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Commentary, news, analysis and reader-driven discussions focusing on this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
2:35 a.m. ET, 5/23/07

Face it. Ducks belong in finals

Posted by Allan Muir
J-S Giguere made several key saves late in the third period to preserve the Ducks' Game 6 win.
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Let's not hear any more complaints about the New NHL, shall we?

On a night when the Detroit Red Wings nearly erased a 4-1 lead in the final 14 minutes of a playoff game, a feat that would have been incomprehensible prior to the lockout, the Anaheim Ducks proved themselves masters of the new game, using speed, strength and an aggressive forecheck to carve out a 4-3 win and earn their second trip to the Stanley Cup finals in four seasons.

And despite being soundly outplayed in the white-knuckle third, this was Anaheim's best effort since Game 2, and one that reflected their reputation as the league's most physically imposing team. From the opening draw, the Ducks were the aggressors, led by the determined play of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner. The future stars of the franchise demonstrated there's no time like the present with a pair of second-period goals that appeared to put the game out of reach, and several marauding shifts that kept the Wings bottled up in their own end.

Of course, the veterans had their say, too. The third line of Sami Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen were responsible for the first and last goals for the Ducks, both coming as a result of Niedermayer's willingness to go hard to the net. The first, a shorthanded tally just three minutes in, set the tone for the game. With Todd Marchant in the box for tripping and the faceoff to the right of Dominik Hasek, Pahlsson cleanly won a draw back to Sean O'Donnell, who fed Chris Pronger for a hard, low slapper on the net. The shot bounced off Niedermayer's skate and past Hasek, who was well out of his crease -- and out of his element -- hoping to see around the invading forward. Niedermayer was similarly positioned when Pahlsson shoveled a rebound under Hasek six minutes for the eventual game-winner into the third.

After starring in the last two games, J-S Giguere wasn't forced to be Anaheim's best player ... at least, not until the final stanza. Accepting the challenge of the 3-0 deficit they faced heading into the period, the Wings battered the Ducks in the third, limiting Anaheim to three shots on net while they rained 16 on the resilient Giguere. Although he made three memorable stops in the final 90 seconds, his biggest came with just over six minutes left when he robbed Johan Franzen. The hard luck Wing corralled a pass in the slot and blasted it over a sliding Francois Beauchemin, but couldn't beat Giguere's glove.

Heading into the game, there was considerable pressure on Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to bring the same level of intensity they display at home. Neither had scored on the road in the postseason, and the two of them had been virtually invisible in Games 3 and 4 in Anaheim.

So it was no surprise to see Zetterberg start the comeback with his sixth of the playoffs at 3:15 of the third on a nifty redirection of a Chris Chelios' point shot. Datsyuk then took his turn in the spotlight, scoring twice, at 10:08 and again on the power play at 16:56 to set up the final, furious assault.

But it was too little too late. Despite another late power play created when Chelios cleverly pinched Moen's stick under his own arm to draw a hooking call, the Wings failed to come up with the equalizer.

This one's going to be difficult for the Wings to swallow, especially considering how close the series came to turning in their favor in Game 5. If Franzen puts a clearing attempt anywhere but on Chris Pronger's stick with less than a minute to play while protecting a one-goal lead, this might have turned out different.

But the real issue was their power play. Although they went 2-for-3 with the man advantage in the third, the Ducks blanked them on four chances in the first two periods when Detroit really needed a break to turn the game around. And going 0-for-16 in Games 4 and 5 effectively limited their chances to win those contests, despite carrying the play in both.

Injuries also took their toll. Much like the Sabres last season, Detroit simply couldn't compensate for the losses of Mathieu Schneider and Niklas Kronwall that depleted their blue line. Both could have impacted the power play, and would have improved the effectiveness of Detroit's transition game that wilted under Anaheim's heavy forecheck.

But give full marks to the Ducks for making the most of their opportunities throughout the series, and for putting the boots to the Wings early in this one. They certainly proved their killer instinct, moving to 7-0 with the chance to eliminate an opponent at home, including 3-0 this season.

So now, the Ducks return to the finals for the first time since 2003. The series starts at the Honda Center on Monday night.

After this effort, no one can say they don't belong.

posted by SI.com | View comments |  

Comments:

Posted: 4:16 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Anaheim doesn't deserve to exist - Period. If they somehow win, it would be another stain on a legendary trophy, and bring more disgrace to a once great league
Posted: 7:54 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
As a life long wings fan I will not use injuries as why the wings lost. We got beat by a really good hockey team. We had our chances and did not come through. And if anybody says the ducks were lucky should know it always takes a little bit to win a series. So congrats to the ducks and good luck against the sens but you better be ready for that top line of theirs.
Posted: 8:36 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
yes, but who will be watching?

illegal immigration aside, the US population is still concentrated in the east. the majority of hockey teams/cities are in the US not Canada.

the matchup: the ducks are 3 time zones away. the senators are canadian.

the current schedule doesn't allow the eastern portion of the country much of an opportunity to watch west coast teams. we're not familiar with the players (except those eastern players who were traded) - we are not aware of rivalries - there's no "history" for us to follow, or care about.
and now we're supposed to be all excited because its the Stanley Cup?

the eastern conference games began & ended in a reasonable time frame to fit into my lifestyle.

i stayed up to watch Detroit - not the team they were playing.

i taped the last senators/sabres game to watch later. of course i missed the end because NBC felt a horse race pregame show was more important.

this is going to be a big yawn in what would have been "ratings". although i'm sure it will be popular in Canada.

last year i watched the east coast time zone games because i was somewhat familiar with the Hurricanes. this year - bah humbug. who cares?

maybe next year we'll have teams worth watching.
Posted: 9:44 AM, May 23, 2007   by FRAZZZ
Wait a minute. Who exactly are these people that have to 'face it'? The headline to your article implies that the Ducks are some kind of Cinderella story. Even before the season started, Vegas had them as one of the favorites to win the Cup. Most sports publications said the same thing.
Posted: 9:46 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Way to go Chelios. Draw a cheap penalty late in the game, and then don't stick around to shake hands. Just give it up, already.

Getzlaf, Penner and Perry had one of the best games I've seen from a line in the playoffs. They made the Detroit defense look overmatched, even when it didn't result in a goal.

Nice to see Selanne get a shot at the Cup, as well.
Posted: 9:51 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
I say it is time that Detroit wakes up and drafts/signs some good young CANADIAN talent like the Ducks and the Senators have done. Who cost them game 5? Franzen and Lilja, not the 2 most "Canadian" guys out there. And what about Hasek? Come on, 42 years old and still can't skate...
Posted: 10:09 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Well, atleast you got three last 3 paragraphs right.
Posted: 10:58 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
I still believe the Wings were the better team. Just the way the puck bounces I suppose. Curious to see what they do in net next year.

I'll be pulling for the Sens. I can never see myself rooting for Pronger.
To 8:36 am Anonymous:

"Yes, but who will be watching?"

I will.

I don't care about NBC's ratings (especially after their horse race programming decision), nor those of Versus or the CBC.

I'll watch because I love the game.

I'll watch even though my team is not playing.

I'll watch with my 5 year old son. We'll eat popcorn, quaff some ginger ale, and have a great time.

That's all that matters to me.
Posted: 11:11 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Who will watch? Who cares. Last time I checked sports championships were awarded to the best team that year, not the team with the most fans. Crying about low television ratings? By that logic the Yankees should ALWAYS play the Red Sox in the WS (yes, I know, both AL, i'm trying to prove a point). Yeah, that sounds like fun. And another point, the Red Wings fan base is not what it used to be. Here in Anaheim, years ago RED WINGS fans would fill about a 1/3 of the stadium every time they were in town, and almost the same amount during the playoffs ('97,'99, '03). However this year it was maybe 5% Wings fans in the crowd. Yes, the Ducks fans are showing up, but there are plenty of seats up on ebay, stubhub, etc that Wings fans can pony up for. I would say the wheels have fallen off the Red Wings bandwagon.
Posted: 11:23 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Muir great article... Thank you for finally giving the Ducks their due.
The wings will always have their what ifs.... But those don't win the games and series.
"The Ducks were the BETTER team finding ways to win with having to play with a lot less men over the whole series due to lopsided calls."
They found a way to shut down the Wings and win. That's testament to them for being a great team and Western conference Champion. Chellios sure was the sportman of the night. You'd think having won before he'd be a MAN and shake hands.. Goes to show you his Character.

GO DUCKS AND LETS BRING THE CUP TO THE WEST COAST ANAHEIM!!!
Posted: 11:36 AM, May 23, 2007   by Hank Kingsley
I kind of liked Chelios' no show for the hand shake. I couldn't suddenly drop my hate and shake hands either. I'd like to see that part of things dropped. But then again, I'd like to see the national anthems dispensed with as well.

Ducks deserve to be in the finals because they won. Quite simple really. But I don't have to like it. I should like them because the fight more than anybody, are very physical and fairly entertaining in that they don't trap much.

But I just don't think Anaheim or many other cities that currently are in the NHL should be there in the first place. If the Ducks win the Cup it will be 3 consecutive times the Cup has gone to a city that really doesn't give a monkey's arse about hockey. I don't want to start some kind of slagging war but it's the truth.

The whole East/West thing with viewing times is silly too. It is obvious that the west is the place to be for TV viewing so any Easterner with more than 2 active braincells should move west. We get all the network shows early on Eastern satellite channels, NFL Sunday starts at 10 AM and finishes before 10 PM, and all those late start hockey games in the east are prime time out here on the Best Coast.

As for the Cup Final, I usually dredge up a favourite in every series I watch. But in this case I think it will turn out to be which team I dislike the least?? So it's going to take me a few games to decide who I hate more. But I could go all fickle and follow my naturally contrary inclination. If all around me are pulling for Ottawa I may just pull for the Ducks to spite them. But if Ottawa wins, Bettman loses. Decisions, decisions, decisions....
Posted: 11:45 AM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Who's watching? Evidently you've never seen to a Kings, Ducks or Sharks game. West Coast Hockey is for real and the fans are hungry for it. From San Jose to Santa Ana I see a growing and diverse group of avid and knowledgeable hockey fans. As for Hasek and Chelios,...perhaps it's time for them to hang up the skates. Hall of Fame careers for a flailing snow angel and a sniveling whiner. No doubt NBC will have them as analysts next year.
Posted: 12:03 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Hey Detroit, Cleary has removed any moral high ground you thought you had from the Holmstrom hit. I can't believe not one announcer had the nerve to mention that after Getzlaf earned his penalty in the third period, Cleary, with his back on the ice, kicked BLADE FIRST and connected with Getzlaf's shin pad. Umm... did I miss something? The guy just attacked another guy with a razor blade well after the whistle. No suspension?
Posted: 12:04 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
I am SICK AND TIRED of this "locals only" "hockey doesn't belong on the west coast" talk. You people claim to be hockey fans but you're just ridiculous. Hockey is the only sport out there worth watching and if you don't watch the finals because you don't like the teams, or its too late for you to watch (whiners) then you're not true fans.
Posted: 12:09 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Not everyone is complaining about the late games for people on the east coast. College kids(me) and insomniacs love games going until 2 in the morning. Just kidding but you can't start a game in Cali at 5 in the afternoon.
Posted: 12:30 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Ducks all the way!! Have all the respect in the world for Detroit, and had huge respect for Chelios until he no showed the hand shake. Hockey is the last bastion of great tradition and Chris your hall of fame career is now tarnished by a lack of class. And east coast whiners grow up the power has shifted to the west live with it. Anaheim and San Jose will dominate over the next few years.
Posted: 1:13 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Chelios has always been a dirty, classless player. Too bad, because with his skill he could have been a legendary player. Instead, he's just another talented jerk.
Posted: 2:05 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
wait a minute, if Detroit is one of the centers of the hockey universe (Hockeytown USA???), how come it was reported that they didn't even sell-out several of their home playoff games? HAHA, I know there are hard-core dead-wing fans out there but come on, you can't talk smack about the west coast when you don't even sell out your home games in the playoffs.
Posted: 2:17 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Chelios has always been a classless boor. Remember when the USA hockey team capatained by Chris Chelios trashed the Olympic Village in Nagano?
Who was the douchebag Red Wing that cross checked an Anaheim player at center ice at the horn? Detroit is a bunch of whiny cheap shot artists who could not deal with the Ducks pushing them around.
Posted: 2:23 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
I'm not so sure the best team won the Detroit/Anaheim series. One fluttering goal with 47 seconds left was the difference. Each team scored about the same amount of goals, each had about the same amount of shots on net. The only difference was a few bounces, that's it. I'm curious as to how many people in the US will be staying up to watch this Stanley Cup.
Posted: 2:58 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Who really cares when games start? It's not like anyone in America is going to watch them anyway
Posted: 3:00 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Go (Mighty) Ducks! You exist because of a Disney movie!

I actually miss those hats that had the Disney logo instead of the NHL logo on them because they were a Disney creation
Posted: 3:13 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Shouldn't existence? Chelios a whiner? Who wants to stay up late? Are you kidding me... could make points and argue for / against all of those, but why bother - Ducks are in the Finals - all that matters to me. Cause I'll be flying in for game one. Also, you have a bi-coastal and Canadian team final series for the cup. Seems to me it would be great for the league - at least when it comes to true fans of the sport. If your issue is staying up a little past your bedtime cause your on the east coast, well...
Posted: 4:49 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
if any team doesnt deserve to be in the finals, it would be the wings. Thanks to the cap, they can no longer buy stanley cups. Anaheim and ottawa will be a great series, the anyone who decides not to watch just 'cuz its the ducks in the finals, or cuz of ratings (what does that have to do with anything again?) , or for any other reason should stick to watching pro bowling, because this sport is obviously out of their league.
Posted: 5:46 PM, May 23, 2007   by Rob
It does not matter where the team plays, sure there is more history in the east, but the fan base for the west coast teams is very strong, may be smaller, but just as rabid, remember most these fans are east coast or candadian transfers, noone is really from CA.

One last note, Chelios is a big baby, 45 years old and shows no class. Did anyone esle see the full on punch thrown by Samuelson after the final whistle, the swing missed......They were all frustrated, they thought they were the better team, they may have "played" better all around, but sorry, they are not the "better" team
Posted: 9:31 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Way to go NHL, 6 days between the end of the Western Finals and the start of the Stanley Cup Finals. You are a league barely on the map in most sports fans minds and you throw away whatever momentum you have by giving the casual fan 6 days to forget all about you.

Die hards will always love hockey,but it needs the casual fans the ones who tune into an occasional regular season games and all the playoffs if it wants to be back on the map as major sport.
Posted: 9:40 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
Thrashers......bluejackets in 08.........woohoo!!!!!
Just letting the NHL/Refs know who should win next year. (It's not hard to modify/ignore the rules so ANY two teams can win).
Posted: 11:13 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
i love some of the dumb comments on here from people....who will watch a series between two completely polar opposites? Its the age-old Offense VS Defense scenario...the Sens are one of the best offensive teams in the league (they just dispatched the best offensive team in 5 games, people), while the Ducks focus more on keeping pucks outta their own net and winning w/ the chances they create themselves. Should be one hell of a series. Know i definately won't miss a minute.
And to whoever posted about taking the anthems outta the pregame - gimme a break - it's one of my favourite parts. Especially when the singer let's the fans sing part of it - sends chills down my spine and gets me really pumped up. My Prediction? Sens in 6 - The Canadian team isn't losing for a 3rd straight year.
Conn Smythe - Alfie
good season Ducks - but this Sens team is on a mission
Posted: 11:52 PM, May 23, 2007   by Anonymous
To the idiot who said that the Ducks don't deserve to exist, look at their stats, look at their records.
Let me guess, you're a Detroit fan.
Posted: 9:41 AM, May 24, 2007   by Hank Kingsley
I too think the 6 day break is ridiculous. Even for somebody who wants to continue watching like me. The playoffs should go every other day no matter what. In the 60's and early 70's they'd play games on consecutive days and then have one travel day. The season is way too long as it is without trying to tempt casual fans away from yard work, fishing or golf.

As for anthems, yes it was I who said can them. You can have all the "give me a break"s you wish Mr Anonymous Dissenter but to me they offer nothing. Chills down my spine? Not likely. Especially when the crowd gets to sing. I just want to watch the game. Thankfully I simply record the game on my TIVO and start watching the game after it has been on for at least an hour. Then I can easily dispense with pregame crappola and even play breaks when the trained chimps of the broadcast team take over. As soon as I catch up to live TV I hit record again and go do something else for an hour.

And I'm starting towards leaning in Anaheim's direction now. The Canadian hoopla has started up here and I'm having a hard time getting away from it. Anaheim in 5. Here's hoping.
Posted: 9:53 AM, May 25, 2007   by Anonymous
Shame on you SI!!! We're heading into the Stanley Cup Finals...and the sell of the Preds are HEADLINE!??! So what if the Ducks are not Canadian...so what if the "legendary" Red Wings didn't make it into the finals. The excitement is built by the media...the stories are spun by the media. These finals have stories galore: Ottawa finally getting to the Finals; Alfredsson living up to the C; Teemu Selanne's first finals; 2 teams trying to win their first Stanley Cups...to name a few. Don't look for the NHL to generate excitement for fans, get the stories out there and attract the fans. Make the Stanley Cup Finals as big a spectacle as the Super Bowl or the World Series!!! For crying out loud, keep the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the headlines!!!!
Posted: 2:23 PM, May 25, 2007   by Anonymous
I'm so glad to hear comments about Chelios not going to the handshake. I'm as competitive and angry as hell when I strap on the blades and lose - even when I coach. But being a man is sucking it up and given the best man their "do", but still being proud that you put out your best effort. Chelios, my son (who also got cut from his midget team like you did) used to be BIG fans of yours - no more. The game has made you a bigger "man" than you really are and thanks to your classless move, everyone now knows exactly how low you are. Way to be a great embassador for the game and kill a great tradition ... all by a so-called "great player". I hope I don't run into on the street...cause I'll shake your hand and look you in the eye and tell you the same thing. I want the Sens but if either team wins, I hope they show more class than CheLiOS-ER
Posted: 10:05 PM, May 25, 2007   by Anonymous
Anaheim doesn't deserve to exist? What in the hell is that supposed to mean??? The NHL was trying to bring the game of hockey to non-traditional markets in order to broaden national interest in the sport. Who could blame them? More people will probably watch the softball world series than the hockey finals.
Posted: 7:44 AM, May 28, 2007   by Anonymous
Anaheim Mighty Ducks.........Anaheim Ducks.........L.A. Ducks (next year)?
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