Ducks checking line is as improbable as the players who comprise u it. Two small skill guys and a journeyman grinder. When the line is most effective, Andrew Cogliano uses warp speed to provide the pressure up ice. Saku Koivu patrols the center lane from slot to slot. Journeyman Daniel Winnick is a travelin’ man delivering punishing checks and challenging physical battles around the wall.
Drawing the daunting assignment of dogging Detroit’s two best players this unlikely trio not only kept Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterburg off the score sheet but reduced Datsyuk to just one and Zetterburg to only three shots on Jonas Hiller.
On many shifts the Ducks checking line hemmed the Wings best deep in their own zone. How they do their work is a bit comical actually. Off the puck, Koivu and Cogliano are the pressure forwards who force the opposition to Winnick’s wall. When they have the puck, breaking up the Saku and Cogs cycle is like catching butterflys without a net or fishing with just your hands.
So thoroughly did the unsung trio shadow Detroit’s stars they reduced Coach Mike Babcock to complaining about the inability of his D to move the puck. This poses quite a challenge to the former Ducks coach. Does he breakup his Eurotwins or adjust the system?
Actually Babcock directed a lot of Plan B, whip it around the net break outs to no avail, to chips along the wall. He went to the so-called stretch pass, sending the mail from deep in the Wings zone high into the neutral zone. Time after time Ducks players, most notably Saku, Cogs or Winnie saw that one coming with anticipation and reads reminiscent of Wayne Gretzky.
So thorough was the Ducks defensive scheme that the Wings committed 13 giveaways compared to averaging just 4.7 giveaways per game during the season.
Datsyuk and Zetterburg got healthy and hot down the stretch. Along with goaltender Jimmy Howard they powered the Wings into the playoffs.
So what is the Detroit coach to do next? Look for him to breakup the Eurotwins in game two. He has to get one of them, most likely Zetterburg, away from the Koivu line.
If it doesn’t work, Babs will surely find his Wings down 2-0. At that point the Wings tactician will reunite them and use the home team’s last change to get his offensive stars away from Anaheim’s most unlikely checking line.
Our Ducks did more than win a game last night. They sent the Wings back to the quiet study of the video room.