Mike Lantry, 1972
OT - Red Wings game 3 not on Versus
Random thoughts that are random (and probably repeated):
1. Jason Williams can fuck off. At least Mikael Samuelsson OCCASIONALLY hit the net with his wild ass shots. Why in god's name was he signed? And why was he inserted into the lineup with Eaves out? It's okay to play seven defensemen, Babs...nobody's gonna be mad.
2. Howard was crap last night (I cannot accurately express my utter disgust on the first and third goals he gave up), but it is what it is. The whole "losing before you can win" addage is real. He will experience the pain of losing a playoff series, and being on the ice when his team is eliminated, and he'll be better for it. Putting Osgood in now would be a) way, way, WAY too late, and b) useless. Babcock's not dumb. He wanted to get Ozzie more work in the regular season, but couldn't, because Ozzie's competitive fire is fading (he's been out of shape pretty much all year), and the team plays differently when he's in the goal. They don't trust him anymore, and that's a death knell for a goalie in hockey.
3. The Red Wings are in a spiral eeriely similar to the Pistons' demise. Win a championship, come up one game short of repeating the next year, and then spend every moment after each postseason loss talking about how nobody's worried and everybody knows what they have to do. The names on the jerseys are mostly the same, but this looks nothing like the team that won the Stanley Cup 23 months ago in Pittsburgh, especially the defense. Lidstrom is still playing at a high level, save for a few gaffes. Rafalski has always been a good skater, a great PP defenseman and a smart player, but never one to go down and block a shot (...or a pass on a 2-on-1). Kronwall and Stuart both bring physicality, they both scrap in the corners, and despite a lot of fans' anger, they're both steady. They're the type who rarely receive praise because their work isn't flashy and thus goes unnoticed, but they get lit up by fans because their mistakes are obvious and often disastrous. And yet, it all seems so off now. Battles aren't being won, passes aren't as crisp, turnovers are more common. These guys didn't just start to suck overnight. Is it something about Brad McCrimmon failing at life? Or...are they getting complacent and lazy like the Pistons did? The Pistons went from the top of the world in 2004, universally praised for their hard work, defense and work ethic, to being a shell of themselves under Flop within just a couple of years. It was the same core roster, but they looked entirely different. The Pistons were ruined by the weight of their own egos. They believed their past accomplishments allowed them to skip putting the work in to prepare for hard-working teams like Cleveland and Boston. I shudder to think that the same thing could possibly be going on with the Red Wings.
4. I'm very, very afraid of what the future holds. If Lidstrom doesn't retire after this season, he almost certainly will after next season. Rafalski is getting long in the tooth too, and will probably be put out to pasture once his contract expires. Once they're gone, there is a huge, HUGE gap at the top of the Wings' blueline. Kronner and Stewie are very reliable #3 and #4 defensemen, but neither are top two material. So who fills the gap? There's no money to spend (not now, anyway). Are they banking on the light going on for Jonathan Ericsson? Are they hoping that Kindl and Smith pan out like they're expected to? That's an awful lot of hope in a Western Conference full of teams with an absurd amount of talent under 30. One miss on the blueline development by Detroit, and they could easily be buried behind Chicago, San Jose, Vancouver, and Phoenix/Los Angeles. The thought of a 30 year old Jiri Fischer on the blueline sounds so good right about now - fate is not a Red Wings fan.
5. Overall, I can't help shaking the feeling that the window is closed for now on another Red Wings' Cup. The West is just so deep now, and with all sorts of question marks defensively, I think it'll be a few years at least until Detroit returns to the Finals.
The big difference that I see between that Pistons team and the Red Wings is that the Pistons weren't believed to be loaded with talent. I am hoping that this loss will galvanize the Wings and give them some motivation in the off season that has been lacking since 2007. After all the injuries, they had 102 points in the regular season. Hudler is coming back and they'll probably have some cap room on top of that. Some guys this year aren't old, but they were way better in past playoffs (e.g. Franzen, Helm, Cleary).
how many players are actually walking wounded. The guys that came back from injury - did they come back at 80%? 90%? Are the injuries flaring up again under the intensity of the playoffs?
How many guys are a step or two slow due to a nagging injury? How many will end up with off-season surguries?
It's near-impossibly difficult for any team in any sport to make it to the finals 3 years in a row. The depth into the playoffs they have went the last two years makes it like they have played an extra 1/2 season more than most teams.