June 02, 2008
Reading Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's comments today about how his team plans on defending Sidney Crosby in Game 5, it really sinks in just what kind of depth the Wings bring to the dance. The primary option is Henrik Zetterberg, a Selke Trophy nominee and arguably the frontrunner for the Conn Smythe right now. If they don't get that match, then they can unleash Kris Draper and Valtteri Filppula and Dallas Drake on Sidney. Oh, and there's these guys named Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski patrolling the blue line. We hear they're pretty good.
We were hard on Crosby the other night, after he followed his "Messier-like" Game 3 by failing to set up or score a game-tying goal in Game 4. But the last time the Pittsburgh Penguins' backs were against the wall, he unleashed his best effort of the series. So if you're a Penguins fan, you gotta love Sidney dropping lines like "I'm definitely going to empty the tank. I'm not going to save anything" during his pregame presser.
It's going to take something magical from someone like Crosby tonight, because here's the cold hard fact: The only time the Penguins were able to carry play consistently in this series was in Game 3, when they broke Chris Osgood's shutout streak and their home crowd somehow knocked the Red Wings off of their game.
But that was an anomaly: There wasn't a moment in Game 4 where it appeared that Wings' defense was going to suddenly become porous again, even with the Penguins getting more power plays (6) than they had all series. This defense is borderline impenetrable right now; unless the Wings are completely distracted by the big shiny chalice waiting for them, it's going to take some momentous breaks for the Penguins to win this game.
Or one heroic effort from Mr. Crosby; as Mike Chen writes, "Nothing would make a better ‘The NHL is hot!' story than posterboy Sid coming back against insurmountable odds to force a seventh game." The hype would be hard to imagine.
Detroit is saying all the humble things about taking nothing for granted and respecting their foes. But tonight feels like a coronation, and not just because the Cup is in Hockeytown. You've got the New York Times calling the Red Wings "the gold standard" in the NHL. You've Gorilla Crouch ready to celebrate with Michel Therrien wine.
Even Pittsburgh partisan Seth from Empty Netters is slowly coming to the realization that this version of the Penguins could be at an end: "It won't be like last season when the only significant pieces of the team to leave were Michel Ouellet, Josef Melichar and Jocelyn Thibault. A lot more players will be leaving town and most of them are more important than those three."
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