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Game 1,023
Michael Farber
March 19, 2001
Just another regular-season match? Don't tell that to the Red Wings and the Blues, who were fighting bitterly to secure a better seed in the postseason
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March 19, 2001

Game 1,023

Just another regular-season match? Don't tell that to the Red Wings and the Blues, who were fighting bitterly to secure a better seed in the postseason

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The Blues were hesitating, at least when they weren't overcompensating by being haphazardly aggressive. In the second period of a 5-2 loss to the Avalanche last Thursday, Colorado goalie Patrick Roy trapped all three St. Louis forwards who had ventured deep by faking a pass up the boards and then whipping the puck up the middle to Joe Sakic, who took off on a three-on-two.

The Blues' problems were compounded by the faltering goaltending of Roman Turek (.898 save percentage), who spent the third period against Colorado holed up in the dressing room after being pulled. If he couldn't bear to watch his teammates, Turek can imagine how Quenneville felt about watching him allow five goals on only 19 shots in the first two periods. Last spring, in the first-round upset loss to the San Jose Sharks, Turek was victimized by bizarre goals that eroded his confidence, which still has not been fully restored. When Turek loses his patience, he loses his angles—a fatal flaw. Roving goalie coach Keith Allain joined the team last Thursday to help put the fragile Turek back together, a process that took less time than anyone imagined considering his professional 25-save performance last Saturday.

Quenneville usually decides who will play goal the day before a game, but on Friday he held off naming a starter, waiting to see if Turek could pass an unofficial audition in practice. "My job at this point is to make sure Roman is ready for the playoffs," says Quenneville, who has rookie Brent Johnson (18-7-2 with a .909 save percentage) as a backup. "He has something to prove."

There is nothing Chris Osgood should have to prove for the Red Wings, but goal-tending in Detroit is a scab that is picked by habit. The topic is always fresh, albeit beside the point—in the late 1990s the Red Wings played such a complete game that their success probably depended less on their goalies than did any other Stanley Cup winner of the past two decades with the exception of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991-92—although red flags still go up whenever red lights go on behind Osgood. The goalie, who had recovered in January after a protracted early-season slump, was yanked in recent consecutive starts. When questioned about his team's goaltending after the Red Wings beat the Canucks 4-3 on March 6, coach Scotty Bowman grew incensed in a show of support for Osgood, who edged his season's save percentage up to .899 by stopping 26 shots four days later against St. Louis.

"Ozzie's greatest strength," general manager Ken Holland says, "is his ability to bounce back from bad goals, bad games, bad stretches. When we won the Cup in '98, he let in a goal in Game 5 [of the conference finals against Dallas] from the other side of center ice. Then in Game 6 he wins 2-0 and is the star. He has the ability to put things out of his mind."

There was plenty to remember from the Blues-Wings tie, sturdy plays like St. Louis center Pierre Turgeon fending off defenseman Chris Chelios in a one-on-one battle, protecting the puck before curling to the middle and passing it back to the point to set up his team's first goal. There were savvy plays like Shanahan's decision in overtime to forcefully engage Alexei Gusarov a zip code behind the play, getting the referee to call coincidental roughing minors and thus whistling the play dead with the Blues in the middle of an odd-man rush. There were foiled breakaways and an outside-inside rush by Yzerman that turned Conroy inside out. There was a little bit of everything.

The Blues and Red Wings will see each other again on March 28, by which time Pronger should be nearing a return and MacInnis will know whether he'll be back this season. Quenneville said he reserves the right to call that match in Detroit—NHL Game 1,144—the biggest of the year, maybe the last chance to snuggle in behind the Avalanche before the playoffs. That would hardly be a terrible 2.

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