This game is a perfect demonstration of why I hate playoff hockey. It was also a fairly typical 2008-09 Wings loss. You know, the kind of loss that really gets under my skin. The kind of loss that doesn't come from being out-skilled but from being out-hustled and sleep-walking through long stretches of the game. Anyway, I felt like I got stabbed in the back after the Hawks third goal, and then I got some hope, only to have someone kick me in the face during overtime.
For all intents and purposes, the first period was a joke. The Wings were lucky to survive it only down by two. Before the penalty mess, the only line that really seemed to have any energy was the fourth line. And that was probably only because Drapes and Helm could skate circles around a race horse.
And then the penalties started rolling in. The high sticking on Cleary was unfortunate, but it's an automatic call. Congratulations boys, you now hold an NHL record for the longest streak of allowing a power play goal. Or, as I like to call it, epic failure. There's no reason the Wings' PK should be this bad with the kind of defensively-responsible stars that they can field. The reason I know this is because during the 5-on-3s during Game 7 and the five-minute kill after Kronwall's hit (more on that later), the Wings put on a PK clinic. If they could just find a way to convince Z that every penalty kill was critically important or that the call was unfair, they would probably have a 99% kill percentage.
Now back to the Kronwall hit. There are many, many things that upset me about this, but the worst one is the fact that none of the officials made a call initially. When shown on the wide view, it's clear that nobody has his hand up to call a penalty. It was only after Havlat stayed down that they decided to make a call. This is the same thing that happened on Stuart's hit on Selanne in Game 7. Both the CBC and Versus (it's possible that this is the first time I've ever agreed with anything that a Versus announcer has said. Except maybe the time one of them used the word "fabulosity" while calling the game. That was a banner moment in broadcasting history.) announcers seemed as baffled as I was as to how Kronner ended up with a game misconduct. If anything, and this would be a stretch, it could've been a 2-minute minor. But a fiver and a misconduct? That's an effin joke. What really scares me is the possibility of a suspension. Thus far in the playoffs, those kinds of punishments seem to be being handed out based on the severity of the injury caused. If they decide to suspend Kronner after letting Brown's hit on Hudler (also probably not suspension-worthy) go unpunished, I think I'm going to lose my mind. I know Kronwall sometimes leaves his feet when he hits, but this was not one of those times. It was a clean hit. The puck was there. There was no elbow. He didn't leave his feet until after the impact. It wasn't a late hit. What more can you ask of a hockey player? I certainly don't like to see those kinds of results, but if Havlat had bounced back up and rejoined the play, it would simply have been a highlight-reel hit. More on this tomorrow, probably. A lot will depend on what Colin Campbell has to say about it.
UPDATE: I just listened to Babcock's post-game presser, and he looked absolutely livid when asked about the penalty on Kronner's hit. I just wish guys like him were allowed to speak their minds. He said he'd be shocked if the league suspended Kronwall. I wish I could be that confident. This year's playoffs have completely shot what little faith I had in the NHL's disciplinary system.
The second period was a lot better than the first, even though it didn't start out well. Things started to turn around after I cracked a can of Vernor's, so maybe I should've downed a couple more during the third and OT. I'd be lying if I said that the powerplays didn't help, but boy did the Wings ever deserve a make-up call or ten.
In the last half of the second period, the Wings showed Chicago what they do best. And that is completely destroy your hopes and dreams until you're left a quivering mass of emptiness. I would've been excited to get out of the period only down by one, to be honest, but then they stormed back and tied it. I couldn't have been prouder of my boys. (This is partially because I have selective amnesia which allows me to quickly forget their failures when pucks are deposited in the net.)
Once again, the fourth line seemed to have a fire lit under their collective behinds. Maybe it was just Maltby being excited to be back in the lineup and knowing he'd have to fight to keep his job. Stuart also stepped up big-time. I had him pegged for a goal, but that never materialized. This is one of the reasons why I avoid making predictions.
There was one reassuring moment near the end of the second period (thank the Hockey Gods it wasn't the third. I don't think the announcer could've handled that.) where I discovered that there were indeed folks out there more easily amused than I am. It seems that there were 3.3 seconds left on the clock in Game 3 of the 3rd round, which happened to be tied 3-3. Kris Draper, number 33, was taking an offensive zone faceoff on his kid's 3rd birthday. It's always nice to find out that there are people who have worse ADD than I do. Especially since we all know that apparently all it takes to distract Johan Franzen is to wave a mike in his face ala Sean Avery.
Not a whole lot to report on the third. It was pretty back-and-forth. I felt like it could've gone either way. I was pretty disappointed that the Wings didn't come out with the same momentum they had at the end of the second, but mostly I was upset that they were going to OT for the second game in a row. I don't do playoff OT. I just don't do it. Very rarely does anything good come of it. And tonight was no exception.
Not sure what to make of Huet in the third. He wasn't really tested much. I missed the first two minutes when they presumably explained his presence because my brother was being an idiot with the DVR. The question is: was Khabibulin really hurt, or was it just an excuse to get him out of the game after blowing a three-goal lead? Also, Huet's pads are obnoxiously ugly. And that's saying a lot coming from a girl who's used to looking at Ozzie's old-school mask.
Long story short: the Wings played horribly in OT. You could really see the goal coming. It was only a matter of time. Of course, playing most of the game with only five D-men and missing Draper for a while didn't help much, but I'm not sure you can blame that.
All in all, I'm not really sure what to make of this game. I had a bad feeling about it all day, especially once it was confirmed that Dangle Dangle (please, for the love of the Hockey Gods, get well soon!) was out. I didn't feel like the Wings deserved to win, but I also felt like they blew a good chance to effectively end the series.
The one good thing that came out of this is the fact that Homer seemed a lot more noticeable. That big Swedish rear of his was parked in his office, where it belongs, and even though he didn't pick up any points, he deserves an honorary assist or two for his screens. Hossa also very quietly had two points. I was hoping for him to step it up a bit more, but I really can't complain about a two-point night. Overall though, the top two lines didn't really seem to bring it today. The only line that really impressed me on a consistent basis was the fourth line. The Wings got through the first two games on the strength of their third line, and muscled their way into OT in Game 3 on the shoulders of their D-men, but the stars need to come out for Game 4. It's a statement game for both teams, and I have to consider it a must-win. I don't like to think about the series coming home tied at two.
One last random thought: Was the Versus camera operator drunk? I don't remember ever having so many moments where I couldn't find the puck because it wasn't on the screen. People like that are the reason the glow puck was invented. I realize hockey's a fast game, but good lord, do your job.