Key Play Breakdown: The New New Colossus
Welcome to our KPB from History where we’ll look back at the plays that made the Wings what they are today.
Welcome to our first Key Play Breakdown from History. Today we’ll go over the footage on a developing play for a goal that forever shaped Red Wings history. If you got past the title and the banner pic without figuring it out, here’s what we’ve got today:
THE GOAL COUNTS! THE GOAL COUNTS! THE GOAL COUNTS!
It’s not the most-important goal in Red Wings history nor is it the best-placed in the timeline of the series, but this goal scored by Brendan Shanahan on May 29th 2002 makes such a beautiful turning point to a number of narratives from this era of hockey. This marker served as the final crook in the road before the end of the rivalry between the Red Wings and Avalanche which had started six years earlier.
For a person made a fan by the rivalry and who had so much emotionally riding on “the good guys” coming out on top, this goal was The Ring dropping into the fires of Mount Doom while the Death Star exploded to the sound of Ivan Drago hitting the canvas just before Tony Stark’s finger snaps.
Sure, there was more to finish the story afterwards (to include a super-satisfying montage of goals in the very next game to close out the series), but this tally ended Patrick Roy’s torment of Red Wings fans. The best part? he did it to himself.
The (Narrative) Setup
You remember that the Wings won the cup this year with that stacked-full-of-Hall-of-Famers-roster which makes jealous crybabies and self-conscious wannabes talk about how it doesn’t really count because that team spent just over today’s salary floor in an uncapped era, but the lead in to this game was not a fun time.
Detroit was heading into Denver facing elimination against one of history’s best goalies who was as-on his game as we had ever seen him. This series was going to decide which team was going to get to move on and beat the snot out of Carolina for the cup. Detroit had won two cups in this era and so had the Avalanche (including the previous year’s). Losing this series meant handing the Avalanche not only the head-to-head lead in Cups during the rivalry, but also making them the most-recent winners of back-to-back championships.
Just as expected, the first period was a continuation of game five. Detroit simply Could. Not. Solve. Patrick Roy. Happiness was but a distant memory and the dynasty was to be dissolved before it could ossify. The Wings poured it on for much of the opening frame only to be frustrated again and again.
The (Play) Setup
With time winding down in the period, the Wings have an offensive zone faceoff. Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic tie up off the draw and Greg De Vries is the first player in to sweep it back for his partner Rob Blake, who gets chased by Sergei Fedorov into playing it back for De Vries. Yzerman pressures in the corner forcing a dump up the boards to Peter Forsberg who is stepped up on by Fredrik Olausson. Forsberg tries to pitch it past the Wings’ defenseman up to Sakic, but the puck is played back in where it trickles just past an outreaching Fedorov and towards the front of the net where Yzerman is the first man to get there off the boards. Patrick Roy is caught too far to poke-check it and sprawls to block the bottom of the net. Yzerman recognizes this and pulls it to his backhand only to see the opportunity disappear thanks to a well-placed hook by Rob Blake
As the puck goes to the corner, Yzerman returns the favor on Blake by grabbing a hold of him approaching the boards. Fedorov comes in to help, but Blake wins the race and muscles the puck up the boards trying to clear the danger.
Milan Hejduk isn’t able to get to the puck up the boards; this allows Nicklas Lidstrom to immediately take a shot to keep the puck low and in front of the net. Sakic gets a small piece of it and De Vries gets his foot on the puck before it reaches the front, but neither can prevent it from getting down low. The puck bounces up to Yzerman off the defenseman’s foot and he’s able to glove it down to himself as he crosses in front of Roy. Colorado’s netminder again finds himself sprawling as Steve Yzerman crosses in front of him for a scoring opportunity. This time however, without Rob Blake to save him, Roy bails himself out with a point-blank glove save on Yzerman.
Of all the people in the world impressed by Patrick Roy’s acrobatic save on Steve Yzerman, none is more-impressed than Roy himself. In an ill-advised attempt at showmanship, Roy raises his glove high in the air to show off that he has the puck and to request the ref stop the play so Roy can kiss a mirror or write himself a loveletter.
The only catch here is the one Roy no longer has the puck in his glove. Roy’s teammates are still marveling at the job half-done and nobody bothers to box out the on-rushing Red Wings players, either Brendan Shanahan or Sergei Fedorov. Both realize the puck is loose, but it’s Shanahan’s stick that pokes the puck home to give Detroit a 1-0 lead.
The (Narrative) Goal
I cannot adequately explain the passage of time on this play. You can witness by watching the video above and run a stopwatch to say how much time passed between Roy stopping that second Yzerman chance and the puck crossing the goal line, but I will tell you that as a fan watching that play develop, it aged me. I saw entire civilizations fall and be reborn during the intervening moments. I visibly aged in that time. I saw a bleak future with no hope for a rebirth of joy turn into a bright and glorious heyday for all mankind.
...and I still realized it was a goal before Patrick Roy did.
Credit Where Credit is Due
It’s fun watching old hockey games with all the hooking and holding that goes uncalled, but the positional play by both Yzerman and Fedorov to keep pressure on their checks without giving easy escape routes is what develops this play as it does. Olausson’s pinch on Forsberg early on is well-timed, as is Shanahan’s rush to the net-front from what had essentially been his third-man-high position for most of the play. I also very much miss the quick decision-making of Nick Lidstrom on Detroit’s blueline. Lidstrom doesn’t waste time trying to make the perfect play, but ends up doing so anyway with a well-placed shot that gets the puck to where it needs to go.
In the end, it would take another game to finish off this series and I’d be lying if I were to say I was entirely confident heading towards that game seven. I was very much afraid that Roy’s response to his gaffe was to come out even MORE-unbeatable than he had looked.
Fortunately, that worry didn’t last too long.