I happened to be on the road last week and was away from the computer world. I had hoped the Penguins would push the series to seven games so I could get one more Saturday night at home with a great hockey game to watch but it was not meant to be... guess I'm off to the video store to rent Slapshot. Here's a few thoughts on the finals. I'll have more posted in the coming days.
Congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings. An amazing regular season from start to finish and yet they still flew under the radar going into the playoffs. I certainly overlooked them, figuring on another early exit, but this is a Bowman built team. Much was written and talked about the Penguins learning curve and comparisons to the Oilers of the eighties. All of it justified in my opinion. How about the Wings though? This was a team built to win every year and they hadn't since 2002. Don't you think they learned a few things about playoff hockey along the way too?
My prediction going into the series was Wings in six. Pittsburgh would win game three at home and game five for pride. Even though the scores were close and Hossa almost sent game six to overtime, I don't feel it was as close as some observers do. There was never any doubt on the Detroit bench that they were the better team. Going into the series, Chris Osgood had played one less game then Fleury but Osgood had faced 100 fewer shots. By game five the differential was up over 150. The Penguins had to get more shots on net all series long and they never did.
Contrary to what some analysts think, a hot goalie stealing the game doesn't mean you are back in a series. Fleury stole game five but it didn't result in the momentum shift as predicted on TSN etc. Game six was never in doubt really. In the game that went to triple overtime the Pens had only two shots in the third period. Yes, one got by Osgood but I wouldn't call that a confidence builder. I'd call that hanging on for dear life, praying one gets in so that you live to play another day.
Speaking of that triple overtime game, is it me or is the term "classic" about as watered down as the beer at a baseball game? I have to agree with the Kipper from Hockey Central on Sportsnet; game five was not a classic game or one for the ages. In this era of twenty four hour sports analysis, there is a constant need to hype and sell the next game. If we tell you the game you missed was awesome, you'll have to tune in for the next one. It seems that a few years ago there was a shift in thinking. A long hockey game must have been a great hockey game right?
It's certainly exciting when it's sudden death. Everything is on the line...next goal wins! But is anyone watching around the ten minute mark of an OT period? The skating is sluggish, the ice is a mess (especially in the older rinks), the passing is horrendous and the refereeing is very suspect. If it's a penalty in the first period it's a penalty in the fifth. In the NFL, a face mask penalty is a penalty. No debate. They'd call it with 2 seconds left in the Super Bowl in a tie game with the ball on the one yard line if they had to. In hockey we have the league dictating new policies and interpretations half way through a series. That's ridiculous! No wonder the game struggles for viewers south of the border. It's not that they don't understand the game...they don't understand why a major sporting league changes the rules from period to period and game to game.
So we've finally had a European captain lift the Cup. Can we shut up about this now? It is a tremendous accomplishment to lead your team to Lord Stanley's Cup. If I'm putting together a hockey team, I want the best players available. I don't care where you're from, just give me everything you've got every game. It's worked for Scotty Bowman for the last forty years.
Congratulations again Hockey Town on an amazing season and congrats Mr. Lidstrom - the first of many players from around the globe who will someday captain their team to glory.
One last thing...Do you think that folks in the Red Wings front office ask themselves "what would Scotty do?" before they make a final decision? I would. Toronto almost had him last summer. Scotty wanted JF jr out and Pierre Mcguire in as GM - MLSE refused. One team just won their fourth cup in eleven years, one team has no captain, no coach and no general manager. Guess which team is which.