It’s really, really tough to describe the Anaheim Ducks as plucky. The plucky Ducks just sounds a little too corny and a big bunch of ornery guys who straddle the NHL rulebook the way the Ducks do just don’t fit the profile of a plucky team.
So we’ll applaud the Ducks’ sense of resilience instead. There, that sounds much better.
Whatever you want to call the Ducks, don’t call them late for Game 7, a scenario they masterfully created with a 2-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champions in Game 6 of their second-round series Tuesday night (which spilled into Wednesday morning if you live in the eastern time zone).
In reality, the Ducks had every excuse to go quietly into the night in Game 6. Their valiant effort to climb from 206th place in the NHL into a playoff spot was admirable. They knocked off the Presidents’ Trophy winner in the San Jose Sharks and had given the Detroit Red Wings a nice little scare in Round 2. Their previously unheralded goalie had played out of his skin for a while and the Ducks had, all in all, acquitted themselves very well.
Nobody would have been too hard on them had they showed up for Game 6 and lost the series to a team that was looking every bit the juggernaut they often are. The Ducks had been outscored by a 10-4 margin in Games 4 and 5 and were so badly outplayed Sunday afternoon that the gap between the Red Wings and them was widening. That was the script, at the very least, that almost everyone expected going into the game.
But once again, the Ducks got outstanding performances from their best players and goalie Jonas Hiller showed his previous playoff form in a game that seemed to defy all sense of logic. Not only did the Ducks win the game, aside from a flurry in the third period from the Red Wings – who were unequivocally somnambulant in the first two periods – it wasn’t even close for the most part.
Hey, wasn’t Ryan Getzlaf supposed to be suffering from the flu or some mystery injury or something? Well, he either recovered miraculously or he has more guts than a slasher movie because he came back in Game 6 with a vengeance. With two goals and eight assists, Getzlaf has either scored or assisted on 10 of the 14 goals the Ducks have scored in this series.
Not to be outdone, Corey Perry was also terrific. Hard to believe that when this kid was up for the NHL draft in 2003, he was so maligned for his skating that he tumbled down to 28th overall, nine picks after the Ducks selected Getzlaf. The Rangers have to be feeling awfully good about taking Hugh Jessimen 12th overall that year.
(Actually, the Ducks draft in 2003 shows how a good day at the draft table can set your organization up for years. That year, they also took Drew Miller 186th overall and Shane O’Brien 250th.)
So here we go to Game 7, where it will be interesting to see whether Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg will be able to outscore Getzlaf and Perry.
That’s pretty much what it has come down to in this series because pretty much everyone else on both rosters has been quiet. After a great start to the series, Nicklas Lidstrom hasn’t done a ton offensively. Aside from two goals in Game 5, Marian Hossa has done almost nothing and Tomas Holmstrom is currently being outscored in this series by Chris Osgood. Pavel Datsyuk, despite some moments of brilliance, has just two assists.
On the other side, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer have chipped in quite nicely and it was interesting to see them play as a five-man unit along with Getzlaf, Perry and Bobby Ryan for much of Game 6. Aside from that, the Ducks have received almost no production from their support players.
NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell will have some video to watch after Scott Niedermayer elbowed Datsyuk in the final seconds of the game, which led to a fight between the two at the buzzer. But given the fact a precedent has been set allowing players to cold-cock unsuspecting opponents in the face in this year’s playoff tournament, don’t count on anything coming down.
After all, Niedermayer didn’t do anything dastardly such as talking about sloppy seconds or anything. If that had been the case, then he’d really find himself in a heap of trouble.
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Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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