Ducks Gameday—Do or die, part 1 of ?

Detroit Red Wings (2nd in west) at Anaheim Ducks (8th in west)
Red Wings lead series 3-2, JavaGeek Odds: DET 81%
Winging It In Motown, A2Y, On the Wings, IAmJoe, Triple Deke -- their table is all set, just waiting on the duck meat.

First off, for any Ducks (or Blues?) fans who feel cheated by the refs for the non-goalie-interference on Detroit's third goal on Sunday, please do me the favor of reading Wing fan IAmJoe's piece following the Red Wings' loss in G3, after a much more costly and controversial call.  It's worth reading the whole thing, but I'm only stealing this portion:

I have always maintained, and will maintain until my death, that while a referee may make mistakes, the really good teams put themselves into positions where they don't allow the referee to change the game against them. Especially in a 7 game series, this ought to be true. Maybe you got screwed out of a game. Hey, ok, there's 6 other games you can win.
It's way true -- we all know that refereeing has never been perfect, we all could stand to stop blaming them for every postseason decision.  While they do have impact on games, especially ones that are closely fought, what they do in one minute shouldn't trump what the other team has done for the other fifty-nine.  And really, there's no ref decision I've seen in this series that seems inconsistent with regular season practices.  Really this is what fans of both teams should be used to by now -- political referees have been a part of every hockey game I've ever seen; idealism about any other style of refereeing may be useful chatter for the offseason, but in this best-of-seven series, it is irrelevant.

Now coaches and players probably carry some blame for why fans seem overly whiny this time of year -- they're required to put their faces in front of microphones and they're paid for things like referee gamesmanship.  But we needn't put too much stock in that -- almost as a rule, player/coach quotes are pretty useless, and usually I feel stupider if I pay attention to them.  Their talking is always less interesting and less critical than their play on the ice.

I guess my general point is that this series could probably use less whining from fans on both sides -- I don't think it promotes this series or the sport well at all to outsiders, I don't think it's flattering to our image as knowledgable hockey fans, and I don't think it does justice to the team that emerges victorious.  After all, that's really what this series is -- forget any notion of "better" team, that's better proven over an 82-game haul than a best-of-seven -- it's really just a race to four victories in a highly pressurized format, with referees playing the role they always have.

The Red Wings have been dominant the last decade-plus, and the Ducks have been upstarts who in two previous meetings have withstood the assault.  The teams have met five times in the last dozen years, battled to a G6 tonight, and it's quite possible it could go the distance.  It could be an epic series for some all-too-familiar rivals, and I think the last two cup winners deserve better out of us as fans; we should be focusing on the teams' roles in the series outcome, not on the guys with orange armbands.  Even if the referees do make a game-deciding call, credit the other team for not allowing the game to be decided at an earlier stage.

Pacman1_medium
See? I told you this graphic would show up again. Hooray for laziness!

As to the actual hockey game tonight, I'll provide one key for Anaheim. Don't fall behind by two goals. Looking back on the 2003, 2007, and 2009 series between the Ducks and Wings, somehow Anaheim has managed to avoid the two-goal deficit in all but three games (G3 of the '07 WCF and G4 and G5 of this series). The Ducks have never made up any of those two-goal deficits, losing all three decisions, but in the games where they've avoided falling behind by two, they have a 10-2 record.

Of course easier said than done, but that seemingly is the key.  I should be around for the comments tonight -- stop on by and share in the stress of facing elimination.

Prediction: Referees call an imperfect game, just as expected.  Fans whine about it, just as expected.  I guess we're just a YouTube-complainy generation.

Go Ducks.

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