Monday, May 21, 2007

Red Wings Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda... But Didn't

It was just six days ago that the Red Wings looked like the team to beat in the Western Conference, heading to what could be described as 'an entertaining head on collision' with the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Game three saw Detroit take a 2-1 series lead thanks to stellar net minding from Dominik Hasek and scoring from what seemed like most of the roster. The Wings won the Game, which was played in Anaheim, by a dominating 5-0 margin. Four players had at least two points and six more found the stat sheet in some capacity. Things were only supposed to get better, as Chris Pronger got himself suspended for Game four (unless you ask Pronger who blames, of all things, the Canadian media).

What a difference a week makes. Pronger's suspension woke up the Ducks, as they charged back to take Games four and five. The most notable performers were Teemu Selanne and J.S. Giguere who have almost single handedly carried the team. Selanne was held pointless during the first three games, but managed five points (2G, 3A) in games four and five, including the overtime winner last night.

The Dominator needs to have a strong showing in Game six to keep Detroit's playoff hopes alive.
Rebecca Cook/REUTERS

Giguere has a similar story.

The 2003 playoff MVP was pulled early in the second period of game three after allowing three goals on 13 shots. He has only allowed four goals in two games since that night, stopping 36 shots in both game four and game five, playing 131 total minutes.

After losing Game five at home last night, the Wings are just trying to hold on for dear life. The argument that the Wings were the better team in Games four and five (save for the scoreboard) isn't that far fetched. All that the box scores of the games do is support their case. Anaheim was vastly out shot over the two games, by a total of 76-49, and those weren't just lobs at Giguere. Detroit fired hard, and often all night.

If you watched the games you probably drew a similar conclusion, as the Ducks were out worked and out muscled most of the game. Part of that can be attributed to Pronger's absence, as the Ducks' defense looked completely overworked from picking up the slack -- and they were. Scott Niedermayer's ice time went up 10 1/2 minutes between games three and four, Sean O'Donnell had an extra six and Francois Beauchemin had five more. Nonetheless, give them credit for bending but not breaking. In Games four and five, they held Detroit to a 2-for-13 power play record (0-for-7 in Game five alone) and blocked 21 shots.

There is not a whole lot of room for improvement from Detroit's point of view. Their most pressing need is to figure out J.S. Giguere, who been the difference in the last two games. The Wings are getting all the shots they need, they just have to find some way to turn them into tallies on the scoreboard. That includes the power play, which could use some work after going 0-for-7 in Game five. They'll be golfing come Wednesday if that stat doesn't improve.

Obviously, they need to try and get things sured up a little defensively as well. Turnovers sure can come back to haunt a team, and there's no better example than Selanne's OT winner yesterday. You can expect to play a perfect game, as one bounce of the puck can determine the entire game, but they can certainly try and take better care of the puck.

One of the biggest keys to Game six is without a doubt Dominik Hasek. After a dismal effort in Game four that saw him concede five goals, he had a great outing in Game five. The Dominator allowed only two goals last night, and his team certainly left him out to dry on the second goal. Detroit desperately needs Hasek to shine and outplay Giguere, as a repeat of Game four could prove to be disastrous.

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