Posted: Wednesday January 3, 2007 12:41PM; Updated: Wednesday January 3, 2007 6:34PM
Presently hobbled by a groin pull, the Ducks' Giguere could be a formidable, playoff-seasoned obstacle for Detroit.
E.M. Swift will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
If the groin doesn't hold up, or Hasek suffers some other injury, it won't be for lack of preparation. I traveled with the team for a few days earlier this season, and I have never seen a goalie work harder in practice. The man is committed, maybe obsessed, with making one last run at another Stanley Cup. His reflexes are still incredible. Whether they're as fast as they were in his prime -- when Hasek, playing for the Sabres, became the first goalie to be named the league's MVP twice -- he can't say. But his teammates can't tell the difference between the old and new Dominator.
"If you don't shoot on him as hard as you can in practice, you have no chance of scoring," says forward Kris Draper. "Even on 3-on-0 drills, if a guy scores on him, he doesn't like it. He doesn't let up."
And so far, Hasek's been a model teammate -- working hard, accepting blame, interracting with the guys on the road. He likes this group, and why shouldn't he? The Wings are built for defense, and that bodes well for the playoffs, when low-scoring games are the norm. They've allowed only 85 goals in their first 39 games, fewest in the league. Nicklas Lidstrom is having another Norris Trophy-caliber season, and he leads the league in the plus-minus category (+25). Ageless Chris Chelios (44) is still one of the lNHL's best defenders, and 37-year-old Mathieu Schneider provides plenty of pop from the point. It's a veteran cast that knows how to win.
Still, with the retirement of Yzerman, and the loss of Brendan Shannahan to free agency, the Wings lack a go-to scorer, a guy they can look to when they're down by a goal. That could be a problem against a team like Anaheim, because the Ducks can play defense, too. Don't be fooled by the recent three-game slide: the Ducks are for real. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is a goalie who's already won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, and if he recovers from a groin pull -- possibly another big "if" -- the Ducks will have a goalie who can steal a series all by himself.
Not that Giguere will need to. The Ducks are loaded. With Chris Pronger, who's currently out for at least three weeks with a broken foot, and Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim has two dominating blueliners. A rejuvenated Teemu Selanne gives them the proven sniper that the Wings lack.
A lot can change in three months, of course. Crystal balls read in January can look pretty frosty with the advantage of hindsight. But a Detroit - Anaheim series is one that I'm hoping to see this spring, because they would be two tough teams -- and two tough goalies -- to beat.