Abdelkader's hit could be series tipping point
May, 5, 2013
By Craig Custance | ESPN.com
DETROIT -- For the most part, the Anaheim Ducks passed. Passed on a chance to make their case. Passed on an opportunity to offer up their opinion regarding Justin Abdelkader’s hit on Toni Lydman that earned the Red Wings forward a five-minute charging major, game misconduct and possibly a call from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
"I didn’t get a chance to really look at it," said Ducks forward Nick Bonino, who scored 18 seconds into the ensuing power play in Anaheim’s 4-0 win. "I’m going to stay out of it."
Said captain Ryan Getzlaf: "Sorry, guys. That’s got nothing to do with me. If I had an opinion that mattered, I’d give it to you. But my opinion doesn’t. We just wait and see."
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau took the high road as well, complimenting the league’s history on handling suspensions before declining to offer his opinion.
"Mr. Shanahan can look at it, he can read into what he thinks," Boudreau said. "We just want our guy to be OK."
Late in the second period, Abdelkader left his feet on a hit that appeared to make contact with Lydman’s head, a typical recipe for a suspension. It’s the combination the league has worked hard to try to eliminate from the game over the past couple years as concussions emerged as a serious issue in the NHL. Lydman did not return to the game and he was still dealing with a headache afterward. Boudreau didn’t sound optimistic that Lydman would be on the ice for Ducks practice on Sunday afternoon.
But Red Wings coach Mike Babcock didn’t see a guy targeting the head, but instead hitting shoulder-to-shoulder.
"He is low when he hits him," Babcock said. "When he explodes through him, he’s not low anymore. When he makes contact, his legs are bent and he’s low ... I didn’t think his arms were up or anything like that. I thought he hit him on his shoulder."
The hit will be debated before and after Shanahan makes a ruling, but there’s no debating the impact of Anaheim’s response in Game 3. Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler described Anaheim’s play in the second period until that moment as flat.
It wasn’t flat from then on.
With previous Ducks teams, the hit on Lydman might have led to a fight. Or at the very least losing their cool. But according to Bonino, Getzlaf addressed some of the players leading up to the ensuing power play with a message:
Getzlaf wanted to see a calm reaction but also called for urgency during the Ducks' five-minute power play. Too often, he said, teams get lackadaisical when they have five minutes of power play. He didn’t want to see that happen at this critical moment, and he let his teammates know.
Bonino scored 18 seconds later.
"It’s definitely what we were looking for," Getzlaf said.
It ended up being the game winner, although it wasn’t the goal that broke the Red Wings' spirit. That came in the third period, when Getzlaf stripped Damien Brunner of the puck in front of Jimmy Howard and beat him for a short-handed goal 6:33 into the final period. That was the back-breaker. Another moment for the Ducks captain.
But the hit and the Ducks' reaction to it changed the course of the game. Maybe the series. During the regular season, the Ducks were 17-0-2 when leading after two periods, a lead Bonino’s power-play goal allowed them to seize. They know how to close out a game. Now, with a 2-1 series lead, we find out if they’re just as good closing out a series.