Stanley Cup Finals, Game 6
Red Wings 3-2 Penguins
As the puck entered the thicketed fortress of Red Wing Defense for one final time, I felt like my life flashed before my eyes. With 3.5 seconds left, a desperate Penguins team did everything they could to just put a shot on goal, hoping the impossible would happen and force overtime despite being down by two just a minute and a half earlier. It wasn't to be.
Chris Osgood, looking to give us one final scare, mishandled the shot as it bounced behind him and to the left. He stretched out to paddle the puck behind the net, Marian Hossa whacked at it, then it sailed across the goal mouth, fecal matter filled my shorts, and the game was over. The series was over. They finally did it........they won the Stanley Cup. Ozzie raised his hands over his head, looking around at his teammates. A stunned Dan Cleary didn't move at first and appeared unsure as to what was going on. Then the group as a whole realized it was finished. There was no equalizing goal in this game. The massive pileup ensued as the gripping tension turned to an entire season's worth of exuberant celebration.
It wasn't until about five seconds after the clock struck 0.00 that I realized we had won. I was assuming the worst after the Pens brought it to within one, and began pleading with the Lord to not put us through another overtime. "The worst" will be saved for another day, another season, I guess. "The best" was the jumping and cheering after Triple Deke Headquarters realized that the Cup was coming back to Michigan. We finally had a championship to celebrate. Last night, I was a part of the gayest looking group man-hug in my entire life, and I never imagined that level of homosexuality would ever feel as good as it did. It was a euphoria that can only be related to if you've experienced it for yourself; there's nothing like it. (Wait, did I say gay hug? I meant rowdy high fives and unprotected sex with copious amounts of women.)
Brian Rafalski opened the scoring to make it 1-0 Wings, and thankfully we only had to wait five minutes to get on top. He got help from a gritty effort by Zetterberg, who fell down as he was delivering the set-up pass, and Homer was doing his usual thing in front of the net. A major key to this game was going to be getting the first goal. The Wings commanded the play, were down the throat of every Penguin who got within 10 feet of the puck, and looked especially confident. That confidence lent a hand in keeping me calm, as I felt from the start that the guys really had control of things. If there were any serious effects from Game 5, they weren't showing any. (Weird side note: like many sports fans, I'm somewhat superstitious when it comes to game-watching. While watching Game 5 with my roommates, Brent changed into his 1998 Red Wings Stanley Cup Champions shirt while Detroit was down 2-1 and on the power play. Literally as he was changing the shirt, Datsyuk scored to tie the game. So as the Wings went on their first power play of Game 6, we had Brent go change his shirt, and within seconds Raf had scored. It was strange.)
The Wings ran into trouble shortly after when they faced another 5-0n-3 penalty kill. Surely Pittsburgh was going to capitalize on this one, we thought. But the trio of Zetterberg/Lidstrom/Kronwall killed off the majority of the Pens power play, and even though they faced a minute and a half of being down two men, the Wings dealt a big blow by keeping the score 1-0. Huge moment of the game.
In the 2nd period Detroit scored again to go up 2-0. Mikael Samuelsson -- apparently bored with trying to shatter the glass behind the net on a nightly basis -- actually fired a shot that landed on goal which resulted in a rebound. A hustling Val Filppula did all he could to get a backhander on Fleury, and luckily enough it squirted through the goaltender's legs to put the Wings up two goals. Still a long way to go at this point, but man did having a two goal lead feel great.
Nearing the end of the period, though, Evgeni Malkin returned from hibernation to blast one of his trademark slapshots past Osgood to cut the Wings' lead in half. 2-1 Detroit. The crowd was mostly restless up until their team scored, but it didn't take them long to get back into it. Heading into the 3rd, Pittsburgh seemed to have a little bit of momentum.
With about 12 minutes to go in the game, Zetterberg gathered some speed into the Pens' zone and snapped a wicked wrister through the defenseman's legs. It seemed to catch Fleury off guard, though he appeared to make the save. But there was no whistle. Hank kept pushing hard to the net, following his shot just like they teach you to do. Datsyuk followed suit, as did a couple Penguins to protect their net-minder. Still no whistle. Then, I began to hear a beautiful sound: screaming. Not an arena's worth of drunk Pennsylvanian screaming, mind you. A much smaller group of people ... it was the sound of cheering Wings fans. Oh, what a harmonious sound it was. And soon following their emphatic yelling was the sight of the referee, pointing down inside the net to signify a goal. 3-1 Detroit? Incredible. We waited for a replay to see just what had happened. Then we discovered that Marc-Andre Fleury is an excellent Ass-Tiddlywinks player. The absolute best. It's like he ate the puck on the initial save and shat out a Detroit goal. So much for that amazing Game 5 performance.
The Penguins looked like they were left for dead during most of the final period. With about 7 minutes to go, they had only mustered one 3rd period shot. The Wings were suffocating them on every possession. They looked completely done, until Jiri Hudler was called for a pretend penalty in the waning moments.
Osgood had a great line after the game, saying, "I haven't seen Hudler yet, but I'm gonna smack him when I see him." In Jiri's defense (maybe), I didn't see a penalty, but I only saw one replay. From what I've heard, there wasn't anything that happened that can be interpreted as an infraction, and I read this from Penguins fans. So it must've been a pretty lousy call if THOSE people are noticing it. Regardless, Marian Hossa deflected a point shot home to put the fear of God in me. I went from a calm, confident state to a complete shell of a man. I fell to the carpet in a crumpled heep, looking up at the clock to see that we had to stave of this fucking Penguins team for another 1:26.
But despite our worst fears, nothing bad happened. There was no Max Talbot to save the Pens this time. There was no gift rebound begging to be banged into our net. Stanley was to be welcomed onto the Mellon Arena ice on this night, and lifted by the epitome of exemplary human excellence, Nick Lidstrom. They celebrated, we cheered, everyone smiled and had an awesome night. Game 5 will always be burned into our memories but it didn't make winning this thing any less sweeter. I no longer hate sports. This was a great season, a great team, and I look forward to watching them attempt to defend their title come October. Go Wings!
Other random thoughts on this final game recap of the season...
- A few minutes after the game, Brent put his shoes on and ran around the outside of the apartment complex, whooping and hollering. While he was flying around the building, somebody yelled to him, "Shut up you dumb motherfucker!" This phrase will forever have a place among the lexicon of inside jokes and stories that only me and my friends think are funny, as well as a warm corner of my heart. I hope that "Shut up you dumb motherfucker" will someday replace "good-bye" in my everyday speech.
- Well, Malkin finally scored. Easily his best game of the Finals, not just cuz of the goal. One too many jokes I suppose.
- I personally couldn't wait to see Dominik Hasek carry the Cup. That was the one guy I wanted to see, just for the awkward, unintentional comedy of it. He didn't disappoint.
- Truth be told, I didn't actually see the puck at the final second as it went through the crease. I saw Osgood bobble it, then I saw him stretch for it, then I looked at the clock and became disoriented with fear/anticipation/suspense and almost blacked out. It wasn't until they showed it on the overhead camera that I became scared simply in retrospect of what could've been.
- Tigers lost 10-2. It's the least upset that I've ever been at an 8 run loss.
- Henrik FiveOnThreeberg is his new name. What a player -- forever a Wing, no matter what happens now. He looked the most excited to carry the Cup, letting out the loudest yell after hoisting it. He really earned the Conn Smythe.
- Not even gonna get mad at the Cherry/Melrose clip, or Cherry's shameless bias. Too happy right now. I'll make another post about it another day. They can suck it though.
- Didn't hate Pittsburgh before this series, but can't stand them now. The preposterous media attention and the coach are enough, but I don't remember a team's fans booing the team that won the Cup on their ice. That was just absurd. You really stuck around just to boo every player that carried the Cup? Really? That's a little ridiculous.
- Dallas Drake was the first to get the Cup first after Lidstrom. I thought that was awesome. Wonder if he sticks around now that he's finally won it.
- Game 5 has sort of a different feel now, but like I've already talked about ad nauseum it's an experience that I most certainly will never forget. I've never been one to think that winning a championship on the road is any less special, it just never made a huge difference for me for whatever reason. Obviously I'd rather see them lift the Cup at the Joe, but sticking it to Pittsburgh IN Pittsburgh was terrific. I'm more scarred about the game itself than the fact that we didn't get it done in Detroit.
- I wouldn't rather have another coach or GM, I wouldn't replace our top 3 players with anybody in the NHL, and I'm sure almost all of Red Wings Nation would agree with me. I'm too attached to this team.
- Lilja better not be on this team come training camp. The guy can't come within 5 feet of the puck without an outright clusterfuck occurring. He's too much on the nerves -- I can't take it.
- Stuart had a much better game last night, and he absolutely killed Crosby with his hit in the 2nd period.
- Filppula, despite hit streaky ways this season, ended the year on a good note with a very good series.
- This post has already been a little heavy of the self-indulgent side, but what the hell ... A new superstition was born with the winning of this game. The "shower cap" will forever be a tradition that takes place before every playoff contest from now on: After Pittsburgh scored the OT winner in Game 5, I gave a depressing toss of my Red Wings hat into the bathroom that's in my bedroom. It happened to land in the shower, and the next day, I accidentally showered with the hat still hanging from the shampoo bottle on the floor. Of course, the Wings won last night, and I'm giving full credit to the "shower cap". I can't wait to test it out next season.
- The Wings are favorites to repeat next year as things stand, although that's pretty moot since free agency is still to come. But a whole year of new SuperFranzen, Helm, Meech and the other young guys getting their shot, a whole season of Stuart, no Lilja, and hopefully no Hasek. This machine is going to look pretty damn good once again.
- In conclusion I'd like to thank the Academy, my parents, the crew, my loving wife and our 17 glorious children for a wonderful season. It was very kind on the Wings part to go on a Stanley Cup-winning run in the first year of this blog, I must say. I'll be back with a player-by-player season review post sometime, but like the Pistons one I don't know when that will come. I do know, however, which one of those two will be more enjoyable. Actually, fuck the Pistons -- that one will probably get finished midway through the 2009 NBA season. That way I can do a Pistons season preview before the next Conference semi-finals, which is right around the time they think the season starts anyway. One more time: