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Red Wings-Ducks: Where Was Detroit's Killer Instinct?

Keith SheltonAnalyst IMay 13, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 12:  Goaltender Jonas Hiller #1 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrates after defeating the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Honda Center on May 12, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Jonas Hiller came two minutes and 15 seconds away from committing grand theft last night. Only a stubborn mule refused to allow it.

The Ducks' young goalie showed what he was made of in Game Six, nearly shutting out Detroit and proving that he is capable of rebounding from a pair of rough outings.

Hiller wasn't the story last night though; it was the deplorable way in which the Wings trudged through the game.

Normally, losing a Game Six in your opponent's building when it's do or die for them would almost be expected. However, Detroit has built their reputation on going for the throat in the other team's house. They've won playoff series on the road eight straight times.

But not this time.

Detroit barely made Hiller work for his near-shutout despite peppering him with 39 shots. They just weren't able to crash the net and sacrifice their bodies the way they did in Games Four and Five.

The Wings took perimeter shots and often didn't get a second shot on the rebound.

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Then there's this matter of the Red Wings' MVP candidate, Pavel Datsyuk, who has no goals and just two assists in this series.

It's not that Datsyuk hasn't been trying. He even dug into the deepest recesses of creativity to try to score when he flipped a puck over the net to himself in Game Five.

However, Detroit needs Datsyuk to play like an MVP candidate in Game Seven, or they could be sunk.

Johan Franzen has really carried this team on his shoulders throughout the Anaheim series, notching his sixth goal of the series and eighth of the playoffs last night for Detroit.

It can't be all Franzen though. He was relaxed and modest after Game Five when reporters asked about his prolific scoring pace in the playoffs, which put him on top of the NHL. When the pressure is on in a Game Seven, he might not be so relaxed anymore if he's the only forward that can find the back of the net.

Pavel Datsyuk must take charge, push himself to a level that he hasn't been to before, and will himself to score, if just to take the pressure off everyone else on the team.

You can blame whatever you want for this series even going to a Game Seven: questionable referee calls, chippy ice in Anaheim, or injuries. But when Detroit can't muster the intensity and killer instinct for which they're known to close out a series, that's no one's fault but Detroit's.

So this series will head back to Detroit on Thursday night, and there are questions to be asked.

Detroit hasn't lost a Game Seven since 1994 against San Jose. However, the last one Detroit even played in was 2002 against Colorado. Datsyuk was a rookie that year.

So as much as people will like to say, "Detroit never loses Game Sevens," the fact is, this current team, with the exception of a few players, hasn't really ever played in one.

Anaheim won't be intimidated by the confines of Joe Louis Arena Thursday night either. They've already won Game Two there.

In a way, though, this Game Seven is fitting: the last two Stanley Cup Champions playing down to the wire in an evenly matched series. The Ducks are showing they still have plenty of fight left in them.

To anyone who once doubted that Anaheim has officially replaced Colorado as Detroit's main rivals, just look at the mayhem at the end of Game Six.

Pavel Datsyuk, for crying out loud, threw down his gloves and fought Scott Niedermayer. Marian Hossa went toe-to-toe with Corey Perry.

Detroit was frustrated with themselves at the end of Game Six. Fortunately, they will get a chance to redeem themselves.

Now let's see that killer instinct, Detroit.

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