Ok, so I'm a pretty big Star Wars geek. Not the "dress-up-in-a-stormtrooper-costume-to-see-the-movie-at-the-theatre" kind of geek - I don't have enough money to buy a costume. But like most Star Wars fans, I can recite pretty much all of the original movies, and some of the next set (which were not as good, but don't get me started on that). I've got some action figures lying around the house, and I am not completely ashamed to admit I own a few t-shirts that may or may not have Darth Vader on them. Under normal circumstances, I would watch at least one of the movies today, but there's a hockey game on tonight that is a little important. So, we're going to look forward to that. So, in honour of Star Wars Day (May the Fourth, get it?), we'll do our game preview with a Star Wars theme.
"Never tell me the odds" - Empire Strikes Back, 1980 - The Red Wings are down 2-0, and without doing any actual research, I would bet all $300 I have that the team that is up has won the series about 70-80% of the time. Bad news, right? Well, there are reasons why the Wings should feel confident they can come back. First, how many times did the Wings win the first 2 games of a series, only to see the other team win their home games and tie it up? Off the top of my head, I can think of 5 series where that happened: 2004 against the Predators and Flames, 2007 against the Flames, 2008 against the Predators, and 2009 against the Penguins (fuckers). Of those 5 series, the Wings lost 2 of them. So it's not impossible to come back. Plus, we all remember the Finals last year. I still have nightmares about it. Basically, until the Sharks win 4 games, I will not consider this series to be over.
"I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you" - A New Hope (1977) - With all apologies to Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg is the cog of the Wings' wheel (pun intended). He was awesome against the Coyotes, but against the Sharks he has been a little invisible. It's not that he has played poorly; it's just that he's not doing what we really need him to do, which is score goals and play smothering defense against the other team's top forward. He can't do it alone; Bertuzzi and Filppula have to be better as well. But if the Wings are going to win this series, Hank has to be our Luke Skywalker. This starts in the faceoff circle, where he's been dominated by anyone on the Sharks that has gone against him.
Darth Vader - Not a quote, but it's clear that Joe Pavelski is the Darth Vader to the Red Wings' rebel alliance. In fact, if you pay attention, I'm pretty sure he just scored again. He has been the reason that the Sharks are up in this series. He's got 4 goals out of the 8 the Sharks have scored, and his line has scored 6 of the 8 goals (Greg Louganis (Setoguchi) and Clowe have the other 2). So the message should be simple - stop that line and the Wings win. The Thornton-Heatley-Mitchell line has not been scary - both of their goals came on a busted stick leading to a 3 on 1, and a matchup after an icing on the Wings' 4th line.
Wedge - Remember Wedge? He's one of the rebel X-wing pilots. He's the only guy besides the main characters that is in all 3 of the early movies. He's there, but you don't really notice him as the movie is going on. When the trilogy is over, someone mentions that Wedge was in all 3 movies and you say "huh, I hadn't really noticed that. I guess I will pay attention to that next time." This is Johan Franzen. He's had a point in every game. That's impressive. But have you really noticed him out there? Outside of Game 1 of this series, he's been fairly mediocre. It's time for the Mule to stop being a supporting player and become a main character in this series.
Jabba The Hut - Jabba was an interesting character. He was some sort of mobster, controlling Tatooine, although he never moved. The only thing Jabba was actually good for was getting Princess Leia in to the gold bikini. I guess some would say he was an imposing figure, but as the movie develops, you got the sense he was really just a minor plot point to advance the story that Luke was now a superstar. I mean, for a guy that huge, all 100 lbs of Leia could choke him to death? Really? Anyway, this is how I feel about Evgeni Nabokov. Some people consider him an elite goalie - but does he scare any of you? He let in a softie in Game 2, and I don't think he's been the difference in this series at all. He's made a few nice saves, but I credit the Sharks' defense more for keeping the Wings to the outside and preventing second and third chances. If they get that, they will score a ton.
Babcock needs to pull some Jedi-mind shit on the players today. He needs to convince them that they are the better team, and that they will win tonight. I can just see it:
Team: This Sharks team is pretty good. It's going to be tough to beat them.
Babcock: These aren't the Sharks you're playing.
Team: These aren't the Sharks we're playing.
Babcock: You're playing the Coyotes.
Team: We're playing the Coyotes.
Babcock: It's Game 7 - lose and you're done.
Team: It's Game 7 - lose and we're done.
Babcock: Kick some ass!
Team: Kick some ass!
My prediction for tonight? I can not see the Wings falling behind 3-0 in this series. I think the officiating is going to be very even, because this series is under the microscope. I don't think there will be any make-up calls for Tuesday, nor do I want any. The Wings come out and play like their season is on the line, which it essentially is. I really believe that tonight is the night that Franzen and Zetterberg step up and take this series over. Thornton will continue his streak of being one of the most over-rated players in the NHL, and Pavelski will not have the opportunities that he's had in the first 2 games. The Wings win big, 5-2, and set the stage for a pivotal Game 4 on Thursday.
LGRW - May The Force Be With You!