This one hurt, both literally and figuratively.
Game 7s are always tough to handle, especially when it's your team involved. The Wings and their momentum went up against the Sharks and their history, and a 10 minute stretch in the first period of being out-skated by the Sharks sealed their fate.
The Wings had killed off eleven straight penalties, but Devin Setoguchi broke that streak when he took a cross-ice pass from Joe Thornton and buried it past Jimmy Howard, and the Sharks had the all-important first goal. The Wings had a couple of power plays that they failed to score on, and with our old friend the Budd Lynch goal reared its ugly head when Logan Couture pressured Henrik Zetterberg, who gave the puck right to the pseudo-rookie and roofed one by Howard. The Sharks controlled the play throughout the first, and went into the dressing room leading 2-0.
Follow the jump for the rest of the highlights and the analysisHenrik Zetterberg got the Wings back to within a goal when he took a pass on a 3-on-2 from Valtteri Filppula, cut to the middle and put a backhand up and over Antti Niemi to atone for his earlier giveaway.
The third was the most heart-stopping period I've ever experienced. The Sharks had a post and another great chance, but it was Patrick "Gutless" Marleau that picked up the garbage after his linemates did everything, and the Sharks restored their 2-goal lead. Not to be denied, Pavel Datsyuk proved he was the best player in this series for the googlieth time by making a shot that no goalie in the world would have saved. As hard as the Wings tried, they were unable to get that third goal, and the final buzzer sounded, ending the Wings' season.
I've been doing bullet points all season, but that's not going to happen here. The hows and whys of this game are irrelevant at this point. There's no Player of the Game tonight; the entire team deserves our praise.
First, to the San Jose Sharks and their fans: a sincere congratulations. There were a lot of people who questioned the mental toughness of the Sharks prior to this game, and they went out and proved the naysayers wrong. The Sharks are a damn good team. Congratulations and good luck against Vancouver.
There will be post-mortems done in the next couple of days. We'll analyze what went wrong, and why the Wings fell short of their goal of winning the Stanley Cup. Right now, while I'm supremely disappointed in the outcome of this series, that doesn't take away how proud I am of this team. The way they battled back when just about everyone left them for dead still gives me goosebumps.
I'll be honest; when the series was 3-0 (and even 3-1), I was fully prepared for the Wings to lose the series, and one of the things I was going to write about was the loss of the Wings' "mystique". However, if I were to say that the Wings don't have the same aura around them they once did, I'd be lying to myself. The Wings looked down and out, yet here they were, playing a game that very few people thought was actually going to happen. They did it because they remembered that they are all Red Wings, and Red Wings never give up, they never say die, and they persevere until the end.
Think about it: no Johan Franzen, the team's leading goal scorer: they battled. They lost Todd Bertuzzi midway through the first period, and they battled. They lost Dan Cleary due to a hit from his own teammate, and they contunued to battle. They were missing an entire second line, and yet they were one shot away from tying this game against a good team. This is not an excuse; this is fact.
It's a shame it had to end this way. I wish I was going to spend tomorrow going over stats and researching the Canucks and how the Wings stacked up against them. Instead, tomorrow will be a day of reflection, thinking about the good and bad of this past season. There were revelations and disappointments, and we will go over all of it.
To the Wings; thank you for a hell of a ride. It ended a little quicker than we wanted it to, but the way you played right up until the end showed a ton of guts, and made every single fan out there proud to call themselves a Red Wing fan. You acquitted yourselves with heart, class and dignity. It will be an interesting summer, but we'll all be ready to go in October as we start another run at Cup #12.