WOOHOO! Dominant in the regular season, superb again in the postseason, the Detroit Red Wings are headed back to the Stanley Cup finals!
Just when the Red Wings lost consecutive games and were starting to look vulnerable, they bounced back strong in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, getting first-period goals from Kris Draper, Pavel Datsyuk and Dallas Drake on their way to knocking out the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday night.
Now Detroit goes from worrying about becoming the third team to blow a 3-0 series lead to trying to win its fourth championship in 11 seasons. The Red Wings will face the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the first two games at The storied Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The series opens Saturday, with the schedule following a Saturday-Monday-Wednesday pattern.
Detroit will be the home team because it had more regular-season points - most in the league, in fact. The Red Wings are the first recipient of the Presidents' Trophy to play for the Cup since they did so in 2002. That also was the last time they were in the finals.
As good as Detroit was the first 82 games, the Red Wings were even better for much of the last six weeks. They went nearly a month between losses, winning a franchise-record nine straight playoff games. It was the longest run by any team in 15 years and it put them a win away from eliminating the fifth-seeded Stars.
Dallas won Games 4 and 5 by limiting Detroit to a goal each game. The Red Wings exceeded that output in the first period Monday, with all three goals coming on uncontested shots right in front of the net. Henrik Zetterberg added a short-handed goal early in the second period and the series was all but over then.
Detroit's walloping knockout punch shouldn't have been a surprise. The Red Wings beat Nashville 3-0 to end the opening round, then crushed Colorado 8-2 to end the second round. In each game in the regular season, and now in each game of the playoffs, Detroit is performing better and better as a team. Each night, different Red Wings have contributed goals. In the last series against the Colorado Avalanche, Franzen scored more goals than the entire Colorado Team for the entire series. This series, Franzen has been out with injuries, so other players have had to step up.
Through it all, Chris Osgood has been superb. Osgood improved to 10-2 this postseason. It was his 100th career playoff game and his 55th victory - his 48th for Detroit, passing Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk for the franchise record.
Notes: The Red Wings and Penguins did not meet this season. They did the two previous years and Detroit won both. ... This will be the first Detroit-Pittsburgh finals. ... It also will be the first all-American finals since 2003, when New Jersey faced Anaheim.
ELSEWHERE ON THE ICE
Tonya Harding is coming out with a new book, The Tonya Tapes, in which she speaks frankly, if a bit confusingly, about the Tonya and Nancy Scandal. And about being abused during childhood, comtemplating suicide, having a gun placed to her head and getting raped. the book is a compilation of interviews with author Lynda D. Prouse conducted over eight years. In 1994, Harding's then husband Jeff Gillooly, helped plan an assault on Nancy Kerrigan that triggered a melodrama complete with headlines and huge television ratings at the Lillehammer Olympics.
AND OFF THE ICE
Kristi Yamaguchi scored a perfect 60 out of 60 in both her routines last night on Dancing with the Stars. She was far and away the best performer and is 7 points ahead of Christien and 8 points ahead of NFL Man of the Year Jason Taylor. We'll see if the scores hold up after the votes are all tabulated tonight at 9:00 pm on ABC.
Thanks for reading.
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