Tag Archives: Tomas Holmstrom

Three things rattling around in my cranium…

Yet again, after a hard day at the radio/internet/selling/consulting/newspaper grind, here are three things banging inside my gray matter…

 

(1) In the end, the Minnesota Vikings just didn’t have enough offence on Sunday. Defensively, the Vikings were not embarrassed in that 26-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but on offence, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson just couldn’t get it done. 

 

However, in fairness, his receivers didn’t do much to get open, and that’s probably because Jackson had virtually no time to throw. On Sunday, the Vikings mediocre offensive line didn’t even reach mediocrity. Jackson went 15-for-35 For 164 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. On Monday and Tuesday, all the pundits in the Twin Cities were calling for his head.

 

And that’s fine, but if the Vikings don’t fix the right side of the offensive line and don’t find a better left tackle than Bryant (Where’d he go?) McKinnie, it won’t matter if the Vikings make a trade to get Peyton Frickin’ Manning next season. Before poor Jackson got set on Sunday, his pocket had already collapsed. That offensive line was embarrassing.

 

Still, overall, it was a good season for the Vikes. Brad Childress isn’t much of a coach and while his offensive line is terrible and his defensive secondary is thin, it’s apparent you can build an offence around Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. There might be a future yet.

 

(2) Happy to see Canada beat Sweden 5-1 in the gold medal final at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Men’s Hockey Championship. Somewhat disturbed to see the Swedes live up to every Don Cherry stereotype.

 

I really thought, after Thomas Steen, Nick Lidstrom, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg, that whole “Chicken Swede” thing had gone the way of the dinosaurs. After Monday night’s Canada-Sweden junior final, however, Cherry’s jingoistic rants about “Euro-hockey” might have been true.

 

If your goalie dives whenever someone comes within three strides of his crease and when your players spend every stoppage of play checking for blood, you’ve regressed back to the days when Swedish hockey players were so frightened of Canadians they almost always seemed on the verge of filing assault charges.

 

Sadly, the real gold medal final at the World Junior was Saturday night’s Canada-Russia semi. That was a great game featuring the two best teams in the tournament.

 

(3) Why is it, whenever I turn on a hockey game on Canadian television, I get Mike Milbury? Milbury is a Yank who singlehandedly destroyed the New York Islanders franchise, now he’s telling Canadians how the game should be played. Thank gawd for the mute button.

 

To make matters worse this week, former Detroit Lions president and franchise destroyer Matt Millen is now a TV football analyst and on Monday, he told the New York Times that he liked his new job. He also told the Times, he didn’t regret one thing about his eight seasons ruining the Detroit Lions and if he had to do it over again, he’d do it exactly the same way. That’s a moronic statement.

 

Sadly, that’s what passes for a TV football analyst these days.

 

Again, thank gawd for the mute button. 



Despite the officials’ odd calls and the media’s cheers, Wings on the verge of Stanley Cup. Game 4: Detroit 2, Pittsburgh 1.

Congratulations to referees Mark Joannette and Brad Watson. It was apparent from the opening faceoff that if Joannette and Watson could get the Pittsburgh Penguins enough power play opportunities, the Pens could win Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final and send the series back to Detroit all even at 2-2.

 

So Joannette and Watson did their jobs. Dallas Drake, Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper, Brett Lebda and Johan Franzen were all sent to the penalty box in the first period. Sure, their infractions were penalties — well, sort of — but the fact that most of the stuff was going both ways didn’t have any effect on the officials’ inexorable march toward complete homerism.

 

Sadly — what happens in these situations as often as as not — the Pens didn’t co-operate. Even though only three Penguins were penalized (gotta make it look good, right?), the game was still tied 1-1 after 20 minutes. Sure, Pittsburgh got that big power-play goal to open the scoring, but somehow, at even strength, Nicklas Lidstrom tied it. Damn that even strength.

 

Now, let’s be fair, the officials certainly couldn’t be criticized. After all, they bought into the media hype. They bought into the league’s apparent delight in having Pittsburgh tie up the series (a delight created by the mainstream media). They even bought into hockey’s latest myth — which is Gary Roberts according to Don Cherry. Heck, Joannette and Watson even gave the Penguins a two-man advantage for a minute and 26 seconds in the third period!. That’s unheard of in a Stanley Cup playoff game. 

 

Didn’t matter. The Red Wings were just too good. Detroit won Game 4, 2-1 on Saturday night. Despite fewer power-plays and NO two-man advantages, the Wings outshot Pittsburgh 30-23 and even outhit the bigger, younger Pens 35-33.

 

Even though Detroit had eight minor penalties to Pittsburgh’s five in the first, even though the Pens had a long two-man advantage in the third, it didn’t matter. Even on the other guy’s ice, the Red Wings were just too good.

 

The Pens had everything going for them on Saturday: Home ice advantage, a place where they’d won nine straight in the playoffs; an international mainstream media that was virtually leading their cheers; a coach who had been given hours of meeting time with the NHL’s brass so he could whine about obstruction calls; more power play opportunities (6-3); and even Sidney Crosby (the NHL’s real “latest myth”).

 

And still they couldn’t outplay a President’s Trophy-winning Red Wings team that is destined to win the Cup. 

 

Again, I couldn’t care less who wins this thing (Detroit? Pittsburgh? Doesn’t affect my life), but after awhile, this media cheerleading for the Penguins has become annoying. C’mon guys. 

 

In Game 3, Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular and Crosby was out there almost by himself. No question, those were brilliant performances. 

 

But in every other aspect of Game 3, Detroit was clearly the better team. There was really no reason to believe that Pittsburgh was suddenly going to get back in the series. Crosby got away from Draper et al and scored twice and Fleury stood on his head, but that was it. Evgeni Malkin was invisible (again). The Pittsburgh defence was confused. This “awesome” forecheck and “fearsome” hitting (the media’s words) got them a meagre 24 shots and they were barely in the game in the third period.

 

Saturday night, despite every reason to believe the Penguins had been handed a playoff game on a platter by two officials who really got caught up in the hype, Pittsburgh fell at home. Now, in four playoff games, Detroit has outshot the Penguins 134-88 (36-19, 34-22, 34-24, 30-23).

 

Everybody likes a good story and the Pittsburgh Penguins are a good story. But if you like a good (great?) hockey team, the Detroit Red Wings proved how good they were despite all odds on Saturday night. 

 



Penguins alive. Game 3: Pittsburgh 3 Detroit 2.

That’s why we watch hockey. That’s what those folks who don’t love the game miss when they choose to watch the Pistons and Celtics play the American version of European Team Handball. (How many steps is Kevin Garnett allowed going to the basket? Eight?)

 

But who really cares about basketball? Nothing on earth is better than great hockey. Up and down. Big hits. Tape-to-tape passes. Outstanding chances. Terrific goaltending (at least, at one end).

 

Oh yeah, and how about the superstar factor? Sidney Crosby scores the first two goals of the game. Nice. 

 

When the final score in a game in the Stanley Cup final is 3-2, it’s hard to find fault. Although if Detroit fans want to blame somebody, they could probably get away with blaming Chris Osgood.

 

The winning goal was a deflection from behind the net off Osgood’s back by Adam Hall, a guy who wouldn’t be considered a big goal scorer. At the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury showed us why he’s now 9-0 in the playoffs at Mellon Arena.

 

The only criticism I had of the entire evening was the chicken-livered penalty calls early in the game. It’s silly, you know. In the first two periods, players can hardly breathe on each other. There were seven penalty calls in the first two periods and one in the third. The early penalties were all cheap. In the third period, everything — including hitting from behind — became legal. No wonder Americans don’t understand the rules and no wonder it’s difficult to grow new fans. If you actually try to understand the rules of this game you’ll never get it. Canadians who have lived with it all their lives know the entire sport is completely different in the third period of a playoff game.

 

Thank the lord for that.

 

The final period last night was spectacular and while Don Cherry really wanted to make Gary Roberts the hero, ol’ Don wasn’t even close. The hero was Fleury.

 

Detroit outshot Pittsburgh 34-24 and, by my count, outchanced the Pens 26-6. The Wings also outhit Pittsburgh 34-31 — only two Wings didn’t register a hit. 

 

Let’s not lie, here. The Red Wings dominated this game in every aspect but one. That’s right. Fleury was much better than Osgood. 

 

But hey, the goalie is part of the team and in hockey, a goalie can win you a championship. Detroit’s skaters might have been better, but Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular and while it’s unlikely Pittsburgh will win three of the next four games, it’s not impossible.

 

A great goalie can pull it off and this Saturday night, Marc-Andre Fleury gets another chance. 

 

One can only hope Saturday’s Game4 will be as good as Wednesday’s Game 3. 



Ongoing Perfection. Game 2: Detroit 3 Pittsburgh 0.

Hard to imagine the Detroit Red Wings could be better in Game 2 of the 2008 Stanley Cup final than they were in Game 1, but it seems that just when you think you have the Wings figured out, they shift into another gear.

 

Monday night at Joe Louis Arena, the Wings made the Pittsburgh Penguins look as silly as, ohh, penguins.

 

In fact, Pittsburgh was so out of this one that even though they managed to get more shots on net in Game 2 than they did in Game 1, most of the shots were unscreened dump-ins from the blueline.

 

Meanwhile, Detroit plays the game the way Minnesota Wild assistant general manager Tom Thompson always wanted his hockey team to play.

 

“It’s like the difference between European hockey and Canadian hockey in the 70s,” Thompson once said. “In Canada, we always wanted to shoot the puck into the opposing zone. Our theory was, if it’s in your zone, you can’t score. In Russia, their theory was, it doesn’t matter what zone it’s in, if we have the puck you can’t score. That’s the way Detroit plays. They always have the puck.” 

 

Last night, playing that frustrating puck-possession style, the Red Wings took 34 shots at Marc-Andre Fleury while holding Pittsburgh to 22, mostly weak ones. There were times when Chris Osgood must have thought he was sitting on his porch having a lemonade as he watched the traffic go by. 

 

Ozzie now has two straight shutouts to start this year’s final. That’s only happened on three other occasions — Clint Benedict of the Montreal Maroons in 1926, Frank McCool of the Leafs in 1945 and Martin Brodeur of the Devils in 2003. That’s pretty good company.

 

Of course, to give credit where it’s due, the Red Wings shutout heroics start with a defence that has been all but impenetrable. Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall have been particularly good and the relentless checking of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper, Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen has certainly given the Wings control of the neutral zone.

 

Meanwhile, the Penguins have spent more time marching to the penalty box than they have toward the Red Wings net. This March of the Penguins is not what Pittsburgh fans had in mind.

 

Of course, Pittsburgh fans probably thought Evgeni Malkin was going to show up (he was minus-2 with no shots on goal last night).

 

If the Penguins didn’t have Sidney Crosby, the outcome would be worse than a 2-0 deficit, two straight shutout losses and two straight embarrassments.   

 

Game 3 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. The Pens will have to win one of the next two to force a return to Detroit. They should get at least a split at home.

But then again, based on the first two games of this series, there is no guarantee. 

 



The Perfect Game? Game 1: Detroit 4 Pittsburgh 0.

Can you play a perfect hockey game? That’s pretty tough to say and, probably, even tougher to  imagine.

 

Hockey is so much different than most sports with its speed, its puck movement, the ebb and flow of each line change. Goaltending, power plays, bad passes, dumb passes, great passes, giveaways, takeaways, missed assignments, blocked shots, all the things that can make or break a team — or even both teams — tend to make hockey the most imperfect game.

 

Ever sat around watching a hockey game and counted the “completed” passes? If you have and you ever got past three, it was probably on a power-play.

 

That’s why, what happened on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, was really something to watch. The Detroit Red Wings probably got as close to perfect as a team can get.

 

They outshot the Penguins 36-19. Outhit them 31-25. Outscored them 4-0. In a nutshell, the Red Wings completely dominated Game 1 of the 2008 Stanley Cup final.

 

Kris Draper was in Sidney Crosby’s face all night and while Crosby often escaped and played brilliantly, he got only three shots at Chris Osgood and was never a real threat to score.

 

Meanwhile, Evgeni Malkin was AWOL. Marian Hossa had four shots on net and two misses (almost all of those chances were set up by Crosby), while Hal Gill, a guy that four of our local media geniuses — on TV, no less — said was playing “really well,” (puh-leese) was on the ice for three of Detroit’s four goals and finished at minus-2. 

 

Offensively for Detroit, two goals by Mikael Samuelsson, pretty much put this one away, but sensational goals by Daniel Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg, in the dying moments, put an exclamation point on the opener.

 

Detroit was better in all aspects of the game. If it’s possible to play a perfect hockey game, the Red Wings played a perfect hockey game on Saturday night.  

 

Game 2 goes Monday. Maybe it’ll be Pittsburgh’s turn.   

 

 



Why I like Pittsburgh’s chances, even though I’ve picked Detroit to win the 2008 Stanley Cup final.

For our regular readers, let me make myself perfectly clear. I’m picking the Detroit Red Wings to win the NHL’s Stanley Cup final in six games.

 

However, I do believe there are ways for the Penguins to win the series. That’s because, while I like Detroit (at least if I’m asked, I’ll say I like Detroit), I think Pittsburgh is good enough to challenge and perhaps even win. In fact, this will be the best Stanley Cup final in decades.

 

Here’s how Pittsburgh wins the Stanley Cup…

 

(1) Uses it’s advantage. If you check the old fashioned tale of the tape, Pittsburgh is younger and bigger. According to the NHL Guide and Record Book, among those players who have appeared in at least one playoff game this spring, the Detroit Red Wings’ average age is 32.3-years-old, nearly five years older than the Penguins’ average age of 27.9 years. The Penguins measure in at nearly 6’2″ and 208 pounds; the Red Wings average just under 6’0″ and 195 lbs. That could have a bearing on the outcome.

 

(2) Chris Osgood. Detroit’s “newish” No. 1 goalie is better than Dominik Hasek and he’s played pretty well, but he’s still not the goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has proven to be in these playoffs. It was a much wiser man than me who said: “We call it the Stanley Cup final because we can’t call it goalie.” The better goalie will win this series and that could easily be Fleury.

 

(3) The defence steps up. If Pittsburgh has a weakness, it’s on defence, but they’ve been good so far. No reason for them to continue.

 

(4) Sidney Crosby needs to be a better leader than the handful of leaders Detroit possesses. Nick Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Chris Chelios, Darren McCarty… they’ve all been around the bend and they have all those rings. Sid the Kid needs to be even better.

 

(5) The 1-2-2 defensive system has to shut down the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler and a defence that moves the puck very quickly. This will be a different assignment than the Pens faced against Philly.

 

(6) Get more chances and score more goals. Sounds simple, but this time it’s true. Detroit won’t waste its sweat equity running the Penguins the way Philadelphia did. The Red Wings are a smarter team with more finesse. Despite Pittsburgh’s vaunted, much-publicized, defensive “system,” this series will be about offence.

 

(7) Outwork the Wings. Again, it sounds simple, but it’s not easy. Granted, if the Wings get ahead, say, 3-0 or 4-1, they often take their foot off the gas. But why wait? Pittsburgh needs to get ahead 3-0 — not fall behind 3-0 and hope Detroit kicks back — and they can do it by outworking a team that hasn’t been outworked yet.

 

The fact Pittsburgh is bigger and younger and that, so far at least, their goaltending has been better, means the Penguins have a great chance to win this series. 

 

But I still believe it’s Detroit’s time and will stick with my original prediction — Detroit in six games.

 



Why I like the Red Wings to win the 2008 Stanley Cup final

ChrisChelios Why I like the Red Wings to win the 2008 Stanley Cup finalThere is little doubt that most Canadian hockey fans — and perhaps just plain old hockey fans in general — have fallen in love with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Most polls out there would suggest that the majority of fans in this country will be cheering wildly for the Pens, although not necessarily booing Detroit at the same time.

 

It’s pretty hard not to like the Wings, and most fans know that they’re in for a great Stanley Cup final regardless of which team wins. While most fans are cheering for the younger, although only equally as exciting Penguins, I continue to have a problem picking Pittsburgh to win the series.

 

In fact, I look at Pittsburgh as the 1983 Edmonton Oilers. Oh, man, they were good, but they just weren’t quite ready to unseat the New York Islanders as masters of hockey’s domain. The Isles beat the Oil in ’83, but Edmonton came back to create a dynasty of its own starting in 1984.

 

The Penguins have a chance to be a hockey dynasty. But not just yet.

 

Here’s why I like the Red Wings…

 

(1) They have 11 guys who have won the Cup before and in total, they have 24 rings in their locker room.

 

(2) The Wings are the President’s Trophy winners which means they’ve been at the top of their game for an entire season and for three rounds of the playoffs. Just like the Oilers in 1983, a team that went 11-1 through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Pittsburgh has played only 14 games (12-2) to reach the final. Trouble was, the Oilers lost that final in ’83 and so, too, will the Pens in ’08. 

 

(3) The Wings are considerably better — not just a little better but considerably better — than the three teams Pittsburgh beat to reach the final.

 

(4) Defensively, Detroit is the only team with the ability to shut down Pittsburgh’s high-powered offence. Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Nicklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski can shut down Pittsburgh’s two potent top lines.

 

(5) Detroit can score. Sure, the Pens have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Marian Hossa, but Detroit has Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen (if he’s healthy). The two teams match up nicely, but Pittsburgh’s defensive units will have their hands full with the Detroit forwards.

 

(6) Detroit has home ice advantage and they don’t lose at home very often. 

 

(7) The Wings are in the final for the fifth time in 13 years. They have more experience (46-year-old Chris Chelios has two Cups and virtually a lifetime of experience) and more poise. Not to mention all those rings.

 

OK, so I worry about Chris Osgood and I wonder if the Detroit power-play is as good as the Pittsburgh power-play, but that’s all I worry about.

 

Pittsburgh will start reeling off a few Cups — next year. This year, the Red Wings win in six.



The best of the best on display. The 2008 Stanley Cup final.

Finally. After a couple of days of annoyance, the Detroit Red Wings finally disposed of the upstart Dallas Stars and will now meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final.

 

Monday night in Dallas, the Red Wings blasted the Stars 4-1 as former Winnipeg Jet, Dallas Drake, had a goal and an assist. Detroit took out the Stars in six games and now the Stanley Cup final will begin this Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena (all games are in the evening and all games will be on CBC).

 

For a Winnipegger, the Wings-Dallas series was kind of eerie. Back in 1996, the Jets played the Red Wings in what turned out to be Jets’ final playoff series in the NHL.

 

In Game 5 of that year, the Jets went into Detroit trailing three-games-to-one and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin stood on his head to send the series back to Winnipeg for Game 6. In Game 6, Detroit shredded the Jets, beat them 4-1 and ended the series — and the Jets NHL tenure — in six games.  

 

So what happens in 2008? Trailing 3-1, Marty Turco goes back into Detroit, stands on his head and forces a Game 6. In Game 6, Detroit shreds the Stars, wins 4-1 and closes out the series in six games. And 39-year-old Dallas Drake, who was on the ice for the Jets in 1996, scores a goal and adds an assist for the Red Wings.

 

Oh, what could have been (if Gary Filmon’s P.C. government of the day had a collective brain bigger than a walnut).

 

As it is, there is something special on the horizon. 

 

Granted, it took a bit longer than we anticipated, but the Stanley Cup final is perfect. Wings-Penguins is just as it should be.

These are the two best teams in hockey. The Red Wings are the President’s Trophy winners and the Penguins have required only 14 games to go three rounds in the playoffs in order to reach the final. This is Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Gonchar and Hossa against Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Lidstrom and, hopefully, Franzen. This is hockey.

We’ll talk more about these two teams this week. The final doesn’t start until Saturday. But make no mistake, this is the best final fans could have anticipated. In fact, it just might be the best final in decades.

 



Will officiating ever change? Or do we need video replay for everything?

I’m a video replay proponent. After a life of playing, watching, coaching, writing, broadcasting and complaining about sports, I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t anyone, anywhere, who can officiate any sporting event properly, at any time. 

 

Can’t be done.

 

There are no good officials. They are all bad. It’s just that some are worse than others. When an official once asked me during a basketball game (he was pissed off, by the way), “What do you want? For all of us to go home so you’re left calling your own fouls?” My response was swift and to the point. “Yes. Save us all a lot of aggravation and get your ass out of here.”

 

Sadly, he wouldn’t leave.

 

Even in this world of performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals, I still believe most athletes are invariably honest while most officials either don’t have a clue or are just plain crooked. If you left it up to the athletes, they could could call the games themselves and be (a) a lot more accurate and (b) a lot more honest.

 

Case in point, Wednesday night in Dallas.

 

There was Red Wings’ agitator, Tomas Holmstrom, stationed where he always is, right in front of a goaltender, when Pavel Datsyuk ripped a shot past Marty Turco. It was clearly a goal, 1-0 Detroit.

 

But that’s when Kelly Sutherland decided that it was a good time to wave it off and say Holmstrom was in the crease.

 

There were blind people who saw it differently, but Sutherland stuck to his guns. It was, clearly, one of the worst calls in playoff history, but he was sticking to it. Of course, he could. You can’t use replay on an “in the crease” call.

 

Oh, how convenient. This call is based completely on a referee’s discretion. Period. 

 

Interestingly, later in the game, there was little doubt Loui Eriksson was in the crease when Stephane Robidas shot the puck at Chris Osgood and Eriksson just changed places in the crease to pop in the rebound. This time, Sutherland let it go. In the old days of makeup calls, Sutherland would have disallowed both but in today’s NHL, two wrongs don’t make a right but a dozen or so, do.

 

“Kelly’s a good referee, he just blew the call. That’s life,” Wings coach Mike Babcock told the assembled media during the post-game news conference. “But make no mistake, these officials meet before games and talk about players. The fact it was Holmstrom near the crease meant at least one goal would be disallowed.”

 

I’m not going to jump to conclusions and say the fix was in. Frankly, I don’t care. But to say Sutherland allowed a pre-game meeting to get in the way of his good judgment is probably true. After all, Sutherland was as close as he could possibly be to Holmstrom without getting hit by Datsyuk’s shot. It was such an egregiously bad call that it shed a nasty light on the entire NHL. Can anyone say WWE?

 

There is now little question that “in the crease” calls need to be reviewed. If this one had been reviewed, it would have counted and Sutherland wouldn’t have looked like (a) an idiot, (b) Blind Pugh or (c) a fixer.

 

Fortunately, Sutherland’s call affected the outcome of only one game, not an entire series. The Wings should close this thing out on Saturday, anyway.

 

However, in such times as these calls become important (like overtime in Buffalo in 1999), it would be best if the NHL let replay — or better stated, the truth — decide the outcome. 

 

Obviously when a bunch of guys in striped shirts — oh yes, guys who try to do the best they can — try to do it alone, it just doesn’t work.

 



“Big European” Red Wings look like early Cup favourites.

At the Manitoba Writers Guild book awards at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Saturday night — where my book, “The Winnipeg Jets: A Celebration of Professional Hockey in Winnipeg” lost Winnipeg book of the year to a communist rant by lefty Godfather Roland Penner — a handful of people in Tweed jackets who said haughtily “I’m not a hockey fan but…” asked me who’d win the Stanley Cup.

 

I said, without hesitation, the Detroit Red Wings. I either got a surprised look or a really surprised look. One woman, who appeared as if she’d been caught in the headlights said, “Oh, I didn’t know Detroit still had a team.” Tells you how little our literary crowd knows about, ahhh, umm, anything at all, I guess.

 

Anyway, I wasn’t kidding. After what I watched on Saturday afternoon, this Red Wings outfit is clearly the best team remaining in the post-season.

 

After all, the Wings didn’t just beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 on Saturday, they eviscerated them 5-1. Outshot them 40-20 (and Colorado blocked 15 more shots to Detroit’s four), outhit them and completely outplayed them. That was as solid a performance by one team as we’ve seen in the playoffs this season, simply because the Wings beat a good team in the process. 

 

No, this wasn’t the Nashville Predators, a marginal collection of has-beens and might-bes who were coaxed into the playoffs by Barry Trotz, the best coach in the game. This was the Colorado Avalanche, a team made up of great and near-great players such as John-Michael Liles, Joe Sakic (who can still play), Milan Hejduk, Paul Stastny, Jordan Leopold, Adam Foote and Ryan Smyth.

 

Yeah, they’d be better with Peter Forsberg, but not that much better.

 

In Game 1 of the series, the Wings built a 4-1 lead and then took their collective foot off the gas. It was a game the Wings completely controlled. They built the 4-1 lead and they let Colorado back in the game when they, the Wings themselves,  started coasting late in the second period. 

 

Saturday, the Wings didn’t let up. They outshot Colorado 10-4 and 22-6 in the first two periods and while Colorado had more shots in the third (10-8), the Avs didn’t have but one good scoring chance and they converted on that one good scoring chance — but the score was already 4-0.

 

The big star was Johan Franzen, one of the Wings’ “big Europeans.” At 6-foot-3, 220-pounds they call him “the Mule,” but he plays like a thoroughbred.

 

Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Kronvall, Tomas Holmstrom, Jiri Hudler, Pavel Datsyuk, Nick Lidstrom and Valterri Flippula were damn good, too.

 

Remember, these Wings play “big, European hockey,” and this year it could be unbeatable. They are large, fast, skilled and tough and if they stay awake for 10 more wins, they’ll win the Stanley Cup in a romp.