Red Wings-Ducks: With Jonas Hiller Proven Human, Ducks Must End the Rope-a-Dope

Greg Eno@@GregEnoSenior Analyst IMay 8, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 07:  Valterri Filppula #51 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates as a goal by Marian Hossa #81 of the Red Wings gets by goalie Jonas Hiller #1 of the Anaheim Ducks in the second period of Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals at Honda Center on May 7, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I wonder if Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is a student of American history—specifically, the 1980s.

After watching Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller channel J.S. Giguere '03 thru the first three games of the Western Conference semifinals against his team, Babcock might have done some channeling of his own.

Maybe Babcock made like President Ronald Reagan in addressing a certain player:

“Mr. Hossa, tear down this wall!”

And so Marian did—much quicker than it took to knock down the Berlin version.

Hossa’s two goals, both wrist shots and both semi-stoppable, proved that Hiller is indeed human and not a wall after all. It also got the much-ballyhooed summer free-agent signee off the schneide in the series.

Of course, Hossa actually got off said schneide in the final minute of Game Three—but we all know what happened there.

There’s nothing nicer to see in a playoff series than the skating off the ice of the once-impenetrable netminder of your opponent, white flag in tow following a barrage of goals.

Once you prove a goalie’s mortality, things often get much easier. The impenetrable netminder is sometimes the last bullet in the chamber for the outshot, out-talented underdog—the last hook on which they can hang their hockey helmets.

Bullet spent. Hook broken, lying on the floor.

The Ducks are now going to officially have to start playing hockey—going to have to start getting more offensively than what the Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry line has been providing.

No more rope-a-dope—because the Ducks’ rope finally snapped last night.

Of the five goals that Hiller surrendered, at least two of them were borderline soft. He looked shaky on other shots.

It was about damn time.

Meanwhile, Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood probably would like to have had Perry’s second goal back, a wrister that beat him stick side to tie the game 2-2.

All this isn’t to say that Hiller can’t bounce back and have a terrific rest of the series.

But the Red Wings are a veteran bunch, and they were probably less intimidated by Hiller’s antics in Games One through Three than most teams would have been. So last night’s scoring outburst likely didn’t surprise them all that much. They know that when they play their game, they’ll eventually score goals.

So even if Hiller does bounce back, the Red Wings will keep doing their thing, which usually pays off in the end.

With Hossa’s two goals in Game Four, pretty much all of the Red Wings’ big guns have made their presence known in one round or the other this spring. You can nitpick and say that Pavel Datsyuk hasn’t really turned it on yet, but it’s like a sterling batting lineup in baseball.

You don’t always need one through nine in the order to be hot all at the same time. Only the poor teams need that.

The good teams know that if a couple guys scuffle, there’ll be others to pick up the slack.

Home ice advantage, for what it’s worth, is now back in the Red Wings’ possession in this series.

But it doesn’t matter, really, where the games are played. It’s a game of confidence and belief in what you’re doing—and sometimes a little change.

Babcock juggled some lines in the first period, placing Hossa with Johan Franzen. Those two accounted for four goals after the change. So this morning Babs is a genius. For now.

Hiller is penetrable. For now.

Advantage Detroit. For now.

Chapter Five will be revealed on Sunday.

Maybe Hiller’s not the killer after all.


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