Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Red Wings Rout Out Of The Blue

I figured the Red Wings might win another game or two during their Western Conference finals playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. I even figured they had an outside chance of winning the series.
But 5-0? In Anaheim? Come on. Are you serious? Wow.
Take bigger, stronger, tougher, faster out of the equation. You know, the Ducks’ strengths. There are times when the Red Wings’ skill is just overwhelming and, frankly, breathtaking. Their victory Tuesday was such an example. The Red Wings did all the nuts and bolts things necessary to win a road playoff game. They were stout defensively. Dominik Hasek made several testy, key saves early in the game. They took care of the puck. The icing on the cake was the beauty of their passing. In order to beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere, you have to get him moving side-to-side. The Red Wings did so brilliantly with their cross-ice passing Tuesday.
Two young forwards have really emerged during these playoffs - Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen. When Filppula is on the ice, good things happen. He got a lot - a goal and an assist -done during his 13 minutes on the ice Tuesday. Franzen, who is also tough and skilled, had a goal. Tomas Holmstrom continues to take a licking - and keeps on ticking. He has been the Red Wings’ most valuable forward during the playoffs. Look what they were like without him during the San Jose series? The Red Wings MVP overall is Nicklas Lidstrom. He is tied for third in scoring during the playoffs - amazing for a defenseman. Compare him to Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer, who has completely stopped playing defense, and it is apparent just how solid Lidstrom is. He is clearly the NHL’s best defenseman - including over the Ducks’ Chris Pronger.
An underrated aspect to what the Red Wings are accomplishing is containing the opposition’s top forwards. In the opening round, they hamstrung Calgary’s Jarome Iginla. In the second round, it was San Jose’s Patrick Marleau. This series, it is Teemu Salanne.
Especially without Niklas Krowall and Mathieu Schneider, I honestly don’t know how the Red Wings keep doing this. They have found this magic touch and a will that hasn’t been apparent for awhile. This team is two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup finals - and six victories from taking the Stanley Cup title for the fourth time in 11 years. What seemed improbable has turned to entirely possible. The Red Wings are 10-5 in these playoffs. They have a winning record on the road. They find a way to win.

(For my thoughts on the Pistons, please read my column at "sports columns" on website or in the print edition of the newspaper - Caputo)

Random thoughts

- There you go. That is the outing we were looking for from Justin Verlander. When the Tigers needed it the most, he delivered a tremendous start Tuesday. He threw 120 pitches, mixing them well. He fought out of jams, which isn’t easy against the Red Sox potent lineup at Fenway Park. He also gave the Tigers a little breathing room in this series. Verlander might make the All Star Game this season. And he just might be on the verge of becoming baseball’s next great pitcher. The kid is that good.

- The problem when they essentially ban fighting in a league - like they did in the NBA - is it leads to far more cheap shot artists. What is the deterrent? They don’t have to fight.
And surprisingly, the biggest cheap shot team in the NBA is San Antonio. Talk about thugs. The performance by Bruce Bowen and the rest of the Spurs against Phoenix is a black eye on the league.

- I thought of the color teal and the 1990s when I found out the Mid-Continent Conference, of which Oakland University is a member, is changing its name to the Summit Conference. It is like the "Horizon" League. Give me a break. Is this college sports or "Color Me Beautiful?" What's next? The Sunset Conference? I like the nickname Mid Con. It had a nice ring to it and had been around forever.


Anonymous Chief said...

C'mon Book,

No mention of an embarassing Pistons loss? That was brutal. Terrible D and putrid offense. The Pistons are phonies.

9:29 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

The Pistons were bad, but I used the blog today to comment about the Red Wings game because my column was about the Pistons (see "sports columns" or the print edition of The Oakland Press). They had the Bulls and they let up on them. The Bulls shot well, but the Pistons didn't play any defense. The Pistons never make it easy. I still think they will win it.

9:42 AM 
Anonymous Chief said...

Another thing Book. Verlander has a much stronger mental game than Bonderman. After a bad pitch or a few hits he walks behind the mound and composes himself. The quick pace and not shaking off the catcher are other things I notice. His entire approach is very steady and consistent.

10:30 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

It is amazing how much poise and feel for pitching he has for someone who has that kind of arm strength and is that kind of athlete. He is exceptional.

11:02 AM 
Blogger Fred C. Brill said...


Boston is the AL team to beat. They are at this point the team to grade our boys by.

And so far, so good.

But if the baseball gods were truly on our side like last year, we would have Lidezma and Rodney out, and Bondy, Zumaya and Rogers would be healthy.

What's the going sacrafice to a baseball god these days?

11:39 AM 
Anonymous Danny said...

Pat, on board with you on Verlander. Reminded a lot of the way Jack Morris was able to come in and stop losing streaks and put everyone at ease. Strong and dominating. Got to be the best he has pitched up here. No walks, no getting upset and overthrowing. Truly amazing outing. Plus we got to see Rodney field. I can temporarily forgive the fielding if he stays away from the walks. No walks all day? Cool!

I am clueless with the Pistons. Read your column. Are all the games going to be blowouts? Pistons may not be as good as they think they are.

Gotta get some rest here and watch four games today! :-)


11:40 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred C Brill,
LOL about the baseball gods thing...they do seem to exist. The one thing the Tigers have going for them is a very good team. If they can weather the storm early this season, and avoid late injuries, they will be all right. It's better to get those injuries out of the way sooner instead of later (remember Polanco last season?)

12:05 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Right on about Verlander and Morris. Two peas in a pod athletically and in terms of competitiveness. Morris threw very hard, but they didn't have the Jugs gun on every pitch back then. He also, like Verlander, was just a terrific all-around athlete. Verlander has a chance to be just as good, maybe even better, if he avoids injury.

12:07 PM 
Anonymous Marty said...

The Mid-Continent Conference is changing its name? That is funny, because the only reason the other MCC (Midwestern Collegiate Conference) changed its name was to avoid confusion with the Mid Continent Conference.

9:12 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

LOL... Thing is, Summit Horizon - the descriptive conferences.

11:47 AM 

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