Sunday, May 18, 2008
Game 4 was about Pride. Game 5 was about crossing another task off the list. You know, that Joe Louis Arena “curse”. There is no curse. There is a game that requires will, precision, and belief. And on Saturday, this team had belief in what it does and who it is.
This is getting good, because Game 6 is about getting even with those Red Wings. Amazingly, the Stars are still breathing. And almost more amazingly, their pulse is getting stronger.
So feel free to make the mistake I did at your own peril. You see, 5 days ago, I was writing a column to the 18,532 that sounded like I was prepared for a funeral. A happy funeral for sure – like the one for someone who lived a really long, successful, respected life - but, still a funeral. Down 3-0, I was convinced that the heroic Dallas Stars 2008 Playoff run had smiled its last smile.
I didn’t see any way out of this mess. Sadly, despite being told all spring to “Believe”, I obviously did not. I was very proud of my boys taking down the Ducks and the Sharks, but the dream was over. Nice try, boys.
Well, I have never been so pleased to be wrong. And, I might have been wrong about something else, too. Maybe Skill doesn’t always beat Will. That isn’t to say the Stars don’t have plenty of skill, nor is it saying the Red Wings don’t have will.
But, since the theme of this series early on has been that Detroit is just too talented, then I think Games 4 and 5 indicate that maybe the Stars have too much will to go quietly into the night. Or too much will to go at all.
I don’t know quite what we are looking at right now. I still must remind all of us that the odds remain greatly stacked against Dallas. But if you don’t believe that this thing is back on in a huge fashion, then you haven’t been watching. The Stars didn’t need a plane to fly back to Texas. They felt great to earn a reprieve. And now, they realize that the mountain is being climbed. They are 60 minutes away from tying this series. 60 minutes of home hockey that could force a magical Game 7.
Game 6’s have been filled with memories in this franchise’s history. Brett Hull in Buffalo years ago, or Brenden Morrow at 1:24 am a few weeks ago come quickly to mind as two of the best. But, when you recall the two Game 6 wars in this city this spring – Game 6 versus the Ducks and the Quadruple Overtime to beat the Sharks, both were being fought with ferocity from the Boys in Black to avoid a Game 7 in California. Now, there is nothing in the world that the Stars would want to do more, than fly to Detroit for a Game 7 in Michigan Wednesday Night. Their house of horrors is now their dream destination. A lot can change on a Saturday afternoon, eh?
Notes and Observations from a glorious spring day in Detroit:
• Congratulations to Marty Turco. In his 12th try at the Joe, Turco gets a win. Nobody ever mentioned that his first 11 trips to Detroit included only 15 Dallas goals. It was all laid at his feet. Well, he seemed fine with that. Need some big saves? Holmstrom, Cleary, Zetterberg, and about 36 more come to mind. Need some offense? Turco set up both goals with passes, and also set up a 3rd great chance for Nik Hagman that Chris Osgood stopped. He is locked in again, and I wonder if he feels he can remain in the zone through Wednesday? Guess what, he will need to.
• After Game 2 , I wrote about punching the Red Wings in the face with adversity. I am telling you, they are not comfortable at times like these. They do not want to be on an airplane back to Texas. They thought that this weekend was a celebration of their triumphant return to the Stanley Cup Finals. This coach, this captain, these superstars, and most of this team have not done it in the playoffs. When adversity strikes Detroit, they have struck out since the days of Yzerman, Federov, Shanahan and that awesome group that won 3 Cups in 6 seasons. This group is awesome, too, but do they have the resolve and the heart? Test time. Doubt is a heavy backpack.
• My vote for the craziest stat I have ever seen: Take a guess (without cheating) of which Dallas player played the most ice time when the game was at equal strength. If you get this, you are a genius. Modano? Zubov? Ribeiro? Morrow? Robidas? Richards? Norstrom? Still guessing? Toby Peterson. Or as Zetterberg and Datsyuk must be saying now, Toby-Freaking-Peterson, who had a team-leading 19:25 when the game was at 5-on-5. I don’t believe it.
• Joel Lundqvist sure didn’t look like he wanted to take that shot that he scored on. He looked set to pass the entire way in on the 2 on 1 after a botched line change from Chris Chelios. But, he finally ripped it high corner past Osgood, and scored the game winner. What a game for that entire line with Toby, Lundqvist, and Loui Eriksson. Lundqvist even ran over Tomas Holmstrom seconds before a frustrated Holmstrom punched someone on the Stars bench taking a minor for roughing at precisely the wrong moment for his team.
• Detroit still dominated in the face-off circle, and dominated the shots on goal. The difference in what the Stars have figured out appears to be subtle. They are simply trying to make Detroit possess the puck on the outer part of the rink. Protect the slot, and protect the goalmouth. This still sacrifices shots and possession, but the premium shots are minimized. It also makes the Red Wings skill players engage much of their shift fighting in puck battles in the corners with the likes of Peterson or Steve Ott. Puck battles are about grit and fight, not skill and talent. If you can engage 13 and 40 in a corner, you will have a much better chance than in open ice.
• Jiri Hudler scored Detroit’s only goal on a power play. It was a pretty nice rebound finish for Hudler, but I was sure wondering how Detroit was on that PP to begin with given that Darren McCarty had run over Turco in the sequence prior to that which did not get called.
• Good to see Trevor Daley score and finish a game high +2. In this playoff run, Daley has at times been the forgotten man in the back, but his speed should always be something that gets the opponent’s attention. He can step into a rush as a trailer, as he did yesterday on Richards’ drop pass, and provide a nice element.
• Detroit can never be counted out. When Morrow hit the crossbar, he had a golden chance to get the Stars a bit of breathing room. It didn’t work, so it was hang on again in the final minutes. The final icing call made the last minute even more agonizing, but the Stars were up to the task.
• Credit Kris Draper with an exceptional cross check on Brenden’s face. Nice technique, Kris. Not sure how that call was missed, but I am sure it was an accident. Between Osgood’s butt-end and Draper’s cross check, it would seem Detroit has quite a few accidents with their conduct.
• I always enjoy a movie reference to sum up my feelings. But, I can’t take credit for this one. Many of you have been sending me the Rocky IV clip where Rocky realizes that Ivan Drago bleeds. Once he bleeds, you realize he is human. Once you realize he is human, you realize that your punches can hurt. Then, you realize victory can be had. It all starts, though, with a drop of blood. The Wings were just cut. Let’s see how that affects the two teams.
• The beauty of playoff hockey is this: No matter what you pay these guys in salary, you cannot put a price on victory. It is priceless. Imagine the money that could be raised if you could put a price on a Game 6 victory. We would all scramble to the phones to pledge what we could. But, it can’t be bought. It must be earned. Don’t look now, but your Dallas Stars are ready. Let’s see if this improbable, and some might even say impossible dream can keep going.
• Game 6 is very necessary.