Doing it with defense
Red Wings one win away from second straight Stanley Cup
Posted: Tuesday June 16, 1998 10:16 AM
Detroit's Viacheslav Fetisov (right), Dmitri Mironov (left) and Jamie Macoun listen during a team practice Monday (AP)|
WASHINGTON (AP) - The big names are Steve Yzerman and
Much has been written about the Detroit Red Wings'
offensive stars and especially the depth at the center position.
But what about the defense? Right now, the Red Wings believe that is
probably their true strength -- and the reason they are within one game of
winning their second straight Stanley Cup.
That could happen
tonight, when the Red Wings play the Washington Capitals in
Game 4 holding a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
thought they could wear down our defense, that we were a lot of old men,"
Bob Rouse said.
"That hasn't happened yet."
The "elder statesman" of the Red
Wings' defensive corps is Viacheslav Fetisov, the 40-year-old who starred
for the Russian Red Army Team in the 1980s. Larry Murphy, an
18-year NHL veteran, is 37. Rouse, a 14-year veteran, will be 34 on
Thursday. But none of them is showing any wear as the Red Wings tear
through the playoffs.
The rest of the six-deep defensive group
Lidstrom, a possible choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff
MVP, Jamie Macoun
and rookie Anders
In their 2-1 victory over the Capitals in Game 3
on Saturday night, the Red Wings held Washington to one shot in the first
period and just 18 overall.
"You have to give them credit,"
Washington center Adam
Oates said. "They play very solidly defensively. We try to get the puck
in deep, but they have a lot of people at the blue line."
Except for an anomaly in Game 2, when the Red Wings won a shootout 5-4 in
overtime, they held the Capitals to two goals and 35 shots total in the
other two games.
During the regular season, only six teams in
the 26-team NHL allowed fewer goals than the 196 given up by the Red Wings,
a defensive hallmark of coach Scotty Bowman's teams. Their strong defensive
play was all the more remarkable considering that defenseman Vladimir
Konstantinov suffered a career-ending head injury in a limousine
accident last June.
"Vlady was irreplaceable," Rouse said.
"There was no player in the league who could step in and did what he did.
As a group, we all stepped up and tried to make up for his absence.
Everybody had to increase his role."
Fetisov and Lidstrom have
been offensive threats as well. Fetisov has three assists in the first
three games and Lidstrom has a goal and an assist.
been quite fantastic," said Yzerman, naming him and goaltender Chris Osgood as his
personal Conn Smythe candidates.
Washington's Peter Bondra has
been among those victimized by the stout Detroit defense. A 52-goal scorer
during the season, he has but one in three games against the Red Wings.
"I've got to give them credit, they've played well," Bondra
said Monday at a Capitals' practice.
Capitals coach Ron Wilson
also is impressed with the Red Wings' defense.
"You've got to
understand that our best players are being checked tightly by a whole
team," he said. "There are no weaknesses in the Detroit lineup when it
comes to playing defensive hockey."