What? It's June already? Why, yes... yes it IS. And here's what we were on about exactly six years ago today:
One more win—three more chances. And then the 2008 Stanley Cup Final will be history. The Wings can hoist the Cup on home ice tomorrow night, and the chances…statistically… of them doing just that are better than good.
I might have seen a more exciting, harder-fought game than last night’s masterpiece in Pittsburgh, but I don’t think so. The only possible candidate might be the Wings’ Game Four win in the sweep of the Flyers in 1997…but that would be for entirely different reasons, like ending a 42-year Stanley Cup drought. So yeah, that game
in Phillywas memorable (ed: played in DETROIT. So much for your memory.). But last night? Indescribably Delicious. It began with the Pens scoring their lone goal less than three minutes into the game and ended with the usual desperate, empty-net play of the team…that would be the Penguins… that’s down by a single goal with less than a minute to go. And I was on the edge of my chair for the whole 60 minutes of play… “exciting” is a woefully inadequate term to describe the intensity of this game. And it might have been a little bit too exciting, at times.
For instance: my “Heart In Mouth” Moment… a Pittsburgh 5-on-3 power play that lasted an eternity (1:26 —or 27— depending on who you read), described by Damien Cox in the Toronto Star:
Three days of insistent whining by Michel Therrien about alleged obstruction and a well-timed dive by Sidney Crosby combined to put the Pittsburgh Penguins in a wonderful position to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive.
But the Detroit Red Wings would have none of it.
Instead, they absorbed an interference call produced by Crosby's clever lunge that gave the Penguins a long, 5-on-3 power play in the third period last night, grimly fended off every second of it without allowing a single shot on goal and rode that tremendous effort to a 2-1 victory in a hard-fought, bruising Game 4 of the 2008 Cup final.
Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall combined to kill the critical two-man disadvantage, preventing Penguin snipers Marian Hossa, Evgeni Malkin and Crosby from getting a truly top-notch chance.
Zetterberg made the play of the game during the penalty kill, saving a sure goal for Crosby into an open net by quickly reading the play and tying up the Pittsburgh captain's stick.
A frustrated Crosby was grudging in his praise of Zetterberg's critical effort.
"He just got my stick," said Crosby. "I don't think he did anything out of the ordinary that somebody else wouldn't do on a 5-on-3."
In Zetterberg's defensive play, of course, lies the brilliance of the Wings, and why they can capture their fourth Cup in 11 years tomorrow night in Motown.
The Detroit Red Wings Henrik Zetterberg kicks away a puck delivered up by Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby during a 5 on 3 penalty play in the third period that goalie Chris Osgood helped kill helping to defeat Pittsburgh 2-1 in game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals Saturday, May 31, 2008 at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, PA.
(MANDI WRIGHT/DFP)Yes. Zetterberg definitely saved the game with that play on Crosby. But there’s something else Mr. Cox doesn’t mention… Here’s Ron Cook, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
A goal by Detroit center Jiri Hudler at 2:26 of the third period went down as the winner. But that's not what beat the Penguins.
The Penguins' power play beat the Penguins.
Everybody is talking today about the 5-on-3 advantage the Penguins had for 1:26 midway through the third period, an advantage they thoroughly wasted. Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg -- of all players -- had the best scoring chance. The Penguins didn't even come close to getting a goal.
If Detroit does go on to win the Cup, that 86-second span will be remembered as the time when the series ended.
Think about that for a moment. Pittsburgh is on a 5-on-3 power play and Zetterberg has the best scoring chance? That should tell you a few things: (a) the Pens’ stars either didn’t or couldn’t execute, (b) Detroit’s penalty-killers —including Ozzie— were god-like, and (c) Zetterberg should be wearing a big red “Z” enclosed in a diamond on his chest instead of The Winged Wheel. A cape wouldn’t be out of place, either, because Zetterberg can almost literally fly. And I think I know how the citizens of Metropolis felt when that guy with the big red “S” on his chest swooped in to save the day. Yep…it was just like that. Only it was on ice. Every single article and column in today’s hockey pages, no matter where they’re written, talks about what NHL.com calls “A Penalty Kill for the Ages.” And that’s not hyperbole, Gentle Reader.
Don Cherry predicts this series will be history tomorrow night. And I gotta agree. It’s in the cards. And this is what I hope we’ll see:
Well... June 1st, 2008, was among the last of Former Happy (Hockey) Days and all was well that ended well, even if those Flightless Birds managed to win one more game before losing to the Beloved Wings before a disappointed home crowd in Game Six. And speaking of losing at home... today... tonight, actually... we'll just have to content ourselves with watching the Hated 'Hawks lose Game Seven of the Western Conference Final at home. Which will be almost as pleasing and fulfilling. Yup, "Schadenfreude Я Us," and we just love watching the enemy shed bitter tears o' frustration and woe.