Friday, May 18, 2007

Ducks don't quack under pressure

2007 Western Conference Final - Game 4
Ducks 5, Red Wings 3
Series tied 2-2

"I said this yesterday, and I said it again this morning: You know the team's going to play. You're not playing against Chris Pronger, you're playing against the Ducks. Just like when we lost our people, significant people for us, you just keep playing. That's what you do. That's what good teams do. So there's no surprise in that."
— Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock
"We knew we had to be better tonight. Like I said earlier, we lost Pronger. You can't replace him. You have to play team smart, team tough."
— Ducks winger Teemu Selanne

Eric Duhatschek's got his game story here, live from the Honda Center, and I'm just going to offer up some random thoughts on this game off the cuff:
  • The question of who to match Sammy Pahlsson up against — Datsyuk or Zetterberg — came up this afternoon both with Randy Carlyle and Pahlsson himself. The Selke nominee had been drawing the Pavel Datsyuk assignment through the first three games, and despite a tough showing in Game 3, Carlyle stuck with the match-up. Datsyuk didn't accomplish much on the night (although neither did Henrik Zetterberg).

  • For all the blithering I did earlier in the day about the Ducks' lack of defensive depth, the bottom three spent almost the entire game having about as much impact as Ilya Bryzgalov (or Bobby Ryan). The nominal No. 4, Kent Huskins, picked up 12:38 in ice time, while Joe DiPenta and Ric Jackman had 8:47 and 6:37. Jackman managed to somehow score a goal in his limited stint on the ice, sending his PPG/60 rate through the roof to the high-pitched cheers of the stat-geek throng.

  • The Red Wings fanbase has started to warm-up to Todd Bertuzzi, and I've seen more than a few odes to his usefulness over the past week or so. But it's when he coughs up the puck like he did on Corey Perry's goal less than two minutes into the game that I think the real Bertuzzi rears his ugly self. True, he made amends with a goal and an assist on the power play, but at this point, that's really the only spot he should be getting significant ice time. He's slow, poor defensively and, after so much time away from the game the past three years, simply doesn't have the timing/instincts that made him an effective player with the Canucks way back when. (And, indeed, three of his 13 minutes tonight were with the man advantage.)

  • Prior to the series, I mentioned Pahlsson as the 'player to watch' over at the Fanhouse, something that was met with some criticism from the Detroit side. "How big a factor can Pahlsson be," the reasoning went, "given Detroit has just as dominant a defensive player in Kris Draper?" Tonight, in what was a pretty important, momentum-swinging game, Draper played 9:10 minutes and was -1. Pahlsson? 20:59 and +1.

  • How about Carlyle's decision to put Ryan Carter into his first-ever NHL game? He somehow managed to get scored on in his first-ever shift, and played just 2:32, but what a story he'll have for his pals back in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. (It might start with something along the lines of how good Dan Cleary is...)

  • The Niedermayer brothers both took some dumb penalties.

  • Ryan Getzlaf had 39 points in his rookie season, and then 58 as a sophomore this year. Based on how he played tonight, I'm guessing he'll regularly be in the 90-point range — perhaps as early as next season. And he just turned 22. He was a horse for the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, one of the best players I saw come through junior hockey in about a five-year span, and he's starting to show signs of that dominance at the NHL level already.

  • I think Detroit's five-man rotation on defence is creating a little bit of confusion given all of the partner swapping going on. They haven't missed Mathieu Schneider on the power play so far, but the fact he gave them a set second pairing with Andreas Lilja was a definite plus. Kyle Quincey played just 2:03 tonight, meaning he's had plenty of time to work on his thumb twiddling.
In all, this was a big, comeback win for the Ducks, and with Pronger returning for Sunday afternoon's Game 5, the momentum is in Anaheim's favour.

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At 2:33 a.m., May 18, 2007, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

Good post, James. But dammit, that title phrase makes me want to vomit.

Every newspaper in the country can probably sue you now.

At 10:51 a.m., May 18, 2007, Blogger El Brucio said...

No mention of the two 5 on 3's that Detroit did not score on? That was pretty much the difference right there. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but the momentum shift really happened there. It had been all Detroit for a while in the game, but then Anaheim only allowed 1 shot on 90 seconds of 2 man advantage to start the 3rd. 5 minutes later, they took the lead on a PP.

At 11:27 a.m., May 18, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...

Jackman managed to somehow score a goal in his limited stint on the ice, sending his PPG/60 rate through the roof to the high-pitched cheers of the stat-geek throng.

Small sample size!

He was a horse for the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, one of the best players I saw come through junior hockey in about a five-year span

He was definitely the best player on the Hitmen, though I do recall some controversy that led to him briefly losing the "C" to Andrew Ladd. Do you remember what that was, offhand?

At 11:35 a.m., May 18, 2007, Anonymous Daniel said...

I liken Getzlaf to someone like Danny Heatley. We in Orange County hope he can pull those kinds of numbers, he is a pretty special player and I think Brian Burke knows that as well.

At 11:38 a.m., May 18, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Getzlaf had a tough time in his last year of junior; he was pretty disinterested and one of those 'man among boys' you often hear about.

After a bunch of misconducts early in the year, they took away the captaincy.

At 12:21 p.m., May 18, 2007, Blogger El Brucio said...

Another thing I want to add... has Filpulla always looked this good? He's by far the best Wings youngster and looks ready to easily replace Lang next year... I always had him pegged as a grinder for some reason. This kid can really dangle, made Scott Niedermeyer look like a pylon a couple of times.

At 1:05 p.m., May 18, 2007, Anonymous ken said...

Good old Ric Jackman! Once again, a player deemed not good enough for the Leafs magically winds up good enough for one of the best teams in the league.

At 1:13 p.m., May 18, 2007, Blogger El Brucio said...

Uh, ken.... the Leafs giving up on Ric Jackman is not even comparable to some actual blunders they have made over the years (Danny Markov being a much more prominent one featured in this series). Jackman has been not good enough for Pittsburgh and Florida since Toronto, and is only on Anaheim because the Ducks just need seat fillers beyond their top 4. Next year, he won't be good enough for Anaheim once again.

At 2:29 p.m., May 18, 2007, Anonymous ken said...

I agree el brucio; the Leafs have made far worse blunders than Jackman. I only singled him out because he was mentioned in James's post.

Another big one, from the '80s, was Craig Muni, who the Leafs gave up on after 19 games over five (!) seasons. But the Oilers deemed him good enough to play him 79 games the very next season, and they won the Cup (as they did twice more during his stint).

Not that Muni was a superstar, but he was reliable defensively. The Leafs certainly could have used him.

At 3:17 p.m., May 18, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3:22 p.m., May 18, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

has Filpulla always looked this good?

Yes, I think Filpulla has a great future. If half of his his shots that hit the post actually made it into the net he'd be one of the Wings scoring leaders. Once he gets some more experience under his belt he'll be a force to be reckoned with.

I love it that Babcock has been mixing him in with the top liners giving him more ice time lately

At 12:08 a.m., May 19, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I like Filppula a lot, but I don't see him as a big time scorer down the road. I think that he's going to be a great grinder, and pot his share of goals, but won't ever be a top line guy. The only Wings' youngster that has that potential is Hudler, but I think that there are too many other weaknesses in his game for him to do so. I am not all that excited about the intermediate run future for the Wings. We Detroit fans should enjoy it while we have it, and also appreciate the fact that it lasted long enough that the Tigers have become good again, so that there's something to follow.

I thought Bertuzzi played very well in the Calgary series. He not only socred some, but I think that he was one of the contributors to building the mindset that the Wings weren't going to get pushed around this year. Since then, his play has fallen off dramatically, and the rest of the team seems to have internalized the willingness to play physical. At this point, I agree that he should be primarily a power play guy.

I'm still not seeing Pahlsson as a Selke quality defensive forward, though I certainly see the potential. Don't get me wrong: I think he's very good, and never really meant to imply otherwise. I just don't see him as being among the very best in the league. The guys he's covering still get some good chances. That said, I have been impressed with Pahlsson's total game. He's a better offensive player than I had thought. Also, keep in mind that my experience watching him is pretty limited; I didn't have a chance to watch much regular season hockey this year (I work a lot of nights), so it's a small sample size.

The main place that my comparison of Pahlsson to Draper has collapsed is that Draper has been truly horrendous in this series. He isn't playing good defense. He's taken a ridiculous number of bad penalties. He just doesn't seem to have his usual jump.

In all, I still think that this is a close series, and the 2-2 situation reflects the comparable talent levels well. We'll just have to see what happens over the next 2-3 games.

At 12:09 p.m., May 19, 2007, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

JM Neil, Pahlsson has definitely not been as good this series as prior, and there's some theories as to a hidden injury.

Pahlsson has not participated in any practices/workouts between series, pretty much he's only been playing games.

Don't judge him exclusively on this series, is all I'm saying. Or at least let's find out later if he's carrying an injury around.

It sounds like we may have to do the same for Draper, who I admit to not watching very much.


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