Hello Panther fans….
It’s Monday morning in Detroit and both conference final series are headed to game three. While Ottawa has grabbed a 2-0 series lead with a pair of road victories in the East, the Red Wings and Ducks are all knotted at 1-1 heading to Honda Center in Anaheim.
I’m covering the Detroit-Anaheim series for NHL Radio. Here are some observations after the first two games at Joe Louis Arena:
- The Ducks have been the better team for most of the first two games. Coach Randy Carlyle and his staff came into this series with a game plan and they have executed it to near perfection. The Ducks have used a relentless checking and hitting formula to limit the highly skilled Wings to ZERO goals at even strength. The Wings’ 5 goals in the series consist of 4 power play tallies and a short handed goal. Anaheim has pounded the Wings with the hope of wearing down some of Detroit’s smaller and older players. While Detroit has stood up well physically to this point, Anaheim’s hope is that the Wings won’t be able to respond as the series progresses.
- Dominik Hasek and Chris Chelios are amazing athletes. The NHL has become more of a “young man’s” game in recent years. Yet these two forty something players not only continue to compete, but they’re still making significant contributions. Hasek was the number one star of Detroits’ 2-1 win in game one (31 saves) and was brilliant again in game two. Chelios has seen his playing time go up since the injury to Mathieu Schneider in the last round. When Chelios goes into the corners against an opposing player, he’s still the one who usually comes out with the puck.
- Ryan Getzlaf is the best player in the NHL that no one knows about. In the last series against Vancouver, Teemu Selanne was singing the praises of Getzlaf as a young player who would rival the likes of Crosby and Malkin if he played in the East. The 6’3 200 pound center has the skills to be a 120-130 point player according to Selanne, but “this team is not built to have one player score that many points”.
- The game I’m watching in this series bears little resemblance to the game I covered in the East with the Florida Panthers all season. I know that officiating is a subjective thing and perhaps no other officials in pro sports have a tougher job, but if this series was called with the same obstruction standards that I witnessed during the season, there would have been 15-20 power plays in each of the first two games….maybe more. In most instances when Detroit has dumped the puck into the Anaheim zone and attempted to retrieve it, the Ducks’ defense simply wouldn’t allow it. Sometimes it’s a subtle nudge…other times it’s a blatant push…but Detroit players could not take a direct path to the puck. The Ducks hold the line better than any team in the NHL and as long as they can get away with this tactic, it’s not going to change. All I know is that anytime a defending player moved out of his lane to impede a potential forechecker in the games I saw during the season, it was a penalty.
- Congratulations to Hockey Canada on their gold medal at the World Championships in Moscow. Panthers’ GM/Coach Jacques Martin was an integral part of the management group that assembled the team that not only won the gold, but they became the first team in about 70 years to run the table. Congrats also to GM Steve Yzerman, Coach Andy Murray and all involved.
- I visited with David Booth of the Panthers after game one at Joe Louis Arena. David is a Michigan native and attended the game with his brother. He’s looking forward to playing these types of intense playoff games as a Florida Panther!
Now it’s off to the airport and a flight to southern California….I’ll be back between games four and five of this series!