I had a near-death experience tonight. This may sound dramatic, but I'm not lying. The stress nearly killed me. I'm still having trouble forming coherent sentences. I imagine this is something that PYG struggles with on a daily basis. This game was epic in many ways. (I'm going to use this word a lot in this post because I recently discovered that my friend dislikes it.)
I turned down an offer to head down to the Hockeytown Cafe to watch the game with some people from work today. I was afraid of being seen in public during the game. I was much more comfortable curled up on my couch in a fetal position clutching my rally rag like a security blanket. I feel like I talk about said rally rag a lot. I'm not entirely sure how I obtained it. I think the story has something to do with my dad and a Burger King last year, but that couldn't matter less. In previous playoff runs, I had Free Press voodoo dolls to relieve my stress, but last year, it was the rally rag. Quite frankly, I'm surprised it survived the Finals last year. Any ordinary piece of cloth would have been torn to shreds by me wringing it pretty much every time a puck was shot at either goalie. I picked up right where I left off last year. I know this sounds pathetic, but it's what gets me through the games. That and eating popcorn in a robotic, trance-like state.
As usual, I'll start with a little complaining. Game 7 was a fitting conclusion to a series that was dominated by poor officiating. I believe that refs should be anonymous. I mean that in the sense that if you know their names at the end of the game, it's probably because they screwed up. All series it has felt like the refs were doing everything within their power to influence the outcomes of the games. Both sides have legitimate complaints. The "holding" call that led to the Wings first goal was so chintzy that I have to believe it was a make-up call. (Perhaps for that hit on Helm in front of the Ducks net that was clearly interference. Or charging. Or something. But I can't imagine a universe in which that's not a penalty. Except for, apparently, the one the refs were living in tonight.) Let's not even talk about that goalie interference call on Hudler. I don't remember a game during which I spent this much time yelling at the TV. At one point, I thought Mickey Redmond was going to grab a stick and go all Bingo Bango on the referees. It would have been an epic moment in NHL history. Have I mentioned that I love Mickey Redmond? I want him to be my Grandpa. Seriously.
That's all the complaining I really have tonight. I guess I'm just in a good mood because things worked out in the end. Although, I do have to say that the Ducks tying goal is exactly why I hate Game 7s, OTs, and really just the playoffs in general.
While I didn't quite get the offensive outbursts that I was hoping for from Homer and Datsyuk, I have to love Pav's assist on Sammy's goal. He got smoked along the boards, but he didn't care once he saw the puck in the back of the net. It reminded me of one of my first games at the Joe when my dad was teaching me the game. Slava Fetisov took a hit to make a pass, and some drunk guy was yelling at him for not getting out of the way. My dad leaned over to me and quietly explained that said drunk guy clearly knew nothing about hockey. This is when I discovered how much fun it was to be a smarter fan than everyone else around you. Also, this is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Here's hoping that Datsyuk finally breaks out in the Conference Finals in epic fashion and that Homer finds a way to get his big Swedish rear all up in Khabibulin's face.
On to Chris Osgood. All I have to say is that every person who I had to defend Ozzie to over the course of the season should line up now to receive a ceremonial slap. All the man does is win playoff games. And boy oh boy did he step up big-time tonight.
I've also never loved Dan Cleary this much. Somebody needs to kiss this man. He may have saved my life by preventing OT. Although there was a terrible, horrible, gut-wrenching moment when I was afraid that the ref had intended to blow the whistle, or he decided to call interference, or he had been distracted by a bumble bee and didn't realize that the puck was in the net. (While we're on the subject, does anyone else think that if Homer had been the one sitting on top of Chris Osgood during that Ducks goal, it would've been called no-goal?) But it all worked out in the end. Versus' replay kind of makes me think that Hiller kicked it in himself, but I'm perfectly happy to let Clear Bear bask in the glory.
And what about little Helmet's breakaway goal? That's exactly why Babcock loves him so much. It never ceases to amaze me that this guy spent the whole season in the minors. Only the Wings can boast that kind of depth. Speaking of depth, it was nice to see Drapes back in the lineup, even though we didn't see a lot of him. Too bad it was at the expense of Maltby, though.
I also have to mention Rafalski's play in the final minute. Good lord, that man was on fire (epic!). I could've kissed his little balding head (apparently I'm in a really kissy mood tonight). Also, what on earth did Corey Perry do to him in that fight at the end of Game 6? He looked like he'd been in a catfight. I knew Perry was a little girl, but seriously? If you're going to goon it up with a guy who clearly has no interest in fighting, at least be a man and throw real punches. Don't just gouge at his eyes.
And finally, Henrik Zetterberg. Snipe Snipe turned in another epic penalty kill that had shades of Game 4 of the Finals last year. Because, clearly, I needed another reason to love this man.
That's all I have for tonight. I'll take look at Chicago tomorrow, assuming I have time. Unfortunately, I don't hate the Hawks with nearly the same passion as I do the Ducks, so I probably won't get nearly as riled up. There's plenty of potential there, though, over the course of a playoff series. Bonus points for being Original Six.