Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ducks/Wings: Cautiously Pessimistic

On Tuesday, I gave some reasons why I’m cautiously optimistic about the Ducks facing the Wings. Today let’s look at the other side of the coin: why Detroit scares the crap out of me.

The “but they play in the Central Division” argument is fundamentally weak

Look, I think it’s about time someone other than a Detroit blogger came out and said it, but the abuse of this argument is nuts. Yes, in the two seasons since the division-heavy schedule started, the Red Wings have accumulated 81 standings points from its weak sisters CBJ, CHI, and STL (84% of the 96 points possible).

But the mere fact that the Red Wings beat weak teams does not mean that Detroit is overrated—it means that Detroit could be overrated—and that’s a key difference. Beating bad teams doesn’t reveal a lot about a team, but beating good ones does. The Red Wings have done very well eliminating both Calgary and San Jose, two impressive series wins, and I think they’ve shown throughout the year that they are more than soft standings points.

Lidstrom and Hasek, two guys I’m kind of wishing were dead or severely limping

Lidstrom, plain and simple, deserves the Norris Trophy—I’ve never been exactly clear on what criteria to use, but I would trade either Pronger or Niedermayer straight up to get Lidstrom, so I figure that’s enough of an argument. His play in his own end is a thing to marvel, so much so that any offense he provides is gravy. And yeah, he gives shitloads of gravy.

Strangely, I don’t think it’s going to be a big key for the Selanne line to score that much against Lidstrom and the checkers. Rather, I think it will be important that the Selanne line occupy that defense for as many minutes as possible to free up some Nick-less shifts for Getzlaf & company.

But even then there’s the Dominator, Mr. Effing Hasek. Detroit fans have been reminding me that Hasek has never lost a series for the winged wheel, and I don’t think he intends to start that now. While the Ducks have dispatched some pretty awesome goalies already in Backstrom and Luongo, one key difference is that neither of those goalies had any previous playoff experience. It was a new gig for them, and though they both were really impressive, they couldn’t pull of the Giguerian debut needed to stay alive.

Hasek has no such problems. The guy has been stopping playoff pucks since ’91, and this will be his 110th playoff appearance (36th for Detroit). This will be the first time the Ducks have faced Hasek in the postseason. He’s the kind of goaltender that keeps me up at night seething—and he might have that effect on a few Duck players, as well.

The long layover has killed the Ducks in the past

  • In 2003, the Mighty Ducks swept the Minnesota Wild in the WCF, earning an 11 day break before the Stanley Cup Finals. Anaheim dropped both G1 and G2 of that series to New Jersey, scoring zero goals in the process, and would eventually lose the series in seven games.

  • In 2006, the Mighty Ducks swept the Colorado Avalanche in Round 2, earning an 8 day break before the WCF. Anaheim dropped both G1 and G2 of that series to Edmonton, scoring two goals in the process, and would eventually lose the series in five games.

  • The Ducks last played a week ago Thursday, eliminating the Canucks in G5 and earning an 8 day break.
See the ol’ “rust” pattern? Now to be fair the Ducks have done well after some layoffs (8 days after sweeping Detroit in ’03, 6 days after beating Minnesota in ’07), but those have always happened in the first round. Later round layoffs have really killed this Anaheim team in the past; here’s hoping they rediscover their game sometime early in G1 this time.

Karma will be the death of me

Towards the end of the season, one of my buddies checked the standings and reported, “The Ducks are only two points behind Detroit for first in the west.”

My scolding reply: “That’s not important—how many points we got on the Sharks? What is critical right now is that the Ducks hold the Pacific; what is not critical is that we catch Detroit. First or second, we are going to have home ice against tough opponents. The only time 1 vs. 2 will matter is if both top seeds survive to G7 of the western conference finals, and what are the odds of that?”

Dammit, mouth!

I can feel the karma coming, too. This has all the makings of last year:
  • The Ducks and Sharks both advanced the 2nd round of the playoffs, and both had leads in their series.
  • The Ducks won their 2nd round quickly, while the Sharks self-destructed and ruined a WCF Battle of California.
  • And hell, the Kings even missed the playoffs again, too!
But there may just be one key difference this year, hopefully one strong enough to sway the winds of inevitability. This time Pronger’s on our side.

Go Ducks.

8 comments:

Sherry said...

Here's a tip for beating Hasek which I also gave to the Flames and Sharks but they neglected to take my advice: aim for the groin.

Earl Sleek said...

By the way, nice photo you added, PJ. I just moved it over a bit to the Hasek section.

Rick said...

The central division wasn't the weakest division on the basis on average points. That distinction belongs to the Southeast.

If you've watched Detroit and Anaheim enough this year, it comes down to this:

Anaheim is the better team, but Detroit exemplifies professionalism in the NHL. Detroit won't beat themselves. If the Ducks can keep their discipline and play their game, they will win. If they expose themselves, it will cost them.

That's what happened with the Flames, and it's what happened with the Sharks. The Sharks are simply a better team than Detroit, but they never recovered from game 4, where their lack of discipline exposed them. The same for the Flames.

The Ducks won their first two series on their superior depth. They have it again, but they have to USE it.

As for Hasek? Look at how many shots he's faced. He is not making the difference for them; he is merely good enough. He has cost them some too.

And Lidstrom? Straight up for Niedermayer or Pronger? Gimme a break. Maybe if you could trade Lidstrom 2002 for Pronger 2007, but Lidstrom is older. He is a great player, no doubt. But even if he is better, he's alone there with Chelios.

No, this isn't about Detroit's players being better--it's about them being more disciplined.

Earl Sleek said...

And Lidstrom? Straight up for Niedermayer or Pronger? Gimme a break. Maybe if you could trade Lidstrom 2002 for Pronger 2007, but Lidstrom is older. He is a great player, no doubt. But even if he is better, he's alone there with Chelios.

I should have clarified my statement. This is really a trade for one moment in time, neglecting things like contracts and salaries.

In other words, if I could pick two of the three Norris trophy nominees for a seven-game series starting tomorrow, it'd probably be Lidstrom and Pronger.

Good comment, though.

Julian said...

In other words, if I could pick two of the three Norris trophy nominees for a seven-game series starting tomorrow, it'd probably be Lidstrom and Pronger.

Sacrilege! Where did i put that damned pitchfork?

Earl Sleek said...

Sorry julian, just how I see it, I guess. Nothing really against the duo we've got, but I think Lidstrom is the best of the three.

It is very, very close, though. The difference between a Lidstrom-Pronger and a Pronger-Niedermayer tandem would be tough to spot.

Julian said...

Hey, I said it was sacrilege. I didn't say it wasn't true.

The good news is we have Niedermayer and Pronger and they have Lidstrom and that 237 year old shit-stick Chelios.

I'm pretty sure he was cheap-shotting wooly mammoths in the last ice age.

AnaheimDuckFan said...

The Ducks may have a long break, but Carlyle said he learned a lot from the break last season, and has changed this up. Hopefully that will make a difference.

As far as the whole D-man thing. I wouldn't trade either Pronger or Niedermayer for Lidstrom. All three are fantastic players, I wouldn't say Lidstrom is any better than the two we have.