The GAME of the night
Oilers 4, Red Wings 3
Edmonton wins series 4-2
"It's tough not to do that [show Detroit too much respect] with that team because of all the great players they have. When we gave them respect, Lidstrom picked us apart. We had to come back with our game, which is to fore-check and be aggressive. When Ales got that first goal, you could see him pick up. He's got all the makings of a superstar in this league."
First to Hockeytown, U.S.A., where sadness, anger and frustration are the words of the night. Here's On the Wings:
This is when all Wings fans saw the score and looked at the clock with shock. Here the Wings were, down a goal with only a minute left. This after being up with four minutes left. Complete shock. The Wings pulled Legace and put together a desperate, but unproductive attempt at a comeback. ... And that was it. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe was seen consoling Yzerman, and the way Yzerman looked he is most likely done.OtW's game review takes issue with the Oilers' third, tying goal, saying Ales Hemsky had clearly kicked the puck in. And while it's true that the goal, which was reviewed at length, appeared to go in off Hemsky's foot, I didn't see one angle on the broadcast which indicated a distinct kicking motion. (Goals directed with the feet are as good as gold, after all, and I'm almost certain that's what happened here.)
The only real quibble could have been that the play wasn't whistled dead on a borderline Shawn Horcoff high stick near the crease. A tough way for the tying goal to be scored, to be sure, but what would this series have been without a controversial ending?
(And, for what it's worth, The Detroit News' blog says the tying goal was good.)
On the Edmonton side of the blogosphere — the portion of it I can quote without fear of mass expletives, that is — The Oilers Source is feeling rather, uh, elated:
The Oilers defied what most hockey analysts wouldn't have bet 5 bucks on two weeks ago...that's right, the Edmonton Oilers dramatically defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 and eliminated their opponents from the playoffs. ...You've gotta appreciate that passion/delusion.
Honestly, I was shocked to see Ales Hemsky come out of his shell in the final 5 minutes, but he did just that and scored to late goals to give his team the victory and the series!!!
With that said....Hail ALES HEMSKY...Hockey God!!! ...
As it stands....the Oilers are Stanley Cup favorites this year!!!
Oh, and I can't go on without at least a few bars from The Battle of Alberta:
Apparently Legace, when asked how he felt after the game (why do they keep asking these stupid questions) said, "How do I feel? I feel like I want to go home and hang myself." Yikes, I sure hope he doesn't act on those feelings. Legace wasn't horrible, and he certainly didn't cost the Wings the series. Hell, I'm not even convinced he cost them any games.(I've asked a question like that before. And you know why I did? To get a quote like that.)
My thoughts on the series? Well, Oilers fans have been correct in punting the old team/young team silliness some pundits have been selling — after all, with the additions of vets like Dwayne Roloson and Jaroslav Spacek at the trade deadline, the Oilers have an average age pushing 30.
Detroit may have the oldest line-up in the NHL, but that wasn't a factor here.
Puck pressure was a huge part of what happened in this series, but, for all the off-the-wall penalties called, special teams weren't. Detroit and Edmonton had nearly identical numbers on the powerplay and penalty kill, although the Oilers were the more penalized team throughout, giving up 40 powerplays to the Wings 37.
Detroit goaltender Manny Legace is going to take a lot more heat than he deserves for the loss, but it's hard to avoid the fact that the Oilers Dwayne Roloson faced more shots than Legace in every single game of the series — and often a lot more.
Roloson finished the series with a .929 save percentage; Legace had only a .884. Ultimately, when people look back on this series in the future, those numbers will be what they point to.
James's pre-playoff prediction: Detroit in 6
Ducks 2, Flames 1
Series tied 3-3
"We know tonight's game was live or die and the seventh game is going to be that way, and they'll have to face that too. It's going to be a great game."
The big 'shocker' last night was that Ducks coach Randy Carlyle chose to make a switch in goal, putting in the unheralded Russian Ilya Bryzgalov instead of regular starter J-S Giguere, who had struggled so far in the series.
And it's a good thing, too. After 166 minutes played in this series, Bryzgalov has been dynamite (1.08 goals-against average, .958 save percentage). Those numbers are enough to have Miikka Kiprusoff shaking his head.
The Calgary side of this series has been getting good representation from The Battle of Alberta boys, so I'll just serve up a few points on the Ducks — a team I believe is the most underrated in the league. And so begins the portion of the broadcast Matt Fenwick will hate...
- Anaheim has one of the best transition games in the league. The criss-cross passing out of their own end and in the neutral zone is a thing of beauty, and you can really see Carlyle's influence as a former power-play QB coming through. At the beginning of the series, I thought the Ducks' style would be more comparable to the Flames wack-it-up-the-ice strategy than it is.
- If there's any team that's going to win or lose based on how their rookies fare, it's Anaheim. For the winning goal on the power play, Carlyle had three freshman forwards on the ice: Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner, none of whom played the full season in the NHL. Add in blueliner Francois Beauchemin, who had quite a mini-war with Jarome Iginla last night, and that's a huge portion of Anaheim's offence coming from first-year players. (Perry and Getzlaf are just 20, while Penner is 23 and Beauchemin 25.)
- There's been a little bit of a mini-debate about the relative greatness of Scott Niedermayer happening during this series at The Battle of Alberta, one where I've weighed in on Niedermayer's side more than once.
Mr. Fenwick of BoA infamy claims Flames defencemen Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf are better than the fleet-footed Norris Trophy winner. As Dennis says in the comments:
Wow...I never thought I'd have a stroke at such a young age. But I don't know how else I'd explain the fact that I thought I just read someone saying Phaneuf was better than Neidermayer.Agreed. (Then again, I'm not a Flames fan.)
The whole Niedermayer vs. Regehr (et al) argument reminds me a lot of the 'Steve Nash isn't a two-time MVP' debate going on at Deadspin ever since it was announced the mop-haired Victoria native is, in fact, a two-time MVP.
Discounting the fact that both Nash and Niedermayer are B.C. natives who share the same hairdresser, they both also play a game built on speed, transition play and making their teammates look far better than they are. If you try and compare what Nash can do with heavyweights like LeBron James and Shaq, you're going to come up with a lot more in the 'can' category for the big men. Over-powering defenders, jumping over people — other basketball-related activities that taller gentlemen can do well (suddenly I can sympathize with Will Leitch trying write about hockey) — those aren't Nash's strongpoints.
Nash is an entirely different player on the court from the big men, as different as a guy like Zdeno Chara or Chris Pronger is from Scott Niedermayer. But both Nash and Niedermayer are two of the Top 10 players in their respective sport in the world — regardless of their lack of size and/or power. The truth is — and Wayne Gretzky proved this as much as anyone — you don't need strength to outwit your opposition, even in a physical game like hockey.
I think Niedermayer proved that himself last night with his game-winning goal. Phaneuf and Regehr? Well, they had a good view of it — from the bench.