Anaheim’s Giguere has a 1.28 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage, while Detroit’s Hasek has a 1.51 GAA and a .930 save percentage.
Goaltending doesn’t get any better than this. Game 1 is Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET).
Making matters even more difficult for the shooters will be the presence of four Norris Trophy winners – Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer of the Ducks and Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios of the Red Wings – and Grade-A penalty killing on both sides.
“We’ll have to get a lot of traffic in front of the goalie,” said Red Wings forward Johan Franzen. “We’ve got to try for second chances – maybe shoot for rebounds and score that way.”
Detroit’s checking line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Dan Cleary should be close enough to smell the breath of members of Anaheim’s top attacking unit of Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald and Chris Kunitz if Red Wings coach Mike Babcock opts for the matchup.
Anaheim will have Sammy Paulsson, Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer to get in the faces of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom if Ducks coach Randy Carlyle so chooses.
Holmstrom usually causes netminders fits in front of the crease.
“You know what, I think the biggest thing is initially you try to box him out, not allow him easy access to the front,” says Pronger. “Once he’s there, just leave him there, kind of play around him.
“It’s a lot easier for the goaltender to look around him than it is to look around two guys. It’s a lot of communication with your goaltender and a lot of just figuring out what he wants.”
Given the checking attention that will be paid to the first-liners, fans might look for players such as Franzen and teammate Mikael Samuelsson or the Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner to score some big post-season goals.
“It happens a lot in the playoffs,” says Samuelsson, who scored both goals in the series clincher against San Jose on Monday. “The third-and fourth-line players score because the other team forgets about them a little bit.”
Detroit has great lineup depth. The Red Wings have 11 players who have scored two or more playoff goals this spring.
“A big part of our success has been using four lines and trying to wear down the other team and we’re going to continue doing that in this series,” says Draper.
The Ducks can spread it around, too, and have eight players with two or more goals.
Red Wings forward Robert Lang says scoring against Anaheim shouldn’t be more difficult than scoring against first-round opponent Calgary or second-round foe San Jose.
“It’s always difficult,” says Lang. “I mean, in the two series we’ve played, (San Jose’s Evgeni) Nabokov was great and (Calgary’s Miikka) Kiprusoff was outstanding.
“Unless you get lucky, you don’t get an easy goal in the playoffs. So far, even though we had tough goalies (to play against) we managed to score enough goals to move on so, hopefully, we’ll do that again.”
You work with what you have, says Babcock.
“You’d like to score a whole ton every night,” he says. “You have to look after your own end to allow success to come out, but our message here hasn’t been about offence or defence.
“It was about being more competitive, being harder to play against. I thought Anaheim really helped us with that this year. We went into their building and they abused us the first game of the year. That kind of got us on our way. We understood that if we wanted to be successful, we didn’t want to be one-and-done at playoff time, we had better become more competitive.”
Roster changes helped make it happen.
“We felt at the start of the year that we were going to be a faster team but that we could get bigger,” said Draper. “That’s exactly what (GM) Kenny Holland did at the trade deadline by adding the size of Todd Bertuzzi.
“When he’s finishing his checks, everyone is looking on the ice to see where Todd is.
“That’s obviously a presence that’s been huge for our hockey club.”
Pronger was with Edmonton when the Oilers knocked off Detroit in the first round last spring, and he agrees that the Red Wings are better than they were a year ago.
“They added a lot of grit at the deadline and certainly are playing a gritty game, not playing the prototypical Detroit style that you’ve seen over the last 10 or 15 years,” says Pronger. “They still play a puck-possession game, but have that edge to them, and will dump and chase, play a physical game.
“That’s something that we’ve obviously tried to counteract.”
Carlyle is wary of the Red Wings’ collective level of experience.
“We know they’re a veteran group,” says Carlyle. “We know they have playoff moxy.
“We know they have played against two strong forechecking hockey clubs in Calgary and San Jose. You know, they’ve weathered the storm, as to say.
“They’re a hockey club that in a lot of ways people have probably looked at them and said, ‘They weren’t going to do this, they weren’t going to do that,’ but they’ve done it. They have earned their opportunity to be here. They haven’t done it with smoke and mirrors.
“Any time that you have the veteran core that they have, the leadership core that they have, you know you’re going to be in a competitive battle. That’s going to be at the forefront. For us to be successful, we have to play our style of game. It will be an interesting match-up.”