Red Wings Steamroller Rolls On

The Red Wings Steamroller Rolls On

6/2/2009

Author:  Matt Gerwitz

U. S. Sports Media, Inc

On the eve of game three of the Stanley Cup Finals, it seems inevitable that the Detroit Red Wings will soon hoist hockey's most beloved trophy for the fifth time in twelve years. This team, like their championship predecessors, seems like a steamroller on ice, a "beat-down" machine that cannot be stopped. Oh, I had high hopes when the playoffs started, but those hopes began to fade as the opponents fell one by one. First it was Columbus who went down, and without much of a fight mind you; Anaheim followed, almost pulling off the victory by taking the Wings to seven games; then came the Chicago Blackhawks who didn't play as well as the statistics indicate.

So here we are, Detroit leading the Penguins 2 games to none as the series heads to Pittsburgh. Sigh.

Look, I'm not a Detroit hater by any means. God bless 'em - they consistently play great hockey year in and year out and contend for the Stanley Cup. Winning the Cup is what it's all about, so the Red Wings are doing their job. I guess I just wish that other organizations would learn from the Red Wings' example and put a better product on the ice. Although I have my own favorite team to root for there is one thing I greatly admire about the Detroit organization, and that is their ability to adapt.

The team of today does not play the same style of hockey as the 1997 team that ended a 55 year championship drought in the Motor City. Back then it was built on speed and deadly accurate shooting. The Russian Five skated circles around opponents while finding the net with apparent ease. Detroit dispatched St. Louis, Anaheim, Colorado and Philadelphia to win it all, with the most impressive feat being the two sweeps against the Ducks and Flyers. The speed and finesse game continued for a few years while the team had the players to do it, but as those players left and were replaced, the team adapted to their new crew.

The 2009 Red Wings aren't necessarily the fastest skaters in the league, but they are among the most disciplined. They choke off center ice like nobody's business, not allowing the opposition to mount a sustainable offense. Henrik Zetterberg is doing a masterful job blanketing Sidney Crosby, and the whole Detroit defense is protecting the net as though they were all goalies. In the offensive zone the wings have a punishing fore check that dares the Penguins to stop them. They shoot early and often knowing that getting the puck to the net will eventually produce goals.

So what about Pittsburgh? I am as disappointed with them as I have been with the rest of Detroit's opponents. They live or die on the backs of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, which is not such a bad thing in the less-than-tough Eastern Conference. But going against the Red Wings they've discovered what it means to be battered and slammed for sixty minutes of hockey. And like Columbus, Anaheim and Chicago before them, they have played timid in both of the first two games.

If the Penguins hope to mount a comeback series win, they need to understand that skate and shoot isn't going to cut it. They need to be just as aggressive, just as stifling at center ice, and just as willing to play hard hitting hockey. They need to play the entire game the same way they played the final four minutes of Sunday's loss. They need to adapt, or the steamroller will finish its job quickly.

Source: http://www.HockeyWeeklyNews.com, U. S. Sports Media, Inc

Matt Gerwitz, Freelance Author of U. S. Sports Media, Inc

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