Jun 1, 2009

Wings Up 2-0; Series Goes to Pittsburgh

Left: Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg exchanging punches in Game 2; photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated

I normally do not devote a great deal of blog space to sports, in large measure because the Internet is already filled with sports-oriented blogs. However, I am especially fired up that my favorite hockey team - the Detroit Red Wings - won their second straight game against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night in a 3-1 nail-biter.

Full disclosure: I grew up in Detroit, and for the first two decades of my life the Wings were horrible. I also worked at Joe Louis Arena from 1982-90 in a variety of managerial capacities, and I could no more ignore the Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals than I could willfully stop my heart from beating.

Anyways, last night's game was one of the most entertaining professional hockey games I have seen in years. Both teams played at an amazingly high level of intensity, and the game was much, much closer than the two-goal margin might imply.

Much has been made about the Wings keeping Penguins star Sidney Crosby without points in the first two games, but Wings fans should not deceive themselves: Crosby will score important goals in this series, and he had some excellent opportunities last night (including one that clanged off the post).

The player that the Penguins need to improve is center Evgeni Malkin, whose emotions caused him to take some stupid penalties in the second game. He nearly wound up with a game suspension for instigating in his late-game fight with Henrik Zetterberg.

I was especially impressed with the gutsy play of somewhat unheralded left winger (at least outside of Pittsburgh) Ruslan Fedotenko, who has scored seven goals in the playoffs this year. Fedotenko took some excellent shots, played tough along the boards, and showed a tremendous amount of hustle last night. I suspect that Detroit fans will learn to better appreciate the grittiness of Fedotenko by the end of the series.

I originally predicted a 7-game Wings victory for the Cup, and I am standing by that prediction. I suspect that Pittsburgh will come out in Game 3 Thursday like a collective hurricane, and I see the Pens winning games 3 and 6 in Pittsburgh along with Game 5 in Detroit. After that I see the Pens heading to beach houses in places like the Outer Banks - sorry, Pens fans.


Anonymous said...

AGH! How can you cheer for the Evil Empire?

historymike said...

Listen: I suffered through several decades of some of the worst hockey in history as a fan (and later employee) of the Red Wings. I am entitled to bask in their successes from the 1990s and forward.

Besides, Ilitch built this franchise from the ground up, and his successes have less to do with a big payroll than excellent scouting and coaching.

Photodan said...

What's evil is the obnoxious marketing campaign revolving around Crosby. For two years in a row, he has been largely negated in the finals but he is all the television commentators talk about.

Besides winning, I'm not sure why people hate the Red Wings. They have never been a team full of arrogance or dirty play. Could it be xenophobia?