Ageless Selanne Leads Ducks Early Against Detroit
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By Greg Beacham, AP Sports Writer
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Teemu Selanne scored his first NHL playoff goal when Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser was 3 years old. The Finnish Flash has been tormenting goalies for two decades since then, right up to his winner in the Anaheim Ducks’ playoff opener against the Red Wings.
At 42, Selanne grows weary of hockey’s travel grind and the offseason training necessary to keep his remarkable career steaming ahead. He never gets tired of scoring goals, particularly from that spot in the left faceoff circle where he beat Jimmy Howard to put the Ducks on top.
“Usually I have a little better angle, but it was the end of the power play, so I decided I’m just going to shoot there and hope for the best,” Selanne said after practice Wednesday. “That came in my mind right away, before I even got the pass. I don’t know how much time there was left, but (I) just tried to hold out and create something new.”
When the Ducks return to Honda Center for Game 2 against Detroit on Thursday night, Selanne knows they’ll need their veteran toughness to get a similar result against the young, hungry Wings.
After years of being the playoff upstarts in their series with powerful Detroit, Anaheim can match up splendidly in experience. Nobody has more than Selanne, who scored his 10th playoff goal against Detroit in Game 1 — more than any other active player — from the same area of the ice in which Selanne estimates he has scored a “couple hundred” goals over the decades.
“That’s vintage Teemu from that spot,” said Daniel Cleary, who scored Detroit’s only goal on a fortunate deflection. “That’s where he’s been for years.”
Few Ducks fans have forgotten Selanne scored the overtime goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against Detroit in 2007, arguably the most important goal in franchise history. The Ducks won five of their next six games on the way to their only Stanley Cup title.
Selanne often has a knack for finding the net in the postseason, as evidenced by his 42 goals in 112 career playoff games, despite the pressure of playing against most opponents’ best defensive players during his career. That scoring touch carried into his 40s, when he scored six goals in the Ducks’ last playoff series, a six-game loss to Nashville in the first round in 2011.
“He’s a big factor out there, and there’s a pretty good chance we’ll see him again next year,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “He’s definitely good enough to play another year.”
Zetterberg is a Stanley Cup champion and a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, so he knows he’s got to make a bigger playoff contribution for the Red Wings to even the series. The captain believes the Red Wings’ forecheck and neutral-zone play was poor, allowing Anaheim to spend far too much time in Detroit’s zone with superior puck movement.
“We need to sustain more pressure in their end,” Zetterberg said. “(In Game 1) it was too much one-and-done. They’re playing good defense, clogging up the neutral zone. We’ve got to be better in all areas.”
The Ducks’ third line, centered by Saku Koivu, deserves the credit for shutting down Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in Game 1. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau usually doesn’t endeavor to match a specific line against another, but he made an exception for Detroit’s two star scorers, ensuring Koivu, Andrew Cogliano and Daniel Winnik harassed Zetterberg and Datsyuk all night.
“Granted, (Koivu’s line) probably angered those two guys,” Boudreau said. “They had better play a lot better next game, because I’m sure those other guys are going to ramp it up a little bit.”
After years of rolling experienced, veteran teams into the playoffs, Detroit has several players getting their first postseason action. Game 1 was the NHL playoff debut for five Red Wings, including three defensemen: Brendan Smith, DeKeyser and Jakub Kindl, who took the delay-of-game penalty that led to Selanne’s winning power-play goal.
The Red Wings have changed significantly with the retirement of captain Nicklas Lidstrom and the departure of fellow defenseman Brad Stuart, and the Ducks are eager to capitalize in this transition period.
“When they had Lidstrom and Stuart, their defense was more experienced,” Selanne said. “You try to take advantage of things, what you can do, and not having to play against Lidstrom every night, it’s a totally different game. Obviously, especially the playoffs, their experience helped a lot.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock isn’t worried about his newcomers’ adaptation to postseason intensity, figuring it’s part of the process for turning them into long-term contributors.
“I don’t think you’ve got to get hit by a car to understand that it hurts,” he said.
Babcock hasn’t decided on any lineup changes for Game 2, but if he thinks any of his younger forwards are overwhelmed by the situation, he could replace them with veterans Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson, both healthy after missing most of the season with injuries.
Anaheim also has a few playoff newbies — notably Cogliano, who played 458 career games before making his postseason debut in the opener. Cogliano has never missed a game in his six-year NHL career, but the speedy two-way forward already realizes the postseason is like nothing he’s done before.
“The atmosphere and the intensity of the game was incredible,” Cogliano said. “You feel like every play out there means something. I was really excited. I didn’t sleep at all the night before. I didn’t want my nerves or excitement to get in the way … so it felt great to get a win.”
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