The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

Winning Ways Have Had Wings Wheeling for a While

Posted by Blake Murphy on May 28, 2008

This article has been submitted by Chris Pope.

During the week leading up to the eventual start of the Stanley Cup Finals, this year’s championship series was being touted as the dream final for the NHL. A final that may actually be able to get viewers in the United States – that is, until the NHL scheduled the Wings home games the same nights as the Pistons. Drawing comparisons to the Gretzky-led Oilers versus the defending champion Islanders, the series pinned the ageless, experienced powerhouse, Detroit Red Wings, against the young, skill-filled, up and coming Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sid and Co. vs. Hank and friends.

A captain trying to become the youngest player to lead his team to the Cup vs. a captain trying to become the first European captain to ever win a Cup.

Kids vs. veterans.

The old guys vs. the new guys.

The past vs. the present.

However you want to put it, the Penguins and Red Wings both have had similar success in this year’s playoffs that was supposed to lead to a finals for the ages. (Ages … ha)

They both have been deadly at home, Pittsburgh is still undefeated at the Igloo, posting an 8-0 record while notching 33 goals for and only allowing 13 in those eight games. The Wings, on the other hand, have only suffered one loss in 10 games at ‘The Joe,’ managing to hold their opponents to only 12 goals against while scoring 32 at home.

Detroit’s penalty kill is rated second in the playoffs with an 88.6% efficiency rate with nine goals against while the Penguins are not far behind, earning 88.4% on the kill. Detroit does have a statistical edge, having been shorthanded an additional ten times.

Both teams have high flying forwards with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa, Petr Sykora and Jordan Staal for the Pens and the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen and Kris Draper for the Red Wings.

Fleury and Osgood have both been just short of lights out for their respective teams, being there when the big save has been needed. Both currently sit with 12 wins a piece with Osgood holding the slight edge in both Goals Against Average and Save Percentage with a 1.38 GAA and a .938 SV% compared to Fleury’s 1.93 GAA and .932 SV%.

Entering game one, all that hype was put to rest about five minutes into the game when the machine known as the Red Wings downshifted and put the Winged-Wheel into overdrive and began running over the Penguins in everyway possible way. They still haven’t stopped.

The Penguins, the second highest scoring team in this years playoffs, were shutdown again in the second game by a defensive minded Red Wings, anchored by this years Norris Trophy winner, Nicklas Lidstrom – yes, I am already announcing him the winner because if he doesn’t win, we will all officially know that George Bush rigged these ballots too. There is no way that another defenseman should even get a single first place vote, there I said it – along with former Selke award winner, Kris Draper and Detroit’s two Selke finalists this year, Zetterberg and Datsyuk.

It is this kind of hockey that allowed the 10-time Stanley Cup winners to sweep the Avalanche and shutdown the Stars in the Western Conference Finals. Some people have already given up watching the finals because they deem it as boring. I don’t see any monotony in watching a hockey team full of players that are on their way to a spot in the Hall-of-Fame showing the future of the league that they are not ready to pass on that torch quite yet.

Boring? How about dominating? No one would have expected the Crosby-and-Malkin-led Penguins to get shutout in back-to-back games. Not only did the Wings hold them off the scoresheet, but they held Malkin - who is a Hart Trophy candidate – and his entire line without a shot in game two.

Prior to every year, hockey fans continue to say that the Wings are too old, they’re too European, they don’t have goaltending, their not strong enough, and every year the Wings keep on rolling and show everyone that they have what it takes.

Detroit’s success stems straight from their blueline and their captain Lidstrom. He is so textbook you don’t even notice him out there because of the lack of mistakes that he commits. He could retire tomorrow and be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer and the Wings would send his number five to the rafters. The Wings lost Mathieu Schneider during the summer to the Ducks only to bounce back and pick-up Brian Rafalski who has only made Nick better. The Wings also rely on Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart as their second pairing. Kronwall missed last years playoff run with an injury and is back this year showing everyone that the Wings are definitely tough enough to bang around. Stuart is the only top-ten draft pick on their roster, and they just picked him up this year at the trade deadline. Sitting in the press box right now is yet another for sure first ballot Hall-of-Famer, three-time Norris Trophy winner, two time Stanley Cup winner, Chris Chelios. This guy has to be hurt because how Babcock wouldn’t want his veteran leadership, grit and ‘never say die, I will still hurt you even though I’m still playing at the age of 46’ attitude out there is beyond me.

Behind them is the man in the mask, a real ugly mask but still a mask, Chris Osgood. ‘Ossie’ was with the Wings during their back-to-back Cup run in 1997-98, was released in 2001 and re-signed last year. Osgood has proven all year that he worked a lot on his game in the off-season which only made him a better goalie. ‘Ossie’ started the All-Star game for the Western Conference – got shelled hard but still started – and is now leading his team to yet another glorious Cup run. Osgood has been called the worst goalie to ever win a Stanley Cup as a starter, if the Wings go on to win this year, can people still call him the worst starting goalie to win TWO Stanley Cups?

Detroit continues to bring in players who are on their last breath of their career, give them a roster spot and rejuvenate them into something special, something the Leafs have been trying to do for the past four or five years but obviously they have been unsuccessful (cough cough Phil Housley, Eric Lindros, Chad Kilger cough cough).

Dallas Drake, Dan Cleary, Darren McCarty, Osgood, Aaron Downey, Mikael Samuelsson and Kris Draper all came to Detroit only to resurrect their careers. Drake was on his way to retirement before he signed. Cleary had never filled his reputation until given a different role in Mo-Town. McCarty and Osgood both left and came back. Downey and Samuelsson had been journeymen before finding a home in Detroit. Draper has been a part of the nucleus of the Wings squad for many years as a part of the Grind Line with McCarty and Kirk Maltby. The Wings snagged Drapes from the Winnipeg Jets in 1993 for one dollar. Not bad for an assistant captain, Selke award winner and two time Stanley Cup winner. Put into that equation the likes of superstars Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, and Franzen and you have a recipe for success.

The Wings have made the playoffs 23 of the past 25 years, currently on a streak of 17 in a row which is the longest current streak of post-season appearances in all of American professional sports. They have earned four Presidents Trophies in the past six years, seven consecutive Division Championships, two Conference Championships in the past seven years and three Stanley Cup Championships in the past 11 years. If the playoffs keep going they way they are it seems that the Wings will in fact wheel their way to their 11th Stanley Cup of all time.

And most likely in September when training camp gets started up, people will be saying the same old thing about the same old Wings.

This article has been submitted by Chris Pope.

One Response to “Winning Ways Have Had Wings Wheeling for a While”

  1. Devlin Says:

    Booo Red Wings! lol

    Anyways, the thing I think is funny about all this is that when you really look at the red wings, they don’t have that many old guys. Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall are all pretty young if I’m not mistaken. They do have a very good core of young players. You do know that if they win it, some of their old guys will start thinking about retirement. I don’t care how fit Chelios is, but I bet if he had the choice he would rather end his career on a high note like a Cup rather than anything else.

    Just as long as its a good series from here on out and hopefully goes more than 5 games I don’t care who wins.

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