Are you like me? Are you sick of this stupid lockout and everything associated with it?
You all probably hate reading about the lockout as much as I hate writing about it at this point. The latest news is that the NHLPA offered to meet, and the NHL said that unless they were willing to negotiate off of the NHL's latest proposal, there was nothing to discuss. So we sit and wait, hoping that the two sides can pull their heads out of their collective behinds long enough to get a deal done.
Today we're going to do something a little different. It's no secret that the Red Wings currently own the longest active playoff streak in the NHL at 21 years and counting. It's also no secret that many pundits across the league are likely going to predict that the streak is going to end if and when hockey comes back, mainly due to the departure of Nicklas Lidstrom and the hole he leaves behind on the defense.
If the expected does happen (and I'm not convinced it does, because I don't believe there are 8 teams in the West better than the Wings), we'll be torn between looking at the future and reminiscing about the past.
So today we introduce a fun little series where we look at 21 of the best and worst things over the last 21 seasons. Every day we'll be talking about something different, and what better way to kick things off then by looking at the best and worst goal (non-Yzerman category) of the last 21 seasons.
I say "non-Yzerman category" because any Red Wing fan worth his/her salt knows that Stevie's goal in Game 7 of the WCSF against St Louis in double OT is probably the single most exciting event outside of him actually lifting the Cup since this streak began. I couldn't even begin to link all the stories that have been written about that singular goal, and I would have nothing to add to the conversation other than that it's the closest I've come to losing control of all my faculties since becoming an adult.
Besides Yzerman's GWG, the best goal I have seen in the last 21 seasons was Darren McCarty's goal in Game 4 of the 1997 SCF. Think about everything that was involved in this goal: the game in which it was scored, its importance, who scored it, and the spectacular nature of the goal itself.
Game 4. The Wings are up 3-0 against the Flyers and looking to win their first Cup in 42 years. Lidstrom had scored a softy late in the first period to give the Wings a lead, and then this happened. McCarty takes a pass from Yzerman, skates in on Janne Niinimaa, undresses Niinimaa, then dekes Ron Hextall to give the Wings that all-important insurance (and ultimate GWG). Further consider that the goal-scorer was McCarty, a guy who never scored 20 goals in a single NHL season and was known more for his physical play and fighting ability (right Claude?) than scoring.
I am physically unable to refrain from getting goosebumps or fist-pumping when I see this video. When he scored that goal, I nearly hit my head on the ceiling from jumping so high. I followed that up with a string of obscenities that would make George Carlin spin in his grave.
Honourable Mention: Nicklas Lidstrom's center-ice goal against Dan Cloutier in 2002; half of Pavel Datsyuk's goals.
Despite the successes the Wings have had, it hasn't always been butterflies and unicorns. First round exits, Cup Finals losses, underachieving after awesome regular seasons. With that have come moments in time that we want to forget. Those things that are burned into our memories for all the wrong reasons. They keep us up at night, haunting us even though we know those memories can't hurt us anymore.
Finding one particular goal that was the "worst" in the last 21 seasons was hard. Do I go with Max Talbot's second goal in Game 7 of the 2009 SCF? The meltdown in last year's playoffs against the Predators? Jamie Baker?
Those goals all sucked (and were honourable mentions), but for me the worst goal I've ever witnessed will always be Jamie Langenbrunner's OT goal against Chris Osgood in the 1998 WCF.
(Skip to 6:42 for the unpleasantness)
Osgood had an up-and-down playoff run that year. Strong performances were wiped away with several questionable goals, but this one was the icing on the crap cake. With the Wings 1 goal away from advancing to the SCF, Ozzie lets in an un-screened, un-tipped slap shot from center ice get past him to send the series back to Joe Louis Arena for Game 6. It was the kind of goal that elite goaltenders never let in, especially under those circumstances.
In fairness to Ozzie, he bounced back with a shutout in the next game and was very good in the Finals, earning his first Cup as a starter. But that Langenbrunner goal was a prime example on why the Wings never seemed to fully trust Osgood as their goaltender, and why he was placed on waivers after the Wings acquired Dominik Hasek in the summer of 2001.
Honourable Mention: Jamie Baker vs Osgood in 1994; Adam Deadmarsh in Game 6 of 2001; Petr Sykora in Game 5 3OT of the 2008 SCF; any goal by Claude Lemieux.