Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fleeting Moments that Make Me Glad to Be A Hockey Fan...

I missed this on CBC last night. I just wish I had a way to combine NBC's HD video feed with the audio from CBC. Unfortunately, they're not quite in sync, so that wouldn't work anyway. This video is friggin' awesome, though. Coldplay's not exactly what comes to mind when I think of music to pair with hockey highlights, but it works, and it's actually really beautiful. It kind of makes me wish I lived in Canada. It also makes me want to make one of my own, sans Pittsburgh highlights. It'll never happen though. Enjoy:

Also, no Dangle Dangle once again. I'm getting the feeling that we won't be seeing him until training camp, as much as it pains me to say that.

Aside from that, Bingo Bango agrees with me about Crosby's whining and refusal to allow for the possibility that opposing players might occasionally make good plays against him. Last year, I described my hatred for Crosby as "semi-irrational," but the more I see and hear from him, the more I'm leaning toward dropping the "semi" part.

Speaking of Crosby, he looks like the unholy love child of Napoleon Dynamite and his friend Pedro with that nasty 'stache. Just...use a razor. At least Malkin had the guts to admit that he can't grow a very good beard.

The one thing that's getting me through the day is remembering that the Wings didn't play entirely up to their level. They maybe brought their B game. And they won last night. So, on the off chance that they decide to bust out the A game tonight, things will be looking pretty good. At least that's what I keep telling myself in order to keep from vomiting.

You Have to Be Good to Be Lucky, but You Have to Be Lucky to Be Good...

Before I get to post-game "analysis," I have to post this quote from ESPN. I was at work at the time, so I don't know which commentator said it, and I had to get it off of the CC, but here goes: "Here's what I remember from last year's finals: Marc-Andre Fleury fell on his face prior to Game 1 and Chris Osgood didn't give up a single goal." I'm always complaining about how ESPN should cover hockey, and then their "experts" go and drop that on me. Still though, I like the sentiment. And there really is no limit to the amount of times I can watch the video of Fleury tripping off of the bench on youtube. I especially like the ones that include the kids laughing hysterically as they crouch on the ice. Oh to have been in their skates...

The first period looked fairly good. I was quite excited to see that the Wings decided to show up to play on time. My biggest pet peeve of the period (other than the turnovers) was the excessive number of times the NBC guy used the phrase, "knocked him into next week," to describe checks both past and present. Seriously. Expand your vocabulary. I'm sorry; I can't help it. I'm a grammar snob. You can tell this by the fact that I use semicolons in my hockey blog.

It looks like Z's getting revved up for another ownage of Sidney Crosby. Except for that one time Sid knocked him down at center ice, Z was all over him. I can only assume that Gary's Little Buddy is going to wake up having night-terrors remembering Z's absolute domination of him in the Finals last year. It's a shame that nobody nationally is willing to recognize just how good Zetterberg is. Oh well, he doesn't need Bettman's adoration. He's got that smokin' hot Swedish pop star girlfriend waiting for him at home.

Helm was, of course, everywhere. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure he never left the ice in the first period. He's definitely earned his ice time this playoff run. Also, he's officially replaced Sammy as Mike Babcock's player-crush of the moment. Maltby also had a couple of pretty good shifts out with the fourth line. I seem to remember him generating a scoring chance off of a really good play.

And then, a little more than thirteen minutes into the first period, the unthinkable happened. Marc-Andre Fleury scored another goal with his ass. We all remember Zetterberg's Cup-clinching game-winner last year. MAF's derriere is like the Penguins' version of Brian Campbell. It's liable to go down as the series MVP for the Wings. At first I thought it was Hossa's goal, which would've made me giggle like a school girl. And just like that, the Wings were up 1-0. All was right in the world for the approximately thirty seconds before the puck was dropped again. Then, it was right back into the fetal position for me.

Five minutes later, I was back in heart attack mode when the Pens tied it up. It was off of another defensive zone turnover. You know, the kind of turnovers that have been making me pull my hair out all season. (I'm not joking. I'm almost as bald as Darren Pang at this point.) As soon as I saw the turnover happen, I yelled at the TV, "No! Those kind of turnovers always end up in the back of the net!" Then, sure enough, I was proven right. It was also nice of the Wings to stand around staring at each other after the turnover was made instead of attempting to play defense. It made for a much more interesting game from that point on.

The second period was another story entirely. Again, I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the puck didn't leave the Wings' defensive end until approximately the 18-minute mark. At least that's what it seemed like to me. The boys even managed to kill off two power plays, thus extending their streak of not giving up powerplay goals to two whole games. Bravo, sunshines. Keep up the good work. There was one moment during the first PK (I think) where I still can't figure out how the puck stayed out of the net. I went over it several times on my DVR recording, but thanks to NBC not bothering to replay it, I guess it'll remain one of the great mysteries of the world, much like the Kennedy assassination and the secret lair of the Yeti (read: not Henrik Zetterberg. The white, fluffy one who eats sno-cones. [If you get this reference, please be my friend.])

It was also during the second period when our lack of elite goaltending became a huge problem. Chris Osgood made the play of the game. Evgeni Malkin walked in on a full-fledged breakaway, and Ozzie absolutely stoned him. Seriously, kids, Geno's going to be downing bottles of vodka over that one for years. During the post-game, Mickey Redmond said it was the play of the game. I'd be hard-pressed to disagree. What's good enough for Mick is good enough for me.

Marian Hossa, for his part, played like a man who didn't want to look like a fool during the handshake line. He didn't get any points for his efforts, but he was backchecking like a beast. This is probably the most emotionally agonizing playoff series he will ever be involved in, and I have to say, it looks like he rose to the challenge. I just hope he keeps it up. Or, preferably, goes on a scoring streak of epic proportions.

Then my brother's man-crush, Johan Franzen scored what would turn out to be the game-winner. Amazingly, this one was kicked in by Fleury as he sprawled in the crease on his "tummy." Remember what I said about Brian Campbell? Someone should ask Fleury if he's secretly red-headed. It had to really sting the Pens to give up that late goal after they pretty much owned the second period. Strangely, though, I don't really feel all that bad for them.

Coming out of the second intermission, the Wings showed a lot more jump. They were rewarded with another goal when Justin Abdelkader swatted a loose puck out of the air, dropped it in front of himself, and rifled it just inside the far post for his first career NHL goal. This was the first and only time I've ever been proud to be an MSU alumnus. Then the Verizon Sounds of the Game captured his girlish squeal after he scored and ruined the moment a little. Sorry, kid. Your friends are going to be giving you crap about that one for a while. Don't worry, though. You can just remind them that you scored a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals, and they'll have no choice but to shut up. Unless, for some strange reason, you hang out with Sidney Crosby, in which case he'll probably cry and/or try to slash your foot.

I don't remember much from the rest of the game on account of spending most of my time pacing nervously, nearly choking on pizza, and scaring my poor puppy.

Some notes on the post-game coverage:
-First and foremost, Channel 4's Katrina Hancock needs to be banned from the locker room. I wonder how many of the Wings have fantasized about cross-checking her "into next week." She's always cutting other reporters off and seems to have a knack for asking inane questions.
-The best post-game comment was from Franzen when Katrina asked him about getting rested up for the game tomorrow. He responded with something to the effect of, "If you stop asking me stupid questions, maybe I can go home and get some rest."
-Jonathan Ericsson looks like a pirate. I'm just saying.
-Sidney Crosby's quote from his post-game presser, via Snapshots: "Yeah, he was doing what he always does. You know, he was giving guys lip service and things like that. And you know, I two handed him on top of the foot there as we were skating by. So he felt like it was necessary to keep talking after the game, and I thought I'd whack him and that was it." This is the Captain of your team? I'm sorry for sounding incredulous, it's just that my boys have always been blessed with stellar leadership and I hold Captains to a slightly higher standard than your run-of-the-mill hockey fan might. It sounds like the Little Buddy's unhappy because he didn't get his way tonight. Looks like somebody's going to be on the phone to Daddy Bettman complaining about the big, mean Wings not letting him score any goals. For all of the talk about Crosby and Malkin maturing since the Finals last year, Crosby sure doesn't look like he's figured out how to respond to being contained by the opposition. It's like he can't handle someone standing up to him. even posted a news story celebrating this, saying that, "Crosby showed that sort of grit and scrappiness throughout the contest." Yes, slashing at an opponent's foot as he is skating over to congratulate his goaltender after a victory is worthy of commendation. Also, Crosby would know a little something about lip service, what with all of the practice he gets whenever Bettman's in town.
-He also, once again, failed to give Z any credit for pretty much anything he's ever done in his life. When asked to describe Zetterberg's faceoff win which led directly to the Wings' second goal, he had this to say: "Yeah, the puck bounced right over both of our sticks and ended up behind him." I guess Z didn't win the faceoff. The puck just magically bounced back to his teammates. Perhaps the Joe's faceoff circles are also super bouncy. You can understand his need for rationalization, though. He was 5 for 16 in faceoffs against Z. That's got to be driving him crazy. It looks like Hank's gotten in his head, just like last year. Contrast that to Chris Osgood's quote about his save on Malkin's breakaway: "He's got a great shot and he can make great moves. I was fortunate to get my hand on it." His self-effacement and positive attitude are common themes in quotes from all of the Wings players, and those are the reasons why so many fans here think that Crosby's nothing more than a whiny little child.
-Ozzie still looks like he's 17. Someone on Puck Daddy's Live Blog called him the Benjamin Button of hockey. I would have to disagree with that due to the fact that when he was a rookie, all those years ago, he looked like he was approximately 14. So maybe more Dorian Gray than Benjamin Button.
-I'm pretty sure Mike Babcock has lazer vision that could melt a hole right through your soul if you really pissed him off. In which case, Brad Watson's soul probably looks like Swiss cheese right now.
-I also really enjoyed Al Sobotka driving the zamboni right behind Mickey and Bernie while they were doing their post-game. Especially the look on his face. I can't really describe it, but if you Tivo'd the post-game, check it out.

And finally, it never ceases to amaze me how little respect my boys get. The sub-headline on reads, "Lively boards played a big role in Red Wings' 3-1 win." I'm so sick of hearing people talk about the "lively boards" at the Joe. They're like that at both ends. Deal with it. And I can't help but figure that if Crosby had scored Franzen's goal, they would've described it as a great innovative play by one of the true superstars of the game. Instead, it's just a fluke goal off of a lucky bounce off of the boards. Spare me.

Stuart's goal was for sure a lucky bounce, but I firmly believe that you need those kinds of bounces to win the Cup. The Wings were getting those same bounces against Columbus in the first round. Do you remember the goal that went in off of a BJs player's glove as he tried to knock down the shot? Those are the bounces, or, as Mickey Redmond likes to say, "puck luck," that you need going your way if you want to be successful on hockey's greatest stage. I like to think of it as the Hockey Gods' subtle way of intervening. Other than the victory itself, the puck luck that went the Wings' way tonight was probably the most reassuring thing I took out of the game. It's really the only thing that will enable me to sleep tonight.

Tomorrow, the Wings will have to start out strong again. Z will have to continue his absolute ownage of Baby Boy, and Ozzie will probably need to make a couple of "elite" saves. I've got my fingers crossed for the return of Dangle Dangle, but it doesn't seem likely. The Wings survived without him again tonight, but at some point, they're going to need him to play a role in the series. Maybe all of the puck luck apparently bouncing around the Joe Louis endboards will rub off on him and he'll finally break out.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

And So it Begins...

With about three hours till faceoff, the anxiety is starting to set in. The traditional game-day questions are running through my head: Which Wings team will show up to play? Will they even bother showing up for the first period? Will Ozzie continue to play up to his level? How many times will seeing Sidney Crosby's face make me puke?

On top of that, Datsyuk's been ruled out for tonight, and presumably tomorrow. I say 'presumably' because if his foot hasn't improved enough to play in a week and a half, I presume that one more night isn't going to help a whole lot. (I also choose to assume that the foot is combined with some other non-specified injury that's been nagging him for most of the playoffs.) Even at 75%, the Wings need Datsyuk. I don't care if he hasn't been scoring. The Wings need him to shut down Crosby and Malkin. Without him in the lineup, I don't like the look of the series. It's not that the other forwards aren't strong defensively. It's just that nobody does it like Dangle Dangle. Few things are more beautiful than watching him backcheck, strip the puck from an opposing player, turn up ice and create a scoring chance for the Wings. I laugh and clap every time. It never gets old. I'm like a five-year-old.

A friend at work says that he secretly hopes that Game 1 will go to three or four overtimes just to show Bettman and the league how stupid they are. I'd be all for this if I enjoyed OT in the playoffs. Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to make a fool out of Gary Bettman (as if he needs any help), I'd rather it didn't come at the expense of my physical well-being.

The Team that Smiles Together...Has Probably Won Something...

I wasn't planning on having time to put anything else up before the start of Game 1. I work literally all day tomorrow. The thought of missing the beginning of the Finals makes me almost as nauseous as the thought of the Finals themselves. I came across this over at Snapshots, and I liked it a lot. In fact, it gave me approximately two whole minutes without nervous ticks. Here goes:

To the Red Wings, playing in their 99th game of the season (and 108th if you include exhibitions) against a team that wants to do nothing less than wrest the Stanley Cup from their grasp is fun. Playing through bumps and bruises and fatigue on hockey's highest ground, for all the marbles, in front of the world's eyes is fun. For them, there's nothing better than heading into their tenth month of playing hockey after another ten-month season means yet another challenge to be the best players they can be and the best team they can be. They don't give a damn about the hype, about the pressure, about the media frenzy--they feed off that, but this is about embracing the opportunity to rise to yet another level of play, to compete and battle and wage war against a team that wants to take what you have. They love playing hockey, and for them, there's nothing better than playing in the Stanley Cup finals.

How do you bet against a team that's smiling?

I honestly do think that the Wings feed off of getting counted out. I believe that they get double the satisfaction from each victory knowing that nobody outside of Detroit wants them to win. I think they love starting every series as the "expert analysts'" underdog despite being the higher seed. It sounds stupid to keep harping on it, but if you don't think they didn't collectively snarl at that stupid commercial about the Pens fan with his TV in a penalty box that made it look like Pittsburgh actually won, than you're crazy. These are proud athletes. They know what's waiting for them when they step out on the ice. And to all of the fans on both sides of the ice, if you think this is going to be be a short series or an easy one, you're a moron. We're all in for a lot of gut-wrenching moments and devastating heartbreak. I just hope that I survive.

On a side note, at this point, I'm alternating between having a heart attack and a stroke. My body parts seem to be playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine which organ implodes first.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Random Thoughts...

I've heard reports today saying that Lidstrom's going to be in the lineup for Game 1. Thank the Hockey Gods or sweet baby Jesus or even Zeus if you feel the need. Datsyuk sounds less likely, but a girl can dream, right? I was planning to write a better preview, but real life gets in the way sometimes and I don't have as much time as I would like. Therefore, I leave you with a few bullet points:

-I've been reading "opposition" blogs since the beginning of the playoffs, and I have to say that the Pens Blog is one of the most obnoxious things I've seen. Not even Anaheim's bloggers reached that level of idiocy and tastelessness. Chicago's blogs were actually enjoyable, BTW. I guess I just can't fathom a bunch of people finding a nearly fatal car accident funny, no matter who the victim was.
-I steadfastly refuse to make predictions. I have never done so before, and I never, ever will.
-A2Y is stressing me out with promises of great revelations; and Bingo Bango is dangling hints of inside sources and top secret injury info.
-Puck Daddy pointed out that so far in the playoffs, the Pens have eliminated, in chronological order, the Wings' Finals opponents from their previous three championships: Philly, Washington, and Carolina. The only vanquished opponent left? Sidney Crosby and his little posse. I'm not a big believer in coincidence, but this is the kind of thing that reinforces my belief in the Hockey Gods.
-While complaining about the pathetic state of the NHL, I asked myself why I had chosen to love what is quite possibly the worst-run professional sports league in the world. Then I realized that I hadn't chosen to love it. I was destined. I was selected by the Hockey Gods to fall in love with this sport, and if that means putting up with eight kinds of bull year after year, then so be it. Here I am, Gary Bettman, and I'm not going anywhere. At this point in my discourse my mom rolled down the car window and started yelling for help.
-I'll be spending the next 24 hours or so in various stages of meltdown as I alternate between pleading with the Hockey Gods (my firstborn child is still up for grabs, fellas...) and attempting to heal Pavel Datsyuk's foot using only my brainpower and positive vibes. We'll see how that goes.

I wish I had more, but I'm running out of time, and my brain isn't exactly functioning well at this point. This is ten times worse than last year was. The good news is that starting this blog has been incredibly cathartic, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure only one person reads it. There were games in the second round that would've killed me if not for having this venue in which to rant and rave.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Which I Reacquaint Myself With Hatred...

I had a few pleasant hours last night during which I relished the Wings' victory over the Hawks, and my ability to dress completely head-to-toe in Wings gear when I visit their fine city next month. However, when I woke up this morning, it was right back into my traditional playoff cycle of high blood pressure, ulcers, and nervous ticks.

I wish I could say that I took as much satisfaction from beating the Hawks as I did from beating the Ducks, but honestly, the second round felt better. As much as I'm looking forward to heading to Chicago draped in my multitude of Red Wings shirts (I may even layer them, depending on the outcome of this most important series), I don't really feel that great sense of accomplishment that I did after the Wings sent the Ducks packing. The Hawks put up more of a fight than I expected, but they never made me angry. They never made me hate them. They never made me want the Wings to destroy them just so I could watch them cry. It was an easy, low-key lull leading up to the Big Show that starts on Saturday. There's something about even-numbered series that gives me night terrors. Maybe that's why I've always preferred odd numbers.

All of that temporarily dormant vitriol is starting to boil up to the surface now that another showdown with Sidney Crosby is imminent. If the thought of having to look at Gary Bettman's Little Buddy's face for hours on end while the media drools all over him didn't start the hate vibes flowing, check this post out from The Pens Blog. Classy, folks, classy. There are few things I would love more in this world than to see Vladdie completely annihilate Crosby as he skates through center ice. Alas, due to cruel twists of fate, that will never happen. Maybe we'll have to settle for a Kronner special. *fingers crossed* As a big believer in the Hockey Gods, I can only hope for some form of karmic retribution for that low-down, tasteless attack on a former hockey player whose life was almost taken in a needless car accident.

The one thing that's keeping me from hyperventilating right now is the box scores I pulled up from last year's Finals (yes, in a radical change of pace, I decided to actually do some research instead of making things up in my head.). The Penguins scored ten goals in that series. Guess how many a certain pricey trade-deadline acquisition of theirs was involved in? Seven. That's right. Seven out of ten. It was that same man who sent the puck trickling through Ozzie's crease in the waning moments of Game 6. That man? Marian Hossa. His current team? The Detroit Red Wings.

This is big-time moment of truth for Hossa. He's been offensively dormant for most of the playoffs, except for Game 4s (If he's so enraptured with the number 4, why doesn't he just throw it on the back of his jersey? Seriously.) , but if he's ever going to make a statement, now's the time. Back in the summer, he said, "When I compared the two teams, I felt like I would have a little better of a chance to win the Cup in Detroit." Well, sunshine, now's your chance. Go out and prove yourself right. And if that path to prophetic fulfillment just happens to leave tread marks over Sidney Crosby's greasy little face? So much the better. The bottom line is that without Hossa's production in the Finals last year, the series wouldn't even have been close. And as far as I can tell, the Penguins haven't added a whole lot of scoring talent to replace him.

Instead, they're relying on Crosby and Malkin to shoulder the load offensively. I'd be an idiot if I said that the roll the two of them are on didn't scare me, but beyond their two stars, I just don't see a whole lot of secondary scoring. Even if the Wings have to "cancel out" their top two lines defending Crosby and Malkin, I like their odds in a battle of third and fourth lines. I've said it ten million times over the course of my fandom, but the Wings bottom lines just can't be matched by anyone else in the league. Also, I keep mentally replaying this (well the part after the hit. How is it that that epic PK hasn't made its way onto youtube?) in my head in order to calm my nerves.

A lot will depend on Zetterberg's ability to own Crosby again. Last year in the finals, Sid the Kid spent most of the time whining while Z had his way with him en route to hoisting both the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy. If he can work his magic again this time around, I like the Wings' chances.

I'm more than slightly concerned about the scheduling of the Finals and the whole 3 games in 4 days thing (and also the fact that I'm going to be missing part or all of each of said three games). I'm not willing to cry conspiracy about it so much as complete and utter incompetence. No other professional sporting league would allow TV networks to boss it around when scheduling its championship series. That being said, the quick turnaround and condensed scheduling would seem to favor the Pens in light of the Wings' injury situation. (I still maintain that this rash of injuries is the Hockey Gods' retribution for Drew Sharp's obnoxious headline after Game 2.) I was an adamant opponent of the proposed June 5th start date from the first moment I heard about it, but now it's sounding better and better. This is probably much better for the sport, but I can honestly say that at this point, I don't care what's good for the NHL. I'm not in this to watch quality back-and-forth hockey, with tight games and beautiful displays of skill (unless my boys are the ones doing the dangling and sniping). I can't handle that kind of stress. As much as I'm a fan of the game (read: not the NHL), I'm a fan of the Wings first and foremost. And nothing Gary Bettman can do will ever convince me that he's not an incompetent fool who is bent on destroying hockey.

At this point in the season, though, I'm not entirely sure that Bettman is in control of his own actions. I'm not convinced that he's able to form complete sentences now that his Little Buddy is in the Finals again. He thought his two-week long ecstasy of a conference semi-finals series was incredible, but now that his Buddy is only four wins away from the Cup, he has to be out of his mind.

Everybody seems to be counting the Wings out. I don't know if this is because from watching NHL marketing campaigns, you would never know that the defending Stanley Cup Champions even existed. It's also possible that the commentators have been brainwashed by Bettman's obsessive need to shove Crosby's face down all of our throats. Whatever the reason, it's pretty much universally agreed that the ice is tilted in Pittsburgh's favor this time around. The only people who believe Detroit has a chance are wearing the Winged Wheel--on the ice or in the stands. It's OK. We're used to this. Every year, series after series, people doubt the Wings talent and drive. People predicted that Columbus would overwhelm the sleepy Wings with their playoff virgin excitement. They said that Anaheim would grind the soft Wings down with their physical play. They said that Chicago would outgun the slow Wings with their youthful exuberance. But guess what? The Wings answered the call every time. What's really remarkable is how different each series has been so far. That speaks almost as much to the Wings' resilience as overcoming all of the injuries toward the end of the third round. To this point, they've shown that they can play any style of hockey that's needed. And that only bodes well for them in the Finals.

This entry sounds much more positive than I intended to make it. The truth is I'm terrified. Losing this round would be a slap to the face so bad that my future children would be born with handprints on their cheeks. Sidney Crosby is a very good player, and I fully expect him to get his Bettman-annointed hands on the Cup some day. But to have his triumph come at the expense of my boys is just too much for me to handle.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is It Too Late to Re-open Rookie of the Year Voting?...

This game began with me nearly vomiting all over my dog. Finding out that Big E wouldn't be playing due to appendicitis just about sent me over the edge. It was worse than having the Lidstrom bomb dropped on me before Game 4, but only because Lidstrom was also out.

Then, the Wings spent the entire first period on the powerplay. Or rather, they looked like they were on the powerplay. I've never seen anything quite like it before. It was a beautiful thing to watch. Even though they had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard, it had to pay dividends late in the third and in OT just for the light load it placed on their defensemen. Seriously though, I was mocking Huet and his French-ness (apparently France has an Olympic hockey team. Who knew?), but he absolutely STOLE the first period. In fact, he almost stole the game. I was starting to wonder if The Chief's post over at Abel to Yzerman had caused the Hockey Gods to instill him with some sort of inexplicable brilliance. His save on Franzen at the end of regulation left me with my mouth hanging open, which wouldn't have been a problem except for the fact that my dog chose that moment to lick my face. Best believe that snapped me back to my senses quickly.

Possibly my only problem with the first period, other than that big fat zero on the scoreboard, was the fact that the Versus announcer kept saying things like, "he finessed the puck over." He must've used that phrase 100 times in the first twenty minutes. I think I would've stabbed myself in the ear with a spork if it hadn't been for that intermission. Not that I spent the first intermission with rainbows and unicorns dancing in my head or anything, but it's possible that it saved my life. I mostly paced nervously and scared my brother's friend with my intensity. There's a nasty lingering stench about Game 5s from last year, although to be fair, the boys have been dominant in both that they've played this season.

I don't have a lot of time to recap on account of needing to wake up ridiculously early tomorrow, but I have to talk about Darren Helm. I was planning on writing about him just for that epic penalty kill where he single-handedly cycled the puck deep in Chicago's end, got a shot on net, grabbed his own rebound, and then killed off some more time. Beautiful. And then netting the goal in OT? This guy's got a great future. Someone on the live blog over at A2Y mentioned that he's now the all-time leader for most playoff goals scored before netting one in the regular season. And the goal that put him over the top for that? The Western Conference Finals series clincher in OT. Don't forget his beautiful breakaway goal in Game 7, either. This kid shows up to play in the big games, and that's exactly why Babcock has had him in the lineup since the beginning.

Gotta love Dan Cleary's redirection to finally break the seal. For all of their skill and "finesse" passing, the Wings score a lot of goals that look just like that.

And what about Chris Osgood? The man played the game of his life tonight. If he stays in form like that in the Finals, and there's no reason to think he won't, you have to like the Wings' chances. I've been an Ozzie lover since the beginning, and nothing makes me happier than shoving this game down the throats of everyone who spent the entire regular season ripping on him. I don't care the regular season, so long as it results in a playoff berth. It's utterly meaningless in my opinion. All Chris Osgood does is win playoff games. Early in the second period when the Blackhawks woke up and discovered that they were, in fact, involved in a hockey game, it was Ozzie who kept the Wings in the game. He made save after big-time save, and if you ask more of a goalie, you're a fool.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention two other guys: Brad Stuart and Kirk Maltby. Maltby played his best game of the season, by far, and Stuie stepped up big time on the PK. Bravo, sunshines!

I said it after Game 4, and I'll say it a thousand more times. No other organization in the NHL, or possibly all of sportsdom (yes, sometimes I make up words), could lose the caliber of talent the Wings had sitting in the press box tonight and still clinch a series. That's not to say that I didn't throw up in my mouth a little every time Chelios and Meech were on the ice. I didn't notice much of Meech, but Cheli made a couple of plays that were nearly disastrous.

And *drumroll, please* the boys managed to NOT give up a powerplay goal tonight! Granted, they did a pretty good job of staying out of the box, but still, it's something to build on for the Finals. And then there was Darren Helm, who I've already discussed. Ownage!

I also liked the look on Z's face when he was like, "I'm not touching that," with the trophy. He looked at the guy presenting it like he was a moron for even suggesting it. I was also amused by the big deal ESPN made about the Pens' decision to touch the Prince of Wales trophy. Hockey has to fight tooth and nail to get mainstream coverage most of the time, and there's a big Game 5 going on later and ESPN runs a history of the decision to touch the conference trophy? Seriously? I guess we'll see which strategy works out better.

More on the rematch, or as I like to call it, the re-ownage of Sidney Crosby. You have to imagine it's gut-check time for Marian Hossa. I'd like nothing more than to see him absolutely light it up in the Finals just to prove himself right. Especially since it seems like every other Wings player is injured.

PS. Dare I say it's time to bust out The Zetterberg Song? Or at least the end of it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Little Patrick and His Pacifier...

Not a whole lot going on today. Even the pressers failed to hold a candle to those of the last few days.

This video made my brother's life. He has a big time man-crush on Franzen. No wonder he loves the guy. It's pretty hilarious. It was like taking a favorite toy away from a petulant child. I imagine it being accompanied by a quote something along the lines of, "Hey, sunshine, suck on this!" Although if it was me, I probably would've spit on it first. Also, one of my favorite parts is Dan Cleary standing there laughing afterward. The whole exchange pretty much sums up the game in my opinion.

The fallout from Game 4 seems to be pretty unanimous. Every article/blog, be it national, Wings, or Chicago seems pretty astonished at what happened. I'm not sure anybody foresaw a meltdown like that. I know I don't remember ever seeing a team self-destruct like that.

In addition, Quenville got fined $10,000 for his little rant during the post-game presser. What a jerk. Maybe it's just the way I was raised, but I've always been a big fan of accountability. If you want credit for your successes, you had better be willing to accept responsibility for your failures. There are about 100 reasons they lost that game, and at least 99 of them were in the Hawks dressing room. Instead of reeling in his young guys and trying to teach them discipline and composure, he shifted the blame to the referees. The point is, if you're never held responsible for your actions, how can you ever learn? This bothers me on many levels. It's kind of a philosophical debate, so I'll just hash that one out in my head instead of wasting space on a hockey blog.

A lot of people also are saying that it was the Wings' experience that carried them through the game and allowed them to avoid getting drawn into Chicago's antics. I'm not sure how much I agree with that. Obviously, Chicago's done pretty well up to this point without any measurable playoff experience, so it's obviously not the be-all end-all of the world, but you have to imagine it's at least a minor factor. Experience doesn't win games for you; it doesn't put points on the board or make defensive plays. What it does do is put you in a position to make those plays and win games. It gives you the frame of mind that allows you to persevere through adversity, not get rattled, and stay focused with your eyes on the prize. And that (except maybe by signing high-priced free agents) simply can't be bought.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Collective Temper Tantrum of Epic Proportions...

Wow. All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not a Blackhawks fan today. That had to be painful to watch from the other side. Not only did the Wings absolutely dominate, but the Hawks embarrassed themselves and their fans by throwing hissy fits all over the ice. Whereas upon finding themselves down three goals in the second period in Game 2, the Wings rallied and pushed the Hawks to overtime, the Blackhawks simply rolled over and threw a childish little temper tantrum. I guess the Wings just wrote the book on how to beat the Hawks. While Anaheim's roughing and assorted goonery made me angry, (I can't even tell you how much time I spent yelling at the TV during round 2), watching the Hawks try it just...made me laugh. They looked utterly pathetic. It would've been sad if it wasn't so amusing.

Seriously though, sunshines, this wasn't a pretty win. This was the inevitable triumph of composure and class over childish antics. Chalk one up for the good guys. Every once in a while, the world seems alright.

Pre-game, I was a wreck. I assumed Datsyuk would be out again despite the glimmer of hope Babs offered in his presser yesterday, but when one of my co-workers informed me that Lidstrom was out, I just about threw up. At first I thought she was joking, but then I saw Chelios skating by on TV and my worst fears were realized.

True to Brian Campbell's word, the Hawks decided to run around and try to goon it up. They played right into Mike Babcock's hands. He pretty much dared them to try it during his presser yesterday. It turns out that they're spectacularly bad at this. At least when the Ducks acted like goons, they managed to avoid taking penalties. Although to be fair, you have to believe the refs were looking out for that what with Wings' series MVP Campbell announcing it beforehand. It makes me spectacularly sad to think that this moron is making ten times more money than I will in my entire life just to screw his own team over.

Also, Campbell was on the ice for four goals against. A+, Carrot Top.

Perhaps my favorite part was when Versteeg decided to take consecutive stupid penalties, further harming his team's cause. I'm pretty sure Quenville put him in a time-out when he finally got back to the bench.

Apologies for sounding disjointed, but I honestly don't even know what to make of this. I don't recall ever witnessing a meltdown of this magnitude. At one point, the refs probably wondered if they'd been sent to some strange referee hell where they were doomed to break up brawling high schoolers for all eternity. I've been making fun of the Hawks' youth by calling them teenagers, but tonight they were acting more like babies. It looked like the Wings were babysitting a bunch of toddlers in the throes of their Terrible Twos. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure at one point I saw Kris Versteeg laying at center ice pounding and kicking the ice. Chelios had to stifle a reflex to yell at him to gett off of his lawn.

Part of the blame has to go to Joel Quenville and his little tantrum at the start of the second. At the time, I didn't know what he was yelling about because I didn't realize any penalties had been called. Looking back, I can see why I missed the call because I'm pretty sure there wasn't anything worth calling, but it's OK, because it gave me another favorite presser moment. In his post-game, Quenville referred to it as the "worst call in the history of sports." Way to step right into the high-school melodrama there, Joel. The worst call ever? Seriously? You're going to say that after Kronner's excessive penalization in Game 3? And after The Goal That Wasn't in the last round? Or the hundreds of disgusting calls and non-calls that have been plaguing the entire playoffs, league-wide? Get over yourself. You made an fool of yourself today, and trying to brush it aside like you were making some kind of righteous argument only makes you look worse.

Aside from that, I really want to know what Ben Eager said to the ref when he got his first misconduct. I'm not kidding. I feel like that would be a useful turn of phrase to have in my arsenal.


On the Wings' side, I was delighted to see the big guns step up in the absence of Datsyuk and Lidstrom. If somebody could just find a way to convince Marian Hossa that every game is Game 4, a lot of my stress would be relieved. I suggest renaming them Game 4.1, Game 4.2, and so on. Game 4.5 is coming up on Wednesday, so look out. (Unfortunately, I won't be able to watch it, unless I can convince my friend to spend three hours of Cedar Point time holed up in a bar watching TV.)

Speaking of big guns, it was nice to see Z score a couple of goals with the goalie still in the net. So much for his empty-net record attempt.

I also have to give an honorary star of the game to Ken Holland. The Wings' ability to replace Nick Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, two of the best players in the world, and roll on without a hitch tonight is due in large part to his overall brilliance. The rookies didn't contribute a whole lot offensively tonight, but they put in some solid minutes and were a lot less self-destructive than highly-paid veteran Brian Campbell. (The more I start to dislike someone, the more frequently they find their way into my discussions.) When a lot of other teams throw their rookies out, it's to eat up junk minutes and you spend their entire shift white-knuckling whatever is within reach. Not so with the Wings' rookies who've stepped in. They've been turning in solid performance after solid performance and are defensively responsible enough that I don't find myself holding my breath whenever they're on the ice.

I was fairly concerned when Ozzie didn't play the third period, but Babs has (for now) put my nerves at ease by explaining it away as dehydration. (Question: How does a goalie, who stands around next to two water bottles for the whole game, manage to get dehydrated? Especially when his team spends most of the period playing target practice with the back of the Hawks' net.) We'll see how that pans out, but I guess it was good to see Conks get some playoff action in which he didn't surrender a crucial, back-breaking goal.

The one big downside: ANOTHER friggin powerplay goal surrendered. Seriously guys? This is starting to get frustrating. I also feel like they might be attempting to set a record for most delay of game penalites in a single playoff run. Oh well, Hossa shut the crowd up pretty quickly after that and things were all downhill for Chicago from then on.

And PS: I noticed there weren't a whole lot of "Detroit sucks" chants going on tonight. Wonder why?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mike Babcock: King of Press Conferences...

I wasn't planning on posting anything today what with being exhausted from work and all, but then I watched this video of Mike Babcock's off-day presser. This man cracks me up. I want to sit down and knock back a few beers with him. And I don't even like beer. Also, I want to know what was in this super-secret memo that he mentioned.

In it he:
-Sarcastically points out the Reebok logo on his shirt since he apparently is required to wear them.
-Practically calls Joel Quenville a liar. (It was at this point that I stopped everything else I was doing and became riveted to the computer screen.)
-Succumbs to his inner coaching instincts and demonstrates Havlat's position before the hit more than once.
-Makes me laugh on multiple occasions.
-Pretty much dares the Blackhawks to try to take revenge.
-Makes a nice little mini-speech about how it's supposed to be hard to win the Cup. Otherwise it'd be devoid of meaning.
-Sarcastically calls the Wings a 'goon squad.'
-Dangles some hope that Datsyuk might be in the lineup tomorrow. (Get it? Dangle? Oh lord, I amuse myself.)
-Gives a reporter a spectacular "you're a moron" look when she asks about contacting the league to have Kronner's game misconduct rescinded.

My abridged version of the presser. It loses a bit of flair without Mike's awesome Canadian accent, but you can imagine that if you want:
Babs: "Please take a picture of me in this stupid shirt they make me wear. It looks suspiciously like the Penguins' horrendous third jersey."
Reporter: "What's your take on Redheaded-Stepchild McTurnover's threats to Kronwall?"
Babs: "He's a moron."
Reporter: "What about Drapes and Datsyuk?"
Babs: "I'm going to announce that Dangle Dangle might be in the lineup so that I can raise your hopes and then most likely send them crashing down tomorrow."
Reporter: "In a general, non-specific way, what are your thoughts on dirty, no-good, rotten headshots?"
Babs: *rolls eyes* "CoughKeepYourHeadUpMoronCough. Ahem. Little bit of congestion there. Must be allergy season in these godforsaken United States."
Reporter: "You didn't answer the question controversially enough."
Babs: "OK. How about this? Joel Quenville's a lying liar who lies. I, on the other hand, only speak the truth."
Reporter: "I'd like to waste your time asking you the same question for the third time."
Babs: "You're an idiot."
Reporters: *laugh at said idiot*
Reporter: *not deterred* "How was this any different than Brown's hit on Hudler last round?"
Babs: "Excuse me while I step away from the mic to "demonstrate something" so that I can cuss under my breath without anyone hearing." *demonstrates Havlat whiffing on the puck* "God these American reporters and their stupid repetitive questions. I could just punch George Washington right now."
Reporter: "Have you contacted the league about having the game misconduct rescinded?"
Babs: "Sorry, sunshine, no takey-backies. What in God's name is wrong with you? How would that make things any better? PS. The refs suck."
Reporter: "Can you pansy European softies handle it if the Hawks come after you tomorrow?"
Babs: "Bring it on, boys! We'll kill you with our power play."
Reporter: "Wow, that's a bold statement."
Babs: "Well, you know how dirty we are as a team. Did you see how much abuse we gave to poor, sweet Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermeyer during the last round? God, we're such a bunch of goons that I just don't know how any of us are able to sleep at night."
Reporter: "How do you feel about losing this game in which you were gypped out of a top-four D-man in the early stages?"
Babs: "Could someone cue the dramatic, inspirational background music? Thanks. The Stanley Cup is the greatest prize in the history of the world. Winning it takes sacrifice, dedication, and hard work. And you know what? It's supposed to be hard. You should have to battle for it. If it was easy, Sidney Crosby could've done it last year. But it's the blood and sweat and tears that you shed in pursuit of it that make it that much sweeter at the end. K, enough with the music. Next question."
Reporter: "You mentioned a memo earlier?"
Babs: "Uhhh, it's possible that I just made that up in my head. Or, it's super top-secret classified material and Gary Bettman's little security squad is going to hunt me down and make me watch that stupid commercial about the Pens fan who has his TV in a penalty box for 48 hours straight."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sometimes I Just Don't Understand My Boys. Or the Referees...

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.

Half of My Soul is Out Tonight...

May the Hockey Gods help us, it looks like Dangle Dangle won't be playing tonight. I remember seeing him take that shot off the foot during the last game, but he kept playing, and I assumed that it just stung him. I'm holding out hope that this is just Babcock's attempt at Scotty Bowman-like mind games, but I'm really feeling like Datsyuk's going to be sitting this one out. When reports first hit about him possibly being out a couple of days ago, I brushed it off, figuring it would be just like Ericsson's foot injury in the second round. Now I'm hearing that his gear hasn't even been laid out in his locker and SI is saying that he's officially out for tonight. This has pretty much ruined my whole day. Now I have to go to work and smile at people and pretend to be nice and normal and not a crazed, hockey-obsessed little girl who just wants to go home to watch the game while curled up in a ball on the couch.

I don't care that he hasn't been putting up the points we'd expect from him this run. Chicago is still forced to spend a lot of time and energy in order to keep him off the board. Even if the man never scored another goal in his life, what he does on defense would still make him invaluable. If he can't go tonight, I have to assume that his foot's broken, in which case the show's over for him this season.

One of the Wings' strengths has always been their depth, but Dangle Dangle's not the kind of guy you just replace. I'm sure Leino will do an adequate job, but let's face it, Datsyuk's arguable the best all-around player int he world, and there's no way Leino can live up to that. Last year in the Finals, Datsyuk, Z, and Lidstrom teamed up to absolutely own Crosby and Malkin for 6 games. With the roll Crosby and Malkin are on, I don't like the Wings chances without Datsyuk, *if* they make it to the Finals.

I blame Drew Sharp. This is what happens when you tempt the wrath of the Hockey Gods by writing headlines like that when your team only has half of the necessary wins to advance. Just ask Toby Ziegler. Someone please crosscheck Drew Sharp.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Playoff Night Terrors...

Today Sportscenter ran a segment on Brian Campbell errors that had cost his team playoff games. It amused me, mostly because he's not a Red Wing. Seriously though, how many devastating errors does this guy have to make before coaches decide to never play him in OT or critical late-game situations? I mean, I'm not complaining or anything. His little gift-wrapped turnover led to a highlight reel goal ending OT during my first playoff game. If I ever met the man, I'd probably hug him. Thanks for the memories.

I didn't know it at the time, but apparently Nick Lidstrom is now leads the Wings all-time in playoff assists. The only downside to this is that it involved him surpassing my idol, Steve Yzerman. Still, good for him, and he played extremely well last night.

It wasn't until I watched my DVR recording of the game today that I realized just how well Ozzie played. I knew he made a bunch of key stops, but I was sitting close to the rafters and I need new glasses, so I didn't realize how strong some of them were. But for him, I don't think I would have enjoyed my first playoff experience nearly as much. I feel like every stop he makes is another slap to the faces of his critics. I feel like I use that expression too much. I should find a new one.

The other thing that stands out is how badly the Wings played for most of the game. It kills me to say this, but I'm not entirely sure they deserved to win the game. Their failure to play at the best of their ability scares me for two reasons. The first is the one that keeps me awake at all hours of the night and causes me to wake up with cold sweats when I do fall asleep. I keep asking myself and the Hockey Gods how long their luck can hold out. They've gotten by on secondary scoring and Johan Franzen so far, but it just feels like they're tempting fate. I'm sure this is a problem a lot of hockey teams/fans would love to have, but it terrifies me nonetheless. The other scary aspect of it is that I can only imagine that when/if they do actually decide to show up in full force for a game start to finish, it'll be a sight to see. We'll probably all go blind from daring to gaze upon their greatness, like what happens when you look at a solar eclipse.

In other news, I'll be spending today and tomorrow attempting to fix whatever's ailing Pavel Datsyuk, be it mental, physical, or divine. Somehow, some way, I'm going to will this man onto the scoreboard. And I can't help but believe that once he "breaks the seal," there's going to be a flood of epic proportions. I would not want to be the guy who draws him as a defensive assignment when he finally gets his issues back on track. It's a good way to make a fool of yourself.

Also, what is Drew Sharp doing writing this article? Is he trying to invoke the wrath of the Hockey Gods?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hockey Assassins and the Greatest Night of My Life...

Dear Mikael Samuelsson,
I'm sorry for all of the times I've yelled at you on TV. I'm sorry for all of the times I complained about you playing point on the power play. I'm sorry for all of the times I made fun of your shooting abilities. All is forgiven tonight.
PS. I really hate apologizing, so consider yourself twice blessed on this particular evening.

Tonight I fulfilled my lifelong dream and FINALLY attended a playoff game. It was, of course, everything I'd ever dreamed of, and then some. Even though the boys nearly gave me a heart attack by going to OT, things worked out in the end, and I went home happy.

It was a fairly typical game in the sense that the Wings, for the 95th straight time, didn't bother to show up for the beginning of the game. I seriously think that somebody should secretly tell them that the game starts half and hour earlier than it really does so that they'll be ready to go at gametime. For a bunch of such seasoned veterans, they sure have a lot of trouble getting their heads into the game early on. On the other hand, this should frighten opposing fans. I would imagine that if I were a Chicago or Hurricanes/Pens fan, I would have nightmares that involved the Wings actually bringing their A-game for a change. It would be a massacre. Puck Daddy called them "unflappable hockey assassins" today. I like that a lot.

I almost cried when the Hawks scored first. I had horrible visions of my childhood dream turning into an epic failure and never being able to attend a playoff game again for fear of jinxing the boys. At the same time, I knew the Wings weren't out of the game yet. A one-goal lead against any team in the NHL doesn't mean much, but against the Wings, it's equivalent to the random syllables that come out of PYG's mouth when he tries to form sentences--that is to say, completely devoid of meaning.

Danny Cleary once again came through with a big goal. I think playing against the team that drafted him has somehow stirred a memory of when he was a hot whiz-kid prospect in juniors and how much fun it was to score boatloads of goals. Or maybe one of the Hawks went to Newfoundland and spit on it. Either way, it's really fun to watch.

Nick Lidstrom was, as always, incredible. I really feel bad about how rarely I give him credit. Especially since I have his empty beer bottle on a shelf in my room, making us practically BFFs. Overlooking Nick seems to be pretty common. All you need to do is look at how long it took him to win his first Norris. It's hard to believe that Mike Green, he of the epic playoff under-performance, is most likely going to steal his trophy this year. At one point during the game, Patrick Kane broke into the Wings zone pretty much one-on-one with Lidstrom. My brother, who attended the game with me, said, "Look out, he's really good!" Then Lidstrom coolly and efficiently stripped him of the puck and cleared the zone. I leaned over and said, "Yeah, but Lidstrom's better." The man has somehow managed to turn defensive positioning into an artform. And that says a lot because I always hated playing defense when I used to play soccer and mini-sticks.

Jonathan Ericsson stood out like a rookie again this game. He made a couple more shaky plays, and, in general, I was extremely uncomfortable when he and Lebda were out on the ice. I like Ericsson with Lidstrom a lot better because Captain Nick can make up for some of the mistakes Big E might make. That being said, Ericsson wasn't nearly as bad as Chicago's D-men who made turnovers that lead to not one, but two Wings goals, including Sammy's in OT.

Datsyuk still hasn't scored. I'd be more panicked if everyone else wasn't picking up the slack. Boy oh boy was he evert on fire defensively, though. Even without points, he's worth keeping around just to see him ninja the puck away from unsuspecting Hawks. I would not want to run into this man in a dark alley. He'd swipe my phone, my keys, my wallet, my chapstick, and probably my pocket lint before I even knew what happened.

Even though he wasn't named one of the players of the game at the Joe, Ozzie played incredibly tonight. What I said in an earlier post still stands: anyone who I was forced to defend Ozzie to over the course of the season should line up now for a ceremonial slap. That man can bring it when he's called upon. I could be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure this was the first time during the playoffs that the Wings were out-shot. Ozzie made some stellar saves at key moments. Anyone who argues that this man isn't Hall of Fame-worthy can join the aforementioned lineup. I experienced one of the greatest moments of my life when my brother and I started an "Ozzie, Ozzie!" chant at the start of OT.

Speaking of chants, I was sitting in 225B, and I have to say that section 226 was the loudest group of fans that I have ever seen at a sporting event. I loved it. They were starting cheers all night long. Kudos to anyone in that area. Notice how it's always the cheap seats who have the most team spirit.

I was also struck by how few Chicago fans there were at the Joe. Since Chicago's so close, I figured there would have been more of an enemy presence in the stands. Looking around after Chicago's goals, there were only a few scattered here and there. Way to go Wings fans. The Joe is our building!

I'm not ready to talk about OT yet. I'm still recovering from it. Right at the start, I had a moment when I thought that I'd be more comfortable curled up in a fetal position on my couch at home, but I wouldn't have traded being at the Joe for anything. I'll never forget everybody rising to their feet as the Wings broke into the zone and then jumping up and down for what seemed like five minutes after Sammy scored. I even hugged my brother. That's how excited I was. Long story short: I will never forget this game. Ever. Even though it was far from the best the boys have played and they tried to kill me with OT.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm in Love with Tomorrow...

I'm going to the game tomorrow! I've never been to a playoff game before. I've been waiting my whole life for this. I honestly don't even know what to say.

Monday, May 18, 2009

You Can't Spell "Wing" Without "Win"...

My favorite part of the media coverage of this series is how the Wings are (once again) being portrayed as the old, slow veterans versus the young, speedy Blackhawks. With the exception of Lidstrom, Rafalski, Draper, Maltby, Holmstrom, Chelios, and Osgood, the core of the team is in their late twenties or early thirties. Z, Datsyuk, Hossa, Franzen, Kronwall, and Stuart are all between 28 and 30. I know that Chicago only has four guys (Huet, Khabibulin, Sopel, and Pahlsson) over 30, but things have changed since the '02 Cup. And as to the speed issue, while Chicago might have greater average team speed, all I can say is suck on this.

UPDATE: (5/18/09 3:04) Mitch Albom agrees with me!

I've also been thinking about the Chicago fans' "Detroit sucks" chants at the end of their Game 6. I couldn't figure out why there was so much hatred there, when I, as a Detroit fan, couldn't care less about them. Then it occurred to me that it's a lot like the UM-MSU rivalry. You see, I started college at UM, and then transferred to MSU for reasons (not GPA-related!) that I prefer not to discuss. While at UM, I learned a deep-seated hatred for OSU. Nobody liked MSU, but it was kind of an afterthought. However, when I got to MSU, it turned out that everybody there hated UM with a passion. I think it was Michael Hart who later compared MSU to a proverbial little brother who UM's just expected to beat. I couldn't have said it better. UM has better, more intense rivalries with schools on their level. Beating down little brother is just something fun to do when things get boring. I imagine that this is similar to what goes on in Chicago fans' minds. The Wings are the better, more accomplished, smarter, better looking, Golden Child of a big brother, and the Blackhawks have to resent that.

I've been doing a lot more reading of "opposition" blogs this year than I usually do. It's always fun to find out how hated my boys are. I love the fact that everyone outside of Hockeytown despises the Wings. I bask in it. Whenever I travel outside the state, I make sure to drape myself in Wings gear so everyone knows that my heart belongs to Detroit. The best part about it is that the Wings are hated for all the right reasons. They've been so good for so long, and accomplished so much in recent years, that it's easy to imagine a level of jealousy and resentment from less-fortunate teams. When in full-flight, the Wings can systematically demolish an opponent in any number of ways, from finesse passing to mucking it up in the corners or the crease, all the while out-classing you at every turn. In a salary cap world and draft lottery system that are designed to create parity and prevent one team from being dominant for too long, the Wings have continuously found ways to reinvent themselves and stay ahead of the pack. I know I'd be bitter if I was on the outside looking at a team like that. This is in contrast to the Ducks (I know, I just can't let it go.) who are hated for all of the wrong reasons; namely, that they're classless goons from the top down.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Clear Bear Comes Through...

Sweet Jesus, someone lit a fire under Dan Cleary. I love guys like him. He's a Detroiter's hockey player. He does a little bit of everything and can fill in anywhere you play him. Wings fans have a long history of falling for hard-working guys like him, and I hope he starts to get the recognition he deserves.

I already like this series more than either of the first two rounds. I hope that doesn't come back to bite me. This was just straight-up fun to watch. Although, I can imagine a casual fan who had only tuned in for a couple of the Anaheim games before would find himself/herself wondering if they were watching the same sport.

Speaking of fun to watch, Johan Franzen's post-game interview on Channel 4 was really funny. I really can't explain why. It's one of those things that you just have to see for yourself. Somebody needs to post it on youtube. I think he might have ADD.

Holmstrom seemed to have a much bigger presence today. He didn't get rewarded for it, but he did draw a penalty. Hopefully he breaks out this series, along with Datsyuk. I won't be happy until Khabibulin is having nightmares about that big Swedish tank in front of his face.

As much fun as it was to watch, there's a lot of room for improvement in the Wings' game. There were entirely too many turnovers, and once again, they didn't bother lacing up their skates until halfway through the first period. I have to assume that that will come back to haunt them at least one game this series. The final score makes the game look more lopsided than it actually was. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't worried when the Hawks tied it up in the third. It was nice to see that the Wings came out and dominated the third period again, even though they didn't have but a couple of days rest between series. I think I read somewhere that the Hawks have been playing really strong third periods, but the Wings were able to take over and play even better.

It's only been one game, and already I miss Mickey. At least he did the post-game wrap-up on NBC.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

On Karma and the Hockey Gods...

I've been in a pretty good mood all day. This is making it hard for me to find reasons to hate Chicago. In all honestly, I like the city a lot. I even have plans to go there next month. This visit will be all that much sweeter if I can walk around, draped in Wings gear, gloating.

Also, as much fun as it was to watch, it's almost a relief to see Gary Bettman's 2-week-long ecstasy of a Caps/Pens series over. It's too bad the Pens and his Little Buddy had to pull it out, but I'm not all that broken up over it. Quite frankly, I'm amazed that Bettman found time away from daydreaming about his pet being that much closer to the Cup to attend the Wings Game 7.

I've been a little too stressed/busy today to do any hard-core Hawks digging, so I'll instead offer another rehash of my general sentiments surrounding the Anaheim series. Spoiler alert: I despise all things Duck related.

The Mighty Ducks movies were some of my most defining childhood memories. I can't even count the number of times my brother and I have reenacted the "The Goalieeeeeee!" scene from D2. I was pretty sure that I was going to marry Charlie Conway. So I always thought it was neat that the Mighty Ducks franchise was out there in the NHL. (Coincidentally, Anaheim is also home to the Angels, the subject of another of my favorite childhood movies. I can't say I have anything particular against the MLB Angels, though.) Until they became a bunch of thugs, that is. Gordon Bombay would not approve. This only makes me hate the Ducks more. Nobody stomps all over my fondest childhood memories and gets away with it.

There's been a little bit of whining on the Ducks' part today, mostly about the winning goal. All I can say is, "Karma!" Even in my most miserable, furious, throwing-dog-toys-at-the-floor moments, I had faith in the Hockey Gods. Because, you see, at the end of the day, hockey is the single greatest team sport ever invented. And, by its very nature, it must have benevolent and just Gods ruling over it. And there was no way that those Hockey Gods could let a travesty like the Goal That Wasn't go unanswered. I actually enjoy the fact that the series-winning goal was controversial. I hope that PYG and the rest of the Ducks goon-squad spend the whole summer replaying it over, and over, and over in their minds, searching for some angle, some argument, some way to overrule that goal. I hope it's seared into their memories the way the Goal That Wasn't or Captain Elbows McGee's attack on Datsyuk will stay with the Wings.

The Wings simply could not be defeated by this disgusting, one-line of a team. It would have gone against all that is fair and good in the world. I'm not sure I could've stomached a handshake line watching their smug little faces again. And they would've looked smug. You don't get away with as much as they did and not look smug at the end.

Speaking of the handshake line, it seems that while that was going on on the ice, the Ducks GM decided to go all WWA and beat a woman with a bar stool in the press box. When I first read this, I didn't believe it. I thought it was made up. But it turns out it wasn't. I guess class really does start at the top and works its way down to the ice surface. I can just imagine it in the same vein of Captain Elbows' quick peek to see if the referees were looking before elbowing Datsyuk at the end of Game 6. I picture Bob Murray looking around to make sure nobody was watching, before picking up the stool and cross-checking this woman. I guess we know where PYG and his Captain learned their moves.

On the other hand, it was nice to see that the Blackhawks fans had faith that the Wings would pull out a victory in the second round. Their chanting of "Detroit sucks!" at the end of their Game 6 was pretty classy. Now they've got what they wished for, and I hope to the Hockey Gods that they regret it.

For some reason Patrick Kane chose now to admit that while he was living in the Metro area, being sheltered by Pat Verbeek, no less, he hated the Wings. It seems that he was a Sabres fan. Oh, poor, naive, young Patrick, with your sad lack of a playoff beard, did no one tell you that those are the kinds of things that you keep to yourself? The Wings are not the kind of guys you want to tick off. Not in the, "You make Pronger angry! Pronger smash with elbows!" sense, but in the, "Oh gee, was that another powerplay goal?" sense.

Chicago scares me a lot less than Anaheim did. I know I was rooting for the Ducks to knock out San Jose in the first round, just so the Wings wouldn't have to go through them, but that series was all I could handle. If nothing else, at least I won't have to live every game in fear that one of the Wings will have his head taken off by a PYG elbow.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Epic, Epic, Epic...

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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Empty-Headed Animal Food Trough Wipers...

This from George James Malik at the Snapshots blog:
"Like I said last night, the Ducks' leadership group showed its character by deciding that defeating the Red Wings wasn't enough. They showed that they have no character, no class, little backbone, and that they're punks sans intestinal fortitude. Their mothers are hamsters, and their fathers stink of elderberries."
I couldn't have said it better myself. Plus, he made a Monty Python reference.

The thought that maybe, just maybe, the Wings will come out tomorrow and play with a fire like I know they can is really the only thing keeping me sane right now. And if that, by some miracle, occurs, I have to believe it will be because of the Ducks' little after-game antics. I hope to the Hockey Gods that that little scrum was the wake-up call Datsyuk needed. If the Wings ever need him, it's now.

Game 7 can't come soon enough, and yet part of me never wants it to happen. I need it to come ASAP because I'm liable to have a stroke from all of the anxiety. On the other hand, I really, really don't think I can handle it if the Wings lose. Not to this gutless bunch of neanderthals. I'm one of those stupid, naive people who likes to think that good things happen to good people, and losing to the Anaheim Thugs again is not something that will fit comfortably into my worldview.

Loveable Losers? I Think Not...

Looking back at my previous post, I feel like I did a bit too much whining. While I still feel like most of my complaints were justified, they weren't the reason the Wings lost. I do stand by my belief that the Ducks are the dirtiest team in hockey. After watching the replay of the mess at the end on Sportscenter today, I was even more incensed. I didn't get a particularly good look at it as it was happening last night because I was too busy throwing up in my mouth at the thought of Game 7. Sometimes I think that the Ducks have a team money pot where whoever lands the best elbow during the game gets to take home the cash prize. I can't say I was particularly surprised though. What else would you expect from a team that places Chris Pronger.You.Goon in a leadership role?

The fact of the matter is that Anaheim simply wanted it more last night. They came out and played their game, and the Wings sat back and couldn't be bothered to show up. I think at one point I saw an Ikea catalog being passed around on the bench. This is the most frustrating aspect of being a Wings fan. This is a team that has had a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup every single year for as long as I can remember. What always seems to do them in is straight-up lack of desire. And that's the one thing that I can't stand. You can't even say, "Oh well, they tried hard, but the other team was just better." It's always, "For cryin' out loud! They're ten times the team XXX is, but their heads were too far up in the clouds to bother winning." It's not that I expect the team to win every year, but it would be nice if they at least showed some effort in their losses. As I write this, it sounds like all hope is lost. I realize that there's still Game 7. However, if the Wings had just showed up for all of the games, they wouldn't even be in this position with their backs against the wall.

Also, Datsyuk needs to pass more. I literally never thought I'd say this. I used to spend Wings games yelling, "Shoot the puck!" at him on TV. Unfortunately, last night, despite the brilliance of his stick-handling, he was doing neither. He would take the puck into the zone and skate in circles, beat every Duck twice (except for Hiller), and then mishandle it and accomplish absolutely nothing. If the game had been a blowout for the Wings, I would've been all for that, but it's really not an effective way to score goals.

That's all I have for now. I'm going to go devote the rest of my day to pleading with the Hockey Gods to get Pav on the scoresheet. This is unfortunate because I have loads of work to do for school the next two days. And we all know that it's flat-out not going to get done.

Almost Deja Vu...

Oh holy God. We're headed to Game 7. I'd be lying if I said I didn't expect this, but it still stings. I was a total wreck throughout the third period. I probably would've been sucking my thumb if it didn't still taste like my softball mitt. In the end, the Wings wound up the same way my softball team did: beaten and bloodied. Well, I didn't actually see any Wings shed blood, but it wasn't for lack of trying on Anaheim's part. Honestly, every time they survive a game against Pronger.You.Goon without him taking someone's head off with an elbow, I feel like I've witnessed a modern miracle.

As I said before, I had a bad feeling about this game all day. There was a clerk at the grocery store today who saw my Wings T-shirt and said he was confident that they were going to win tonight and that they were definitely going on to hoist the Cup. I tried to be polite, but I practically ran away from him like he had swine flu. I couldn't risk inducing the wrath of the ever-fickle Hockey Gods. As if I needed another reason to hate Kroger.

And sure enough, my worst fears were realized. Tonight played out exactly like Game 3 did, as well as so many during the regular season. While I had hoped for the Game 5 edition of the Wings, all I got was a slow start and lack of effort. It was like asking Santa for a new bike and finding your cousin's hand-me-down tricycle under the tree on Christmas morning.

At the beginning of the game (and I never do this), I predicted that Datsyuk would get two goals if for no other reason than to mentally will him onto the scoresheet. I was wrong (which is why I never make those predictions), but dang if he didn't put on a puck-handling clinic tonight. As beautiful as it was to watch, there were times when I felt like he was trying to do too much. Now that he's all fired up from his little scrum at the end (Quote of the Day: "Please don't break your face!"), maybe he'll reach down deep and find that ridiculous extra gear that you have to believe he has.

Speaking of the scrum at the end, why is it that every time the Ducks win a game, they have to goon it up after the horn? What other team does that? In Game 3, when the Wings had every right to be upset, it was the Ducks who were instigating the stuff at the end. Same story here, except for the part about the Wings getting robbed by the referee. (Also, was it really necessary to replay the video of the Goal That Wasn't near the end of the game? I personally would be more than happy if all tape of that incident was permanently destroyed.)

While I'm on the subject of the referees, I honestly believe that this series has showcased the worst officiating I've ever seen in my life. My dad keeps trying to bait me into crying conspiracy, but I'm really not that kind of fan. I do, however, believe that this type of epic failure is endemic of the Gary Bettman regime (I apologize for that sentence. I took one too many PoliSci classes in college.). The one incident that stands out in my mind is during a Wings powerplay mid-way through the second period. Homer was literally getting mauled in front of the net. Once he was down, he got a couple more cross-checks and ended up bouncing his face off of the ice. In what universe is that not a penalty? And what is the deal with the quick whistles around the net that have gone universally in the Ducks favor? There were at least two plays whistled dead around their net when clearly the puck was still loose. On the other end of the ice, I specifically remember Ozzie sitting on the puck and getting whacked at and yet play continued.

And seriously, what was with Z getting thrown out on every face-off? He must've spit in the linesman's Gatorade. Or insulted his mother. Or...I don't know. But it can't have been nice.

In the end, though, it wasn't the refs who lost the game for the Wings. You could pretty much see the first Ducks goal coming. You can only take so many stupid penalties before the puck ends up in the back of your net. I can't even remember the last game I saw where a team took two penalties for delay of game like that. Although the Ducks racking up two penalties for too many men on the ice wasn't exactly brilliant. It looks like somebody decided to let PYG do the counting.

But enough complaining. I'm going to move on.

It was good to see Rafalski back in the line-up. Franzen's goal doesn't happen unless he's there to hold the puck in the zone. And nobody does that better than Brian Rafalski. Nobody.

Speaking of Franzen, if he's not the best Big Goal scorer (you know what I mean) in the game, I don't know who is. Also, my Red Wings necklace nearly chipped my tooth as I was wildly jumping around in celebration of said goal. I feel the need to mention that my brother has the biggest man-crush I've ever seen on the Mule. For a long time, I refrained from giving him the credit he deserves just because my brother and I do not agree on anything (Except for our mutual love of the Wings and "The Office.") and I couldn't allow myself to express any affection for my brother's favorite player. I'm pretty sure this man is unstoppable, though. I sure wouldn't want to be the person who get assigned the task of standing in his way.

Another guy who has skyrocketed his way into my heart over the last couple of playoffs is Darren Helm. I call him Helmet for no reason whatsoever. Also, Taz, because he's like a frickin Tasmanian Devil out there. He works his butt off every single shift, and good things seem to happen whenever he's on the ice. It's no coincidence that he drew that tripping penalty. I also feel like Energizer Bunny would be a good nickname for him, but I'm pretty sure that has way too many syllables. This is also a good place to note that I make up a lot of strange nicknames for players. Most of them probably don't make sense to anyone else, but they're mine and I like them. So there.

On the other side of the spotlight, where on earth has Tomas Holmstrom been this series? I seriously love this man most of the time. He's the best in the world at what he does, and just when he started receiving a modicum of credit for it, the NHL decided to crack down on him and revoke what seemed like half of the goals he helped create last year during the playoffs. I think part of his problem is that every time he gets near the crease, he gets destroyed by Anaheim's goon squad, but he should be used to that after all of these years. In all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he and Datsyuk are hurting after things are all over and the veil of secrecy has been lifted.

The FSN post-game show ended with this quote: "There's the difference between winning and losing: one tipped puck." They were showing a replay of Anaheim's second goal, but this is exactly what scares me about Game 7s. All it takes is a bad bounce, a bad call, a bad line change, or a bad turnover to ruin everything. I know the last Game 7 the Wings played turned out pretty well (I only bring this up so that I can have positive thoughts as I go to bed), but holy Jesus, the next two days will be stressful.

Fortunately for my nerves, I'm not a big believer in game-to-game momentum. Within games, there definitely is such a thing as momentum, but I've always felt like each game starts with a clean slate momentum-wise. I hope to the Hockey Gods that I'm right.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Playoff Stress Kills...

It never ceases to amaze me how stressful the build-up to a playoff game can be. I've been doing this whole mega-fan thing for more than half of my life at this point, and yet I still feel like I should be curled up in a fetal position under my bed or something. What makes this more remarkable is that fact that in matters not related to Red Wing hockey, I'm incredibly low-stress. Project deadlines? No problem. Eight-page papers? No sweat. Final exams? No big deal. And yet, the mere thought of Game 6, or Hockey Gods forbid, Game 7 is enough to reduce me to a quivering ball of nerves. I suspect that this stems partially from the fact that I'm stressing out about something over which I have absolutely no control (despite my continuous efforts to bargain with the Hockey Gods and/or mentally heal Brian Rafalski), but it is what it is. All I'm saying is that when I drop dead from a heart attack at age 53, you'll know why.

Enough about me and my pathetic, childish nerves. This whole Ericsson's foot thing has me a little nervous. As long as nothing's broken, he should be fine, but I'm well aware from personal experience that trying to stuff a giant egg-sized bruise into a skate is less than fun. Granted, by personal experience, I mean that time I took a softball to the ankle and then tried to put on my cheap 8-year-old roller blades the next day. I like to think that he'll have a little better luck with whatever fancy skates he's wearing.

On the other hand, the possibility of having Rafalski back is quite tantalizing. I can't help but believe that his return would be a big boost to the Wings, but there's always the possibility that he'll re-aggravate whatever injury he has and be out for even longer. These are the moments when I'm glad that I'm not the one making the decisions. Still, I have to think that he's the kind of guy who won't selfishly put his own interests before those of the team. We'll see what happens. It would be spectacularly nice to be able to actually play 6 D-men, though.

It's unfortunate that Drapes won't be back tonight, but it's hard to argue with the line-up the Wings had last game.

Anyway, that's all I have for now. I'm going to go back to cowering in the corner while clutching my rally rag like a security blanket for the next hour or so. After that, I'm going to be forced to spend an hour focusing on something non-hockey related, so we'll see how that goes. It'll either be a spectacular trainwreck or the very salvation of my sanity. All I can do at this point is hope that the Wings from Game 5 show up, and not the Wings from the first half of Game 3.