Game 2 Preview: Wings vs. Ducks
The Red Wings defenseman said players today throw their bodies in front of shots more than ever because of the league's new rules.
That leads to more goals caroming off random body parts and equipment, sometimes with a player scoring on his own team. The latest example of that gave Detroit a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks in the opener of the Western Conference finals.
Tomas Holmstrom was credited with the game-winner late in the third period Friday even though he wasn't the last one to touch the puck, and he didn't know if it hit his stick or glove before eventually trickling past goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
"It's not luck anymore," Chelios insisted Saturday. "That's the way it's going to happen."
The Red Wings are fortunate, Chelios added, to have Holmstrom standing in front of goalies to shield their view.
"There's no one better," Chelios said. "I don't care what anybody says. There's no one that's even close to him."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said only Ryan Smyth of the New York Islanders can be compared to Holmstrom.
"It's not from a natural-born talent," Carlyle said. "If you watched today when they practiced, (Holmstrom) was out there for a good half-hour, 20 minutes, practicing that art. He's a force to be reckoned with at that position on the ice."
At the other end of the rink, Anaheim wants to increase its chances of scoring more Holmstrom-like goals Sunday night in Game 2.
"They can't stop what they can't see," Carlyle said. "If you continue to get people in front of the net for the screens, you get pucks through. It's not always - as we just witnessed - the prettiest shots that go over the line.
"A lot of times in playoffs, those are the type of things that happen. They got two what you'd classify ugly goals, but both pucks went over the line and that's all it takes."
Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin was the last player to touch the puck on both of Detroit's goals Friday night.
The Ducks don't have a clone of Holmstrom, but they do have players trying to obstruct sight lines.
"Every line, they have somebody standing in front of me," Detroit goalie Dominik Hasek said.
Rookie Dustin Penner, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound wing, was one of those players trying to distract Hasek.
"I think one of the areas that he will continue to make a living at is in front of the net," Carlyle said.
Some of the rule changes implemented by the NHL two years ago after the lockout helped players like Holmstrom.
"Obviously it's a little bit easier now, not being able to abuse a guy in front, cross-check and do the things that you used to," Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger said.
Anaheim alternated its strategy against Holmstrom, first leaving him alone then trying to move him. He didn't recall being left alone in front of the net too often.
"Pronger was hitting me in the back, but that's OK. It's playoffs," said Holmstrom, a 10-year veteran. "You're going to get punished around the net. But it was a little bit more than normally."
The 6-foot, 202-pound wing usually gets right back on his skates after getting knocked down, but he had a scary injury earlier in the playoffs that took him off the ice.
Holmstrom was sidelined with blood on his left eye after Calgary's Craig Conroy appeared to inadvertently hit him with his stick and he missed the first three games against San Jose.
The Wings fell behind the Sharks 1-2 without Holmstrom in the second round and are 4-0 since he returned.
"Homer is a big part of our team with his passion and work ethic," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "He makes our power play better."
Holmstrom has been on the ice for 10 of Detroit's 12 power-play goals in the playoffs, including the ugly score that put the Red Wings ahead in this series.
"That's Homer at his best," teammate Nicklas Lidstrom said. "If he's not there, the puck is probably not going to go in."