2009 Stanley Cup Final Game Seven: The Perfect Storm
The 2-1 Game Seven victory by the Pittsburgh Penguins gave them the Stanley Cup in shocking fashion. On paper the Red Wings have a much more talented and experienced lineup in comparison to the youth movement wearing the colors of the City of Pittsburgh flag.
However as the Wings injury report was released, it was understandable how the Pens were able to shock the favorites for the Cup. It is not too say that the Pens are not talented, but if the Wings were healthy, would the series have still gone in the Pens favor?
The injuries that could have caused the Wings to falter include Ericsson recovering from his appendectomy as well as Lidstrom recovering from a Patrick Sharp spear to his nether region and Datsyuk's leg issues also from the Chicago series.
These aliments as well as a few others started to take their toll in Game Six. The Pens shot out of the gate in Game Six and for some reason the Wings could not keep up. Their sluggishness is not a feature of Wings hockey. The mistakes of giving up breakaways is also not a feature of Wings hockey.
In Game Seven, the two goals scored by Pens forward Maxime Talbot are the worst goals for any opposing team. These were not the kind of goals that props are given by the other team for their artistry. The first one on a mistake pass from Brad Stuart who thought it was icing is an omen goal.
The second Talbot goal was on another breakaway (two on one) that left Wings fans bent over that the Wings defense would collapse again and that the season could be over in the wrong way.
The world record of offsides by the Wings in Game Seven were not like the Wings in every other game this season. They were so on edge to make something happen that they couldn't get anything to happen.
If they could get into the Pens zone, they would do a dump-in and do a change of lines. This style of play is revealed that this game was not going in the Wings favor.
The Jonathan Ericsson goal prevented the shut-out and left the Wings a degree of dignity prior to the clock running out on the season. His slap-shot offered a preview of what is to come next season when he will be on defense when the Wings start their season against the Blues in Sweden.
There was a lot of flak directed towards Marian Hossa who managed just three points in the Final and no goals. Being that he was on the other side of the ice in last season's Stanley Cup Final did have fans wondering...
However the real reasoning that probably lead to Hossa being O-ssa is because the Pens saw him as their number one priority. There is no other Wings player that they needed to neutralize on both an offensive and fan-requested basis.
Also since they did play with him the season prior, they knew his strengths and weaknesses from a teammate perspective. It didn't help that Pavel Datsyuk missed the first four games of the Final and that Henrik Zetterberg was focused on keeping up with Crosby/Malkin.
After the game ended, the stories of the night did not end. Sydney Crosby, captain of the Pens forgot to lead his team in the handshake which left players and fans of the Wings once again put off by his behavior.
The Wings players did stand on the ice waiting to shake his hand but after few minutes left the ice. However Crosby will have to face Niklas Lidstrom at the NHL Awards along with the rest of the captains up for awards. No one wants to think that the NHL poster boy would snub one of the most respected team captains in sports.
The next issue was the roar of boos when the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup were brought out to be rewarded to Evgeni Malkin and Sydeny Crosby. The Wings fans were not booing the Pens.
Instead the Wings fans were booing Gary Bettman. This was the first chance the Wings would have in doing this as they couldn't last season since the Cup was won in Pittsburgh.
Why do the Wings fans hate Bettman? Let's see.
Whenever he is asked about bad calls by refs he avoids the issue which included the crease calls against Tomas Holmstrom last season.
He allowed NBC to schedule the Stanley Cup Final around their TV shows.
He expresses an attitude of favoring Pittsburgh which included having last season's advertising for the NHL Center Ice package focused on the Pens as if they in fact won the 2008 Stanley Cup.
The off-season for the Red Wings will be an interesting one. It has already been announced that training camp will only be three days long as they have to prepare the season opening games in Sweden as well as most of the team taking a winter holiday in Vancouver.
The team will probably also be different. The first decision will be Marian Hossa. He did score 40 goals in the regular season but was nearly invisible in the postseason. Due to his lackluster playoff performance, he will not get a lucrative contract in comparison to the ones that Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Franzen have.
However he is on the record saying he wants to stay. Now will he stay in the D for less money and prove he can help bring the Wings the Cup or bolt again?
The other players of issue are Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson and Ty Conklin who are also up for contracts.
Samuelsson and Hudler did not do well in the Stanley Cup Final but were not on the Pens radar as much as Hossa was.
Conklin is in a bind as Jimmy Howard is out of options to Grand Rapids. Which goalie goes is hard to debate. Conklin did do well during the regular season whereas when Howard was called up during Chris Osgood's mid-season meltdown and did not do well.
Conklin is the only goalie to play in the three Winter Classics to date and letting him go gives him a chance to join one of the teams for the January 2010 version in Boston.
Kris Draper, Kurt Maltby and Chris Chelios did show their age this season. Draper did come back in the series versus the Ducks and did not play all that much the rest of the playoffs.
Maltby did play versus Pittsburgh, but he did not bring one of his clutch goals that he has scored in prior playoff years.
Chris Chelios was used in the Western Conference Finals when Lidstrom was recovering from his, um, injury, but was not seen the rest of the playoffs.
Andreas Lilja were not seen in the playoffs due to injury. He should be back next season ready to be on the power play.
Tomas Kopecky could be another player to leave as Abdelkader did replace him against the Ducks who is a more physical player. Hossa did room with Kopecky but it doesn't guarantee that Kopecky will stay.
The playoff performances of rookies Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino were good enough in the playoffs to prove that they need to be on the full time roster for the Wings as well.
Ericsson has already earned a spot on the defense. He brings the toughness needed for being on defense as well as a scoring touch that will only get more feared as he learns from Lidstrom and Rafalski.
Draper and Maltby are still a presence that could still be a factor in bringing the Cup back to Detroit. Since they have played their careers together so much so they both played their 1,000 game this past season. They will try to go out together which could be next season.
Helm and Abdelkader do play in the styles of Draper and Maltby respectfully. Helm has the same combination of speed, face-off poise and hitting as Draper. Abdelkader has the Maltby-style of toughness as well as a knack for clutch scoring which he proved with his goals in Game One of the Final.
Rest assured, Helm and Abdelkader will be Red Wings starting next season.
Leino could replace Samuelsson or Hudler. He won't assume the role of a defenseman that Samuelsson does in place of Lilja during the power play. However he is willing to get physical with anyone which Samuelsson does do but Hudler not so much.
The Red Wings did not repeat as Stanley Cup Champions in 2009 in the rematch with the Pens. However their performance during both the regular season and the playoffs was still impressive.
Not many other teams has the depth to keep it going throughout each round of the playoffs with the combination of injuries and matchups. They maintained a level of achievement that gave the fans in Detroit something to cheer about with so much going wrong with the auto industry and politics in Detroit.
The 2009-2010 Red Wings will pick up the pace and make mid-June once again the time to hang up the skates.
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