As a hockey fan, I love nothing more than seeing an Original Six matchup in the Western Conference Finals.
It's good to see Chicago competitive again in the Central Division. However, the young combination of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are just that—young. Too young.
The Detroit Red Wings likely are the poster franchise in all of sports. They have a laundry list of players with years of playoff experience, the best scouting department in all of sports, players with unmatched skill sets, and the deepest team of any I've seen this year.
Pavel Datsyuk has been slumping, and so has Marian Hossa, but what is better than seeing Dan Cleary take a turnover from blueline to blueline and rip a wrist shot over the glove of Ed Olczyk's seemingly favorite nickname in the playoffs, "The Bulin Wall," Nikolai Khabibulin?
I won't get started on NBC's infatuation with the Blackhawks. But sadly, that pales in comparison to their love for "The Golden Boy," Sidney Crosby. Why he was interviewed for the Blackhawks-Red Wings game is beyond me. But then again, you can't go too long without Sidney Crosby, right? I digress...
Mike Babcock has a problem that 29 other coaches in the NHL would love to have. He has full lines that most of the time can outplay an opponent's top line. Players listed as Babcock's second and third line would be second or first line players on most other NHL teams.
Secondary scoring is what sets the Red Wings apart from other teams. Datsyuk hasn't been getting it done. Hossa has been lying dormant lately. However, Mikael Samuelsson and Darren Helm have been stepping up, and Johan Franzen is proving that the Wings' investment in him was well worth it.
If your big guns aren't scoring, most teams falter. Remember when Alexander Ovechkin wasn't scoring against the Rangers early in Washington's first-round series? In case you don't, the Caps were down three games to one, before Ovechkin went on a tear he carried into the second round.
The Red Wings don't have to worry about that. They have a guy who can beat you on any given line during any given game.
I have stood behind Chris Osgood since he came to the Wings. When he gave up the deciding goal against San Jose in the first round in '94. When he allowed the goals from outside the blue line (I still hate you, Jamie Langenbrunner). When he had one of his worst statistical seasons this year, and everyone was saying how Conklin should start in the playoffs, Babcock stuck with his guy.
Osgood has three Stanley Cups—two as a starter, and one behind Mike Vernon. He is second in GAA in these playoffs with a stellar 2.06 GAA. I did get nervous when Kris Versteeg rattled one off the connector early into the contest, but the Wings settled down.
Osgood saw a higher number of shots than he normally does, making 30 of 32 saves. He was sensational, except for his misplaying of the puck when Adam Burish caught him napping and snuck one in to take a 1-0 lead.
The Red Wings are going to win this series because they held Kane and Toews to zero shots until the third period. ZERO! Even with Toews' very impressive sideburns. What happens when a team shuts down your top two players? Unless you are the Red Wings, you tend to lose.
The Red Wings didn't even take a penalty until the third period. If the Red Wings can keep playing clean hockey and get their offense on all cylinders, look for Chicago on the golf course late next week.
Seeing Dan Cleary interviewed before the game, it was obvious there was no animosity towards the Blackhawks for letting him go after he was drafted by the organization. However, it seemed to be a good omen, as he scored two very pretty goals in Game One. I bet it felt pretty sweet to hit the back of the net twice against the team that cut him loose years ago.
I've said this for a week now: Red Wings in five.
I've been hearing for a while how interesting it would be to see a Wings-Pens rematch in the Finals. Why would that be interesting? The Red Wings beat the Penguins, then signed their best playoff scorer and the backup goalie that carried them over a long stretch of the regular season.
I do hope to see that, however. Seeing Sidney Crosby slouched over on the boards in tears for a second straight year would be "two" good.
And Patrick Roy as the next Colorado Avalanche coach? Talk about restoring a rivalry...
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