Zetterberg and the Wings give doubters something to choke on
So the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs are complete and the last team standing is the Detroit Red Wings. They have successfully defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4 games to 2 (Sorry Malkin but it is not 1-0 and game two is not tomorrow. Just because you show up in game 6 it doesn’t mean the previous 5 games don’t count). Congratulations to them on winning the 11th Staley Cup in their history and in doing so putting an end to the questions surrounding their playoffs abilities. But my question is why was there ever really any doubt in their post season performances? They have now won 4 Stanley Cups in the past 11 seasons. The only other team in the four major North American sports leagues (NHL, MLB, NBA, NFL) to win that same number of championships is the San Antonio Spurs (and the Lakers are looking to do the same if they can defeat the Celtics in this years finals). How can such an accomplishment be achieved by a team labeled as playoff chokers? Now i understand that in the past four seasons the red wings may have bowed out of the “2nd season” earlier than expected after finishing atop the Western Conference, but in a 30 team league where no game is a guarentee and everyone is battling for the same reward at the end of the season, you can not expect the same team to win the Cup every year, nor can you feel that the team that comes in first in the regular season should undoubtebly win the Cup. If that was the case then we would not need to play the 4 rounds of best of seven series’ that make the playoffs what they are. There are always teams that rise to the occasion or get hot in the playoffs and that is the beauty of sports. Now with that being said, the wings may have had disappointing endings in the past four years, but just look at what they all have in common. In the ’07 playoffs they lost to Anaheim, the eventual champions. In ’06 they were defeated by the Oilers who would go on to lose in the finals to Carolina in 7 games. In ’04 (’05 was a lockout year) they lost to Calgary in the second round. The Flames lost in the finals that year to the Tampa Bay Lightning. And in ’03 the Wings, suffering from an ’02 Stanley Cup hangover, would lose to the Ducks in the first round, and guess who ended up representing the West in the finals before losing in 7 ot the Devils? Yes, those same Ducks. What becomes evident here is that the wings consistently reach the finals (and win) else they will lose to the team that will end up going to the finals (this can become a good betting strategy in the playoffs for years to come. wink, wink). All that i am trying to say is that this is a team that CAN win in the playoffs and they have repeatedly proven it, despite the many doubters that dont want to believe so. In a sport of such parity, they continue to win. Before the lockout, everyone bombarded them with criticism stating that they bought their championships (like the leafs, avelanche, stars, flyaers, rangers, etc. weren’t trying to do the same). Well they still won. But then came the lockout and after that the salery cap was introduced. That was supposed to be the end of the spending advantage for the red wings, and with it their fall from grace. Instead they just became more dominant as their superior playing ability, drafting skills and player development helped them remain on top of the league while their main competitors (in the standings and on the market) fell hard. Teams such as the leafs, flyers, and avalanche have all fell on hard times in comparison to their pre-lockout days but the wings just keep chuging on in an even more dominating fashion. They have found a pool of wealth in Sweden and the emergence of young great players such as Zetterberg, Franzen, Datsyuk and Kronwall along with great veterans like Draper, Lidstrom and Rafalski have Detroit fans celebrating in the streets today as the Cup goes through. With this being said there is just one more comment that needs to be made. In today’s Toronto Star there was an article titled “King Henrik of Hockeytown“. In the article written by Damien Cox he states that Hank Zetterberg’s performance in the playoffs has earned him recognition and respect in the hockey world and he should now be seen as a top ten player in the league. Maybe even a top 5 player. Maybe top 5? After seeing what he has done, i would think that many would question whether he should be considered the number one player. Cox names Crosby, Jagr, Iginla, Ovechkin and Lecavalier as other possible suitors. I would say that Zetterberg has proven his abilities to be higher than most of those listed. Not only did he show that he can shut down Crosby (Sid was not much of a factor in Detroit when matched up against Henrik) but in last years playoffs he did the same to the mighty Iginla, continuously frustrating him. He not only stops the oppositions best, but he also does his own scoring. The only one who can stop him is himself at times when he overfocuses on defense. If i had to rank the top 5 forwards in the league, heres how i would go about doing so: 1. Crosby 2. Zetterberg 3. Ovechkin 4. Iginla 5. Lecavalier What do you think?