Yzerman takes licks, ready for another Stanley Cup
Posted: Monday June 15, 1998 10:25 PM
Yzerman already has had his grasp on the Campbell Cup trophy for the Wings' Western Conference title. Now he is one win away from the Stanley Cup ()|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- His face has been shoved in the ice, he has been
cross-checked in the back, slammed into the boards and knocked to the ice
Every time the Washington
Capitals have had the opportunity to hit Steve Yzerman in
the Stanley Cup Finals, they've done it. But the Detroit Red Wings captain
has gotten up every time and made the Capitals pay, much like he has made
every opponent pay in the playoffs this season.
Yzerman's play has put the Red Wings within a game of capturing their
second straight Stanley Cup on Tuesday night. His league-leading 24 points
(6 goals, 18 assists) also has put the 33-year-old on the verge of winning
the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.
Typically, Yzerman downplayed the possibility of winning the award on
Monday, noting that goaltender Chris Osgood and
defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom
were also good candidates. That's the kind of response that defenseman
Viacheslav Fetisov's expects from the teammate he calls a "class act."
"You can see how he is willing to compete and fight on every shift on the
ice," Fetisov said. "Even when he makes a mistake, you can see the
expression on his face, everyone knows he is unhappy and will fix it.
"It's tough to shut down these kinds of guys. They never stop. They never
quit. It's amazing. He is not the biggest guy in hockey, but his heart and
his soul everybody in this room feels, and we try to follow him."
Yzerman has been the best player on the ice in the finals. His two goals
and two assists are tied for the series points lead with teammate Tomas Holmstrom
and his plus-five rating is the best on both teams. Not only is Yzerman
scoring, but he is also working on the power play and penalty kill, and has
been a force on defense against whatever Capitals line has been on the ice.
"There are so many ways he can beat you," Red Wings defenseman Bob Rouse said. "That's
one of his strong points. You can't just shut down one facet of his game.
He'll find a way to beat you."
For the first 13 years of his career, Yzerman had the label of not being
able to lead his teams to victory in the big ones. He could always score,
posting six 100-point seasons, but his teams never won championships, that
is, until the Red Wings ended a 42-year Cup drought last season.
All the perceptions about Yzerman changed after that, from being a loser
to one of the great captains. Part of the credit goes to coach Scotty
Bowman, who convinced Yzerman to become more of a two-way player. But even
that took time to change the image.
Before sweeping Philadelphia last year, Yzerman joked that people would
not sit down next to him at a craps table in a casino. It was that bad.
Teammates insist Yzerman has always been a leader.
"He is not a rah-rah type," fellow center Kris Draper said. "He
just goes out and leads by example. That's why he is a great guy to have on
your dressing room. If he feels something needs to be said, he says it. But
most of the time, he just goes out and leads by example and those are the
guys that are irreplaceable."
Yzerman, who looks more like a businessman than a hockey player in his
suit, said last year that if he never won again he probably would be
satisfied. However, that opinion changed during the Winter Olympics when
Canada came up short.
"You don't win and you feel very disappointed," Yzerman said. "I guess it
brings a reality to it, you realize that winning is important."
Rouse said winning now has become a passion for Yzerman.
"He is driven to get there one more time," said Rouse, who first played
in the NHL in the 1983-84 season. "From being around the Stanley Cup
champions of the past, it's funny most of the guys after they have won,
it's not that big of a deal for them. It's how many you have won and that's
what Stevie recognizes."
Washington coach Ron Wilson insists his team isn't out of it yet.
"We're not just trying to prolong the series," Wilson said. "We're trying
to win the Stanley Cup. That's what our motivation is. We're going to play
better because we don't want them to win the Stanley Cup here."
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