Not long ago as I began writing this, the Detroit Red Wings finished off the Anaheim Ducks, 4-3, in Game 7 to advance to the Western Conference finals and setting up a matchup of Original Six and Central Division-rivals with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Red Wings of course are a very deserving series winner and a very strong team. Chris Osgood made a number of clutch saves in key moments and Detroit received invaluable contributions from role players, getting goals from Darren Helm and the winner with three minutes remaining from Daniel Cleary.
But I can't help but feel Anaheim should've won the game.
The Ducks had some golden chances to score and failed on most. An awful turnover eventually led to Cleary's game-winner. Therefore, the Ducks should not have won the game.
Anaheim had two 5-on-3 power plays, including one early in the game that lasted 1:10, but the Ducks skaters seemed content to pass the puck lazily around the perimeter. There was almost no movement nor anyone even looking to shoot. Finally, Scott Niedermayer wristed a halfhearted attempt towards the goal that was easily cleared.
Later, the Ducks had a lengthy 4-on-3 advantage that became another 5-on-3 for a short time and again, Anaheim achieved very few scoring chances.
Against a team like Detroit, it is imperative a team converts its scoring chances. That's one reason why Detroit is moving on and Anaheim is setting up tee times.
Prior to the first 5-on-3, a centering pass found Anaheim defenseman James Wisniewski, who instead of one-timing the pass decided to control the puck. Had he one-timed it on goal, it seems highly likely the puck would've gone in as Osgood was out of position. Instead, the hesitation allowed Osgood to center himself in the crease and make a great save.
Now, to the egregious turnover.
The Ducks are skating the puck up ice when Corey Perry attempts a cross-ice pass at the Detroit blueline. He turns the puck over, the Red Wings take the puck up ice, possess the puck in the Ducks end, and eventually Cleary knocks in the loose puck.
An awful play by Perry. You cannot afford to make turnovers like that against Detroit. The Red Wings' transition game is just too good.
The game was much more even than some of the games in the series and could've gone either way. They probably should be preparing for overtime right now. But they're not. In the end, Detroit was better, and considering how much of this series the Wings have outplayed the Ducks, it is fitting that Detroit advances.
If I'm a Ducks fan, however, there are a lot of "What ifs" going through my mind.
Finally, congratulations to the Red Wings for the victory.