Saturday, May 30, 2009

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. NHL.com 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 NHL.com 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.

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