The Detroit Red Wings, up 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, prevailed in a 2-1 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Did I mention that they were without Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Dastyuk, Jonathan Ericsson and Kris Draper?
Darren Helm scored 3:58 into overtime – the third overtime game in the last four – and Dan Cleary had a goal in the third period in the defending champions’ victory last night, propelling the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup rematch of last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Chris Osgood once again was a brick wall between the pipes, turning aside 30 shots, while Cristobal Huet, filling in for Nikolai Khabibulin, stopped 44 of 46 in the loss.
The Red Wings and Penguins, coming off a four-game sweep over Carolina in the East, will open the championship series Saturday night in Detroit.
The series will start nearly a week ahead of schedule because NBC and the NHL didn’t want a long layoff to stunt the excitement about the matchup.
One of the intriguing stories will be Marian Hossa playing against the team he left behind as a free agent. Hossa turned down a long-term, lucrative deal from the Penguins last summer for a one-year contract because he believed the Red Wings had a better shot to win it all again.
The Red Wings are matching up with Pittsburgh in what is the NHL’s first Stanley Cup rematch since the Oilers beat the Islanders in 1984 after losing to them the previous year.
This year, history will repeat itself – for the Red Wings.
While Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby have taken their game to the next level, Detroit’s game is shutting down individual players – just ask Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.
Aside from skill, talent, post-season experience, and everything else that the Cup champs have over the Pens, Crosby foolishly touched the Prince of Wales trophy, while Henrik Zetterberg wisely left the Clarence Campbell trophy all alone. This, believe it or not, will be what the Finals will come down to.
In addition, the Red Wings were missing everyone – Ericsson, a huge ice-time eater, was a surprise scratch, needing surgery after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis following the morning skate; Draper, the league’s best defensive-forward, was out again with a groin injury; Datsyuk, arguably the best player in the NHL, remained out with a foot injury; and Lidstrom, the NHL’s best defenceman, was out with a lower-body injury. If Detroit can annihilate the Blackhawks without four of their best players, what chance does Pittsburgh have when Detroit is full strength?
The Red Wings, the first defending champion to get back to the finals since the Devils in 2001, are trying to become the first team to repeat since they accomplished the feat back in 1997 and ’98. This will also be the first decade where there will not be a repeat champion.