by: Marc Valeri (HockeyLeaks Team Bloggers)
For the first time in 7 years, the Detroit Red Wings will play a seventh game of a series.
After being unable to finish off the Anaheim Ducks in six games last night, the teams will fly back to Michigan where Game 7 will be decided at legendary Joe Louis Arena. The winner will have the Chicago Blackhawks in their sights for the Western Conference Championships.
The Red Wings had clinched their last eight playoff series wins with victories on the road, and seemed poised to do the same after outskating and outshooting Anaheim 78-45 in consecutive wins in Games 4 and 5.
But facing elimination, the Ducks returned to the form that carried the team to a league-best 10-2-1 mark in the final weeks of the season, winning Tuesday’s Game 6 by a 2-1 score.
Last night, Detroit didn’t play the way they had throughout the rest of the series. Once again outshooting the Ducks – who have been outshot in every single game this postseason – the Red Wings fired 39 shots at netminder Jonas Hiller, who turned all but one away.
Detroit’s scoring chances were skewed by Anaheim’s seemingly more up-tempo style of play last night, which caused the Wings to take shots they wouldn’t normally take. Many shots were fired directly at Hiller, who was successfully able to keep his rebounds under control, limiting Detroit’s second-chance scoring opps.
Detroit’s league-best powerplay was also weakened last night. Going 1-for-6, the Red Wings had ample opportunity to take advantage of the man-advantage, but simply could not execute. It also didn’t help that Detroit lost in the faceoff circle, winning 26 and losing 29.
One thing I noticed was that, unlike the rest of the games in the series, Detroit was beaten to the puck far too many times. What makes their defence so good is the limited amount of time that the team spends in their own end. This aspect of their game, though, wasn’t played as well as they had wanted, as they continued to take stupid penalties, including two consecutive delay of game penalties.
The return of blueliner Brian Rafalski benefitted the team to an extent – Rafi’s cross-ice passes were still seen, especially on the powerplay when he finally returned to play with Niklas Lidstrom, but Detroit was unable to execute and put the puck in the net.
Not all was bad for Hockeytown, though. Chris Osgood, the starting goalie in a ‘questionable’ last line of defence, was sharp in the first period when Anaheim outshot Detroit 12-to-8.
In addition, Johan Franzen, who’s scored a fairytale 21 goals in 26 career playoff games, knocked one home on the powerplay with just over two minutes remaining in the game. This, along with the scrap following the final whistle, will be momentum that Detroit will need to carry with them back to Motown.
As for Game 7, neither team has had all that much success in the deciding game. Anaheim is 2-1 all-time in Game 7 and won its most recent Game 7, shutting out Calgary 3-0 on May 3, 2006 to advance to the conference semifinals. Detroit, on the other hand, will now face their first Game 7 since clubbing the Colorado Avalanche 7-0 at home on May 31, 2002. Detroit is 11-7 in Game 7s, but just 3-3 at home since 1991.