The Better Team Won

It’s finally over. The Detroit Red Wings are the Stanley Cup Champions of 2008. And I think, for this year, the best team in the entire NHL won.

4th time in 11 years proved once and again that Detroit is indeed the Hockey Town of the world. But what a series it has been. The Pittsburgh Penguins although lost 4-2 games in the stretch post an enormous fight against the most complete team in the world. Filled with a bunch of young guns who have the hearts of tigers, the Penguins literally fought to the last seconds until they were ultimately defeated.

Filled with inspiring moments, this series is in my heart the best series I’ve seen this year. Down two games to none, we saw Penguins captain Sidney Crosby training by himself in an optional practise of their day-off after game two. His eyes were filled with determination and hunger, and he knew he had to be better in game three for his team. And he did, scoring the first two goals in the game, and in the series, carrying the entire team on his shoulder. He gave the team a chance, and showed them by example while saving the last bit of self-confidence they have from being severely crushed by the veteren Wings. They won 3-2 that game.

However, things didn’t turn out any better the next game, as Detroit showed that they are clearly the better team, by winning most stats of the games including faceoffs, SOG…etc. Their puck-possession game was so much better than the Penguins, that the team which swept throught their entire Eastern Conference series seemed lost and desperate most of the time. Marian Hossa played some of his best hockey in the playoff with the Penguins scoring the first goal in game 4, but Detroit shut down all of their offense afterwards, with an equalized from their all-star captain Lidstrom and the eventual winner by Hudler.

Going into game five, the Pens down three game to one, and in the verge of elimination, played some of their best hockey, both up front and in the net. Again Hossa led the offense with the first goal, with setup by the Captain, and then Adam Hall on a not-so-pretty goal. Up 2-0 entering the second period, the Red Wings again showed up by answering one back. Then in third period, Detroit showed them once again why the Penguins were in the deep hole they found themselves by totally shutting down their start players, getting an equalizer and the leading goal. Marc Andre Fluery was spectacular entering the last minutes of the third period, but with Pens down by a goal, their quest for the cup seems close to the end.

But entering the last minute of the game the Pens pulled their goalie and chose the most unusual player as the extra attacker, who turned out to be the hero, in the form of Maxime Talbot. Talbot scored in 19:25 to tie the game at three and forced overtime. The overtime periods saw even more tremendous saves from Fluery, and it took both teams 3 overtime period to decide anything. At the end it was on a penalty call which lead to a powerplay goal by Petr Sykora who saved the Pens from elimination.

So we came to game 6, which saw the Wings continue their solid puck-possession play, as their add a goal in each of the first two periods. Near the end of the second period, the Penguins seemed lost again and also breathless, until they catch a break with a powerplay goal by Evgeni Malkin late in the second period. Starting the third, the Penguins seemed again fired up, but in a simple drive to the net play, the Penguins mistakenly thought that Fleury had the puck covered cost them the most important goal of their year. Again, on the verge of elimination, the best player from the Pens gave the team hope again, when Marian Hossa re-directed a slapshot passed Osgood on a power-play goal which brought back life to the dead-silent Igloo. But it was too little too late, as there was only less than two minutes left of the clock, and although the Pens pulled Fluery again for an extra attacker this time it came short to tie the game.

The Penguins failed their mission to capture the cup this year, but as it showed in the final seconds in this game, when Hossa tried to take advantage of a big rebound from Osgood, tried to poke the puck into the net with one hand, only for it to slide parallel the goal-line with the clock down to zero, this young team never once gave-up hope. This is perhaps the most inspiring part of this series.

Ever since the puck drop, it was clear that Detroit was the better team. No matter how good the Penguins looked in their Eastern Conference run, the Red Wings was by far the superior team in almost every aspect of the game. The Penguins gave it their best fight, and they learned the most valuable lesson this year, and I am most certain that this is just the beginning of the story for this young team’s road to become another dynasty of champions for years to come.

Rememer Gretzky and the oiler’s first quest at the cup, anyone??

My MVP for both teams in the series are:

Detroit Red Wings – Henrik Zetterberg
Pittsburgh Penguins – Marian Hossa

Signing off, Saint Pako of the Hockey News.

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