- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"He's in that rare class of athletes who can lift their team," Capitals left wing Brian Bellows said. "He defines the personality of his team. Their 'no quit' comes from him."
Yzerman simply will not lie down, although he can be leveled--as he was by Capitals menace Dale Hunter in Game 1. Hunter flattened Yzerman in the Washington crease, used him as a Barcalounger for a few seconds, then swabbed the ice with his face before raking his glove across Yzerman's kisser in what hockey players call a "face wash." When asked the next day if he found the face wash offensive, Yzerman replied, "Depends on whether it's a new glove or old glove. Old gloves tend to stink."
Game 1 was one of those January-in-June matches, as intense as a zephyr. "We got a lead," Fedorov said, "and then we stood out there chewing gum or something." The Red Wings cruised to an early 2-0 advantage, then hung on for the final 10 minutes.
Of course, hockey can also be explosive. Exhibit A: Game 2. The Red Wings' Stanley Cup slogan, Raise your hands!--a reference to their Al the Octopus talisman--was apparently also what the Capitals were expected to do while asking permission to play with the puck in the first period. But Detroit's dominance translated into a mere 1-0 lead, Washington put three goals past Osgood in the second period, and the situation blessedly dictated that the more-skilled Wings play an aggressive, eye-catching game of catch-up. "We like to play that way," a grinning Yzerman said the next day. "Our coaches don't." The Caps blew leads of 3-1 and 4-2, with Yzerman's shorthanded goal less than seven minutes into the third period announcing the Detroit comeback. The Wings won it in overtime on Kris Draper's goal.
An extra period wasn't needed in Game 3 because Fedorov scored the game-winner with five minutes remaining, but Yzerman was the most dangerous forward in the final minutes even as the Caps pressed. "When the game is on the line, that's when you see his real value," Bowman says. "We move him from center to left wing, and he does the job. He's the perfect example for our team because he's going to make the big play."
Throughout the series Yzerman positively glowed on the ice, though he was typically modest afterward. "As my career has gone along, there were times when I began to wonder if there was something missing in myself. You fall back on the idea that if you do your best and your teammates do their best, everything will work out, but I admit to having had some doubts along the way. The perception other people have of you changes once you win the Cup, but for myself, winning it the first time reconfirmed what I wanted to believe--even when I was having those doubts."
Now he has won two and a Conn Smythe Trophy. That cottage had better have lots of closet space.