COSTA MESA, Calif. – As Mickey Redmond likes to say, “This is no place for a nervous person.”
The broadcaster’s popular phrase sums up what Sunday night will be for the Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks as they get at it in the final game of their best-of-seven series, which will decide who moves on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and who heads home for a long summer.
“It’s a big game because you don’t see them that often,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg after the Red Wings arrived at their team hotel Saturday afternoon. “It’s special and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Red Wings certainly aren’t strangers to Game 7s. Since 2002, Detroit has been involved in five Game 7s in the playoffs, including the 2009 Western Conference semifinals against the Ducks. The Wings won that Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena.
But Sunday will be different as it is just the seventh time in club history that they will play a Game 7 on the road, including the most recent one. San Jose defeated the Red Wings in the 2011 conference semis at HP Pavilion, and those players who were around two years ago hope they gained valuable lessons from that series.
“Just the experience of being a part of something like that,” Niklas Kronwall said, “I think is definitely helpful in the situation coming up right now.”
Zetterberg, who snapped his playoff goal-scoring drought by scoring twice in Game 6, including the overtime winner, said elimination games are always different, though, Game 7s are the ultimate.
“I think it’s different from when you’re down and you play Game 6,” he said. “It’s that special feeling of going into Game 7. You don’t have a lot of chances to play in them often. It’s something special about it.”
Regardless of Sunday’s outcome at Honda Center, this is has an outstanding playoff series. Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard and Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller have been incredible at times, giving their teams a chance to win every night, top players like Zetterberg and Pavel Datysuk, and the Ducks Ryan Getzlaf have been one-man wrecking crews.
In Game 7, the Red Wings would like to get off to a good start and take the Ducks’ crowd out of the equation.
“If you can get off to a good start you're in a better situation, so that would be our focus and try to get ourselves prepared to do that,” said coach Mike Babcock, who hasn’t decided if he’ll make any lineup chances. “It's been tight all the way through. We think we're in a real good situation, we're excited about the game tomorrow and we'll get prepared for it.”
GAME 7 PRIMER: It’s only happened twice in club history, but the Red Wings are 1-1 in all-time playoff series when they trailed three games to two, and Game 7 was on the road.
In 1964, Detroit needed a Game 6 victory to force a winner-takes-all Game 7 at Chicago Stadium. The Wings won both games over the Blackhawks to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
Two years ago, the Red Wings fell behind the Sharks 0-3 in the Western Conference semifinals. Detroit stormed back, producing three straight wins and sending the series back to San Jose for Game 7. The Sharks moved on to the conference finals, though, with a 3-2 victory.
OVERTIME HOOPLA: The Red Wings and Ducks have now played four overtime sessions in their conference quarterfinals with Games 2, 4, 5, and 6 all going beyond regulation time.
However, according to STATS, there have been two Stanley Cup playoff series where they’re have been five overtimes, including last spring’s Western Conference quarterfinals when the Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes needed extra time to decide the first five games of the series.
The first time a series went to five OT periods was when Toronto defeated Montreal, 4-1, in the best-of-seven Cup finals in 1951.
NO PPO: Game 6 was the first time in the series that the Red Wings weren’t assessed minor penalty. It was a big deal for the Wings, especially since the Ducks’ specials teams have now scored a power-play goal in four games.
Referees have called the series tight, but like Zetterberg said, anything could happen in Game 7.
“Who knows. It seems that it’s different game to game,” he said. “I think it was a few missed calls on both sides yesterday. You’d rather have it a lot of 5-on-5 than too many special teams. Let the players decide the game and not the refereeing so we’ll see tomorrow how it will be.”
The last time there was a postseason overtime game where a team failed to get a power play opportunity was more than 10 years ago when Tampa Bay had zero chances in a triple-OT loss at New Jersey.
The last time before then was in 1993 when the Red Wings suffered a 4-3 loss at home to the Maple Leafs when Nikolai Borschevsky scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime.
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