Every hockey game ends with the announcement of the three stars of the game, a longstanding hockey tradition that sets it apart from the other major sports. For Game 6 of the Detroit-Anaheim series, a 2-1 Ducks win that sent the series back to the Motor City for a deciding Game 7, the choices for stars of the game were:
-Rookie goaltending sensation Jonas Hiller. Reason for the star: 38 saves on 39 SOGA for a .974 save percentage.
-Re-energized assistant captain Ryan Getzlaf. Reason for the star: 1 PPG, 1 A, 2 P, 3 Hits, 16 of 24 faceoffs won. Note though: A game-high 4 giveaways.
-Veteran defenseman Scott Niedermayer. Reason for the star: Second assist on the Getzlaf goal.
Color me perplexed on that last one. Maybe my attention deficit tendencies made me miss the key contributions of the Ducksí captain, other than a pretty tame fight with Pavel Datsyuk after the final horn. In any case, if we think back to three key turning points of the game, weíll have no problem coming up with a better choice or two than Niedermayer, who turned in a competent but unspectacular performance (See Kris Allen. It was all right, dog.)
The first turning point Iím sure youíll agree with me on. Itís the two goal turnaround on the sequence of plays involving first line winger Corey Perry in the late 2nd period. Perryís hustling to get back on defense, cutting off a pass from Marian Hossa to Valtteri Filppula with a headlong dive derailed an equalizing goal for Detroit*. Off the ice surface in a flash, ten seconds later the hustling Perry was in front of Chris Osgood to deflect a long Getzlaf wrister into the net.
*Incidentally, the play-by-play stats show a missed shot for Valtteri Filppula. Itís understandable why Corey Perry wasnít technically credited with a blocked shot, but calling it a missed shot is puzzling.
While you could rightly say that an average goalie would have allowed 3 Goals to Hillerís 1 Goal, a swing of two goals, Perryís play on that sequence was worth a good portion of two goals as well. Hiller and Perry were the obvious stars of the game in my book. So if you want to go Hiller, Perry and Getzlaf, thatís fine by me.
If you want to go off the board for the final star instead of picking Getzlaf, how about Darren Helm of the Red Wings, assisted by Game 6 sidekick and Ducksí anti-star Andrew Ebbett. A thundering hit by Helm midway through the 2nd period caused the impulsive Ebbett to retaliate with a cross-check. While the cross-check was probably satisfying as far as letting off some steam, it was flat out stupid in a tight series where power play percentages have hovered around 25% for both teams. If the average penalty is worth 0.2 Goals, in this series it may be worth 0.25 Goals. The Ducks could consider themselves lucky to maintain their one goal lead after killing off the man advantage on that one.
Then, we had round two. With barely more than three minutes left in the 3rd period, Helm got Ebbett to bite again, this time with a trip. The Ducks were not as fortunate this time, with the locked-in Johan Franzen scoring a minute later to provide some white knuckle moments for the Ducks and their fans in the final two minutes. In particular, Jonas Hiller was called on to stop Hart Trophy nominee Pavel Datsyuk at point blank range with 3 seconds left on the clock.
If the game had ended with a Red Wings equalizer and subsequent overtime win, Darren Helm may have even warranted mainstream consideration as a star of the game. Andrew Ebbett would certainly have been the much vilified goat. As it is, Randy Carlyle canít afford to have him on the ice. His series contribution prior to Game 6 had been that of providing a moving obstacle on the ice. When you add stupid penalties on top of that, there have to be better options for who dresses for Game 7.
With that question in mind, you may be interested to see where some Ducks and Red Wings players stand this postseason as far as Adjusted Net Penalties (ANP) are concerned:
NAME POS TEAM GP DRAWN TAKEN NET ANP
Teemu Selanne RW ANA 11 5 0 +5 +4.4
Andrew Miller LW ANA 11 4 1 +3 +2.4
Bobby Ryan RW ANA 11 3 0 +3 +2.4
Josh Green LW ANA 3 2 0 +2 +1.8
Francois Beauchemin D ANA 11 2 2 +0 +1.2
Chris Pronger D ANA 11 2 2 +0 +1.2
Mike Brown LW ANA 11 3 2 +1 +0.4
Ryan Whitney D ANA 11 0 1 -1 +0.2
Ryan Carter C ANA 8 0 0 +0 -0.4
Erik Christensen C ANA 8 0 0 +0 -0.4
Todd Marchant C ANA 11 3 3 +0 -0.6
Sheldon Brookbank D ANA 11 2 4 -2 -0.8
James Wisniewski D ANA 11 1 3 -2 -0.8
Scott Niedermayer D ANA 11 0 2 -2 -0.8
Petteri Nokelainen RW ANA 7 0 1 -1 -1.4
George Parros RW ANA 7 0 1 -1 -1.4
Andrew Ebbett C ANA 11 2 4 -2 -2.6
Corey Perry RW ANA 11 3 6 -3 -3.6
Ryan Getzlaf C ANA 11 2 6 -4 -4.6
Rob Niedermayer C ANA 11 0 4 -4 -4.6
NAME POS TEAM GP DRAWN TAKEN NET ANP
Marian Hossa RW DET 9 5 0 +5 +4.5
Pavel Datsyuk C DET 9 4 0 +4 +3.5
Brian Rafalski D DET 5 2 1 +1 +1.5
Darren Helm C DET 9 3 1 +2 +1.5
Kirk Maltby LW DET 9 3 1 +2 +1.5
Henrik Zetterberg LW DET 9 3 1 +2 +1.5
Brett Lebda D DET 9 1 1 +0 +1.0
Justin Abdelkader C DET 2 1 0 +1 +0.9
Valtteri Filppula C DET 9 2 1 +1 +0.5
Chris Chelios D DET 3 1 1 +0 +0.3
Derek Meech D DET 1 0 0 +0 +0.1
Jonathan Ericsson D DET 9 2 3 -1 +0.0
Nicklas Lidstrom D DET 9 0 1 -1 +0.0
Tomas Kopecky RW DET 7 0 0 +0 -0.4
Jiri Hudler C DET 9 2 2 +0 -0.5
Daniel Cleary RW DET 9 2 2 +0 -0.5
Mikael Samuelsson RW DET 9 1 1 +0 -0.5
Niklas Kronwall D DET 9 2 4 -2 -1.0
Johan Franzen RW DET 9 0 1 -1 -1.5
Brad Stuart D DET 9 0 3 -3 -2.0
Tomas Holmstrom LW DET 9 2 4 -2 -2.5
For Anaheim, while big names Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Rob Niedermayer have cost the team close to a goal apiece in the playoffs on the net penalty ledger, thatís more excusable for offensive contributors than for space-fillers such as Andrew Ebbett. On the other hand, Teemu Selanne, Andrew Miller and Bobby Ryan have excelled in this facet of play for Anaheim, as has Josh Green in very limited playing time.
For Detroit, it is not surprising to see stars such as Marian Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski headlining the list. What is surprising is a list with playoff superman Johan Franzen near the bottom as opposed to the top. Darren Helm and Kirk Maltby have filled energy roles with helping draw penalties for the advantage of the solid Red Wings power play.
Expecting a level of play somewhere between the sleepy Ducks of Game 5 and the desperate Ducks of Game 6, the series should come down to a very exciting clincher on Thursday night. Winning the net penalty battle will go a long way to deciding the ultimate game and series winner. To the winner go the spoils Ė We will likely see three Wings or three Ducks as the stars of the game tomorrow night, whether technically deserving or not.
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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