Final Score: Ducks 2, Red Wings 3
First Period Recap: Once again the Ducks didn't come out ready and once again the Ducks got burned less than two minutes into the game. The Red Wings, with shuffled lines that included splitting up Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, established their first pressure of the game, wristed a puck to the net, and Henrik Zetterberg got to a rebound and put the Red Wings up 1-0 in under two minutes, yet again. It was the 7th goal for the Wings within two minutes of the start of a period.
It was blatantly obvious early who had more experience in a game seven, as the veteran Red Wings jumped all over the Anaheim defense. Detroit didn't stop after scoring one; it was clear their mission was to go for Anaheim's throat early and boy did they keep driving, shooting at literally every available opportunity, notching seven shots on goal in just under four and a half minutes.
However leave it to the kids, Matt Beleskey and Emerson Etem, to reverse the energy. A good shift of physical, energetic play appeared to turn things slightly back in the Ducks direction. Then the officials got involved again, negating any of that work, sending Andrew Cogliano off for clipping Jonathan Ericsson with a high stick. Anaheim killed the penalty well, though and built some momentum off of it.
More controversy came about when Dan Cleary threw a vicious check from behind on Bryan Allen who went hard face-first into the glass. It was a two-minute boarding minor. Jimmy Howard made one sparkling save on the kill as a bouncing puck was swatted blindly on net that he got a pad on. However the power play was a series of one-and-outs and resulted in nothing.
On the very next rush Emerson Etem scored arguably his most impressive goal yet to tie the game at one, forcing a turnover in the neutral zone, carrying it over the line, skating around the defense, and ripping it over Howard's shoulder. It was his third of the series and a whopping seventh of the series for the Ducks' fourth line. Something tells me this kid isn't going back to the minors anytime soon. Or ever. Another odd quirk: Jonas Hiller got an assist for his first point in the series. Say what about "depth?"
Following an icing in which the officials gave the Wings a good chunk of extra rest to check that the right skates are on the ice, Andrew Cogliano drove the puck to the slot and forced Howard to make a spectacular stop. Kyle Quincey dumped Daniel Winnik with a cross-check on the play. Winnik immediately went to the Anaheim dressing room and was visibly shaken up.
The very first rush on the power play saw Anaheim put up a golden chance as a rebound bounced out into the slot. Howard made a sprawling save and didn't even realize it, but it kept the game even at one.
It was the Red Wings who would score on the Anaheim power play however. Beauchimin tried to make a spin-o-rama pass to Souray across the blue line and Justin Abdelkader (who else) picked off the pass and scored on a breakaway. 2-1 Wings on arguably the most infuriating goal of the series thus far.
The teams traded inconsequential chances to end the first period and head to the locker room with Anaheim trailing 2-1 on the scoreboard but leading the shot total 12-11.
Second Period Recap: The second period didn't start much better as Anaheim was once again slow out of the gate despite that being exactly the opposite of what they needed to do. Despite their best efforts, Anaheim got very little to Jimmy Howard through the opening minutes, further deflating any momentum.
The Red Wings got the first golden chance with a two-on-one in which Hiller robbed Gustav Nyquist. The whistle from the play saw a pretty big scuffle that sent both Luca Sbisa and Johan Franzen off for coincidental minors.
Anaheim's first good shot of the period came on the ensuing four-on-four as Getzlaf found Perry streaking through the neutral zone, but as so many of his shots have, Perry put it right into Howard's logo.
Detroit's next huge chance came on yet another outnumbered attack from the Red Wings as the third pass found Daniel Cleary coming in late. Jonas Hiller was barely able to shut him down and keep the Ducks down only one.
The Red Wings then continued to do exactly what they're known for: playing a solid defensive game that gives you zero chances and pisses you off at the same time, all while countering with Zetterberg or Datsyuk every single shift. Anaheim could get absolutely zero energy going and many times couldn't even get the puck inside the Detroit blue line for more than two or three seconds before a defenseman sent it right back out. So many of those battles came in the faceoff circle where the Wings dominated all night, particularly with the aforementioned studs at center. And it proved fruitful.
Valtteri Filppula would be the one to burn Anaheim and give Detroit a 3-1 lead with a backhander after a puck bounced between two or three pairs of Anaheim defenders. It was so characteristic of the defensive errors of this series, this season, and suddenly the Wings lead by two with the Ducks floundering.
Jimmy Howard continued his disgraceful diving with an impromptu sprawl into the net, knocking it off the pegs with David Steckel positioned in front on a small stretch of Anaheim possession. The officials of course bought it and put the faceoff outside.
Corey Perry nearly drew one back but once again a sprawling Howard stopped Perry who got to a loose puck immediately on top of the goal crease.
Matt Beleskey and Bobby Ryan had a three-on-one break into the Detroit zone late but they couldn't even manage a shot on goal, just another sign of how poor the second period went for the Ducks. Jonas Hiller was then called into action again, robbing both Nyquist and Datsyuk
With a minute and a half remaining Kyle Quincey took his second minor penalty of the game, shattering Nick Bonino's stick and sending him to the ice to draw Anaheim's second power play of the night, perhaps no bigger opportunity. Howard would once again draw another penalty as minimal contact from Teemu Selanne caused him to throw his head back and hit the ice. Another dive, another goaltender interference penalty bought by the officials. I'm getting so sick of Howard's antics and it's an absolute atrocity that it's having such an influence on this series.
Almost mercifully, the period ended. When Selanne is in the penalty box yelling in frustration, you know the team is almost certainly following in his footsteps. And they were. Rather than playing the game, the Ducks ended the period frustrated, down two goals, with their power play wizard in the penalty box, and outshot 16-13, for a 27-25 game total.
Talk about a bleak outlook.
Third Period Recap: The Ducks survived their early penalty kill and set to work. And for once... they came out like they were down by two goals. Full-pressure on the gas pedal from the drop of the puck, putting five shots on Jimmy Howard in the first three minutes. Selanne in particular looked like he was playing for his life, skating faster than I've seen him all season, and that's saying something for him.
Howard tried yet again to draw a penalty after taking even the slightest contact from Kyle Palmieri's stick. Thankfully the officials didn't buy that one but the "Blatant Howard Dive" counter ticked over to three on the night.
Detroit remained perfect however. Despite the pressure, they kept everything to the boards and gave the Ducks no room to go to the middle. Every time Anaheim brought the puck over the blue line they were faced with at least four Red Wings immediately.
And, frustratingly, it held. After that early flurry, the Ducks managed only two shots over the next 12 minutes as the Wings continued to simply control the puck and put it deep into the Anaheim zone. Time after time an exit pass went right to a Detroit stick and right back below the Anaheim goal line with very few becoming icing calls. It was a master class on turtling and killing the clock.
Faceoff after faceoff went in favor of Detroit and puck after puck left their end with nothing even remotely resembling a chance coming toward Anaheim.
With just under four minutes remaining, Henrik Zetterberg made the mistake of throwing the puck over the glass on a backhand clearing attempt to signal a delay of game penalty. It was now or never.
The Ducks made it now on a fluke goal much like Game Six. Fracois Beauchimin threw a puck to the front of the net that bounced off of Jonathan Ericsson's skate and behind Jimmy Howard to make it 3-2. At least Justin Abdelkader's goal wouldn't be the winner.
Time ticked down but Detroit would not allow the Ducks to get Jonas Hiller out of the net for an extra attacker again after an icing call late pinned the Ducks deep. It wouldn't matter as time would run out and the game would end.
It's fitting that my only loss of the year as a blogger comes in the final game of the season for Anaheim as they fall in game seven 3-2, losing the series 4-3. Despite outshooting Detroit 8-5 in the third period for a 33-32 final advantage, the Wings were the ones moving on.
Good season, readers. And to the Wings... good riddance. I won't miss seeing your faces and your deluge of fans in our building multiple times a year.
The Good: Emerson Etem and Teemu Selanne wanted this one more than anybody. Etem scored a goal and Selanne came close on numerous occasions, fighting tooth and nail that final period in an effort to will this team to tie the game, ultimately falling just short.
The Bad: Anaheim once again surrendered a goal super early in the game and immediately fell on the back foot, and never recovered despite tying the game. They let Henrik Zetterberg go and he scored his third goal in the last two games. Likewise, they surrendered a shorty, and my personal coaching philosophy says if you surrender one of those, you deserve to lose. And sure enough the Ducks did.
The Ugly: Jimmy Howard's diving... I don't think I need to expand on this any more than I already have but it's an embarrassment that needs to be addressed by the league. At least warn him if you're not going to get on him. For a league that claims they want to get the embellishment out, they can't keep turning a blind eye to this. It's just ridiculous.
For The Series:
The Good: Anaheim battled hard and never gave up on nearly any game, mounting some incredible comebacks, including a two and three-goal efforts. The scoring depth sparkled, particularly Emerson Etem, who notched three goals, nearly had a fourth that rang off the post, and constantly drove Detroit's defense crazy with his speed. You want to talk about an absolute gem, Emerson Etem has shown he might be one of our best pickups from the 2010 Draft and a definite fan favorite for years to come. Our gritty energy line with Winnik, Koivu, and Cogliano was also a big threat every night, limiting Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg as much as any team could possibly ask for. All this with veteran Toni Lydman, who was playing arguably his best hockey of this season, injured since game three.
The Bad: The Ducks then blew those comeback efforts in the series by surrendering overtime goals super early in the overtime. Three of Detroit's OT game winners came within the first two minutes of the overtime period starting. Not only that but as I stated earlier Detroit scored a whopping SEVEN goals in the first two minutes of a period this series. There are two extremely critical shift times in any game: the first shift of a period, and the shifts immediately following goals. Anaheim inexcusably gave up way too many of the former. Likewise, the Ducks lost what I consider the most important game of any series: game four. In overtime, on an ugly goal from defensive mistakes.
The Ugly: As great as the depth scoring, the primary scoring was not. Corey Perry, despite leading the entire team in shots on goal, finished the series with only an assist. The former MVP was virtually nowhere to be found on many shifts. Likewise, Bobby Ryan's big goals in the series went virtually for nothing as the Ducks continue to lose every time he scores a big one. Likewise... is this the last time we see Selanne in an Anaheim uniform?
3rd Icehole: The starts of periods were once again Anaheim's Achilles' heel. Surrendering the first goal super early immediately lost all the momentum, and the second and third periods didn't start all that great either, costing the Ducks five or six minutes before finally establishing some pressure and playing their game.
2nd Icehole: Jimmy Howard. Despite making some great saves and playing spectacular nearly every game this series, his diving conduct is a disgrace to hockey.
1st Icehole: The entire Red Wings team. Good riddance. Have fun in the East because I certainly won't miss you or your octopus-in-the-pants-bearing-fans being in this building.
Next Game: We'll let you know when the 2013-14 schedule is released.
Thanks again for letting me babble on about these games this season, readers. I'll continue to be with you all summer with some random content, hopefully some Twitter jokes, and from this point forward a load of insults to the remaining teams.