Red Wings win like the champions they are
Posted: Wednesday June 17, 1998 12:38 AM
Happy camper: Chris Osgood can finally put to rest the comparisons to Mike Vernon that followed him around all season long (AP)|
By Harry Atkins
So, would all those folks who doubted Chris Osgood like to
climb back on the bandwagon now?
He's not Mike
Vernon, but he didn't have to be. The Detroit Red Wings played
like the champions they are. They played almost perfect hockey against
Washington in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The result, which was hardly ever in doubt, was a 4-1 victory and the
first repeat by a Cup champion since 1992. Welcome back, Stanley.
As the final seconds were being counted down Tuesday night in Washington's
MCI Center, television cameras did a marvelous job of capturing Osgood's
With about three seconds still showing on the clock, Osgood skated
away from his goal, throwing down his stick and throwing off his gloves. It
was as though he were throwing off the shackles from a season of doubt by
Detroit's fickle fans and media.
“I'm tired in one way, but glad in another,” Osgood said on television,
his voice cracking with the strain of his emotions.
Osgood didn't weep then. The tears would come later, though. Tears of joy.
And not just from Osgood.
It was touching to see Vladimir
Konstantinov in Washington and on the ice in his wheelchair for the
celebration. There was a great television shot of Vlady with a cigar in his
left hand and a giant smile on his face.
And it quickly became a two-hanky night when Detroit captain Steve Yzerman
hoisted Lord Stanley's cup over his head in triumph, then handed the Cup to
Vlady as the whole team headed on a victory lap around the arena - pushing
Konstantinov and the Cup before them.
Yzerman, of course, was voted the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs. It
was an honor he deserved.
Still, there were so many heroes during this run to repeat. Which is
exactly why the Red Wings are champions again.
Detroit had to rely on its depth throughout the playoffs. For one thing,
players such as forward Brendan Shanahan
were playing over injuries. For another, the ability to roll over four
lines consistently wore down the opposition.
That was especially true against the Capitals. And the final game was a
perfect example of how unsung heroes kept jumping into the spotlight for
Doug Brown, who
had two power-play goals in the clincher, missed all of the first series
and part of another because of a shoulder injury. Yet when he was able to
play, Brown made big contributions.
When the playoffs began, back on April 22, four big questions surrounded
the Red Wings:
Could they do it again - without Konstantinov? Could
Scotty Bowman win his eighth Cup and tie Toe Blake's record? Could
Shanahan regain his scoring touch in the playoffs? Could Osgood
play in goal the way Vernon did last year?
The answer to three of the four questions was a resounding yes. Shanahan,
playing despite a disc problem dating to the end of the regular season, had
just five goals during the playoffs.
Still, he had a two-goal game in the series clincher against Phoenix in
the first round and scored the game-winning goal in double-overtime in Game
3 against St. Louis in the second round. So he was there when the Red Wings
had to have him.
Another player to came up big in these playoffs was Sergei Fedorov,
who missed all but 21 regular season games in his now-famous contract
holdout. You can say he was only playing for money. But if you saw
Fedorov's face during the Red Wings' celebration, you know you're probably
In the end, the Red Wings simply had the best talent, the best coach
and - yes - the best goaltender. They were simply the NHL's best team. And
it was that team concept that won them the Cup, just as it did a year ago.
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