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Ducks Gameday—Glimmers of hope for the depressed Ducks fan, round 2

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This is my other lucky Red Wings cartoon, published before G1 of the 2007 WCF.
This is my other lucky Red Wings cartoon, published before G1 of the 2007 WCF.

Anaheim Ducks (8th in west) at Detroit Red Wings (2nd in west)
JavaGeek Odds: DET 68%
Winging It In Motown, or for the braver, there's A2Y.  And don't forget Anaheim Calling vs. IAmJoe over at CLS.

And just like that, it's round two.

Losing a seven-game series to the Red Wings sucks.  Or at least best as I can remember it from a decade ago, but I'm pretty sure it's true.  And with the forward depth and experience that Detroit boasts, even the most optimistic Ducks fan has to be pretty worried about Anaheim's chances. 

It's not just that Detroit swept Columbus in the first round -- that seems tolerable -- but the Blue Jackets never led a game even once.  That speaks to preparation and execution, and if Detroit isn't looking past Columbus in the first round, they certainly won't be looking past the Ducks.  Too many Red Wings remember 2007, and frankly 2003, for that possibility. 

On paper, it seems the Ducks are screwed.  Thankfully, though, they don't play these games on paper.  Ducks fans are still playing with house money (shouldn't have made the playoffs, shouldn't have survived round one); can Anaheim pull off another stunning giant-kill?  Well, I made an optimism list that seemed to work well enough last round (and I think those still have some validity -- Carlyle's Ducks did continue the trend of winning in tough road cities), so I figured I'd try this again for Detroit.

After the jump: some reasons a Ducks fan can take hope going into tonight's series.

1. I think the Ducks are playing their better netminder; are the Red Wings?

Playoff pedigree vs. regular season results.

Now at first blush, this seemingly would be a contrast between the playoff experience and performance of Chris Osgood vs. Jonas Hiller -- one with a wealth of playoff experience and one coming off his first series victory.  And that head-to-head matchup will definitely be a huge storyline -- a lot of this series will probably come down to how good each of these netminders perform under the other team's offensive assaults.

But there's another subtler storyline here, which is why Osgood and Hiller are playing over their benched counterparts -- in each case there seems to be a decision: play the netminder with the better results this season, or play the netminder with the better playoff pedigree.  And for whatever reasons, Coaches Babcock and Carlyle have made different choices.

2008 - Chris Osgood 46 2663 26 9 8 0 137 3.09 1208 1071 .887 2

2008 - Ty Conklin 40 2246 25 11 2 4 94 2.51 1033 939 .909 6

When Mike Babcock made his decision for a starting netminder for these playoffs, he opted for pedigree -- Conklin had a better GAA, SV%, SO, and Wins/GP than Osgood over the regular season, but for Detroit, it seems the bigger issue was playoff experience and Osgood's three cups.

2008 - Jonas Hiller 46 2486 23 15 1 6 99 2.39 1217 1118 .919 4

2008 - Jean-Sebastien Giguere 46 2458 19 18 6 3 127 3.10 1274 1147 .900 2

Carlyle, on the other hand, went away from pedigree -- Giguere may be a playoff legend, especially in Detroit, but again, GAA, SV%, SO, and Wins/GP metrics all favored Hiller, and Carlyle stuck with the hotter hand.

So far, nobody's upset with the choice that was made -- Osgood and Hiller seemed to be the right netminders for any first-round challenges, but they both can't keep winning.  If goaltending plays as large a role in this series as I'm expecting, what will win out -- Osgood's experience or Hiller's raw talent?  Will either coach regret their goaltending option and revert to the other guy's netminder strategy?  Bears some watching, I think.

2. Sasquatch, or as we call him, Pronger.

IAmJoe (or "Joe", as he likes to be called in the blogspot universe) has put this together in a nice post at the CLS series blog.  Chris Pronger has a ton of experience against the postseason Wings, and finally in 2006 and 2007 Pronger's teams emerged victorious.  Wings fans obviously detest Pronger for his cheap shots, but if I were a Wings fan, I'd find equally detestable the notion that Detroit scored neither an even-strength nor a power-play goal while Pronger was on the ice in the last match-up. 

Pronger has been the common factor the last two times the Red Wings were eliminated, and he's more than a good-luck charm.  With 10 points in 11 games in those two series, he's been a Detroit-killing force -- let's hope he's still got that mojo.

3. The Ducks are paid up on their Niedermayer Insurance.

I brought this up in my 5 reasons why the Wings should hate the Ducks (although now with Pahlsson traded and Giguere benched, we're largely down to three).  In Detroit's modern era of postseason dominance, they've accomplished a lot of things, but they've never eliminated a Niedermayer.  Scott's Devils swept the Wings in the 1995 cup finals, Rob's Mighty Ducks swept the Wings in the 2003 first round, and together they edged the Wings in 6 in the 2007 western conference finals.  Some quotes from the 5 reasons post:


Despite his shut-down role, Rob’s actually had impressive points totals against the postseason Wings: in 10 games, he has scored 8 points (0.8 pts/gm). Over the rest of his Anaheim career, he has played 50 playoff games NOT against Detroit and scored 15 points (0.3 pts/gm).
Game Two in Detroit he scored the game-winner from down low in the 15th minute of overtime to tie the series at 1 game apiece. Then, late in regulation of Game Five, with the Wings up by a goal and Giguere pulled for a 6-on-4, Scott delivered the "kick to the groin": a weak shot that deflected off the stick of Nick Lidstrom and fluttered lazily over Hasek’s shoulder. That shot, more than anything, decided that coin-flip series in Anaheim’s favor, and was probably the strongest case for Niedermayer’s Conn Smythe win.

4. Carlyle gets to re-visit an old opponent.

This will be the tenth postseason series that Coach Carlyle has coached for the Ducks, and the first time that he gets to go up against a coach and team that he's squared off against in the past.  I'm really not an expert on the intricacies of coaching, but it seems that in most of the series Carlyle has coached, he's gotten a match-up edge and sheltered the weak parts of his roster effectively.

I really don't know who is favored in a coaching re-match, though.  Has Babcock come up with a way to counter Carlyle's tendencies, or vice versa?  This bears some watching.

5. The Monkey and the Forechecker Agree Again.

Brought this up last round, but there's one trend that I take entirely too much hope in, and the two stars have aligned for another round, at least.  Both Maggie the Monkey and the Forechecker have made their second round selections, and thankfully both have gone the way of the Winged Wheel.

The table below will show you, but for whatever reason, even though both prognosticators have wildly different methods, ever since the Ducks dropped the "Mighty" from their team name, both Maggie and the Forechecker have picked incorrectly in every playoff series Anaheim has participated in.  It's six series in a row so far; let's make it seven.

Year Rd Series Maggie's Pick Forechecker's Pick Series Winner
2007 1 (2) ANA vs. (7) MIN Minnesota Minnesota Anaheim
2007 2 (2) ANA vs. (3) VAN Vancouver Vancouver Anaheim
2007 3 (1) DET vs. (2) ANA Detroit Detroit Anaheim
2007 4 (2) ANA vs. (4) OTT Ottawa Ottawa Anaheim
2008 1 (4) ANA vs. (5) DAL Anaheim Anaheim Dallas
2009 1 (1) SJS vs. (8) ANA San Jose San Jose Anaheim
2009 2 (2) DET vs. (8) ANA Detroit Detroit ???

6. The Ducks may be better off than last round.

If you recall, JavaGeek originally gave the Sharks a 71% likelihood of eliminating the Ducks.  At least this time we're down to a manageable 68%.  :)  And no matter what anybody says, the Ducks have better odds this round than they did in 2003.

7. The Red Wings are very good.

Sound like a bad thing?  It probably is, but there's one huge bright side to playing an excellent opponent, especially when it comes to hot-headed Anaheim -- the Ducks won't pretend that they're the better team.  Throughout the season, that's been one huge problem for the Ducks -- as soon as they become convinced that they're playing an inferior team, they stopped working and got lazy.  They seemed to lose interest in demonstrating why they were better; rather they relied on a sense of entitlement, often with regrettable results.

With the opponents the Ducks have faced so far in the Sharks and Wings, that illusion of Duck Superiority hasn't reared its ugly head.  The Ducks players know they are up against a truly formidable foe, and thus they seem to put a lot more focus on execution and safe plays than at other times in the year, and that's a very good thing.  The times that the Ducks have kept their heads on straight, they've been pretty good, and that's going to be a necessity if there's any hope in this series.

* * * 

So most of this is nonsense, but there's hopefully there's some reasons why this could work out.  It's going to take a lot of luck and a hot-as-hell Hiller, but that's not exactly new.

I'll be out of the comments tonight (I'm watching on a pretty good DVR delay with two buddies of mine), but feel free to join in during the game, or feel free to offer your own reasons for optimism. 

Prediction: Pronger gets booed.

Go Ducks.