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Commentary, news, analysis and reader-driven discussions focusing on this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
1:24 a.m. ET, 6/05/07

Picking up the Pronger slack

Posted by Brian Cazeneuve
The Ducks' Andy McDonald likely had the game of his life on Monday, posting two goals and one assist in victory.
AP
No Chris Pronger? No problem. For the second time in this playoff season, the Ducks overcame the suspension of their star defenseman to win a crucial fourth game of a series. Against the Red Wings in the Western Conference finals, the Ducks bounced back from a 5-0 thrashing at home to even their series against Detroit, 2-2. On Monday, they got some excellent contributions from unlikely sources to build a 3-1 series lead against the Ottawa Senators. The 3-2 victory in Scotiabank Place leaves the Ducks one game away from their first championship.

Without Pronger, Kent Huskins, a rookie defenseman who had seen limited ice during most of the playoffs, played 17 minutes, 31 seconds of mistake-free hockey -- more than he had ever seen in a playoff game. Dustin Penner, an inconsistent forward during the playoffs, made his third goal of the postseason a game-winner, even if Teemu Selanne did most of the work. And Andy McDonald had the game of his life, assisting on Penner's goal and scoring two of his own. "Anytime you lose a player like Chris Pronger," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, "you need other people to step to the forefront, and we did that."

Huskins' play was especially uplifting to the Ducks, who couldn't rely on Pronger's usual 30-minute effort while he sat out a one-game suspension for a blow to Dean McAmmond's head on Saturday. McAmmond did not dress for Ottawa. "It's amazing, a guy playing in the Stanley Cup 17 minutes in a crucial game," Carlyle said. "He earned that opportunity. He's a non-maintenance guy who has been able to find a way to make a contribution and play in the NHL."

Huskins didn't get on the score sheet, which should come as no surprise. In 52 NHL games in both the regular season and playoffs, the rookie has never scored an NHL goal and has just four assists. But he made the subtle plays that often cause young players to panic, chipping pucks out of the zone with Ottawa's speedy forwards in hot pursuit. He was on the ice for Anaheim's last two goals, marking the first time he was plus-2 in 43 games, dating back to Feb. 26 against San Jose. "I thought he stood out in his ability to retrieve pucks," Carlyle said. "It's not really rocket science, but it's a difficult thing to do. Maybe the most difficult thing to do is to recover pucks off dump-ins and soft-side dumps, knowing that the forechecker's got a bead on you."

The loss of Pronger left the Ducks with a difficult decision as to how to manage ice time for their defensemen, especially given the big load that Scott Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin usually carry. "I don't think we want to get used to playing without Chris," said Niedermayer. "He's a great player. But obviously, when he's not there, we have to be at our absolute best. Everybody has to do their jobs ...

"Tonight I actually felt pretty good. I felt [assistant coach] Dave Farrish, who changes the defensemen, was rotating us out there at different times. We had different partners a lot during the game. I never felt that I was getting caught out there. For whatever reason, it seemed to work that we were able to rotate and get the players out there we wanted."

That enabled the Ducks to withstand a first period in which they were thoroughly outplayed. The Senators outshot them, 13-2, for the first 20 minutes but only got on the board when Daniel Alfredsson struck with 0.3 seconds left on the clock.

The Ducks' speed emerged in the second period. McDonald bonked a shot off the cross bar on one rush, tied the score at 10:06 and exactly a minute later, zoomed into the Ottawa zone, cut from the left side to the center of the ice, breezing past Anton Volchenkov like a Porsche ignoring a stop sign, then outwaited Sens goalie Ray Emery and beat him with a brilliant backhand.

"When you put people in situations and you see them execute to that level, it's a tribute to that individual's skill level," said Carlyle. "It's not easy to be as patient as he was, and those are big-league plays. That's a hockey player stepping up and playing desperate and executing at a very high level for his teammates."

The Ducks enjoyed a 13-4 shot advantage in the second period, a reflection of what often happens when a visiting team withstands the host's opening salvo, fueled by a raucous crowd.

In the third, Penner joined a play late, having changed after his linemates. Selanne, meanwhile, outflanked Ottawa defenseman Wade Redden, who made a crucial mistake by pinching to chase a loose puck in the center zone after Chris Phillips had broken his blade. Selanne fed him the puck and Penner knocked it in for what turned out to be the winning goal, four minutes into the period.

For the rest of the night, the Ducks turned back Ottawa rushes with the clam of a team that had been through this before rather than one looking for its first Cup and playing without its best defensive defenseman. They held the Sens to six shots in the third period at a time when Ottawa was pinching its defensemen and was nearly down to its two top lines.

"The guys in front of me made it easy," Ducks goalie J.S. Giguere said afterward. "They met a big challenge, without Chris."
posted by SI.com | View comments |  

Comments:

GO DUCKS!
Posted: 3:47 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Go Ducks!!! Great plays! Let's hoist the Cup in Anaheim Wednesday night!!! Go Ducks! -ADJ
Posted: 8:19 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
alfredson is a moron, someone should have knocked him out

the look on his stupid face will be sweet enough
Posted: 9:07 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Ottawa deserved better in the first period. But, I thought Alfeddsen's shot at Neidermeyer was about as low as you can go. Classless. For that alone, the Ducks deserved to win the game.
Posted: 9:34 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
In all of your talk about Huskins you forgot to mention that he fell twice early in the game but escaped without any damage. You also forgot to mention the great job done by Sean O'Donnell on defense. He had a better game than Beauchemin did.
Posted: 9:39 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Did you just write No Pronger, No Problem for Ducks? Seriously man, that is the MOST TIRED CLICHE is sports! You should be fired and dragged into the back alley for your lack of effort in the article. REALLY pathetic.
Posted: 9:40 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Ottawa's diving and Alfredsson's cheap slap shot at Niedermeyer to end Period 2 are a reflection of the lack of class this team has. The Ducks have battled bad calls, suspicious reviews and their own dumb mistakes and are one game away from winning. Of the 12 periods of play thus far I would say Anaheim has cleary been the better team in about 9 of them! Go Ducks!
Posted: 9:44 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Alfredsson's slapshot plus his sucker punch on Moen = suspension? I doubt it. Next time the NHL will need to try even harder to get the cup back to Canada.
Posted: 9:52 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
I played hockey for 18 years, coached for 10 and the shot by the Ottawa Captain on Neidermeyer drained the energy out of his team. When the 3rd period started you could see lack of intensity by Ottawa. His (#11) players knew what he did and knew it was wrong. That impacts players and the team as a whole.
Posted: 9:56 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Ottawa deserved a better faith after dominating the play in the first period. Ducks seem to be getting all the breaks, they've won 3 one-goal games in this series, 12 in the playoffs. Pronger should have been out for the rest of the series. Now I'll have to watch that cheap shot artist hoist the cup.
Posted: 10:08 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
If there was any objectivity to the dishing out of suspensions by Colin Campbell, Alfredson should be gone for the fifth game of the series for attempting to maim Neidermeyer. If the puck has to hit the guy in the head and give him a concussion before justice is done, there will be a lot of injured hockey players out there.
Posted: 10:12 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Alfredsson displayed a complete lack of class. Disgracing himself, the Senators and the NHL on a national stage. I hope Scott Niedermayer has something to say to him as he shakes his hand at the end of the game Wednesday night while the Ducks hoist Lord Stanleys Cup and the Senators go home wondering what hit them. -PJB
Posted: 10:13 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
I'm not defending Alfredson, but it's interesting to hear people call him and the Sens classless when the Ducks have a cheap shot artist like Pronger. I'm rooting for Ottawa this series, but it looks as though they're going to fall by the wayside. Hats off to the Ducks who, with the exception of a period here or a ten minute stretch there, have totally outplayed the Sens. Ray Emery to the Sens is like Rex Grossman to the Bears. It'll be nice to see Selanne hoist the cup, but too bad Pronger has to be there.
Posted: 10:33 AM, June 05, 2007   by Hank Kingsley
Somewhere here I said Ottawa wins game 3 on crowd adrenalin and then loses game 4. To go on and lose the series in 5. Thank you, thank you very much...

Senator's defense cannot take the pounding they are being given. They are tired. Volchenkov cost them 2 goals and ultimately the game. And I think he had previously been their best defenseman.

Alfredsson can say all he wants but he shot that puck at Neidermeyer. Case closed. And Neil took a dive early. Beauchemin got his stick in there but not to the extent Neil portrayed. Paul Louganis?

And the second period intermission for NBC which CBC picked up was superb. Hull and Cherry! No holds barred. Even Bill Clement got into the spirit of things. I'm sure Bettman was cringing throughout. They had one angle on the Pronger elbow that clearly shows Pronger did not "throw" the elbow, McCammond ran into it when it was up.

And as predicted, even on NBC, ratings are down.
Posted: 10:33 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Anaheim is clearly the better team, overcoming the loss of a top player, his own doing, plus most of the questionable/bad calls going against them, and still being up 3-1. Ottawa should be ashamed of their performance, the diving is one thing, Alfredsson shooting that puck at Neidermeyer is embarrasing and somehow he starts the next period on the ice. I don't know if that action rates a suspension, it should. I hope the Ducks finish them off in game 5.
Posted: 10:54 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
it's going to be a warm-weather hattrick ... poor Canada have a third team fail to bring the Cup back North: first Calgary, then Edmonton and now Ottawa!!!

QUACK!
You have to appreciate a Southern California team taking taking the cup. All these people in northern states and Canada thought this was there sport? hrmm...
Posted: 11:15 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
10 on 6 and the DUCKS still win!! I think the Cup loves the warm weather.
Posted: 11:18 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
I wouldn't be so quick to slam Canada if the "So Cal" team does take the cup. Just who do you think makes up the majority of both teams? *Canadian* players-- so when you hear a Canadian or a person from Michigan, etc say that it's their sport, they're RIGHT.
Posted: 11:20 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Are you serious? YOu think because a team from Anaheim wins the cup that it hockey is not Canada's game? The Niedermayer brothers, Beauchemin, Pronger, Giguere, and how many other Canadians are on the Ducks? There are more Canadians on teh Ducks than on the Sens.

If the Ducks are so great it because of all the Canadian talent on their team.

Obviously, a "beginner" hockey fan.
Posted: 11:26 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Shouldn't Duck fans know how to spell "Niedermayer"?
Posted: 11:28 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Jason, how many PLAYERS are actually from SOCAL
Posted: 11:38 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Don't forget that most of the Ducks are Canadiens! There is definitely an anti-Duck bias though in the media and the calls against them.

Go Ducks!!
Posted: 11:45 AM, June 05, 2007   by Steven Kemp of Anaheim
Hockey has come a long way in California. The Ducks have showed they can rise to the occasion and overcome diversity. My hat off to you and I will see you in Anaheim for game three. Go………….Ducks.
Posted: 11:55 AM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
The team located n Canada might lose (again) but the team with the highest number of Canadian hockey players on its roster is winning.
The classless shot at the end of the 2nd period right at a player was only matched by the classless elbow to the head by Pronger. Neither team has a moral high ground to stand on. The best either team can salvage is to not dig their pit so deep that they can't lift the cup over the edge.

Last night's game, with a few exceptions, was a good, exciting game to watch. I hope the rest of the series is just as good.
Posted: 12:05 PM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Funny thing is the Ducks have more Canadian players than the Senators (16 vs 14)

Even though an American team will win again, the cup will spend most of its summer in Canada.
Posted: 12:15 PM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Hyvä Teemu!
Anna Palaa!
Posted: 12:24 PM, June 05, 2007   by Truly Canadian
Yes Jason, it is our sport. Just ask all the 21 Canadians on the comprehensive Ducks roster including the two Canadians who scored your goals.
Posted: 1:07 PM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Don't forget Alfredsson's borderline criminal hit on Tallinder in OT of Game 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. He could have broken the guy's neck with a hit from behind like that. Then, to boot, he accused Tallinder of faking an injury after he had just jammed his neck into the boards. That was a hit that, if done during the regular season, probably would have earned him a 10-minute misconduct and a multiple game suspension. Before these playoffs I had heard many people calling him a "classy" player. After these two displays, no more.
Posted: 4:59 PM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
Alfredsson is the biggest candy a__ in the entire NHL. He cross checks players from behind, deliberately shoots pucks at opposing players, and then sucker punches guys when they're not looking to show just how unmanly he really is. Don Cherry is right...get rid of the instigator rule so that someone on Anaheim can kick the crap out imbeciles like Alfredsson...oh that's right he's so tough that he'd probably turtle!!!!!
Posted: 5:22 PM, June 05, 2007   by Anonymous
You know what the difference between the Canadians on the Ducks and the Senators is? Anyone?

The Canadians on the Ducks were smart enough to move to the United States...and to Southern California to boot.

We were neighbors with Parros in NB during the regular season. I hope they bring him back for game 5. That's one "goon" who needs to give a little payback to Neil and Alfredsson.
Posted: 1:37 PM, June 06, 2007   by Anonymous
Bring the Whale back to Hartford!
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