No Regard

June 5, 2008

Well Done, NHL

Filed under: Uncategorized — hoyler @ 2:09 pm

Ozzie

 

Well, if the point of a professional sports league holding a playoff is to determine the best team over that set of games and the preceeding regular season, than the National Hockey League has had a successful 2007-2008 campaign.

In other words: The best team won the Stanley Cup.

The Detroit Red Wings were considered, at worst, the 2nd best team in the NHL heading into this year, with some (including myself) believing that the Anaheim Ducks, having only lost Dustin Penner and having added Mathieu Schnieder (from Detroit, no less), were No. 1. Those of us who believed that also thought Teemu Selanne would return earlier than he did, but oh well.

The Red Wings steamrolled through the regular season, getting somewhat of a scare only when the San Jose Sharks put together an absurd month of March to make the President’s Trophy race a little bit more interesting than it had been in the two months following Ottaw’s late December collapse.

They steamrolled through the playoffs; yes, Pittsburgh was the better team in terms of record entering the Cup Finals, having only lost 2 games, but Detroit faced one true threat in Nashville, and they were derailed when Alex Radulov dove into Jason Arnott, giving the latter a concussion and halting the Predators momentum right at that game four game-winning goal. They were dominated in game five before getting a fluke goal to force 90 seconds of overtime and they fell apart mentally when Dan Ellis let in a 90-foot goal to open the scoring in game six. Other than that, the Wings never looked threatened nor did they ever lose their composure.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, looked confused several times during the playoffs. They let the Rangers back in Game 5 at home after taking a 2-0 lead into the 3rd period, and if it weren’t for one or two bad bounces late in that period they would have faced a hostile New York crowd 24 hours later in game six, the threat of blowing a 3-0 lead in the series staring them in the face.

They lost their composure in game four, going down 2-1 in the 3rd at home and failing to conduct their regular operations on an extended 5-on-3 power play, instead choosing to force the puck in front. They were turned away over and over with the man advantage, and only in Game 6 with their backs against the wall did they go back to what they did best, which is fire the puck from the perimeter with guys who have laser shots (Malkin, Crosby, Gonchar) and hope that if it doesn’t go through clean, traffic will either help it or create a rebound. Pressure took them out of their rhythm.

The bottom line is that the better team in the series and the best team in the league won when it mattered most. It was a great series for the NHL; it’s stars were showcased in both winning (Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom) and losing (Crosby, Fleury) efforts. New stars were on the verge of being created (Franzen, Orpik, Malone, Hudler), and the heroes of “yesteryear” (Osgood, Draper, Maltby, Gonchar, Roberts) shined for possibly the last time.

Congrats Detroit, you earned it. Don’t know if you’ll be back next year, but enjoy it while it lasts. Recent history says that you won’t be champions come next June.

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