Work­ing on a dead­line

Want­ing his first Cup, the Ducks’ 36-year-old Se­lanne ends his score­less stretch

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - SATUR­DAY, MAY 19, 2007 By Lon­nie White

In a per­fect hockey world, where re­spected vet­eran play­ers still aching to win their first Stan­ley Cup would be re­warded, Teemu Se­lanne’s life would be sim­ple.

But af­ter 14 NHL sea­sons and 79 play­off games, the Ducks’ high-scor­ing left winger knows it’s not that easy. He knows that be­fore a team can lock up the 16 play­off vic­to­ries needed to lift that Cup, well, things hap­pen.

So Se­lanne, a man who has de­fied age on a sur­gi­cally re­paired knee to be­come the Ducks’ all-time points leader, did not panic when he found him­self with­out a point in the first three games of the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals against the Detroit Red Wings. Not one goal. Not one as­sist. That all changed 11:46 into the first pe­riod of Game 4 Thurs­day night, with an as­sist. Less than seven min­utes later, he had a goal. But Se­lanne, 36, and still able to fly down the ice, wasn’t done. About five min­utes into the third pe­riod he had an­other as­sist, as the Ducks chalked up a gritty 5-3 vic­tory, evening the best-of-seven se­ries at 2-2. Things hap­pen. “I guess you can say that I was in a slump be­cause I couldn’t find the net,” said Se­lanne, who led the Ducks with 48 goals and 94 points while play­ing in all 82 games of the reg­u­lar sea­son. “It’s all about con­fi­dence and get­ting that first one to go in.”

So, lean­ing on his ex­pe­ri­ence, he bat­tled back.

“I haven’t been ex­tremely happy with how I played,” con­fided Se­lanne, who now has four goals and five as­sists in 14 play­off games this year. “My con­fi­dence was not where it should have been. Even if I thought I played well, you can al­ways be bet­ter.”

On Fri­day, Se­lanne and the Ducks were back in Detroit to pre­pare for Sun­day’s Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena.

With the fi­nals down to a be­stof-three, Se­lanne knows that to win the Cup, he is bat­tling time.

“I know that this chance is the best for me to win it,” he said. “We have a good team and good chem­istry. You don’t get th­ese days back.”

It wasn’t that long ago when Se­lanne’s ca­reer seemed over af­ter one sea­son with Colorado. Hob­bled by an aching knee, Se­lanne gave thought to re­tir­ing af­ter scor­ing a ca­reer-low 16 goals and be­ing a healthy scratch for one Avalanche play­off game. But things hap­pen. The NHL lock­out, which erased the 2004-05 sea­son, gave Se­lanne time to have knee surgery and work his way back. He signed a free-agent deal with the Ducks in Au­gust 2005 and helped the Ducks reach the con­fer­ence fi­nals two years in a row now.

“The thing that you can al­ways say about Teemu is he’s a fun guy at the rink,” Ducks Coach Randy Car­lyle said of Se­lanne, who scored his 500th goal on Nov. 22, 2006, and is the first player over 35 to record con­sec­u­tive 40-goal sea­sons.

“He comes to play the game. He comes to prac­tice. He doesn’t like to prac­tice long, mind you, but he does like to come to the rink. That’s a spe­cial qual­ity. That’s what you find in those play­ers that play the num­ber of years and achieve the suc­cess that he’s had. He’s had some hur­dles to get over through in­jury and in­con­sis­tent play, but he has found a home with us.”

Be­fore the con­fer­ence fi­nals be­gan, the Red Wings made no se­cret that their goal was to limit Se­lanne’s scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. Limit him they did. In Game 1, Se­lanne played well — as did line­mates Andy McDon­ald and Chris Ku­nitz — but failed to reg­is­ter even a point in Detroit’s 2-1 win.

Then, in that game, Ku­nitz broke a bone in his hand, forc­ing Se­lanne and McDon­ald to ad­just to a new line­mate.

“Ob­vi­ously, when you play all year to­gether with the same guys, you know ex­actly what each guy is go­ing to do,” Se­lanne said. “It makes it dif­fer­ent.”

Al­though the Ducks won the next game, 4-3, in over­time, the Red Wings put a lid on Se­lanne through­out the game. He fin­ished with one shot on goal in over 26 min­utes of ice time. It got worse. In Game 3, Se­lanne played less than 15 min­utes and his two shots on goal came in the third pe­riod af­ter Detroit al­ready had com­mand, win­ning, 5-0.

“He’s a di­rect re­sult of when play­ers of that mag­ni­tude have had the abil­ity to score and con­trib­ute on the of­fen­sive side, if they get into a drought, their whole game changes,” Car­lyle said be­fore Game 4.

“For what­ever rea­son, if it’s a post or if it’s a bank shot, the weight of the world will be lifted off his shoul­ders. He’s car­ry­ing that be­cause he’s an emo­tional guy. He feels that he’s not play­ing to the level he’s ca­pa­ble of.”

With Chris Pronger sit­ting out Game 4 be­cause of a onegame sus­pen­sion, Se­lanne didn’t think about scor­ing.

“Not try­ing to do too much, that was key for me,” Se­lanne said. “I knew I could still dam­age do­ing some­thing else. The scor­ing would come.

“This team is not about me,” he added. “It’s not about Chris Pronger. It’s not about any one player. It’s about us.”

And, well, things hap­pen.

lon­nie.white@la­times.com

Chris­tine Cotter Los An­ge­les Times

BIG NIGHT: Teemu Se­lanne, cen­ter, cel­e­brat­ing a goal by Ric Jack­man, left, broke through with a goal and two as­sists Thurs­day.

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