In the last 11 seasons, the Detroit Red Wings have proven they are the gold standard for any professional hockey team. In Game 5 of their 2009 Stanley Cup semifinal series against the Anaheim Ducks, the Wings gave no indication they intend on relinquishing that label.
In what only can be described as a thrashing far more masterful than any that’s come out of the ice rink in Atlanta, Detroit outperformed Anaheim in every respect en route to a 4-1 win Sunday.
The Ducks were out-shot by Detroit 38-17 – by a 14-3 margin in the first period and by a 15-5 difference in the third – and were used and abused by the giant Inca statue-like head (as well as the supreme post-season scoring abilities) of Johan Franzen in the win, which gives the Wings a 3-2 series lead heading back to California for Game 6 on Tuesday.
Franzen scored his seventh goal of the playoffs and was one of the many Wings forwards made to look like men among boys against a Ducks squad that looked a little on the spent side for much of Game 5.
Detroit wasn’t able to put the game out of reach until late in the third period, but make no mistake – any doubt as to whom was the better team occurred only in the minds of Anaheim fans trying to accentuate the positive.
The fact is, there wasn’t much at all that was positive for the Ducks in Game 5. They leaned on goalie Jonas Hiller to keep the score close and skated a stride slow all night. More importantly, they were meek where in the first round, and in two games of this series, they once were warriors.
The reality is, the Ducks had to put out a lot of effort just to make the playoffs, not to mention beat a fairly skilled San Jose team in the conference quarterfinal; as such, they have been forced to rely on Hiller’s brilliance as long as possible.
As we’re seeing in Washington with young Sergei Varlamov, sometimes as long as possible isn’t as long as required. Certainly not when you’re up against a team that boasts not only the crafty-cloaked-in-crazed tendencies of Franzen, but also the sublime efforts of Henrik Zetterberg.
Zetterberg, Franzen’s Swedish countryman, led all point-getters with a goal and two assists; together with teammate Valtteri Filppula, Zetterberg dominated the faceoff circle, as the two men combined to win 25 of 39 puck-drops.
The win was so thorough, so businesslike, so notice-serving to the other six remaining active NHL teams, every pro scout in attendance has to be headed back to their superiors Monday morning with a report stating that Detroit remains the favorite to win it all.
The Ducks have too many impact players to completely count them out of a series rebound, but when I’m this deep in the recap and I haven’t yet mentioned the steadying influence of Nicklas Lidstrom or the resilience of goalie Chris Osgood (who made a few timely saves the few times he was called upon), we’re clearly discussing a very good professional hockey team.
Class of the league, actually. Watch Game 5 again and tell me I’m wrong.
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Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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