From my hotel room in suburban Detroit, I can see the Ford Proving Grounds, the Ford River Rouge plant, and Ford corporate headquarters. The University of Michigan-Dearborn, the Tournament Players Club of Michigan, Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum are just a few minutes away, as is the legendary Miller’s Bar, an establishment known for cheeseburgers and the “honor system” method used to figure out your check, the same method used there since it opened in 1941. Al Iafrate doesn’t live very far from here, as I recall.
There is another rendition of Cheli’s Chili Bar nearby, and in the hotel, there are scores of Hot Wheels collectors in town for a national convention that is sparking banter, negotiations, trading collector car for collector car, and a plethora of non-express elevators that stop on every floor.
It’s just another sprinkling of Hockeytown culture. The Pistons are having a strong season, the Tigers are playing at Comerica Park tonight, the casinos are sparkling, and Greektown is going to be humming. But the Stanley Cup playoffs are in full force, and that is the subject that is taking up most of my attention span.
With that in mind, the Sharks proved that they could play an exceptionally airtight defensive game against a puck-possession team like the Red Wings. They made good on two chances 24 seconds apart in the early going, got great goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov, and an unbelievably strong performance from Kyle McLaren, who blocked 5 shots and was the stirrer of the victory drink in this one.
Today, the Motor City newspapers are negative, focusing on the fact that the game drew “only” 18,712, which is over 1,000 short of a sellout but is more than HP Pavilion’s capacity. They lament the fact that longtime anthem singer Karen Newman, a popular local figure, was scratched from the game presentation lineup due to a scheduling conflict. They even note that one of the Sharks’ radio broadcasters is the “dreaded” Jamie Baker – “dreaded,” mind you, because of his still-legendary goal in Game 7 of the 1994 playoff series!
But this isn’t 1994, it is 2007, and in 2007, the Sharks are finding appropriate answers to every question thrown at them by the opposition hordes. After a defensively dominating performance by the Sharks in Game One, it looks as if Mark Bell is going to be back in the lineup in lieu of Joe Pavelski
for Game Two on Saturday. It’s another proactive move by coach Ron Wilson, who has the big picture in mind. Here, we have a hungry veteran, feeling healthier, motivated, and eager to make a positive contribution to the series.
Meanwhile, on the Red Wings side, they have an incredible wealth of Stanley Cup jewelry and a whole lot of pride to rely upon to be ready for Game 2 on Saturday. For instance, it is an amazing fact to note that before Game 1, Chris Chelios had more Stanley Cup playoff experience (234 games) than Joe Thornton
, Patrick Marleau
, Bill Guerin, and Milan Michalek combined (233 games). It is also fascinating to note that 9 players from the Detroit active roster have won the Stanley Cup, with 4 of them – Kris Draper, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, and Kirk Maltby – with 3 Cups.
But this isn’t the past. This is the present, and the Sharks are a confident lot as they move forward to game 2 on Saturday, fully understanding that it takes four difficult wins to win any Stanley Cup playoff series.
After the clarion call by the Detroit media for a hyped up crowd, expect that Saturday’s Game 2 will be harder to win than Game 1, that Monday’s Game 3 will be harder to win than Game 2, and so on.
The goal is to take the hyperactivity out of the pro-Wings crowd, to play better than Game 1, and to remember Warren Strelow’s playoff points:
1. Maintain focus.
2. Work on the fundamentals.
3. Have fun.
For Seagate Technology's "In the Crease," I'm Dan Rusanowsky.