Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hossa's No Sellout: Wings Dominate Weekend Matchups

It was a masterpiece; a shot that echoed throughout Pittsburgh and resonated in every Wings fan's heart: Marian Hossa is here to stay.

What? You didn't get the memo? There's no mentioning of Hossa signing with the Wings on any of the popular websites, let alone any reports of any kind, so how can I make this preposterous assumption? I'll tell ya how.

That goal right there might be the best of the year. It certainly is my favorite Hossa goal of the season, and that includes his dipsy-doo-dunkaroo against Atlanta. It wasn't flashy; it wasn't lucky; it was simply extraordinary. How many times in the NHL do you see a guy power around the defense and then flick a backhand shot past an unscreened goalie from the top of the circle? To do that, you need precision, accuracy, strength, and a desire to shut up every fan in Mellon Arena. Hossa did just that. And that's why he is going to sign a long-term deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

My last post talked about their losing streak and how they were playing listlessly, without heart. I was peeved; mostly because every time I watch the Red Wings, I want them to win, regardless of opponent. But they don't, and I understand and forgive them for that on a regular basis.

But this weekend was Detroit's wake-up call to the rest of the league. They might not keep it up for the rest of the regular season because well, let's face it, who wants to get all super-psyched to play the Predators and the Blues every week? But on Saturday they embarrassed the Oilers with five goals in the first period en route to an 8-3 victory at home and then on Sunday, when they could have lied down against the Penguins and their cute, baby blue uniforms, when they could have used the old excuse of being tired from their game the day before, they dominated. It was a game they wanted to win badly and it showed. They came to play. They played Red Wing hockey. They blocked shots, they killed penalties, they scored timely goals. And that speaks volumes about their dedication to winning.

Which leads me to what I said a few weeks ago and why I'm saying it again now: I want Ty Conklin to be the Red Wings' starting goalie come playoff time. He won both games this weekend and added another shutout to his resume. That means Conklin has six shutouts. Six. That's second in the league and only one behind league leader Steve Mason's seven. Ozzie has zero. None. The "backup" has conk-blocked the Oilers, Sharks, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Kings, and Penguins. All of those teams could be playoff teams by season's end; those are meaningful games in the Western Conference playoff race (OK fine, except for the Kings). So even if you throw out all the bad stats that Osgood has put up and just use the argument that he still wins most of his games, you can't ignore the blaring shutout statistic. Six games stolen by Conk, none by Osgood.

I should move on though, since these are happy times for the Wings. They are undefeated in February and the young players are getting a chance to prove themselves with Homer out of the lineup for more than a month. Cue Darren Helm, Ville Leino, and Justin Abdelkader. The young trio has filled in for a few games so far and they are all impressing me. Helm doesn't need to, because of his work in the playoffs last year. He's already on the playoff roster in my mind because that kid simply never takes a shift off. He flies around the ice all the time; I love watching Helm. Leino should be a playoff-roster-guy too, with his goal-scoring ability and puck possession style fitting perfectly into the Wings' mold. And while I haven't seen enough of Abdelkader yet, I think he'll be up there in the future. These guys remind me of how I felt when I watched young, third-and-fourth-line versions of Datsyuk and Zetterberg six or seven years ago. Great things are happening in Detroit hockey, and they're here to stay.

And as one final note before I get back to real work and attempt to get something done today, I'm going to owe a little finder's fee to A2Y and report this bit of news here, because it simply amazed me and bears repeating:

"As he worked his way through the packaging, Marcel Pronovost couldn't remember being this curious about a gift since he was a child. When he reached the bottom and opened another tiny box, he felt like a kid again too. Staring back at him was a glittering version of the 2008 Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup ring with his name on one side with four extra diamonds symbolizing the quartet of cups he won with Detroit in the 1950s. Pronovost was one of 20 to 30 retired Red Wings to receive a gift last week. The team sent rings to every living Wings' players that won a cup in Detroit prior to their 1997 championship.

"It was Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch's idea," Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "They're special owners. They wanted to remember our great past. Players from the past didn't receive rings. They wanted to honour them."
Considering that each ring the current players received looked like this, I'm pretty sure that they probably cost at least a million bucks apiece so, to shell out 20 to 30 more just to be nice and appreciate your old, retired players is beyond charitable. The Ilitches really are the best owners in sports.

Finally, I'm going to try and make it to 100 total posts by my 21st birthday (March 17th) and this is post number 87 so expect more updates in the near future, even if they're short and sweet.

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