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Strader's Blog: Covering the Western Conference Final

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Hello Panther fans….

It’s Sunday night in Detroit after a whirlwind weekend from Anaheim to Buffalo to Detroit. I was in my Anaheim hotel room early Friday morning getting ready to head to Detroit for Sunday’s game five on NHL Radio when my cell phone rang. It was Sam Flood from NBC Sports asking me if I could get to Buffalo for the Senators-Sabres game on Saturday afternoon at HSBC Arena. Mike Emrick was not feeling well and NBC didn’t want to take the chance that he wouldn’t be able to call back to back games (NBC had the game in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon and the game in Detroit on Sunday afternoon). I was able to get on a flight through Chicago that got me into Buffalo by 9pm Friday night. I spent a two hour layover at O’Hare Airport updating my Ottawa and Buffalo rosters and gathering all the necessary info on the Eastern Conference Final.

Game 5 between the Sabres and Senators was a great game to call as Daniel Alfredsson scored in overtime to send the Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. I think the Senators have been the most consistent team in these playoffs and the combo of Alfredsson-Heatley-Spezza gives them the most dangerous line in the NHL.

After the game, I hitched a ride on a bus that was chartered by NBC to take their production personnel from Buffalo to Detroit. During the 4 ½ hour ride, our producer heard from Mike Emrick that he was feeling much better and would be able to call the game in Detroit on Sunday for NBC. That put me back on NHL Radio for game five of the Red Wings-Ducks series at Joe Louis Arena.

The series between Detroit and Anaheim has been difficult to predict. At least three of the games have seen the losing team outplay the winning team for long stretches, but that’s playoff hockey. In game five, the Red Wings carried a 1-0 lead into the final minute of the third period. An interference call to Pavel Datsyuk led to a

Ducks’ power play and Anaheim got a break when Scott Niedermayer’s shot went off the stick of Nik Lidstrom and over the shoulder of Dominic Hasek. Detroit had dominated the shots and scoring chances throughout regulation while failing to convert on six power play chances. The Wings got a seventh power play opportunity in the overtime, but again failed to convert. Then, an unforced error by defenseman Andreas Lilja (who had scored the Wings’ only goal in regulation), led to a goal by Teemu Selanne and the Ducks are one win away from their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Our NHL Radio sideline reporter is Ralph Strangis, the Dallas Stars’ play-by-play man during the regular season. Ralph interviewed Selanne after the game and Teemu said his team has a “ten minute rule”….ten minutes to enjoy a win or think about a loss….and then it’s time to think about the next game. But don’t count this Detroit Red Wings team out just yet. In the 2002 Western Conference Final, facing a similar situation, Detroit followed a tough game five loss at home with a 2-0 game six win in Denver against Patrick Roy and the Avalanche. The Wings then won game seven in a blowout back at the Joe Louis Arena.

Whoever emerges from the West will have their hands full with the Senators….and each team would provide interesting storylines against Ottawa. Sens’ coach Bryan Murray left Anaheim after two years as general manager to take the job in Ottawa. Wings’ goalie Dominic Hasek was injured last year during the playoffs when he was Ottawa’s number one goaltender. And don’t forget that Murray was coach and GM in Detroit back in the early 90’s! 

Now it’s time to head back to Anaheim. Tuesday’s game will be the 19th playoff game I’ve called between NHL Radio, Versus, and NBC and it’s been a privilege to be involved.

I’ll be back after the Western Conference Final is complete!!
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