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THE SPORTS GUY - Red Wings Recap, and a Look Ahead

The Sports Guy

Who would have thought the Wings would win a series with NO goals by Pavel Datsyuk?  In many ways it suggests the reason the Wings DID win - superior depth.  It was nowhere more evident than in this final game - with the three Wings goals scored by Hudler, Helm and Samuelsson and Cleary, not a star player in the bunch.  It will also be the reason the Wings will win against the Hawks, but more on that later.

Random thoughts:

Officiating - The worst I have seen in a playoff series.  If the NHL really wants to join the ranks of the other major sports, it must improve officiating.  Too many games feature multiple questionable calls with a big impact on the game.  Much of this is the result of the fluid nature of the game, with the calls - resulting in a either a goal or a penalty - naturally effecting the outcome, but more must be done.

The best example I can think of from this series was when little Jiri Hudler was called for goaltender interference on a play where he was clearly ridden into Jonas Hiller by Chris Pronger, a play that in actuality should have been a penalty on Pronger.  The penalty led to a Ducks' powerplay goal.  What could have prevented this bad call?  The ref having the opportunity to ask for a video replay review, or minimally, consulting with the other on-ice officials prior to making the call.

I also think it is time that the NHL allow coaches a challenge, perhaps once each period, with the coach losing a remaining challenge when it is determined the refs got it right.  The danger of this is slowing down the game, and it would be necessary to find a way to expedite the process, but playoff games are too important to be decided on a bad call.

Osgood- Sports talk radio is all abuzz about the worthiness of Chris Osgood as a Hall of Fame candidate, or his status among the game's elite goaltenders.  In my view, Chris Osgood is a better than average goalie that is an absolutely perfect fit for the Wings - his stature is elevated by being a member of this team, in a perfect symbiotic relationship.  He loves being a Wing - he took less money that a goalie of his ability and accomplishments deserved to be a Wing, and freed up salary cap to enable the Wings to sign other players, notably Marian Hossa.  The Wings may spend less at the goalie position that any other team in the NHL.  For that, they get a solid goalie that makes the big saves when he has to, and knows what it takes to win in the playoffs with the team he has in front of him.  Osgood is a strong contributor to the Wings success, and I believe most Wings fans appreciate him because of it.  Three Cups as the Wings guy in net will also make a strong statement for getting into the Hall.

Star Players - First, these playoffs have made it clear that Johann Franzen is among the game's current elite.  He finds a way to elevate his game for the playoffs, and is the Wings leading Playoff MVP candidate if the Wings go all the way.  I am also extremely pleased by the relative lack of production from Zetterburg (although he has been an assist machine), Datsyuk, and Hossa.  None of them are playing poorly, and at least two or perhaps all three of them will break-out against the Hawks.

Wings vs.Hawks - I LOVE this match-up.  Original Six.  Detroit vs. Chicago, with no difficult travel for the Wings.  The return of the Hawks as a good team, which is good for the sport.  Youth vs. Experience.  Most of all, I like that the Wings will prevail, I think in six games or less.  Why?  Again, the superior depth.  Even if the Hawks gear themselves to stop or slow down the Wings top line, the Wings can put out three more lines than can wear down a defense and score goals.  The Wings forwards can defend against the Hawks top lines.  As mentioned, the Wings will get more goal production from Hossa, Zetterburg or Datsyuk.  For some reason, I think these games will be a lot more open than the Ducks' series - games will end with 5-3 and 4-2 scores more often than not, which is a tempo that will favor the Wings.

Prediction - A Cup rematch with the Penguins, with the same result!

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Community Poll:
IF the Red Wings do not reclaim the Stanley Cup, what will be the cause?
Injury to an important player
Defense, Goaltending
Lack of Scoring
A Better Team
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