Thursday, June 5

Wings In 6. Everybody Wins The Pool

The Red Wings won their 4th Cup in 11 years on Wednesday night. Going into the final, the Red Wing players had 23 Cup wins between them. Seeing as how he's just won his 405th Cup, one entire band of it is now just for Scotty Bowman.

This was the game that Detroit almost played back home when they had a chance to win it there. Coaches, pay attention: It has been conclusively proven possible that a team can run a crippling, choking defense, and not be the most boring thing on Earth. It's called talented players. The Wings defense, led by Lidstrom and Rafalski, through to two-way guys Kris Draper and Zetterberg, absolutely dominated play in the last half of the game. The Pens only had 22 shots on net, and only 6 in the third, and I'd say half of those game in the last minute of the game. This with 6 powerplays, including a long 5 on 3. That's in the Stanley Cup final, against the second best team in the league who were playing at home with everything to lose. How good is the Wings D? When your goalie has a playoff 1.55 GAA and a .930 save percentage, including back-to-back shutouts in the Final and doesn't get the Conn Smythe? You've got some good goddamn D.

Turning points? Well, how about the 5 on 3 to start? The Pens have to score there and don't. How about Osgood's best save of the playoffs, when he murders the inventor of the banana smoothie- Gary Roberts -by getting the paddle down in time? How about the bad rebound Fleury gives up on a soft wrist shot from Samuelsson for Filppula to chip through? How about the graphics on that Xbox 360?

I've now seen the worst, or maybe weirdest- I can't decide- goal ever. It just so happened to be the game winning goal in the 2007-08 Stanley Cup Final. This is what it looked like:

This Is A Dead Puck

This Puck Is Now Moving At 60 MPH

4th Cup In 11 Years

I've never seen anyone's ass take a slapshot before. That puck wasn't rolling or sliding. It was flat and still. Fleury's ass comes down on it, and it FLIES into the net. Literally. I think his ass roofed it. That is a tough way to lose a game, let alone the Stanley Cup.

It was also a pretty emotionless trophy presentation. Normally I get REALLY choked up when the Cup gets presented. This time I only wept. Quietly. It's not just that the winners were in the away building. The Pens fans all stayed for the ceremony, but just seemed stunned that it was all over. And it was so silent. It didn't seem like there were any Wings fans present at all. Maybe if Zetterberg had snapped the Conn Smythe trophy in half that would have broken the assembled crowd out of their anaphylactic shock. But, you know, no such luck.

One thing the NHL is not doing now is having the PA announcer introduce Gary "Sunbelt" Bettman. This ALWAYS elicits a chorus of wonderfully hateful boo's in every rink he's in. Our Commish just scurried out there and trilled out his rehearsed dialog, proving once and for all that those voice lessons are really working.
He gave the Conn Smythe the Zetterberg who skated around with it and then took it into a crowd of Wings, which I thought was odd. I would have thought they'd be only thinking of the Cup. Maybe Hank is just real popular in H Town. No matter. Lidstrom gets the Cup and does a tour with it. The NBC team pose the question of "who will he first hand it off to?". Ah yes, the great tradition. Who does the winning captain hand the greatest trophy in sports to first? My mind flashed: Joe Sakic handing it to Ray Bourque. Gretzky handing it Steve Smith, you guys, handing it to me. Then the big moment...Lidstrom approaches the Wings throng...he's doing it...he hands it to...Dallas Drake? Oooooooo-K. No, I get it. He did that thing, one time. And he gave someone a lift to the bus stop during that snowstorm in '97. Of course. Now it all makes sense.

Seeing the Wings win, and how, makes me think a lot about the Leafs. The difference between these two teams and the way they are run is frightening to admit. The Leafs have a possibility to change that, even a little, starting probably Monday with the announcement of new coach Wilson. Then some good trading/drafting and signing by Cliff Fletcher. Then the hiring of GM Brian Burke. Yes, I'm back on that again. I'm a very hopeful person. I think it can happen. But so much has to change for the Leafs to get to a place to really compete for the Cup. And when I say that, I mean win the Cup. Because as I watch yet another non Leaf team do it again, seriously, NOTHING else matters.