After tonight's 4-1 victory, there can be no debate. The Detroit Red Wings are the absolute best team in the NHL. Forget the Sharks, forget the Bruins, forget the Capitals and Devils and Flames and Blackhawks; it's the Wings.
While I am often overconfident and jubilant when Detroit wins, I am rarely stunned. But that is exactly what I'm feeling now. The team I saw tonight was hungry. The team I saw tonight was physical. The team I saw tonight had a goaltender. And I know, I've been trying to start this bandwagon for weeks now. But after tonight, there can be no deliberation. I don't care how much Ozzie improves in the next two months. Ty Conklin must be the Red Wings starting goalie for the playoffs.
Coach Babs rolled every line, one through four, and every line rolled over San Jose. Datsyuk and Zetterberg were in exquisite form tonight, dishing out hits and taking the puck away on a constant basis. Cleary and Helm were animals; they were everywhere on the ice. Leino's baseball bat goal and Zetterberg's spin-o-rama brought me out of my seat. The game was a massacre.
These Sharks weren't Great Whites. They weren't even Tiger sharks. These Sharks sucked the ice like a bottom-feeder and flopped on land while the Red Wings circled high above, biting off bits and pieces until there was nothing left. There was a point in the opening half of the game where the Sharks popped in some dentures, but they fell out as quickly as those cheap, plastic vampire teeth you had on Halloween as a 10-year-old.
Prior to the game, I was amped. I was hyped up. And I was scared. Hell, I'm not afraid to admit it. The Sharks are good, and they had won two of the three games they'd played against the Wings. They have grit and they've always had talent, but now they have an ex-Wings coach who knows how to use it. There was no reason for me to believe that the difference between the Red Wings and Sharks was anything more than negligible before the puck dropped at the Joe tonight.
The Red Wings showed with 60 minutes of stellar, all-around hockey that they are, in fact, much better than the Sharks. And this isn't just about playing at home. This is about how the Red Wings stepped up and showed the league once and for all that they're the best. And I'm not saying they can't be beaten, because I've seen some crazy things in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the best team doesn't always win a championship. But there's one thing I am damn sure of after tonight's game: it will require a lot of talent, a bit of luck, and a huge amount of effort and hard work to clip these Wings.
These Wings want to bring Stanley back. And right now, I've got no reason to believe they won't.