Stanley Cup Randoms:
Ah woe. As has been mentioned around here previously, this has been a season of roiling emotions for Red Wings fans. Recent developments in the NHL’s semi-final rounds have not proved helpful in the blood pressure department, nor in reducing the pain-in-the-keester annoyance of the 2010 Cup hunt.
Witness Saturday’s 3-0 win by the Philadelphia Flyers that put the Montreal Canadiens down a seemingly long-gone 3-1 in their Eastern series. The key play in that key game came when the lovely Chris Pronger, the Flyers’ nine-foot tall (give or take a foot) and surly defenseman — long and properly despised by true-crimson Red Wings fans for the punishment he has doled out to our guys over the years — dished a pretty pass to one Ville Leino, the Finnish forward that Mike Babcock booted off the Wings roster at mid-season. Leino, whose point-a-game playoff scoring prowess thus far has raised real questions about the Wings’ legendary ability to assess Euro-style hockey forwards, of COURSE (just to annoy the hell out of us) sailed in to score on a beautiful deke-out of the Habs goalie. So not only is he producing like a rigged slot machine, but he’s providing highlight-reel performances in doing so. Of course. So the guy the Wings threw away like old milk keeps showing himself to seemingly be the kind of nifty winger our team will need in coming seasons. Of course.
And if that ain’t maddening enough (and for some reason hockey has the ability to rankle — great word — like no other sport), Saturday’s game saw the triumphant return to the Flyers lineup of another beaut, Ian Laperriere. The little-scoring but “gritty,” shall we say, forward had been sidelined by a concussion a month ago (a fate some thought he richly deserved, as you will see) and counted out for the remainder of the playoffs. But the SOB is back; and I feel justified in calling him that in recalling how he — as a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 2008 — tried to purposefully injure our Nicklas Lidstrom with an appalling elbow to the head at Denver. The dirty blow put St. Nick out of action — it was the first time most of us had ever seen the great Lidstrom get caught in such an awkward position, and thus open himself to an injurious hit; the nasty Laperriere took advantage. You have to wonder if he pondered what he did to Lidstrom as he dealt with his own concussion problems over the past month. But now that cum laude graduate of the Claude Lemieux School is “courageously” back in the Stanley Cup chase. Oy.
Also randomly: If these playoffs have taught anything, it’s that you could go broke — and nuts — trying to predict the NHL. For example, who could have foreseen the present Final Four? And while I’m on record as figuring Chicago is in the driver’s seat to take home the Cup — and how does THAT sound? — you have to be ready for anything. In that department, there was one small moment in the current go-round where visions of a possible Detroit-Montreal final worked their way into our hockey heads. How cool would THAT have been? The unlikely matchup of the two greatest rivals of the 1950s Original Six.
Our beloved Wings, of course, put those dreams to a quick beddy-bye. But even that remote prospect brought back a vision of the LAST time the two teams vied in a Cup final. The final moment in that 1966 series came at the late and loved Olympia Stadium (and I still maintain that the JLA and Comerica Park fall ridiculously short of the charm and magic that just oozed from the walls at the Olympia and Tiger Stadium, but I am afield; back to the story).
I was there for Game Six, watching in absolute dismay in overtime as Henri Richard slid into the Red Wings net, past a confused Roger Crozier, with the puck under his arm, registering the playoff-winning “goal.” Looking back, one HAS to think that the powers-in-Toronto, the guys who review modern playoff goals with an alleged jeweler’s eye, would have never allowed Richard’s tainted marker, which gave the joyous Canadiens a 4-2 Cup triumph. Kicking the puck in? He elbowed it in, and the Habs were celebrating before the refs could even figure what had happened.
It was a so-painful moment. Which rankles still. Granted, the Wings had nowhere near the firepower of the ’65-66 Habs, but they had tempted us SO deliciously, winning the first two playoff games AT Montreal. But the Canadiens responded, winning four painfully close games after that opening, culminating in the Pocket Rocket’s weird tally and Stanley Cup win at the Olympia.
Ah, hockey. Down the decades, the turmoil, the pain-in-the-keester moments, roll. It’s no wonder I have indigestion…