About last night …

Final Pittsburgh flurry notwithstanding, for Canadiens fans the last game of the 2007-’08 hockey season was déja vu all over again.

December 4 at the Bell Centre. A rare visit by the Detroit Red Wings
– and a memorable one, because the Stanley  Cup champions-to-be
absolutely schooled your Montreal Canadiens.

The final score was
4-1,  but the game wasn’t that close. Playing the smart possession game
that they rode through the playoffs, the Wings had the puck all night –
which meant the Canadiens didn’t.

Detroit had 34 shots on goal.
Canadiens blocked 15, and the Wings shot wide 16 times for a total of
65 pucks flying toward Carey Price.

Canadiens totals: a pathetic
16 shots in their own  building, with another nine blocked and nine
wide. Total: 34. Dominic Hasek could have brought something to read.

Canadiens outhit the Red Wings 26-12. But even without Kris Draper, Detroit had a 27-18 advantage in faceoffs.

Game 6 of the Stanely Cup finals: Detroit has 30 shots on goal. The Penguins block 14 and 22 are wide for a total of 66.

Pittsburgh, on home ice, is held to 17 shots until the dying minutes of the game and ends up with 22. Detroit blocks seven and nine are wide for a total of 38.

Pittsburgh outhits Detroit 37-28. As  was the case in every game of the final, the Wings dominates faceoffs 35-23. Draper goes an unreal 15-3 (including two wins in the dying seconds) and Sidney Crosby is 9-16.

So what have we learned?

Nothing Habs fans didn’t know in early December. When Detroit is firing on all cylinders –  as they were at the Bell Centre and in Pittsburgh last night – they can make a good team like the Canadiens or a very good team like the Penguins look bad.

And Detroit is going to be great for a good long while.

They will re-sign Henrik Zetterberg long-term. They may add Mats Sundin. They’ll either sign Brad Stuart or find another big-body, top-four defenceman. They will note that Chris Osgood was not great in Game 5 or Game 6 and they will shore up their goaltending, possibly through trade, free agent signing (Jaroslav Halak?) or waiting for Ryan Miller, a Michigan native, to become a UFA next summer.

If you watched CBC coverage to the bitter end, you saw a lot of fuzzy-cheeked youngsters interviewed in the Detroit room. Darren Helm, who skates like the wind, is 21 years old. Jonathan Ericsson, a 6-foot-5 defenceman from Stockholm, is 23. Jiri Hudler and Valterri Filppula are 23.

As you read this blog, Hakan Andersson is finalizing his pre-draft recommendations on who will be the Wings’ next Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Filppula …

Something else that struck me during the post-game show: Nicklas
Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Brian Rafalski … these guys are very
articulate. No clichés, no endless "you know"s.

Hockey, the way Detroit plays it, is a game for smart athletes.

Break it gently to Don Cherry.


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