DETROIT, Michigan -- The naysayers and harbingers of doom are very loud, second-guessing Dave Lewis and Kenny Holland, taking down the red and white that so proudly decorated our city just a week ago, and packing it all in.
"It's over," they say. "Cujo isn't good enough. We should have picked up Belfour. Put the jerseys away, put the car flag in the trunk, and what on earth are we going to do with the leftover octopus?" Or worse yet, telling BRETT HULL, the fifth-leading goal scorer of all time, how to score a goal on Jean-Sebastien Giguere. "You gotta put it high, Brett, you blasted old goat!" (Like someone with over 700 goals needs scoring advice from people who've never picked up a hockey stick!)
I was driving around Metro Detroit yesterday on various errands, and I noticed a distinct LACK of red and white, in comparison with this time last year. Not too many car flags. Not too many banners. Not too many "Go Wings" signs on the message boards outside bars. It's as if people are ashamed and embarrassed to be still cheering for the Red Wings in what the "fans" have already named a losing battle.
Well, I say to you, you SHOULD be ashamed. But you should be ashamed of YOURSELVES! Listen, we as fans have absolutely no control over whether the Wings pull it off tonight or not. We can make voodoo goalies or follow any wacky hockey superstitions we want, but in the end, it's up to the players themselves. What the fans do have control over is the spirit of Hockeytown. And Hockeytown?the Hockeytown I have come to know and love-- is not a place that gives up before the final buzzer sounds.
While I was out driving yesterday, a man on a motorcycle pulled up next to me while I was stopped at a red light. He had two Wings flags hanging off the back of his bike, and his long hair had red and white ribbons braided into it. He looked over at me, saw my car flag and my own red and white ribbons, and we smiled. A quick thumbs-up. Then the light turned green and we were off about our business.
The poll right here on DetroitHockey.net shows that 75% of respondents believe that the Wings will pull it off and win four straight. Admittedly, only eight people have taken the poll. But for a larger slice of Hockeytown, try the recent poll on the Red Wings' official site, DetroitRedWings.com. Now, they've just changed to a new question, and I can't get the exact numbers for you since they don't archive their polls, but over 2000 respondents still believed the Wings would win the series, compared to about 1300 people who thought the Ducks would put them away tonight.
So it looks like the true fans outnumber the fair-weather fans. The fair-weather fans are just louder and more obnoxious.
It's 1:30 pm. Nine hours to go. So what if only two teams in history have rallied from an 0-3 deficit? One of those teams was the New York Islanders against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1975. Dave Lewis was on that team! Coach Al Arbour told them then to take it one shift at a time, one period at a time. Lewi knows how it can be done! So what if the Wings haven't been scoring? Tomas Holmstrom showed them how to do it late in Game Three?park in front of the net and chip the puck high. Do you think this is a team that will let Homer get bruised and battered in front of the net for nothing? So what if you think Joseph hasn't been good enough? Here's what I think of that opinion: Joseph's goals against average in the playoffs is 1.89. His save percentage is .925. Those are not numbers that can be faulted. "Goaltending is not an issue," according to no less an authority than Steve Yzerman. "You're going in the wrong direction if you're looking at that."
The Captain had plenty more to say. "I'm confident we can win the next game," Yzerman said. "It's not like I'm doubting my team or we're doubting ourselves. I'm perfectly comfortable coming into Game 4 and confident in our team that we'll play well and we'll win the game."
If Steve Yzerman, future-hall-of-famer, the man who battled back from an unprecedented knee surgery to play again, warrior and leader extraordinaire, is confident, that's good enough for me. One shift at a time, one period at a time, one goal at a time, one game at a time.