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Cups are the big parts of Zetterberg's dreams

Friday, 05.29.2009 / 5:52 PM / 2009 Stanley Cup Final: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh

By Larry Wigge - NHL.com Columnist

DETROIT -- Henrik Zetterberg is shifty. He's skilled. He's swift. He's solid and accountable at both ends of the rink. And, oh yes, most of all, Zetterberg is very, very smart ... and that means he wants to win more Stanley Cups.

In preparing for Game 1 of this year's Stanley Cup Final on Saturday in Detroit, the Njurunda, Sweden, native showed off his memory as well when asked about something he said last spring after he scored the winning goal in Game 6 in Pittsburgh and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP, helping the Red Wings win their fourth Cup in 11 years.

"Yeah, I think I said, 'I've won a gold medal and a Stanley Cup. The only thing left is for me to win a Swedish Elite League title.' Is that what you're thinking about?" Zetterberg said.

Exactly.

After pausing for a second or two, he continued, "But I think I also said, 'That will come sometime after I'm finished winning a couple more of these.'"

Zetterberg showed off his quick wit, when he added, "I guess I changed that game plan a little when I signed that new (12-year) contract. It's going to be hard to win that Swedish Elite title, isn't it?

"But then, if Cheli (Chris Chelios) can play at 46, maybe I could still complete that part of my dream in Sweden when I'm in my 40s."

Clearly, Zetterberg's prime concern now is the potential of having to neutralize the one-two up-the-middle punch of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the second-straight year in the Final.

Easier said than done?

"They are two of the best players in the world. Strong. Skilled. Very productive," Zetterberg said. "I think they'll be extra excited about trying to face us again. They'll be a handful the way they've been playing."

But Zetterberg feels he learned how to be better after playing in his first Stanley Cup Final last year.

"I'm more confident, definitely," he said. "I'm ready, no matter what assignment my line gets. I look forward to the challenge."

And he welcomed that challenge on the world stage last year. Zetterberg's 2 goals and 4 assists in the six-game Final against Pittsburgh gave him 27 points in the playoffs. That enabled him to break the club record of 24 previously shared by Sergei Fedorov (1995) and Steve Yzerman (1998). The 27 points also tied him with Crosby for the League playoff high.

But the brilliance of Zetterberg is that he can do so many things to help the Red Wings win.

"The first thing on my mind is that great players aren't judged on one play, one series or even one full season or career performance. It's all about lifting the Stanley Cup ... one time, two times, whatever," Zetterberg said. "That's all that I really wanted since I saw my first Stanley Cup Final when I was 13 or 14. When I saw the greatest players in the world celebrate winning by raising the Cup high into the air, I knew it was something I wanted to do.

"To me this is a defining moment for anyone who strives to be the best. And doing it with this group of guys, battling through four series, was real special."

Still, there was another side of this brilliant center's game that didn't go without notice. For most of the six-game series, he was playing head-up against Crosby, who was not nearly as productive as he had been earlier in the playoffs. The exclamation point in the series for Zetterberg came during a tense 1:27 span late in the third period of Game 4 with Detroit holding on to a 2-1 lead and the Penguins pressing to win a second-straight game.

In those important seconds, Zetterberg made three individual plays, the kind that don't show up on the scoresheet -- none more crucial than one on what looked like a sure goal by Crosby, waiting to push the puck into the net while stationed at the edge of the crease. But Zetterberg first reached to get his stick on the cross-crease pass, then used his soccer upbringing to kick the puck out of harm's way. In that same brilliant sequence, Zetterberg blocked a shot and lugged the puck for almost 15 seconds to kill valuable time.

In other words, Zetterberg did it all. But that’s nothing new to anyone who watches him play.
Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis