Home Ice No Benefit in Game One

The wacky 2002-2003 Game One home ice jinx has spread throughout the NHL. The Red Wings succumbed with a 2-1 loss in triple overtime to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, making the New Jersey Devils the only one of the teams with home ice advantage to win their playoff opener.

The Red Wings started out quite well. They got a power play chance early when Ruslan Salei was sent to the box for holding, and good passing allowed the Wings to capitalize. Igor Larionov sent the puck up to Tomas Holmstrom behind the net. Holmstrom sent it out across the goal crease, and Brendan Shanahan was able to wrist the puck in past goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Anaheim was able to get on the scoreboard late in the first period. Kurt Sauer took a shot on net from the right boards. The shot was deflected by Mike Leclerc on its way through. Curtis Joseph was able to make the save, but the rebound slid out at an awkward angle and Adam Oates was able to get to it and flip it into the net.

The Ducks came on strong in the second and third periods. They had a golden opportunity to score late in the second: 29 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time with Mathieu Schneider and Darren McCarty both in the penalty box. Fortunately for Detroit, Steve Yzerman won the faceoff and sent the puck deep into the Ducks’ zone, killing off most of the 5-on-3. Joseph was amazing in net and was the key reason the game went to overtime.

The Red Wings completely dominated the first two overtime periods. Luc Robitaille thought he won the game with 10:39 left in the first overtime, but review showed that his shot deflected off the bottom of the crossbar and never crossed the goal line.

That was the way it went for Detroit in overtime. Shots were blocked. Shots were deflected up and out of play. Shots rebounded in just the right spots that no Red Wings could get to them easily. In the end, though, the game belonged to Giguere, who had a phenomenal game, stopping 63 of the 64 shots he faced and setting a new record for a goaltender in his playoff debut. In the end, Giguere kept the Ducks in the game, knowing that an overtime game is a one shot game.

That one vital shot came early in the third overtime period. The faceoff came to be deep in the Red Wings’ zone. Steve Rucchin won the faceoff back to Paul Kariya, who sent a hard wrist shot over the shoulder of Curtis Joseph. Joseph was accidentally screened by Sergei Fedorov, and couldn’t see the shot coming until it was too late.

The Red Wings will regroup and come back at it on Saturday afternoon to try to even up the series with their second home game.

Wings Better Off With Anaheim Matchup

With Detroit’s loss to Chicago and Dallas’ win over Nashville on Sunday, the Red Wings’ first-round playoff picture came into focus and revealed that Detroit will play the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the opening round.

Had Detroit defeated the Blackhawks to claim the Western Conference’s first seed, they would have matched up with the Edmonton Oilers.

A first-round matchup with the Mighty Ducks will be better for the Red Wings than one with the Oilers would have been. The Ducks are a more defensive team than the Oilers, allowing only 193 goals this season compared to the 230 goals scored on Edmonton, but are coming into the playoffs with a slightly worse record. Anaheim is 5-2-1-2 in their last ten games, while Edmonton ended the season 5-1-3-1.

Anaheim also plays a less offensive game than Edmonton. The Oilers have scored a total of 231 goals this season while the Mighty Ducks have scored only 203. Edmonton utilizes the speed of forwards Mike Comrie and Radek Dvorak to pressure opposing defenses. The Ducks do not have the same speed at the forward position and can’t apply the same amount of pressure.

History is in the favor of a matchup with Anaheim over one with Edmonton. The Red Wings are unbeaten in the playoffs against the Ducks, having swept them in 1997 and 1999. In two series’ against Edmonton, the Red Wings are 2-8.

The Ducks are the weaker team from a goaltending standpoint as well. Jean-Sebastien Gigure has never appeared in an NHL playoff game. Edmonton’s Tommy Salo has stolen series’ from the Dallas Stars in 1997 and Colorado Avalanche in 1998.

Despite not claiming the first seed in the Western Conference, the Red Wings are in good position with their matchup against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. They should not see as tough a series as they would have against the Edmonton Oilers.

Note from the writer, 4/11/2003: Tommy Salo was not the goaltender between the pipes for Edmonton’s upsets of Dallas and Colorado in 1997 and 1998, it was instead now-Red Wing Curtis Joseph. I failed to double-check my “facts” and apologize for any confusion. I still stand behind my belief that Anaheim is the better opponent for the Wings to be facing.