Not out of some friendly solidarity in their war against the Red (Wing) Menace. Not out of some intense James Wisniewski(notes) nostalgia. But because the Ducks are, in his eyes, the lesser of the two potential Western Conference finals foes for the Hawks.
As of a few hours before Game 6, he's right: The Ducks that played in Detroit on Sunday were not the Ducks that challenged this Detroit Red Wings team in two earlier wins. They were pedestrian, easily overwhelmed by a Detroit attack that sent 37 shots on Jonas Hiller(notes) and only allowed 17 on Chris Osgood(notes).
The word fatigue has entered into the conversation, and it's a valid concern: The Ducks have been playing playoff games for over two months, and that captures up to a team. If not physically -- which can certainly be argued -- then mentally, as Coach Randy Carlyle canceled a morning skate to give his players some extra time to recharge their batteries.
The question for Rosenbloom and everyone else who sees this series pretty much over with: Can the Ducks rebound from their malaise and regain their form for the last two games?
Can the prideful veterans like Scott Niedermayer(notes) and Teemu Selanne(notes) push this thing to seven? Can Hiller perform some outright thievery tonight? Can the wildly insufficient officiating swing in Anaheim's direction again?
Or is a ferocious, fit and confident Wings team pretty much unbeatable at this juncture?
Five thoughts on Game 6 this evening ...
1. For Anaheim, Reclaim the Neutral Zone. Before we realized wrestling was fake, we never understood why heels wrestling Hulk Hogan would allow him to bring his fist about three feet behind his head before landing a punch. Why not just poke'em in the eye while he's loading up for a haymaker?
Same principle applies for the Ducks. They've allowed the Wings too much room to accelerate and create off the rush. Take away their space but more importantly, as Carlyle has said, make better decisions with the puck on offense so as not to gift-wrap a turnover for a Red Wings rush the other way.
2. Don't Get Down. Earl Sleek provides some interesting historic perspective on the Ducks, Wings and deficits:
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.
In other words, the first goal looms large this evening.
3. Ryan Getzlaf(notes) and Corey Perry(notes) Need To Rebound. Neither of the Ducks' primary offensive weapons recorded a point in Game 5, a contest that saw them split up in an attempt to juice the scoring. They're expected to be reunited tonight, and Anaheim desperately needs the kind of two-way effort their top line has otherwise given them consistently this postseason. Getzlaf in particular needs to lead; the Ducks are 3-0 in the playoffs when he scores a goal.
4. For Detroit, Keep Getting the Matchups. Coach Mike Babcock's line shifting was the key moment in the series thus far, as Johan Franzen(notes) with Valtteri Filppula(notes) and Marian Hossa(notes), and the Henrik Zetterberg(notes)/Pavel Datsyuk/Tomas Holmstrom(notes) lines have given the Ducks fits as far as matchups. Franzen in particular has been deployed perfectly, leading Dan Cleary to tell the Detroit News that we're seeing one of the best players in the world in the Mule:
"Last year, he caught everybody off-guard ..."Now, he's just dominant, one of the top five players in the world, no doubt about it. He drives hard to the net, he's big, he can skate, he has great hands and a great shot. He's unbelievable. There's nothing he can't do."
5. Finally, Know That History Virtually Guarantees a Red Wings' Win Tonight. Neutral zone, Schmutral zone; the Ducks are screwed, according to the OC Register:
The Red Wings have played a Game 6 in the postseason 47 times in their history, with the first coming in the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals. They've won 28 of those.
In games where the Red Wings had a chance to eliminate their opponent in the sixth game of a series, the Red Wings hold an 18-5 record. Of those 18 victories, 13 have come on an opponent's home ice.
You want more? In the last seven playoff series that the Red Wings have won, the deciding game was on the road.
So there you go. No need to even lace up the skates. That's why the Ducks were having laughs during Monday's practice: They're staring into the abyss, giggling to keep from cryin'.
Wait, what was that OC Register?
The only time a Game 6 was played between the two teams was on May 22, 2007. In Anaheim. The Ducks won, 4-3, and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Oh, OK then. See you at Game 7 at the Joe.