Today is a dark day in Detroit. The Detroit Red Wings lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, 2-1. The Penguins won their first Stanley Cup since 1992, and became the first team in professional sports to win a championship in a Game 7 on the road since the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Orioles in Baltimore in Game 7 of the World Series 30 years ago. The Wings came up just short in their bid to win back-to-back Stanley Cups for the second time in the last 12 years. But let's be clear on one thing: Ricky Bobby didn't know what he was talking about. The Wings may not have won the Cup, but they had a great run and did Detroit proud.
The Wings seemed to sleep-walk through the first 35 minutes of this game. It didn't help that Marc-Andre Fleury was a wall in net, making several big saves. Maxime Talbot scored two goals in the second period, the first on a Brad Stuart give-away, and the second on a beautiful wrist shot over Chris Osgood's left shoulder on a two-on-one. The Red Wings put an all-out assault on the Pens net the last 25 minutes of the game, but were not able to tie the score. Jonathon Ericsson scored from the point with just over 6 minutes left to make it 2-1, but Henrik Zetterberg rang a shot off the crossbar with under a minute and a half left, and Fleury made a couple big saves with under 5 seconds remaining on the clock, the last a lunging save as he dove across the crease to stop a Lidstrom shot.
Marian Hossa is already taking criticism and cheap shots for signing with the Wings in the offseason after losing in the Cup Finals last year with Pittsburgh, but I don't think that anyone can fairly attack his decision or deem it a bad one considering the guy came a shot off the crossbar away from possibly winning a Stanley Cup. Sure, his old team beat the Wings, but I don't think the guy can be second-guessed. No team has a better chance of winning a Cup year in and year out than the Red Wings. And just a few years ago, Pittsburgh was on the brink of losing their hockey team. Of course, with a core of Crosby, Malkin and Fleury, if the Pens can keep their youngsters together they will be good for several years. But the Red Wings also have a tremendous core of young players, and all reports have Hossa signing a long term contract with the Wings soon. I doubt that the Game 7 loss will change that. If Hossa stays in Detroit, he will have more chances at getting his Slovakian hands on that elusive Cup.
It will be an interesting off-season for the Wings. The bulk of their roster should be coming back. However, they have some aging players whose fates next year are unclear. Of course, Chris Chelios' career with the Wings should be over. I like the guy as a player and respect what he's done, but he should be drinking prune juice and playing shuffleboard instead of taking up a roster spot. Captain Nick Lidstrom is still playing at a high level and should have at least one more good year left in him, but he is approaching the age of 40, and he does not strike me as someone who will hang around as a Black Ace until he is 64 like Chelios. He will probably retire while he is still playing at a reasonably high level. Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Tomas Holmstrom are all nearing the end of wonderful careers, and Brian Rafalski may only have one or two more decent seasons up his sleeve. Chris Osgood played tremendous hockey throughout the playoffs, but he will undoubtedly think long and hard this offseason about whether or not he wants to return for another season which can easily exceed 100 games if the Wings make another run in the playoffs.
Regardless of the changes made in the off-season, the Wings had another great year in 2008-'09. They won a Central Division title, earned the #2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Kronwall form a solid core that should keep the Wings in the hunt for a Cup for the next several years. Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Jonathon Ericsson are youngsters that hold much promise, and could contribute for years to come. The best franchise in all of sports is not going anywhere.
The Detroit Red Wings go for their 5th Stanley Cup in the last 12 years tonight in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Regardless of the outcome of tonight's game, (8pm ET on NBC), the Red Wings franchise of the last 15 years has officially become a dynasty. In addition, they have officially become the best franchise among the 4 major professional sports leagues. Sports Illustrated stated as much in their June 1st edition (check out the piece on the Wings' scouting in Europe over the last 20 years and their subsequent rise to prominence.) In the last 15 years, the Patriots have been the class of the NFL, winning 3 Super Bowls. The Yankees have won 3 World Series in this period of time, while the Spurs and the Lakers have won 4 NBA titles during this stretch. (I realize the Lakers still have one game to win to procure their fourth, but this is a done deal- the Magic can get their fishing rods out of the attic, because the NBA Finals are over. And if their wives or girlfriends are around, they may want to make sure that they grab the right box labeled "camping gear".) But no team has been as dominant in their league as the Red Wings have been in the NHL. And one could argue that this is all the more impressive when you consider that there is much less difference in payrolls in the NHL than in the other 3 major sports leagues, and hence more parity.
For the record, I like the Red Wings Dynasty much more than that contrived Aaron Spelling sitcom of the same name from the '80's. I mean, who wants to hang out with a bunch of foul, back-stabbing, gold-digging cougars? Although, is it just me, or do Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin remind anyone of the characters Steven Carrington and Luke Fuller from the show? Anyway, I'd watch Pavel Datsyuk over Linda Collins and her stretched-out face any day of the week.
For a city that has witnessed a lot of success with its professional sports teams, we haven't experienced a whole lot of championship Game 7's in Detroit recently. In fact, Detroit teams have been involved in just 2 in my lifetime. But in this same span of time (and I'm no spring chicken), we have NEVER HOSTED a championship Game 7 in the city of Detroit. So, it goes without saying that we're pretty excited about tomorrow night's Stanley Cup Final Game 7 between the defending champion Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena, which gets underway at 8pm ET on NBC.
The Wings have been involved in 19 Game 7's in the illustrious history of the organization, winning 12 of those series. They are 5-3 in Game 7's since 1987. The Wings are 3-3 all-time in Stanley Cup Finals that went a full 7 games. This is the first of 6 Stanley Cup Finals in the last 14 years for the Red Wings that is going to 7 games. The Detroit Tigers have played in 2 World Series in the last 25 years, but neither went past 5 games. The Tags are 2-3 all-time in Game 7's, all of which were in World Series play.
So that brings us to the Detroit Pistons and our 2 and only 2 championship Game 7's of the last 4 decades for Detroit teams. The Detroit version of the Pistons are 5-5 all-time in Game 7's (their predecessors, the Fort Wayne Pistons, were 0-1). They have been to 5 NBA Finals since 1988, winning 3 titles. However, the 2 NBA Finals that they lost both went to 7 games. Both of these Game 7 losses were absolutely heart-breaking, quite possibly the most devastating losses in my Detroit sports life. Let's take a trip down memory lane:
June 21, 1988; Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers:
The Detroit Pistons had finally gotten past their Eastern Conference arch nemesis, the Boston Celtics, in the Eastern Conference Finals. They ran into the juggernaut that was the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. "Showtime", led by Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, had won 4 NBA titles in the 1980's to this point, including the 1987 Championship. After that title, coach Pat Riley had guaranteed that the Lakers would repeat in 1987-88.
The Pistons surprised the Lakers by winning game one at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, taking advantage of a tired Lakers team that was coming off of consecutive 7 game series against the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. After the Lakers won games 2 and 3, the Pistons won the last two games ever played at the Pontiac Silverdome to head back to L.A. for game 6 up 3-2. Isiah Thomas stepped on Michael Cooper's foot in the third quarter of game 6, severely spraining his ankle, yet he missed only 35 seconds after sustaining the injury before returning to the court with a significant limp. He scored 43 points including 25 in that third quarter, but the Pistons would lose by a point when Jabbar hit two free throws at the end of the game after Bill Laimbeer was whistled for a phantom foul.
Game 7 was a nightmare. The Pistons led by 5 at the half, but during the halftime break Isiah's ankle stiffened up and he played very little during the second half. The Pistons fought back valiantly from a 15 point 4th quarter deficit to make it a one point game in the waning seconds, but after A.C. Green hit a lay-up to make it a 3 point game, fans started to rush the court with several seconds left on the clock, and Zeke was knocked to the court by Magic Johnson as time expired, yet the referees called no foul and did nothing about the fact that the fans had interrupted the game prematurely. The Lakers rushed to the lockerroom to celebrate.
June 23, 2005; Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and the San Antonio Spurs:
The Pistons were the defending NBA champions. The Spurs had won the title in 2003, and this was the first NBA Finals matching the previous 2 champions since 1987 when the Lakers battled the Celtics. The Pistons had a much more difficult path to the Finals, beating Central division rival Indiana in the conference semifinals in 6 games and Shaquille O'Neal and the #1 seeded Miami Heat in 7 games in the conference finals.
The home team won the first 4 games of the series before the Spurs won a pivotal game 5 in Detroit. This was the game when "Big shot Bobby" Horry hit a three pointer from the corner when Rasheed Wallace left him to open to double team the ball in the corner. The Spurs won by a point in overtime. Down 3-2, the Pistons went to San Antonio and won game 6 before a hostile crowd, becoming the first road team to win a game 6 being down 3-2 in an NBA series. Unfortunately, the Spurs pulled out a 7 point win in game 7 by shooting lights-out from three point range. The Pistons core of Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace would return to three more conference finals, but never again to the NBA Finals.
So we need to exorcise the championship Game 7 demons tomorrow night. Ironically, the Tigers start an interleague series in Pittsburgh tomorrow evening. Coincidence? Well, yeah, actually it is. But let's go for the sweep anyway- we can accomplish a lot by doing so, including honoring the 1909 Detroit Tigers who lost a World Series Game 7 to the Pirates.
I regret to inform you that yours truly, Bob Biscigliano will be taking a brief 3 1/2 day leave of absence. Coincidentally, I will be traveling to Pittsburgh today.
Traitor you say?
I swear I would smack you in the face if you dared saying that to my face. I originally planned this trip to be a weekend of seeing my beloved Detroit Tigers play in what I've heard is the beautiful PNC. It's also not a bad chance to see my team dominate a little bit. After all, they are playing the Pittsburgh Pirates (emphasis on the P's). However, due to recent events (Game 6), I will also be in Pittsburgh for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals which is taking place Friday night in Detroit. Therefore, my plans have slightly changed.
In addition to seeing two Tigers games this weekend, it will be my duty as a good samaritan to officially be on suicide watch Friday night after the Red Wings defeat the Penguins. I'm sure I will not be able to stop the couch burning or street riots that may occur, however, I will not let a Penguins fan jump off a bridge into a Pittsburgh river. It's just not worth it.
At the same time, my life will be significantly at risk all weekend long, especially Friday night. I have never packed my bags ready to go on vacation feeling like I'm going off to war. However, that's exactly how this feels like. There's a strong chance I will be mugged, beat up, bombed, raped, or gangbanged. Whatever may happen to me as I drive straight into the thick of the storm, I will wear my classic Stevie Y jersey with great pride and my chin held high. In the words of the great Steve Yzerman, "And for the team, I always tried to do the right thing." The right thing this weekend is representing Detroit proudly in Pittsburgh
So bare with the blog until Monday afternoon; I will be gone until then, hopefully celebrating four victories all at the expense of the city I'm visiting. Hopefully you'll see some content from our other esteemed writers to ease the blow, but they are busy people and I don't know their schedules offhand.
So ladies and gents, until Monday... Detroit4lyfe is in Pittsburgh this weekend! If you are on twitter you can follow my updates, from every time I obnoxiously use "yinz" to every Natty Ice I drink. Either way, enjoy your weekends and Go Detroit!!
That's probably not the first time you've seen a title as cliche as that. However, I will say it's never held more truth than after tonight's dazzling performance by Justin Verlander against the Chicago White Sox.
In recent years, playing the White Sox has been an utter disaster, especially at U.S. Cellular Field. For Justin Verlander, our ace, it has been no different, as he had lost his previous six outings in the Windy City. The White Sox are a hated team for many reasons, but the biggest one of all (aside from A.J. Pierzysnki) is probably the fact that the White Sox (gulp--there goes my pride) have had the Tigers number in the past few years. Okay it's not that bad, but 17-26 (14-25 before this series) is not exactly the type of record you want to boast against your archrivals. Justin Verlander and the Tigers have made a collective effort to say, "recent history schmistory."
Verlander has been pitching like he's got a chip on his shoulder and the Cy Young winner hasn't already been engraved with Zack Greinke's name on it. Over his last eight starts JV has a 1.13 ERA and is 6-0. The stubborn Verlander who once thought he could just show up to pitch on gamedays has changed his entire attitude and now brushes people away when they try to talk to him on days he starts by saying, "Not now chief, I'm in the fuckin' zone." Whatever he's doing differently, it's working.
Tonight was no different as Verlander threw 73% of his 122 pitches for strikes through nine innings, topping it all off with a 98 MPH fastball to strike out Josh Fields, followed by one hell of an emotional Zumaya-esque fist pump. With the complete game victory, Verlander won his 7th straight decision.
Verlander wasn't the only one getting a chance to celebrate and show some emotion tonight. Adam Everett hit a solo shot in the top of the 6th that everyone presumed would be the game winner the way Verlander had been pitching. Well, once he got back to the dugout to be greeted by his teammates, he took his energy to a whole new (slightly disurbing) level. It appears as if he is taking a heavyset air-body by the sides and "thrusting" into "it" with his best sadistic grin and helmet hair.
Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera puts in a new piece of tasty bubbalicious.
Everett almost has that Patrick Bateman American Psycho look to him...you might want to keep Adam away from your children.
Anyway, Everett's home run did not wind up being the game winner as Jim Thome smacked a homer against Verlander in the bottom half of the 7th melting Adam Everett's excitement and making Ryan Raburn's walk with the bases loaded in the top of the 7th the difference maker. 2-1 Tigers, and I'm spent.
With the win the Tigers remain 4 games up on the Twins in the Central with a 33-26 record, just two games back of Boston for the best record in the American League. The Tigers hope to take the 4th game of this five game series tomorrow with the first pitch slated for 2:05 PM EST. After that, it's off to Pittsburgh for a three game interleague series at PNC. Yours truly will be in attendance. G'day and Go Tigers!
The folks in Pittsburgh have been whining all series about why their "beloved" Penguins haven't won the Stanley Cup Finals. (I put beloved in quotations because let's face it, they don't really give a crap about the Pens except when they go deep into the playoffs. The few people I know from Pittsburgh admit whole-heartedly that most people in Pittsburgh know very little about the Penguins.) One thing I've read from Pittsburgh whiners is how Henrik Zetterberg supposedly violated rule 67.4 in game 1 and cost the Pens the game when he piled in between Osgood and the net. Now, first of all, they showed every angle of that scramble in front of the net on NBC, and you could not see Zetterberg actually making direct contact with the puck in any of them. Secondly, even if he did, you have to "gather the puck into your body", grab the puck with your glove, or smother the puck to violate rule 67.4. Zetterberg clearly did none of these things. Finally, even if he HAD done one of these things, the Penguins still would have needed to make the penalty shot, and even then the goal only would have tied the game. So I'm sick of hearing about how Zetterberg's "cheating" cost the Pens the game. The main offendor was smilinlikeabutchersdog.blogspot.com, which by the way, completely stole their entire post from the yahoo blog puckdaddy. (Come on people, giving credit to the other blog for "the vid finds and the quotes" doesn't give you the right to plagiarize. That's unoriginal and sad.)
In any case, I would love to hear the blogs out of Steel Town talk about how Pens defenseman Rob Scuderi lived in the crease in the third period of Game 6. Scuderi made more saves than Fleury in the third period. Most of them were legit, but the last one where he was splayed out in the crease, reaches for the puck not once but twice with an open glove, and makes a kick save followed by hitting the puck with his left glove, was much worse than anything Zetterberg did. I wouldn't even have brought it up if it weren't for the Pittsburgh people whining so pathetically about Zetterberg's actions.
A legendary Game 7 goes down on Friday at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. It's the first Stanley Cup Final Game 7 in Detroit since 1955.
There can be only one meaning behind the phrase, "I'm late," from a woman: She's pregnant. Well, similarly, we're pregnant with links and we need to get them out there to you. Here are your very late Wednesday Winks for 6/10/09.
The funny thing about A.J. Pierzynski and my hatred for him is I get text messages from my few Chicago White Sox fan friends all the time asking me, "What did A.J. ever do to deserve your hate toward him?" My response is always, "he's a douche," because I don't have all the time in the world to go through every single circumstance that makes me hate his guts. Where would I start? His hair? Getting in the face of Michael Barrett after he collided with him at home plate and subsequently getting his lights punched out? His face? Mocking Carlos Zambrano after hitting a bomb off him? ...His hair?
Well, tonight A.J. just provided me with reason number 142,485.
Dontrelle Willis was pitching to him in the bottom of the 4th in a 1-1 game when Willis threw a wild pitch that sailed up and in on Pierzynski. Naturally, A.J. went into douche mode and stared at Willis like it was on purpose. Nevermind that Willis has suffered through massive control problems these past couple years (15 walks in 25 innings this season after today), and in this game he had already thrown a wild pitch in the first inning. On the very next pitch, A.J. got sawed off and grounded out weakly to second base. As he sauntered off the field, A.J. made a point to say a few words to Willis, presumably about the high cheese chin music he was delivered the pitch before:
Dontrelle obviously heard what A.J. had to say and took exception. Below is Dontrelle throwing his hands up in disgust saying, "Douche, I mean dude, don't you know who I am? I'm Dontrelle Willis. I have no idea where the ball is going half the time, that was definitely not on purpose. (But now I wish it was)."
A.J. Pierzynski tried to run off the field and get away with whatever it was he said, like some coward, but Tigers' catcher Gerald Laird was not going to let him get off that easy. He comes in to defend his pitcher like a true teammate:
From the replays, Miguel Cabrera clearly did not see A.J. say anything to Dontrelle. He may have heard something, but I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. That didn't matter. He knew exactly who was involved in this mess and immediately entered the equation to give his best death stare which made Pierzynski cower like an abused doggy.
Once A.J. saw that Dontrelle Willis and the other Tigers were running into the picture, he immediately put his hands up as if he wanted a take back on what he said. It's clear at this point he realizes he's weak and just wants to go back to the dugout in one piece. Meanwhile, Gordon Beckham waits in the wings as he just wants to freaking bat to try and get out from the sub-one hundred batting average hole he finds himself in.
The best part about the benches clearing was probably Joel Zumaya. Zoom was not going to pitch tonight no matter what, so he was in the clubhouse presumably receiving treatment. He was obviously keeping a close eye on the game because he was out on the field, jersey-less, in no time to get a piece of A.J. Pierzynski. Just take a peek at that glare. Looks eerily similar to the one I practice in the mirror every day in case I ever come face to face with Pierzynski:
After things were starting to cool down and the teams were returning to their respective dugouts/locations, the Chicago broadcasters, Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone (who are up there with Pierzynski on the all-time hate list) shower A.J. with (perhaps sarcastic) praise as they blame the entire bench clearing situation on Tigers catcher Gerald Laird. Harrelson also goes on to claim that there's a halo above A.J's head, even though we all know that's just the shine from his dyed hair. A.J. gives his best Keanu Reeves acting to his teammates while swearing, "I didn't do anything, honestly!"
Pierzynski was definitely dome jobbed by the entire thing as he finished the game 0-4 and still as one of baseball's biggest douchebags. Congratulations, A.J.
A lot has been said this entire Stanley Cup Finals series about the rematch. The rematch being the Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins for the second year in a row, with Detroit taking last year's Cup in Game 6 in Pittsburgh. As you all know Detroit has a chance to repeat history and clinch the Stanley Cup with a Game 6 victory in Pittsburgh. That's not the only history they would be repeating, though.
For starters this would be the 12th time the Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup in their illustrious franchise history, and 5th in the last 15 years. The Wings currently stand in third behind only the Montreal Canadians (24) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (13) in all-time Stanley Cup Championships.
Another interesting history note is that nine teams have won back-to-back Stanley Cups in its history. With a win tonight, the Red Wings will win their fourth (fourth!) back-to-back Stanley Cup. Only one team in Stanley Cup history has won more back-to-back championships and that is the Montreal Canadians who have won a ridiculous seven back-to-back Cups (5 in a row at one point and 4 in a row at another point). Toronto has two different strings of three Championships in a row, too.
It's not a given tonight as the Wings will have to play in front of a very lively Melon Arena crowd where the Pens have been just as dominant as the Wings have been on their home ice. Also, the Penguins are coming off the shalacking of a lifetime so they will definitely be playing to prove they won't just roll over after last game's embarassment.
I expect this to be a very good game, but with Datsyuk back in the lineup and making everyone around him better, I fully believe the Red Wings and former-Penguin Marian Hossa will be hoisting the Cup on the Melon Arena ice as Pens fans facepalm in their seats, once again. Wings in 6, Wings tonight, Wings4lyfe!