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Burns, who had the last line change, matched Gilmour's line against Yzerman's, and Gilmour responded by outplaying the Red Wing star, notching four assists while holding the frustrated Yzerman pointless. "With everything he does, Doug Gilmour is definitely the MVP of this league," says Burns, an assertion that wouldn't be popular in Pittsburgh, where Mario Lemieux plays. Since Leaf general manager Cliff Fletcher acquired Gilmour from the Calgary Flames last season in a 10-player trade, the Maple Leafs have become dependent on the gritty center. In games this season in which Gilmour was held pointless, Toronto was 3-13-1. When he scored—and Gilmour set a Leaf record with 127 points on 32 goals and 95 assists—Toronto was 41-15-10.
After four games in the series the Red Wings, to their apparent surprise, had a fight on their hands. But it wasn't until they blew Game 5 in Joe Louis Arena that the Wings really understood that they were in trouble. They cruised to a 4-1 lead and were dominating the game in all facets when—pffft!—Cheveldae let in a soft shot by Toronto defenseman Dave Ellett midway through the second period.
Slowly, tirelessly, the Leafs came back, forced overtime and won the game when 34-year-old Mike Foligno, the Leafs' oldest player, slid a screen shot along the ice beneath Cheveldae's stick. It was the Leafs' fifth goal on just 21 shots and brought the boo-birds down onto Cheveldae in full flight. One Detroit columnist called Cheveldae's "the worst performance by a man in a mask since Adam West played Batman."
There is something curiously relaxed about a team that is facing elimination, and the Red Wings, who had now lost three straight, approached the sixth game with the swagger of a team that had nothing to lose. Assistant coach Doug MacLean saw Cheveldae the morning after his horrific performance in Game 5 and, smiling, called him a dirty word. "What?" said Chevy, who coaches at MacLean's Prince Edward Island hockey camp in the summer.
"Coast to coast, national TV, and you stink the joint out," MacLean joked. "We had 50 camp cancellations after the game."
Yzerman, too, was under attack in the papers. After scoring 137 points this year, fourth-best in the league, he had been held scoreless for three straight games. His leadership and heart were publicly questioned, and some speculated that he was hiding an injury. Yzerman was asking himself some of the same questions. Did he care too much? Or not enough? He purposely read some of the papers to find out what others were saying about him. "Sometimes you need a kick in the rear to get you going," he said. He spent some ting with Red Wing sports psychologist Kent Osborne, who asked him what he was thinking.
"Gotta win, gotta win, gotta win!" Yzerman replied.
"And if you don't win?" Osborne asked. "Is the world going to end?"
The message to Yzerman, from Osborne, from his wife, from his teammates: Lighten up. Relax. Have some fun. Then Yzerman went to see Murray and MacLean and asked them not to lie to him. How was he playing? What could he do to be better? Said Murray, "We asked him not to lose to Doug Gilmour's line. To look after his own end, and if he did that, the scoring chances would come."
And so they did, in bunches. With Yzerman in effect turning the tables on Gilmour and assuming the role of the highest-paid checking center in the league, Toronto's offense stalled. "I had no jump in my legs," Gilmour said. Yzerman had a goal and an assist, and Detroit's depth at the skill positions took over. The Red Wings scored four power-play and two shorthanded goals and coasted to a 7-3 win. In six playoff games the Wings' power play had scored on an eye-popping 33% of its chances.