For the second night in a row, the NHL playoffs featured a team that could clinch going hog-wild as it moved into the Stanley Cup finals. This time it was Detroit with a big 4-1 win over Dallas.
Detroit scored three times in the first, which was more than enough to force Dallas off of its halfcourt game and into a run-and-gun style. Dallas can move the puck, and when goalie Marty Turco decides to join the offense, he really joins the offense, using insane blue-line-to-blue-line passes to try and spring his forwards. But Detroit loves to pick those off and in the end, Dallas just didn’t have enough speed to get past the Red Wings defense.
I’m really looking forward to the finals because for the first time in who knows how long, it’ll feature two teams who use the entire sheet of ice for their game. Both the Penguins and the Wings play a very sophisticated transition game that starts in one end and finishes in the other. Most teams run some kind of breakout to get out of the defensive zone, move to another set in the neutral zone, and then dump or carry into the offensive zone. The Wings and the Penguins both move the puck the same way, using a (usually) seamless series of north-south/east-west passes so that their offense is pretty much set-up, with everyone in position, when the puck crosses the blue line. It’s almost like watching geese fly in formation. It’s going to be some nice hockey.
Also, I’m intrigued by Chris Simon going to play in Russia. Simon has had his demons and while I wouldn’t say he’s good for hockey, with his downright gross displays of violence, I did always think of him as an NHL character. Not even a villain, so much as just a character. It’ll be weird not having him in the NHL next year (although with his suspensions, he didn’t even play 40 games last season). I wonder if the Russian league was attracted to him in that he represents a lot of that hockey-as-random-brutal-violence ideology. I’ve mentioned before that someone in the league once told me that one of the things that tests best with NHL fans is fighting. I wonder if importing Simon is an attempt to make that happen for Russia’s Continental Hockey League.