Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pain: Emotional and Physical...

This is something that I thought of at the beginning of the series, and I hoped upon hope that I wouldn't have to use. But here it is.

Regarding Marian Hossa:

Not only did he not come home with the Cup, but after his lackluster performance in the playoffs this year, his value as a free agent has to drop. Which sucks for him, because after last year he finally managed to shake the label of playoff-underachiever with his spectacular Finals, and now that label will probably follow him around for the rest of his career.

I actually took notes for a recap tonight. I don't think I want to put myself through that. Not that you want to read it either... So I'm just going to start typing, and see where it takes me.

This is all very disappointing. Pittsburgh already won the Super Bowl. I just thought it'd be nice for us Michiganians (I refuse to refer to myself as a Michigander. It sounds like a male goose.) to have something happy in our lives for a change.

It's possible that I will never forgive Brad Stuart. I realize that it's not all his fault, but I need a scapegoat right now, and he pretty much volunteered himself for that role.

And since his last-minute tying goal during Game 5 last year wasn't cruel enough, Max Talbot decided to play hero and score not one, but two goals tonight. So, good on him, I guess. That's the stuff that playoff legends are made of. I guess he got the childhood "pond hockey moment" he's been dreaming of his whole life.

All things considered, I'm handling things pretty well. I'm currently icing my foot down. It's possible that I sprained my toe while flailing around on the floor in front of my TV during the final minute. It probably wasn't my best moment, but things happen during the playoffs. I stayed to watch the Cup presentation, and I made it through most of the Pens' turns with it before I had to shut it off. (Random side note: Why did it take so long for it to get to Malkin? I'm just saying. It was weird, what with him being the MVP and all.) Then I took my dog for a long walk around the park. I realize that going for a walk alone in the middle of the night with only the world's most cowardly puppy to accompany you probably isn't the best thing for a female to do, but I needed to be alone and outdoors. And at that point, if someone wanted to stab me and hide my body in the bushes, well, I wouldn't have put up much of a fight anyway. It was only when I got home and took my shoes off that I realized I had done serious damage to my foot, and couldn't walk without shoes. So that was fun. Then I pulverized an entire package of Oreos with a meat tenderizer. This sounds irrationally aggressive, but I had reasons, and it would've happened win or lose. It's actually not a bad way to relieve stress. If you have some spare Oreos laying around, I recommend trying this.

My dog began the game gnawing on her squeaky penguin chew toy. I thought it might be a good omen. Even more promising was Darren Helm speeding into Pittsburgh's zone to negate an icing early on. For a while, it seemed like that set the tone. The Wings pressed early, but then the Pens took over around the 10-minute mark and never let up for the next 20 minutes. I spent a significant portion of the first period jumping up and down on my couch and screaming. The PK scared the living daylights out of me. I thought for sure that the puck was going to end up behind Ozzie when the Pens had possession for such a long time. They managed to kill it off, and I started to wonder if maybe it was a statement kill like in Game 5. It turned out to be more like a carbon copy of Game 6, though.

The Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Cleary line looked particularly good early on. They were really the only bright spot for the Wings. Even Darren Helm looked like he was dragging a little. Lidstrom made a bunch of straight-up solid defensive plays that, of course, flew under the radar.

Does anybody know why the icing was negated right before the first goal? I would go back and look at my DVR recording, but I'm not in a place where I'm ready to look at any of it.

The Wings gave up three goals on ugly 2-on-1s during this series. Just when they figured out their PK woes, that issue reared its ugly head. In the Stanley Cup Finals, no less. Honestly, for the first 40 minutes, it looked like they were playing a game in mid-November.

On a side note, did anyone else fully expect Crosby to not miss a single shift after his injury? I seriously thought he was just putting on a show to sell it to the refs, just like so many other times. I have to say, though, there was actually a moment when I respected him just a smidge when he came and sat on the bench with his team and even attempted to take a shift. That all evaporated when I realized that I'll be spending at least the next three seasons being inundated with marketing featuring his smug face with the Stanley Cup. On the other hand, maybe next year, the NHL marketing team will make an ad featuring a guy in a Lidstrom jersey cheering to all of the Wings highlights. Wait, who am I kidding?

It was also really nice of Homer to negate their first powerplay by taking a stupid penalty. I know the man puts up with a lot in front of the net (and was apparently playing hurt), but Game 7 of the SCF is no time to be screwing around.

After they went down 2-0, I sat back and relaxed. I'll admit that I lost the faith. Deep down, I knew it after the first goal, but after they were down by two, I started cutting my losses emotionally. I began to feel nauseous. I sniped at the players. I criticized their every move. I yelled frantic instructions as if they could actually hear me or would listen to me if they did hear. I predicted that they were going to get shut out in their own building in Game 7. The only thing keeping me from going absolutely crazy-nutso and dropping language like I was in a Quentin Tarantino film was the fact that I was watching with my little brother.

I knew that the Wings needed a goal by the end of the period if they were going to make a game of it. Datsyuk looked like he was trying to do everything himself. This spawned an instantly legendary quote from yours truly when I screamed, "Pavel, assists are yummy!" in an attempt to get him to pass the puck. When the Wings were still scoreless after two, I knew it was over. I just did. Maybe some will say that that makes me less of a fan, but hidden beneath my obsessive Wings fandom is a fairly rational mind. Also joining the ranks of legendary hockey quotes was my brother's response to my screaming, "How was that NOT a penalty?! How do you not call that?" He said, "He can't call those penalties. Gary Bettman has his children." So you pretty much know that that one's going to be tossed around for a long while.

When the third period started, I said that they needed to score within the first three minutes if they wanted to have a chance. I found myself wishing for that which I dread most: overtime. They got a couple of powerplay opportunities, but they didn't even look good. I'm not sure what that's about, but you had better believe that I'm going to drive myself to Hasek-like levels of insanity trying to figure it out over the summer.

Then, like in Game 6, the Wings scored. My brother and I shared an awkward moment where we actually hugged each other. We're still not sure what was going through our minds at that moment, but I suspect it wasn't much at all. It was just enough to give us hope, but it was too little, too late.

The last few minutes of the game nearly killed me, as evidenced by my tragic toe injury. There was actually a moment when I thought that maybe it would be the Wings' own little form of payback for Game 5 last year. I prefer not to speak of the post. Or that moment when Lidstrom swooped in on the loose puck sitting just to the right of MAF as time wound down. Those images will haunt my memory for the rest of my life, I assume in the same way that Pens fans are tormented by the picture of the puck sliding through Ozzie's crease as the last seconds ticked off of the clock in Game 6 last year.

Right now all I want to do is rip on the Wings. There are any number of points of criticism which I could detail right now, but what really hurts the most is that they once again failed to show up for the first half of a game. I realize that I should be jaded to this problem at this point in the season, given that it's been a major plot line since October, but I honestly expected better from my boys in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. When they finally release the full injury list, it had better be longer than Santa's if they want to use that as an excuse.

The Wings had the Pens down and out. They had 2-0 and 3-2 series leads, and each time, they failed to seal the deal. It came down to the simple fact that the Pens wanted it more. And that depresses me more than a loss following a stellar effort by the Wings ever would have. Going into the game, I had a terrible paranoia that the Cup would be decided by some fluky bounce that bounced off of three skates, the post and someone's pants or a bad call or a poorly-timed broken stick. I was wrong. It was decided by a team that came out and played its game in our building and left everything it had on the ice.

Am I proud of the boys? Maybe after a few days of reflection, I'll find some positive things to say. Objectively speaking, two consecutive trips to the SCF in the salary cap era is something most fans would be ecstatic about. I just can't shake the feeling that they let us down. When things were on the line, it just seemed like they couldn't be bothered to show up. Maybe it was partially due to injuries, maybe they ran out of gas, maybe it was just fate. But the bottom line is, the guys who rise above all of that and find a way to get the job done are the ones who get to spend the summer partying. If you can't get up for Game 7 of the Finals, then you don't deserve to win anyway.

I'll have more in the future. I'm going camping tomorrow, so I'll be offline for a while, which might not be the worst thing in the world. But I've got some stuff planned, and I'll be right here for the summer. Here's to a hell of a run. I needed this, even if it almost killed me. More importantly, here's to next season. May the Hockey Gods be with you.

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