The Anaheim Ducks -- viewed as the 2007 Stanley Cup-winner or this year's eighth seed out west -- have pushed the Detroit Red Wings to the brink of the end of their reign as champions. This last straight-up showdown to decide what six prior games couldn't resolve promises to be the ultimate competitive scenario.
Not of consequence but certainly of interest is that home ice advantage in Game 7s is a raw and real 63% win rate. More pertinent is that both netminders,
So, if the netminders hold up, what potentially tips the balance in this final bout?
Well, the Ducks are coming off an impressive Game 6 effort. Coach
The Red Wings couldn't. Getzlaf and Perry scored Anaheim's goals and the D-pairing shut down Detroit's formidable
Franzen did score, but not until Wings coach
In the end, the Ducks will need the same effort and results from their top five if they are to advance. Conversely, for the Red Wings to succeed, Datsyuk has to hit the score sheet along with Hossa. Datsyuk is a Hart Trophy nominee as the NHL's MVP. He must find a way to be offensively relevant. Hossa came to Detroit for one reason -- to win the Cup. His personal motivation has to become a rallying point for the group and the impetus for his best effort yet.
The wild card in all of this will be how these teams handle the physical side of the game given the stakes involved and the subsequent undercurrent of tension. Game 6 ended with Datsyuk and Niedermayer exchanging punches while Perry pummeled
However, in Game 6, the Ducks took a couple of unnecessary penalties, both by
Then it comes down to even strength play, which is how this game should be settled. In the series, the Red Wings hold a 12-7 five-on-five scoring advantage. In Game 6, the Ducks played their best even-strength hockey of the series at both ends and won on that front 1-0, the ultimate margin of victory.
Bottom line: the Ducks must reprise their Game 6 masterpiece. The Red Wings will require more from two guys capable of giving it. Should be epic.