Tuesday, May 12, 2009

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.

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