sheldon Souray with his back to the offensive zone, but Abdelkader jumped on the mistake, put the puck between Jonas Hiller's pads, and put the Red Wings up 2-1 with the shorthanded goal.

The Red Wings - apparently in a "rebuilding" year - have once again found a way to win, and full credit goes to Mike Babcock and his coaching staff for having the Red Wings prepared for a difficult battle in the first round, and to Jimmy Howard for bending but not breaking when the Anaheim Ducks brought their offensive game in the waning minutes. The Red Wings surrendered a powerplay goal late, but Howard held the fort until the final horn sounded just as he had in Games Two, Four, and Six.

Things won't get any easier on him as the Red Wings will meet long-time rival, and President's Trophy winner, in the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round. Detroit was beat up by the Blackhawks this season, outscored 14-5 in four losses to the 'Hawks. If this series against the Ducks was a test, consider the series against the Blackhawks as your bar examination because it's going to be worse.

The Anaheim Ducks will be going home, and they can't be happy after the excellent regular season they had. A lot of players will need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask if they did all they could in this series. Corey Perry finished the series with just two assists. Sheldon Souray had just one helper. Andrew Cogliano had but one assist. That's not the kind of contributions the Ducks needed from those three, but credit to the Red Wings for not letting them score. And, of course, it may be the last time we see Teemu Selanne on skates in an NHL game. The 42 year-old has to be looking at his options, but he's always non-committal until the summer starts anyway.

The Anaheim Ducks are the latest team to fall in the playoffs, and will have a lot of time to reflect on this playoff loss to the older, retooling Detroit Red Wings. Especially when they're out enjoying the Anaheim sun.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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