Sunday, May 20, 2007

Red Wings Lose Game Five; Face Must Win in Anaheim

The Detroit Red Wings may have lost Game Five to the Anaheim Ducks when veteran Teemu Selanne stole the puck from Andreas Lilja in overtime, and shot the puck above a diving Dominik Hasek, but the game was really lost well before that point, and well before the Ducks tied the game up 1-1 with under a minute to play.
AP Photo
Let's start from the beginning (or midway through the first period, as a trip down to Comerica Park to watch Justin Verlander pitch eight dominant innings and see the Tigers sweep the Cardinals, the second win I saw in person in three days, forced me to listen to the first half of the first period on the radio). Throughout the game, the Red Wings were the better team. They kept the pressure on the Ducks, were physical again, and had the lead for the majority of the game. They took a lot of penalties in the first period, but things evened out in the second, where the Ducks found themselves in the box a lot. It was a very tightly called game, which is why the penalty to Pavel Datsuyk with under two minutes to play, which helped the Ducks tie the game, was not all that unsurprising given how the game was called.

When Lilja scored six minutes into the second period, it looked good for the Red Wings. Hasek was playing another great game, the Wings were playing strong, aggressive hockey, and they had the lead, at home. But, then, in a seven minute span in the second period, the Red Wings lost the game, and perhaps, their season. In that time frame, the Ducks took three penalties, and the Wings even had 36-seconds of a 5-3 advantage. They didn't score. It was a key point in the game, because had the Wings been able to go up 2-0, with the way they and Hasek were playing, there was no way the Ducks were going to score 3 goals in a period and a half to win the game. But, by failing to score, especially on the 5-3, the Wings gave the Ducks momentum going into the third period when they had to know the whistles were going to be turned on them (and they were).

Yes, the Ducks didn't score for almost 22 minutes of ice-time after those penalty kills, but it wasn't a surprise that the Wings inability to score would come back to haunt them. They needed to put more distance between themselves and the Ducks, and at a critical point in the game, when the Wings could have snapped the will of the Ducks and made sure that they weren't able to come back, they failed to get the job done. Niedermayer and Selanne's goals were just the unfortunate results which followed.
AP Photo
The Red Wings now have a must win game in Anaheim Tuesday night, or they'll be playing golf next week instead of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. I wouldn't count the Wings out by any means, as the road team has won 3 of the 5 games in the series to this point, but it's not going to be easy, as the Ducks do not want to come back to Detroit for a Game Seven. The Ducks are proving to be as tough as a foe as the Wings thought they were going to be, and it's going to take the Wings everything they have to force a Game Seven. It'll be a late night Tuesday until we find out if they can accomplish that goal or not.

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