Monday, June 2, 2008

I'm So High The Stars Are Below Me

Oh man. Oh God. Oh God. Holy Moses on roller skates. I feel like...like...actually, I don't know what I feel like because I've never felt like this before. I just feel like I completely abused my body last night and all I did was sit on the couch. Of course, I have abused my body on the couch before, but this is different in a new and exciting way.

While watching the game, this person kept getting in my face, hitting me with a foot, talking too much, climbing on my lap, all of this annoying stuff. I was so, so, so close to yelling "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" but I wasn't in a bar and I wasn't itching for a scrap. I was at home and this pestering miscreant was my 2-year old daughter. If you ever want to have a raging internal debate about the importance of sports and priorities in life, trying watching a one goal elimination game while your kid is crawling all over you, clamoring for fun and attention and love and bonding moments.

At one point, I tried to move her off my lap at the same time my wife was giving her a binky and she cut her mouth on my wife's thumbnail. So now I have a screaming baby on my hands with 4:35 left in the game. Just ratchet up the pressure!

The other problem I had to deal with while watching the game was receiving text messages from the future. Or, more specifically, from the present while I was still in the past. Being on the West Coast (some say it's the best coast!), I DVR the game so I don't miss anything driving home from work. So while I'm skipping commercials and intermissions to catch up, I'm getting text messages and trying to divine what they mean without reading them and giving away the surprise. Was it from a Detroit friend or a Pittsburgh friend? Does this mean Pittsburgh scored or Detroit scored? My friend Larry texted me "This is embarrassing" what had to have been seconds before Talbot tied it up. And then, of course, once I caught up to real time for OT, I was texting like a Japanese teenager on a bullet train ride to Osaka. Tick-tick-tick "What a play!" tick-tick-tick "Awesome!" Technology has truly changed our lives for the better!

So let's get the obvious part out of the way first. Fleury was four steps beyond incredible. It will be a long, long time before I accept any criticism of him again. The left toe save in regulation. Flashing the gloves and the leg pads in overtime. At some point in the second overtime, I realized that there was no way MAF was going to let in a goal. It was just a matter of when the Penguins would get a good enough chance to finish the game. Just a reminder, Marc Andre is only 23 years old and can't grow a beard yet.

And you can't even put the first two Detroit goals on his shoulders. The first one was Jordan Staal's fault. Scuderi sold out to clear the puck, but didn't get it all the way. Staal watched Scuderi hit the puck and then for some forever unknown reason, started looking at the bench for a change when the puck was in his skates. Get the puck out first! I guess that's what happens when you're 19. Dallas Drake, who is very old, would've cleared the puck and then looked for a change. But Staal has been awesome all series, except for last night, so I give him a golden pass ticket. And of course the centering pass deflects off of a prone Scuderi, somehow slips under him even though he's laying flat on the ice and goes between Fleury's legs. Another lucky bounce.

The second goal, maybe one of the three Penguins surrounding Datsyuk wants to tie up his stick next time. I dunno. Just a thought.

But Fleury wasn't the only golden god last night. Pascal Dupuis, what a game. What hustle. What a thick beard. He'll need a machete to trim that thing after the series. Next season, if Dupuis can sublimate his recent tendency for the hero play and simplifies his game, he can be a real asset next to Crosby. He's developed this tendency lately to try and copy Crosby's and Hossa's slick passing like he's a little brother watching his big brother play. If he plays within himself and just shoots, he'll be something. Be greedy, dammit! Greed is good!

Sidney Crosby, refusing the let the team lose. All out effort on every shift. Blowing past defensemen, creating chance after chance. Marian Hossa, a bull on skates. He was simply incredible. The opening goal. Putting the puck through a guy's legs in the third overtime, which led to the game winner. I realize I don't have to be too concerned with the salary cap in my day to day life, but we must bring back Hossa next year.

Of course, yesterday afternoon, I was advocating bringing back Hossa at the expense of Ryan Malone. Then Malone took a puck to the face and returned for the third period. That made me feel guilty for even thinking Malone could be cut loose, let alone suggesting it. I wanted Malone to clinch the OT goal so badly because it's not every day you see a guy make a big time play with a hole in his face.

Gonchar returning from what must've been a concussion. When he went on the ice for the final power play, I'm not sure he even knew what team he was on, let alone what a big situation it was. Remarkable efforts by Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi last night, playing major, major minutes. Hal Gill was an absolute deadline steal for us. I don't even mind that sometimes his clearing passes hit the opponent's tape instead of ours. Brooks Orpik, disgustingly amazing. What a game. Except for when he took a Crosby point pass off of his skates and set up a Detroit 2-on-1. Other than that, he ruled. Alex Goligoski, so glad he was just an emergency call up and didn't have to actually dress. Man, I'm starting to sound like Julia Roberts accepting her Oscar, just throwing out credit to every person in the organization. The guy who's responsible for unpacking the team's equipment. Wow. Great job. Everybody was wearing the correct sweater last night.

And then there was Evgeni Malkin. Between the Center Ice package and DVR, I have seen every game of Malkin's career thus far, and last night was, without a doubt, the worst game I have ever seen him play. Along the boards, a drop pass to nobody, the puck literally jumping off of his stick as he was skating up ice and flying 40 feet away to a Detroit defenseman. The intentional offsides in the first period. He knew the play was off and he touched the puck anyway, sending the faceoff all the way down ice.

Is his hand hurt? His wrist? He can't pass as well and he's not shooting. We know Sykora's wrist is hurt, since in the first period Pierre McGuire referenced an "upper body injury" that Sykora has been dealing with. And then in overtime, Sykora takes his glove off on the bench and we see his wrist and pinkie are all taped up. I don't think that was a fashion statement. But anyway, Malkin. He has to be hurt. A lot of people want to think he's disintered simply because he's from Russia and they don't celebrate Christmas over there. Russians obviously don't care about joyful things like presents and the Stanley Cup. But Malkin clearly amped up his game in overtime and put himself on the line. And that's why you keep sending him over the boards in this series. Because even when he's hurt, even when he's tired, he's a superstar and he just might set up the winning goal in the third overtime. He just might.

And while we're on the subject of great coaching, how about Therrien putting Talbot on as the extra attacker? What a move. (I'm running out of hyperbole here!) Max was flying all game, creating plays, getting things done. Therrien could feel it and next thing you know this thing is all tied up. And Talbot's efforts didn't stop there. Before the second overtime, you could see him sitting next to Malkin on the bench, shouldering Gene and laughing and getting him fired up for the period. Teamwork!

Because this post is already novella length, why stop now? Let's talk about Detroit for a little bit.
That team clearly plays on the cheating edge. There is so much hooking and obstruction that it is almost unbelievable. Draper tries to jump every faceoff, all five guys play with their sticks parallel to the ice and Franzen trying to kick the puck out of Fleury's glove in the last two minutes of the first OT is about as low as a play gets. It wasn't enough for Zetterberg to run Fleury over over. While the puck was frozen, and while he was on the ice himself, Franzen straight up tried to kick the puck loose. With his skate blade! Although I do suppose that if you gash Fleury's arm, he will probably drop the puck.

In fairness, Detroit totally overwhelmed the Penguins in the third. We can't sit back and try to hang on against this team. We have to keep the pressure up. And we have to play with a lead. A 2-0 lead, preferably. Detroit just plays like a totally different team when they're behind. They can't trap, they can't squeeze the joy out of life. Though even when trailing, they play a mucyh more aggressive defensive style than we do. When Detroit is on the rush, our defensemen would be happy to back up all the way to the crease. Whereas Detroit's defense corps is always challenging at the blue line, daring a forward to try and get around them. When you have superior speed and skating, I guess you can do those kind of things. Still, we had so many chances when it was 2-0. The type of chances that simply disappeared when it was 2-2.

Okay, that's enough for Detroit. But lucky for you, not enough for this post! Onward! We still have a little bit of space left before we're running as long as Steven King's "It".

Now, there's no way to have this not sound like sour grapes, but the officiating has been atrocious all series. To the point where I was genuinely surprised when they called Kris Draper for interference after he picked Orpik with a hip check. Tyler Kennedy was the only penalty in the third period. Either put the whistles away or don't.

In overtime, I guess Detroit got bored by clutch and grab, so they decided to switch things up, keep it fresh, and start running the goalie. And this is where reality completely went off tracks, died a slow, painful death and then started rolling over in its grave. In the OT intermission, Mike Milbury complained about the penalty on Zetterberg. Milbury said the puck was in Hank's feet and "he has to be allowed to do that". Exactly as he's saying those last words, the replay shows Zetterberg plowing into Fleury, who was clearly in his crease. He has to be able to knock the goalie down! Milbury also insisted players should still be allowed to go into the stands to brawl wiseacre fans. All the insight you've come to expect from a guy who traded Zdeno Chara and the pick that became Jason Spezza for Alexei Yashin. From the guy who passed on Dany Heatley to draft Rick DiPietro, so he could finally get rid of the simply terrible Roberto Luongo. The hockey lover in me says get Milbury off of the air. The comedy lover in me says give him his own show.

And then Dan Cleary runs Fleury. Pierre McGuire, who i normally love, complained about both interference calls, but said the Sykora hook at the end of the second OT was justified. Cleary was taught to go to the net, so what could he do? Besides swerve wide of the net close to the goal line, I mean? Nothing! He was taught to drive the net, not avoid running the goalie over! So he did. But Pierre then claimed that Sykora's call was justified because of zero tolerance for hooking. One, that wasn't the case in the first 38 minutes of overtime. Two, are you implying there is factor three tolerance for goaltender interference?

Depending on how this series shakes out, Sykora calling his shot will go down as one of the all time NHL moments. It's about the only thing that could trump Talbot scoring when Detroit was only 35 seconds away from hoisting the Cup. Right after Zetterberg missed the empty net from the red line.

Oh man. Oh God. Oh God. Holy Moses on roller skates. What a post! I'm just as fatigued now as I was after the game last night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where oh where is Larry?