Game five. A pivotal marker to see where the Finals will go. No contest.
Five goals to zero. That French-Canadian goalie warmin' the bench before the 40-minute mark. Dangling Datsyuk pulling tricks out of his cap early and often like he hadn't missed a game, let alone seven. The powerplay coming alive. Osgood's pass. Kronwall's presence down low and Datsyukian-like move for number three. Raffy's laser and Z's chin music to send Fleury packing. A meaningless third period. No stress.
The experience was amazing. After a rousing and hilarious viewing of the ridiculously hyped "The Hangover," which I would give a solid 4.5 stars, I managed to find a bar/restaurant with a couple friends to catch the game. It was already 10 minutes in, but I was just in time for the massacre about to take place.
Soon after I arrived, my fresh-legged, hetero-bromantic obsession threw out the rust factor theory and fed the Pride of Newfoundland for the game's first goal that rocked the Joe Louis faithful and gave the Wings the early lift they desperately needed. From then on, they shattered the Penguins' dreams of a road win and frustrated them beyond belief in the process.
The only game that comes to mind in comparison to this beautiful game is the 7-0 romp over the Avs in game seven of the 2002 West Finals. The tension leading up to that game was huge because whoever won that series would certainly be the eventual Cup champion, and it was still one of the most popular rivalries in sports. Then, Patty Roy let in a bunch of goals while the Wings flew towards Cup #10. I see the same happening after tonight, except with Cup #12 in their sights.
I can't help but wonder what Pittsburgh fans are feeling right now because I really don't know. Are they whining about the officiating? Are they embarrassed? Are they angry at the Wings or at their own supporting cast? Are they all of these things? I only ask because the game went completely to pieces after about the third or fourth goal, and numerous cheap shots were being thrown by Penguins players (even notable guys like Crosby and Malkin). Their poise, pride and sense of accomplishment after games three and four were all completely gone.
Amid the continual stream of stupid penalties, I found another comparison unlike the one before to Colorado in '02. How about game four in Chicago a week and a half ago? Those young 'Hawks showed the world that they weren't ready for the big stage against the class of the league by throwing elbows and crosschecks and roughing up every non-teammate in sight. It felt the same way tonight with the Pens. These young guns from Pittsburgh might have fresher legs and arguably more talent (not by my judgment, but by some), but it is shockingly clear that they do not have the maturity level of a champion yet. Not even close. That is probably the largest difference between Gretzky and Crosby, and thus the '80s Oilers and the '00s Penguins. Maturity gets you through periods of adversity. The Red Wings have it; the Penguins don't.
And that's where a lot of the dislike towards Crosby comes from. A true leader rarely whines; he doesn't lose his cool even in the most intense moments of a game. He leads by example and puts all the blame on himself if the team loses, even if he was the only player to show up and play well. Crosby is a phenomenal player; there is no disputing that. His vision is unmatched and he's the clear-cut choice over Ovechkin and Malkin as the most explosive player in hockey. There's a reason why Detroit has concentrated its efforts on him and let Malkin do his thing. Crosby is always dangerous when he's on the ice. He's quick, smart and incredibly skilled, but he needs to learn some leadership skills. His slash on Zetterberg (regardless of how much acting went into it) is exactly the kind of thing that shows why he doesn't always get the respect he deserves. Maybe he was threaded with the "C" too early, but that's not my argument. I think to gain the kind of admiration and respect from other NHL players (like Gretzky had) and not just the fans or the McGuires of the media or the league officials, he needs to start learning how to be a leader and understand that unlike in PeeWees, it's not always the best player on the ice who wears that "C" on their sweater.
Okay, enough about Crosby (or should I say..."Rosby" after that last paragraph! Ha ha!). It's pretty late and I'd like to wake up early enough to catch the French Open final. Tonight, it was all Red Wings and I'm very happy about that. If you couldn't tell from my last post, I was seriously doubting my team's chances at success after their performances Tuesday and Thursday. Luckily, they reassured my hopes tonight. Two days of rest should be helpful, and I can't wait to sport my Datsyuk jersey again on Tuesday. Just one more game stands in the way of a second consecutive championship. Let's do this. Go Wings. See you Tuesday.