In a winner-take-all Game 7, all it takes is for one strange bounce to completely change the series. And that’s what happened early in the second period, when an attempted break-out pass from the Wings hit Evgeni Malkin’s stick and ricocheted into Maxime Talbot’s stick right in front of goaltender Chris Osgood. Talbot made no mistake with his seemingly unlimited time in front of the goal, beating Osgood to give the Penguins the all-important first goal.
All of a sudden, the Wings were playing catch-up, and were forced to start pressing. That’s what led to the second goal, when Brad Stuart
pinched and someone missed a coverage assignment. Talbot once again was in the right spot at the right time, and he rushed down the ice. On a two-on-one, Talbot saw that Niklas Kronwall
took the passing lane away, so he fired the puck top-shelf to beat Osgood and give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
The Wings made a surge in the third period, outshooting the Penguins 7-1. Jonathan Ericsson
scored with seven minutes remaining, but it was too little, too late for the Wings. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made the saves down the stretch and frustrated the Wings’ offense.
Who was the Wings’ unsung hero of the postseason?
Goaltender Chris Osgood turned in a phenomenal postseason, and will get the recognition he deserves. But Darren Helm
was one of the reasons the Wings got as far as they did. Helm didn’t score many goals for the Wings (four goals and one assist), but his energy lifted the team. Helm led the entire NHL in hits in the postseason, with 118. He flew around the ice, causing problems night after night on the forecheck. He would go after any opponent, even gigantic 6’7” Hal Gill. And the goals that he did have were huge momentum-swinging plays for the Wings.What’s next?
The Wings will go home and rest up for the 2009-10 season, but it will be a busy summer for general manager Ken Holland. He locked up Henrik Zetterberg
and Johan Franzen
to long-term deals before the playoffs began, but now he has to figure out a way to keep as many of the Red Wings as he can. Marian Hossa will be the most talked about of the potential free agents - will he stay for another shot at a Stanley Cup? But Holland will also be on the phone with agents for Jiri Hudler
, Mikael Samuelsson, Chris Chelios and Ty Conklin
. It might be a slightly different team when the Wings head out to training camp, but Holland and his staff have done a great job of building a team that will be competitive year after year.