Monday, May 1, 2006
Red Wings didn't lose, Edmonton just beat Detroit
By Barry Melrose Special to ESPN.com
Unbelievable. It's the only way to describe tonight's Game 6 between the Red Wings and Oilers.
The top two seeds -- Detroit and Dallas -- are both out. This kind of parity is what our game is all about. Just throw the seeds out in the playoffs!
If there's one theme we've seen in the playoffs so far, it's that the teams with depth are having the most success.
Mike Modano only had one goal against the Avs, and the Stars are out; Steve Sullivan had no goals against the Sharks, and the Predators are out; Jaromir Jagr was hurt and played a limited amount of time against the Devils, and the Rangers are out. The play of Peter Forsberg will be the key to whether the Flyers move on.
Then, there's Detroit. With that talented roster, only Henrik Zetterberg was a consistent scorer with five goals. Brendan Shanahan and Tomas Holmstrom each had just one goal, while Pavel Datsyuk had none. All were such big contributors during the regular season, only to be shut down in the playoffs. It's something the Red Wings will have to look at during the offseason.
Edmonton, meanwhile, wore down Detroit. In the third period Monday night, just like in the rest of the series, the Oilers were more physical. They won the physical battles and the Red Wings couldn't respond to it. The Oilers force you to go nose-to-nose and the Red Wings didn't want to do it for six games, and they didn't want to do it in the third period in Game 6. The bottom line: The Oilers make you work, and if you don't work, they'll beat you.
Just look who has played major roles for the Oilers in the playoffs so far.
• Ryan Smyth: He is basically Edmonton's Steve Yzerman. Smyth, who drew a key penalty in the third period, has been there since Day One. He could have left Edmonton a few times, but he wanted to stay with the organization. He does the same things Yzerman does -- he scores big goals, he's always battling, he's the Oilers' leader on and off the ice and the team's character and conscience.
• Sergei Samsonov: This is what the higher-ups draw on the board when they're looking to make deals. The Oilers acquired the winger at the trade deadline and he wound up setting up the series-clinching goal in Game 6.
• Dwayne Roloson: Everyone said the Oilers needed better goaltending. Well, they went out and got it at the trade deadline and Roloson has been solid in this series. Even though the Oilers lost Game 1 in overtime, Roloson made 54 saves and it gave Edmonton confidence that it could beat Detroit. He changed the team's mindset. In Game 6, he made big save after big save, even in the second period when the team was outshot 17-3. He always gave the team hope.
• Chris Pronger: Acquired during the offseason, the big defenseman was huge in this series. He made big defensive plays, scored some big goals from the blue line and had a three-assist game to push the series back to Edmonton.
So, who will win the West? My first prediction (Dallas) has backfired, but I really love every team in the West right now. If Calgary wins tonight, can you imagine a Battle of Alberta in the second round? Hockey fans will love to see those two teams try to kill each other over a playoff series.
The one sad note out of all of this is that it's likely the last time we'll see Stevie Y play. After what he went through this season, why does he need to come back? He's played so many seasons and he's accomplished everything a player can. There's nothing worse than seeing a player hang around too long, and I don't want to see Yzerman do that. Of course, he didn't want to go out this way, but he will go out as one of the best to ever play in the NHL.
Barry Melrose, a former NHL defenseman and coach, is a hockey analyst for ESPN.