- Nancy Marrapese-burrell
- 0 Shares
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- When Mike Babcock watches his team play at Arrowhead Pond, he knows exactly what to expect -- a victory. When he's watched them play at the Meadowlands, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim coach can't believe what he's seeing.
"When I get home to Saskatchewan, I go to the lake and sometimes I've driven a little bit too fast, and I remember coming around a corner and running into a deer and it caved in the side of my car,'' said Babcock. "That's exactly what we looked like -- like that deer just before I hit it -- the deer in the headlights three times in New Jersey. We just haven't been as good as we're capable of being. I don't know why that is but we want to have one more chance at fixing it.''
In order to do that, the Ducks are going to have to win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals at home on Saturday to force a Game 7 back in New Jersey on Monday.
After giving up a whopping six goals in Game 5, the Ducks had some regrouping to do.
"It's a big, big game for us, just like every one we've played in the playoffs, but the whole key for us is how we play,'' said Babcock. "Do what we do, just go out and play the best we can. As good as they did getting the puck to the net, they had some real fortunate bounces. There's no question, but you earn those breaks. We really fluctuated during the game rather than be even like we normally are. But the finals have been interesting that way for our team. We've fluctuated way more in the finals than we ever have all year. As we grow and as we get to know it, we're trying to do a better job of that. We're excited to play here, we're excited to get back here and we look forward to looking after business here at home.''
Babcock disputed the notion of fatigue factoring into his team's play. The Ducks have played three fewer playoff games than the Devils, who had three days off before the start of the series. The coach said it was just a matter of who executed better. In Game 5, it was clearly New Jersey.
"It's a matter of will and whose will is established first,'' he said. "I thought they beat us to the game plan. I thought it was out there for both teams. No one got it established early, but once they got it, they didn't give us a sniff after they got it. I think it's because they executed their game plan. It's going to be about will on the ice not the travel off it.''
One of the big questions on Friday was about Paul Kariya's production or lack of it. He didn't have any points in the first four games and had one assist in Game 5.
"I'd like him to break out big time, obviously, but in saying that, there's limited room,'' said Babcock. "[The Devils] broke out [in Game 5]. I couldn't believe how many chances there were and how much ice there was and how much room there was. Why does that happen? I have no idea.''
In order to get the matchups he wanted in Game 5, Babcock had Adam Oates centering Rob Niedermayer and Mike Leclerc, and Kariya on a line with Petr Sykora and Steve Rucchin. Kariya's lack of scoring has everything to do with what the Devils are doing against him, no matter who his linemates are. At home, Kariya has played on a line with Oates as his centerman.
"Paul's going to do everything he can to be the best he can be and they're going to do everything they can to make sure he isn't,'' said Babcock. "That's the challenge.''
For his part, Kariya said he doesn't feel he's running out of time to have an impact on this series, despite his team facing elimination.
"It's going to come,'' said Kariya. "As a team I thought we played pretty well offensively. We've started to move the puck better the last three games and myself, individually, I just have to start creating more chances and getting more opportunities out there.
"We scored three goals and that should've been plenty to win a playoff game. Any time you give up six goals in the playoffs, your odds aren't very good at winning. I think if anything, during the whole series, we've given them too many offensive chances. They've had two-on-ones and breakaways all series long and that's not been the way we've played through most of the playoffs. I think our offense is coming but we have to get back to playing tighter defensively. We knew going in how good defensively they were and how disciplined their team played. I think offensively, they've got a lot of guys who can put the puck in the net. It seems like a new guy every game is doing it for them offensively.''
As the Ducks' captain, best skilled player and best-paid player (at $10 million per season), Kariya said he's willing to take the heat that comes with being under scrutiny for his performance.
"That comes with the territory,'' he said. "My job is to produce offensively and create offensive scoring chances and if I'm not doing it, obviously I'll get a lot more heat than a guy on the fourth line. Throughout my career, I've been through some ups and downs but as long as you stick with it and keep working and keep creating scoring chances, it will come.
"They're a very good team at being disciplined. As you've seen throughout the series, we haven't had any two-on-one breaks or clean-cut three-on-twos. Even if we do get a little three-on-two break, they always have their third and fourth guy coming back hard and taking time and space away from the forwards. Most of the ice is behind their defensemen. Whenever we've created scoring chances, it's been on faceoffs or down low cycle plays and that's what we have to do more of.
"We realize we didn't play our best game in New Jersey and today's a new day. We'll be a lot better [in Game 6].''
Otherwise, it will be the Devils skating around with the silver chalice and celebrating their third championship in nine years.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell of the Boston Globe is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
Before they can get over their deer-in-the-headlights look in New Jersey, the Ducks need to win Game 6.