By Adrian Dater
Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin had a tremendous season for the Anaheim Ducks. He was in the discussion among Norris Trophy voters, anchoring the defense for a team that finished second overall in the seriously tough Western Conference.
But in Beachemin’s native French-Canadian tongue, he was the chevre of Sunday’s Game 7 between his Ducks and the Detroit Red Wings. That means goat. It’s true, he was credited with a lucky late power-play goal that accounted for the final score, but the damage from an earlier incident on the power play had already been done.
Beauchemin tried to get fancy during a game in which keep-it-safe fundamental play was the bylaw, and for that he will be shown on every hockey highlight show around the globe for the next day.
Beauchemin’s spin-o-rama blind backhand pass was intercepted and converted into a short-handed goal by Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader with 3:23 left in the first period, which broke a 1-1 tie, killed all of Anaheim’s building momentum and ultimately resulted in a 3-2 loss at the Honda Center.
No doubt about it, that was the key play of the game. Anaheim, the No. 2 seed, one that had a 3-2 series lead, was never the same after that.
Detroit thus moves on to face the Chicago Blackhawks in round 2, while Anaheim is left to ponder how their otherwise great regular season fizzled out.
The following are my explanations, along with other observations from what was a great victory for a proud Original Six franchise on the road:
• Corey Perry was terrible. That is the biggest reason why Anaheim blew the series. The highly-paid first-line winger wasn’t physical, he wasn’t abrasive and he wasn’t passionate. In the corners, he didn’t win many battles. He got feisty at times in Game 7, but too much in the frustrated, retaliatory sense. He didn’t score a goal in the series, and the Ducks don’t win when that happens.
• The gap between the Ducks’ forwards and defense was way too big most of the game. In layman’s terms, it means Ducks defenders needed binoculars too often when trying to make a pass up the ice to their offensive mates.
• It might be tempting to go with a “Bruce Boudreau showed some panic” meme over his decision to move Perry off the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan at the start of the game, to match Mike Babcock’s move of Henrik Zetterberg off his regular line with Pavel Datsyuk and onto one with Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Cleary.
But Perry soon was back with Getzlaf and Ryan the rest of the game. It was the line centered by Saku Koivu (no points, minus-4 in the final four games) that was lazy around the net when Zetterberg scored early to make it 1-0. Boudreau probably will take some criticism for thinking too hard in order to match wits with Babcock, but I don’t think that was the big problem.
That said, Boudreau now is 1-4 in Game 7s as a coach.
• Sheldon Souray looked his age in this one. He was behind the play the whole time on Detroit’s critical third goal in the second period. He was just reaching with the stick on the whole play, culminated by Filppula’s goal. The 36-year-old D-man was a healthy scratch in Game 3 and seemed to lose some confidence when Boudreau put him back in.
• Hate to say anything bad about the brilliant Teemu Selanne, but he wasn’t good enough in this series either. He failed to score after Game 1, and took a foolish frustration penalty against Patrick Eaves that ended a Ducks power play late in the second period.
If this was the final game of Selanne’s incredible career, it will be a shame.
• Four of the five worst teams on the penalty kill to this point have now been eliminated from the playoffs. Anaheim was one of them. They were at 73.9 percent coming into Game 7. Not good enough.
• The Ducks also iced the puck all night. In the final two minutes, they committed two critical icing violations. Teams trying to tie it up late can’t do that.
For the Wings…
• Jonathan Ericsson was the unsung hero of the series for Detroit. The Swedish defender finished a plus-1. Consider the late-season turnaround for him: After a MINUS-5 effort against Chicago March 31, Ericsson finished even or better the final 13 regular-season games, and in six of the seven games in this series.
• Pavel Datsyuk wasn’t the major player in Game 7, but he was excellent nonetheless, getting five shots on net through the first two periods and totally outplaying center counterpart Ryan Getzlaf most of the night.
Datsyuk scored a couple of outrageous goals in the series, and seemed to intimidate the Ducks’ defense every second. You can’t blame Anaheim for feeling that way.
• Detroit was better on faceoffs in the series (52.1 percent entering Game 7 and they were better than that in this one) and that allowed them to play the kind of puck-possession game that has been their hallmark for 20 years now.
• Jimmy Howard was tremendous. He wasn’t severely tested in Game 7, but even if he were, it seemed like he would have won the battle anyway. He outplayed Jonas Hiller in the final two games, plain and simple.