The 42-year-old Czech goaltender was back at work, even though he didn’t have to be, less than 12 hours after playing the hero’s role in the Detroit Red Wings’ 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in the opener of the NHL’s Western Conference final.
“It was a good practice after a busy game,” said Hasek. “I need to go for half an hour on the ice every day.
“You need consistency so I like to practise. I don’t have to stay too long on the ice but I like to practise. After working up a good sweat, I’m feeling much better right now.”
Game 2 is Sunday.
Hasek would have liked to have had somebody in a crossing guard’s outfit in front of his crease on Friday night.
“There was lots of traffic, probably the most I’ve seen this year,” he said. “Once in a while they even bumped into me and once I got an elbow coming down on me.
“The next game I expect very similar things from them. I expect them to talk to me, make lots of traffic, once in a while bump into me, fall on me. This is part of the game. I think it’s more the job of my defencemen to take care of this business.”
Doesn’t the crease-crashing bother him?
“Not if we’re winning,” he replied with a chuckle.
Anaheim had a 32-19 shots advantage in the opener.
“When he’s playing as well as he is right now, it just seems he’s kind of in a great zone,” centre Kris Draper says of Hasek. “He’s playing unbelievable hockey.
“He was absolutely tremendous for us and the reason why we won the hockey game.”
Hasek improved his save percentage this post-season to .934. His goals-against average now stands at 1.47. Yet, he insisted on practising Saturday.
“He’s always like this,” said centre Henrik Zetterberg. “He works really hard in practice and he gets real mad if we score on him in practice.
“He’s a competitive guy and that’s a big key why he is playing so well. He’s a winner. The bigger the game gets, the better he plays.”
While the Red Wings got the win, they were the ones doing most of the complaining on the off day.
“It wasn’t our best game,” said Hasek. “We were talking about it in the locker-room.
“We believe we have to put more pressure on their defence. We didn’t spend enough time in their zone. Even though we won the game, we believe it wasn’t our best game.”
Coach Mike Babcock latched onto the same theme.
“They got through on the forecheck way better than we did,” said Babcock. “They did a better job holding up at their blue-line than we did, not letting us get through.
“They got on top of us. Territorially, five-on-five, they were better than us.”
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom agreed that the Ducks were able to skate the puck out of their own end too easily.
Also, Detroit was short-handed seven times and Anaheim four times.
“We need more discipline,” said Draper. “We took too many penalties. That’s something you can’t do against that team.”
The lack of success on the power play was a big reason for Anaheim’s loss.
“The big thing will be to move (the puck) around a little crisper, a little quicker,” said point man Chris Pronger. “Last few games we’ve been holding onto the puck a little too long.
“That allows the (defending team’s) box to recover and allows the goalie to get set. The other critical point is getting good traffic in front so he can’t see the shots. Hopefully we can do that a little better in Game 2.”
Detroit pulled out the win after it got the two luckiest bounces of the night. Zetterberg was passing the puck when it caromed into the Ducks net off Francois Beauchemin’s skate, and a blue-line Lidstrom blast bounced off teammate Tomas Holmstrom and then Beauchemin before plopping over the goal-line.
The Ducks were, for the most part, satisfied with the way they played. They just didn’t get the bounces.
“They got two what you would classify as ugly goals,” said coach Randy Carlyle.
Detroit hasn’t lost since Holmstrom’s return to the lineup for Game 4 of the second round against San Jose. His screening jobs in front of opposition goaltenders drive them nuts.
“That was Holmer at his best,” Lidstrom said of the Friday winner. “He’s such a warrior out there.
“If he gets knocked down, he gets right back up and gets back in the front of the net again. You know, that’s what we need on the power play. We need someone with net presence. If he’s not there, that puck is probably not going to go in. He’s a huge part of our team.”
Babcock is using his top two lines the same way at home as he used them against San Jose: the Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Holmstrom line went up against the Sharks’ Joe Thornton’s line, and now Babcock tries to get it out against the Ducks’ No. 1 attacking unit of Andy McDonald, Teemu Selanne and Chris Kunitz.
The strength-on-strength approach appeals to Babcock.
His Draper-Kirk Maltby-Dan Cleary checking line was against the Sharks’ No. 2 unit centred by Patrick Marleau, and in this series it is seeing a lot of the Ducks’ No.2 unit of Ryan Getzlaf between Corey Perry and Dustin Penner.
“I worked hard to stay away from that,” said Carlyle. “We’ll continue to do that.”
Carlyle is doing his best to makes changes on the fly to get his checking line of Sammy Paulsson, Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer onto the ice against the Zetterberg line.
“We have a game plan and they have a game plan,” said Carlyle. “They have home-ice advantage so they have last change.
“But we’re not afraid to change on the fly. We’ll continue to try to get the people on the ice that we feel are going to give us the best chance for success against their players.”