Rafalski to retire?

**UPDATE: 5:55pm***
The news has been confirmed by Darren Dreger and Craig Custance. Press conference scheduled for Wednesday. 

File this one under “unexpected.” Sportsnet reporter Nick Kypreos reports the following, via Twitter:

In a surprise if not shocking move sources tell Sportsnet the #RedWings will announce retirement of D Brian Rafalski as early as this week.

What’s more surprising #Redwings Rafalski walks away from 6M he was scheduled to earn next year. With the news look for Lidstrom to return.

Injuries the main reason #Redwings Rafalski shuts down a great career. He played throughout the play-offs without a ACL in his knee.

If this is, indeed, true, the Red Wings would have an additional $6M to play with as summer free agency rolls around. By my count, the Wings would have about $21M to play with, depending on what number the salary cap ends up being for 2011-12. I still don’t think that Ken Holland would make a run at RFA Shea Weber in Nashville… but I’m more than happy to continue pushing that dream…

But, perhaps more importantly, it’s time to say goodbye to a defensive stalwart and a warrior that clawed and fought his way into the National Hockey League and won some Cups. Raise a glass to Mr. Rafalski, if the news is confirmed by the team. Stay tuned to TPL for details, and perhaps an official word from the team…

Pass/Fail: Valtteri Filppula

Now that we’ve all had a chance to decompress a bit and soak up the fact that there is no more Red Wings hockey to be played, we can finally get down to the summer long business of breaking down what went right and/or wrong in Hockeytown this year. Petrella and J.J. are already cruising along with the “Pro/No” series that focuses on the Red Wings upcoming free agents, which is definitely going to be a hot topic in Motown this offseason. But what about the rest of the guys?

The traditional method of ranking individual performance for the MSM and bloggers is usually some sort of “report card” or “A+” grading system. Not here. You see, we like to keep things simple at TPL. You either made the grade or you didn’t. No grey area. Black and white.

So with that in mind, we are setting out on what will surely be a long and arduous journey of offering up our individual player “ratings” in a simple and easy-to-digest (especially after six or seven beers) format that we like to call “Pass/Fail.” We’ll outline the numbers. We’ll share what we think went well. We’ll highlight all of the boner (not the good kind) moments that made you cringe. And we’ll even offer up a shot at some extra credit. Once the arguments have been laid out, the TPL triumvirate will head to the deepest, most secure area of TPL Headquarters – known around these parts as “The Sitch Room” (no Wolf Blitzer…yet) – and we’ll vote on whether every single player that hit the ice for the Wings this year was a “Pass” or a “Fail”. Three votes. Whichever argument gets more votes is the final grade for each Wing.

Agree? Disagree? That’s what the comments are for and we expect you to use them. Let us know if you think we are wrong. Let us know if you think we are right. Let us know if you think we need to go drink another beer. Our cards are on the table and we want to hear what you all think as well.

Don’t worry: we’ll cover all of the guys from this year, including those that are also doing their time in the “Pro/No” circle as well. However, there will be no future projections here. We live in the past and the past alone. But for now, let’s get this thing going with one of the more controversial players this season: Valtteri Filppula.

Pass/Fail: Valtteri Filppula

Statistically Speaking
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The Good
Following a season that saw the Finnish forward miss 27 games due to a broken wrist, Filppula was surprisingly durable this year, logging 71 regular season games and appearing in all 11 postseason contests. He finished in the top 10 in points (#8), goals (#8) and assists (#9) for the Wings, and fell one point short of tying his best regular season points output (40 pts in ’07-’08). Despite a sluggish start in the postseason, Flippula ended up tied for 2nd in playoff points for the Wings, with his most important contribution coming in Game 6 against San Jose when he broke a 1-1 tie in the third period. That goal would eventually stand as the game winner, which is where Filppula earned his money during both the regular season (5 GWG, 31st in the league) and postseason (2 GWG, 4th in the league.)

The Not-So Good
Despite a solid statistical season, Filppula remained mired in in the middle of the statistical pack in the NHL. Besides the aforementioned prowess for scoring game-winning goals, Flip’s only other “Top 100” placement in the league was placing 92nd in shooting percentage. Granted, Filppula is a 2nd/3rd line guy who isn’t expected to post major numbers, but this is the third straight year we’ve heard the coaches say he was primed for a major step forward and subsequently the third straight year he failed to post the numbers to back it up. While not expected to be a disruptive forechecking force, Filppula was often soft along the boards, failing to win battles for pucks and maintain the zone. The biggest complaint, however, may be his lack of shooting. The coaches have harped on him to take more shots, yet Filppula still continued to pass first and shoot second. Offensive JUGGERNAUT Justin Abdelkader finished the regular season with more attempts at the net than Filppula, which left the fair-haired Finn outside the Top 10 in shots for the team. While not awful, finishing -1 over 71 games also isn’t exactly inspiring. Consistency remains an issue.

Extra Credit
When the game is on the line, Filppula knows how to finish. Of the seven Wings postseason wins this year, Filppula had the GWG in two of them and none bigger than in Game 6 against San Jose.

Grades
Disch: Pass
Petrella: Pass
Hollis: Fail

The Reasoning
Disch: Thought Flip did well during the playoffs and not expecting him to be the next “great.”
Petrella: It’s not Flip’s fault that fans expect him to be another Henrik Zetterberg. On his own merits, Valtteri Filppula is spectacular.
Hollis: If Bertuzzi is hitting 40+ points, I find Flip’s 39 to be completely indefensible. He was great during the playoffs, but his lack of consistency is concerning. The fact that we are on Year 3 of the “breakout” discussion really hurt his grade. He’s borderline underachieving now.

Final TPL Grade
PASS

Check in tomorrow when we grade Niklas Kronwall.

Pro/No :: Jonathan Ericsson

Following Thursday’s post about Mike Modano, and the outpouring of votes from all over Red Wings Nation, we’re happy to announce the party continues with Jonathan Ericsson. For the full profile, and the voting form, head over to Winging it in Motown.

I’m sure anyone reading this knows where I stand on the matter… a few short months after dubbing him “Shitbox,” but JJ has all the information you’ll need to form an educated opinion.

As a reminder, every Monday and Thursday, WIIM and TPL will feature another free agent-to-be, and present the voting form. When all of the free agents have been covered, we’ll each have a big post dissecting the results and sharing the breakdowns of yes’s…no’s…and unsure’s.

SO — WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HEAD TO WINGING IT IN MOTOWN TO READ ALL ABOUT JONATHAN ERICSSON AND SUBMIT YOUR VOTES!

McCrimmon out in Detroit

Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Red Wings won’t be renewing the contract of assistant coach Brad McCrimmon:

In an hour or so, the Detroit Red Wings will announce veteran asst coach Brad McCrimmon won’t be back for a 4th year on the Wings bench.

McCrimmon is a very good coach. Contract was up. He should be among the candidates for 1 of 5 head coaching jobs.

Coach McCrimmon was hired after Todd McLellan departed to take the Head Coach position in San Jose. So, here’s another thing to keep an eye on this summer. One would think that the Wings will be on the hunt for an experienced coach that WON’T RUN THE PENALTY KILL INTO THE GROUND.

Pro/No :: Mike Modano

In the coming weeks, we’re teaming with our friends at Winging it in Motown to break down each of the Red Wings’ impending free agents. At the end of each breakdown, you’ll have a chance to give your vote: are you Prodano… or Nodano? We’ll compile all of the data over 48 hours and report back about where the community sits on each of the potential departures.

But first, a little background information about the Red Wings’ salary cap situation heading into 2011-12. With 11 forwards (including Jan Mursak, but excluding Cory Emmerton), the Wings have committed just under $31.5M on the front end. With Jimmy Howard and four defenders, there’s just under $16M committed to the rear. That’s a total of $47.5M of the projected $62M salary cap.

The Red Wings will have about $14M to play with — and that’s to fill the holes on the forward units, sign (or promote) another three defenseman, and find a backup goaltender. If Nicklas Lidstrom returns, he’ll command the lion’s share of that pool, so big name free agents like Brad Richards are absolutely out. However, the Wings have proven time and time again that they can work magic without much cap space, and we should all have faith that GM Ken Holland and braintrust will deliver another stellar roster by the time camp rolls around.

Without further ado, our first free agent up for pro/no debate:

THE VITALS
Mike Modano, center, #90
40-years-old (turning 41 in June)
6’3″ :: 210 lbs
21 NHL seasons (1 with Detroit)
From Westland, MI

STATISTICS
Regular Season — 40 games played, 4 goals, 11 assists, 8 penalty minutes, -4, 12:26 average time on ice.
Playoffs — 2 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, 0 penalty minutes, +1, 10:13 average time on ice.

CONTACT SITUATION
On August 5th, the Red Wings signed local hero Mike Modano to a one-year contract worth $1.25M in base salary with the opportunity to make an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses. Of those bonuses, he met two: 40 games played ($150,000) and round 1 playoff win ($125,000) making the total he earned in one season with the Red Wings $1,525,000.

As of July 1st, he will be an unrestricted free agent.

DEPTH SITAUTION
Prior to his wrist injury (which was sustained on November 26th), Modano had played in all twenty of the Wings’ games. He returned on February 26th, playing 20 of the team’s 21 remaining games, missing only April 3rd against Minnesota (the second half of a back-to-back) as a healthy scratch.

However, he seemed to lose his spot in the lineup for the post-season. He was a healthy scratch for 9 of the 11 games Detroit played — spelling an injured Johan Franzen for Game 4 against Phoenix, and again in Game 6 against San Jose.

With a full complement of players, Modano found himself in healthy scratch territory — rotating with Kris Draper for the final few games of the second round. If Franzen were healthy, it’s likely that neither Modano nor Draper would be in the lineup.

CASE FOR MODANO
1) He’s a hometown boy, hailing from nearby Westland (or Livonia, depending on who’s telling the story).
2) Despite his age, he’s still damn fast and a wonderfully skilled skater and a legitimate threat.
3) He knows how to win — and become a valuable member of the team even if he’s not in the lineup each game.

CASE AGAINST MODANO
1) Never really became accustomed to the Red Wings style of play, but was improving each game until his injury.
2) His fire may have been extinguished being a healthy scratch at the most important part of the season.
3) Considering his age, recent injury history, and offensive production, the Red Wings can likely replace him without having to pay $1M.

WHAT HE’S SAYING
Before the playoffs even began, he sounded like he was leaning toward retiring no matter what the season’s outcome was. Following the second round exit, he says that he’s “75% sure” that he’s going to call it quits, adding that “there’s a high probability my playing days are over.” If this is, indeed, the end of his playing career, he’ll likely return to Dallas and become a member of the Stars front office.

SALARY RANGE
If he does decide to play, he can’t expect to make more than he did this season — and would likely have to take a pay cut to continue playing in Detroit or anywhere else he’d consider. Given his history, however, it might be insulting to offer under a million. If he were to continue, I’d have to guess he’d sign somewhere around $1M – $1.25M

POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS
Internal :: Jan Murak and Cory Emmerton are potentially ready to play similar third/fourth line minutes next season.
External :: Upcoming free agents of Mike Modano’s ilk (meaning, age and salary range) are Mark Recchi (BOS), Doug Weight (NYI), and John Madden (MIN).

WHAT DO YOU THINK
THANK YOU FOR YOUR VOTES! THEY’RE BEING TABULATED NOW, AND WINGING IT IN MOTOWN AND THE PRODUCTION LINE WILL HAVE RESULTS AFTER WE CYCLE THROUGH ALL OF THE CANDIDATES!

Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio, AP

TPL Summer Programming

With last week’s loss behind us, and many of us beginning the grieving period, now is as good a time as any to discuss some of the events and plans we have in motion at The Production Line. Unfortunately, Whitney Houston has been retired and Major League references will have to wait a few more months, but we’re sure that we can keep the Wings community busy and occupied with some fun — and maybe some debauchery, which you all know we’re good for around here.

NICKNAME CONTEST
We’ve been teasing it since the new year, and now it’s time to get down to business. For the last four months, we’ve been compiling the best nickname submissions that followed the themes we set out the mornings of game days. We got some absolutely hilarious submissions (as if there was any doubt), and there are 33 suggestions that have moved onto this stage. As a reminder, the winning submission will get a TPL shirt of their choosing.

The voting will take place on TPL’s Facebook page, so if you’re not already a fan — drop what you’re doing and click “Like” right now. Later this week, I’ll drop the first 8 (which I’ve randomized using some randomizing software that I’ve just learned exists) into a “Facebook Question” — allowing you to vote for your favorites. This will happen four times, and the top two vote-getters from each grouping will move onto the Finals.

The Top 8 will be displayed one more time, and the top choice will be the lucky winner of the TPL shirt!

PRO/NO PROFILES
Once again, we’re joining forces with our brethren at Winging it in Motown. @JJfromKansas and I have been discussing an idea that I absolutely stole from him following his asking of the Twitter community very casually whether or not they’d like Mike Modano to return.

In the coming weeks, we’ll have profiles for each of the impending free agents with any pertinent details that will help you decide whether or not you’d like to see them return — and for what price — and then you’ll have a chance to say your peace. We’ll be setting up a voting site, where you’ll be able to anonymously selected “YES” or “NO” and we’ll re-visit the data so you can see what the community is thinking.

In addition, we’ll explore some of the players that could replace each of the potential departures — whether it’s an internal promotion… or signing other teams’ free agents.

DRAFT PROSPECTS, PART II
Building off of the earlier prospects preview I did, we’ll have parts II and III for you prior to the Draft so that you’ll know a little bit about a handful of guys that could fall onto Detroit’s radar in the lower portion of the first round.

(and of course) TP:60
The podcast WILL run during the summer — though not weekly. We’ll likely make it a bi-weekly affair, starting as early as this week with your favorite bloggers and guests from around Hockeytown. We’re working on something kind of big right now, so stay tuned… here’s hoping we get to share some good news on this front ASAP.

And with that… we say goodnight.

There will be no parade up Woodward this summer.

The Red Wings were eliminated in seven games by the Pacific Division champion San Jose Sharks. We’ll have a full postmortem up in the coming weeks and months, as we dissect everything that was the Red Wings’ brilliant season.

But right now, it’s time for reflection.

Have Drew Miller, Ruslan Salei, and Patrick Eaves played their final games in a Red Wings uniform?

Have Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, Mike Modano, and Kris Draper played their final games in the National Hockey League?

Every summer, we’re greeted with hard decisions and tears and joy and confusion. And this summer will be no different. If any of those fine gentlemen decide that, yes, they’d like to spend more time with their families, put hundreds of fewer miles on their legs, and enjoy the game as a fan — well, they’ve earned that right.

Nicklas Lidstrom is still one of the best in the game, and if he’s not the best ever to play that position, he’s certainly in the conversation. We’ve been blessed to have him for two decades. Chris Osgood has always been the little engine that could. Love him or hate him, he got shit done and has several pieces of jewelry to show for it. The day he sits behind the podium is the day that the Hall of Fame conversation begins. Mike Modano is a boyhood hero of anyone born in Michigan in the last three decades. Having “one of us” make it to the league meant the world to us, and all he’s done is go on to become one of the best American-born players ever. Kris Draper is my hero, and always will be. It was clear by the time I was 11 that I wasn’t going to be Steve Yzerman. But I could be Kris Draper — working my ass off, making the best of my situation, and leaving people wondering who that was that just blew by them.

Our boys have — for the second year in a row — called it a season after two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In Hockeytown, anything less than a Stanley Cup is failure.

But it’s not all bad. There’s much to be proud of this season. By many accounts, 2010-11 was a year of unrivaled successes and beautiful, wonderful memories. The Wings became one of only a handful of teams to rally back from an 0-3 hole to force a Game 7. Alas, they fell just short, but if you’re not proud of these men… perhaps you’ll think differently in the morning.

For the second year in a row, a ragtag group of Wings fans descended upon Detroit: we partied hard, we enjoyed making real-life friends out screennames, and we raised a hefty sum for some deserving, heroic children who need Children’s Hospital to fight – and win – much bigger battles than the ones out on the ice.

We fought the man, or at least “Arby’s,” and got our Curly Fries back, letting anyone that would listen know that — no — we will not go quietly into the night, even when it comes to something as trivial as roast beef sandwiches.

We made noise when the authorities stepped in and said that we can’t toss our octopi onto the ice anymore. Sixty years of tradition cares not for your ridiculous rules, and we’ll throw whatever we goddamn-well please, thank you very much. And if you can’t look the other way and feel the need to fine one of us, the rest of us will band together and happily pay that young man or woman’s bail… and then round after round of Ghettoblaster.

Two players that have gotten a lot of flack from Red Wings fans — this site included — had coming out parties in this playoff season. Niklas Kronwall established himself as a big-game player, chipping in when he needed to and tightening up the defensive mishaps that burned our asses from time to time. Valtteri Filppula solidified his spot on this roster with incredible efforts and dizzying hockey IQ. If casual hockey fans didn’t know their names prior to this week, chances are good they’ve heard of them now.

Jimmy Howard, our very own Tiberius… somehow there were still doubters out there, folks that didn’t think he was  a game-changer, or that he wasn’t able to steal one for the hometown Reds. Here’s hoping they’re silent, because homeboy’s the real (fuckin’) deal.

There were Shirtuzzis. There were breakfasts with Mr. Holland. There were horsecops and Disney princesses and two Duffs.

We’ve got a lot in store for you this summer — more partnerships with Winging it, more Draft analysis, more live chats, and you bet your ass more podcasts. Thank you for being a part of our family and we look forward to having you back for a third season of The Production Line.

On behalf of my partners, Chris Hollis and Rob Discher, congratulations to our Detroit Red Wings — the most memorable non-Cup season of all time.

And, just to take the edge off…

The stunning Irina Shayk
...and her boyfriend Cristiano Ronaldo

May 12 :: We’re gonna make it right — tonight.

There's no way you could convince me that Phil Collins ISN'T the Jiri Hudler of this group. Also, what's with homeboy second-to-the-left's hair?

TONIGHT, TONIGHT, TONIGHT
Game 7. Here we are.

Much has been said about what the Red Wings are on the brink of, but I don’t think any of that’s relevant. Our boys don’t have to win four straight games anymore. They only need to win once — tonight, in San Jose. I haven’t made up my mind about whether or not I put stock in momentum or pressure; those are tricky things to grasp and even trickier things to measure. Do the players realize and/or care? Do the coaches do things differently if the pendulum is swinging their way? Do the fans cheer any differently?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. What I do know is that one team has all of the momentum, and the other one has all of the pressure.

Heading to California for a seventh game against a team that matches up very well against the Wings would normally be very scary. That’s not the ideal situation facing elimination, but I don’t feel nervous. I mean, I do. But not any more than any other playoff game. I like our team tonight. I liked our team on Tuesday. I like the chances and I like the script.

I don’t give a shit about the odds. It’s sixty minutes separating these teams from the Vancouver Canucks. If you think there’s a team more capable of blowing the doors off of sixty minutes than the Detroit Red Wings, you’ve been underground since the 1980’s.

Bring on the Sharks. Bring on the Canucks. Bring on the Stanley Cup Finals. In a few hours, we’ll be halfway home.

HOLD ON MY HEART
9:00pm Eastern :: Game 7 from San Jose

LAND OF CONFUSION
It’s going to be this script the rest of the post-season: Versus, TSN, and RDS are your carriers.

SUSSUDIO
Head over to Motor City Casino for a viewing party, with Red Wing alum and Hall-of-Famer Dino Ciccarelli. Get your tickets here.

DON’T YOU LOSE MY NUMBER
By special request, the TPL Glossary is ready to jailsex your eyes.
Modano — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Bertuzzi — Zetterberg — Cleary
Hudler — Filppula — Abdelkader
Miller — Helm — Eaves

Lidstrom — Stuart
Ericsson — Rafalski
Salei — Kronwall

Howard
MacDonald

I CAN’T DANCE
Chris Osgood [groin]
Johan Franzen [ankle]
Kris Draper [healthy scratch]
Jakub Kindl [healthy scratch]
ACES: Jordan Pearce, Doug Janik, Brian Lashoff, Derek Meech, Brendan Smith, Cory Emmerton, Ilari Filppula, Jan Mursak, Tomas Tatar

The TPL Name Game “Three Stars”
Disch: Jiri “The Happiness Machine is Trying Hard to Sing My Song” Hudler
Petrella: Jiri “Before You Know it, You’ll be on Your Knees” Hudler
Hollis: Jetsettin’
Now it’s your turn. Leave your nickname submissions in the comments for a chance to win a TPL shirt.

ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE
:: The goaltending in Game 6 was outstanding. Antti Niemi was beyond solid, and Jimmy Howard made the nasty saves we needed him to make to keep his team in it. Despite the ice being tilted toward the San Jose goal all night, the Sharks are a dangerous team and will happily capitalize on the chances — no matter how few — they get. Howard neutralized them, and we’ll need more of the same in the hostile Shark Tank.
:: Mike Modano looked fantastic, especially for having not played a ton since the regular season ended. And especially ESPECIALLY when compared to Johan Franzen, who was completely useless and very obviously hurt the last few games. Here’s hoping the Mule is 100% soon and returns to being a playoff horse (pun intended). As of this writing, there was no word whether Franzen would re-enter the lineup. We will edit as information is gathered.
:: Pavel Datsyuk is magic. That’s all.
:: For the third game in a row, the Sharks went all bratty tantrum at the end of a loser, highlighted by Captain Joe Thornton’s slash of Henrik Zetterberg’s leg. Aside from the diving, they do behave themselves during the game (for the most part), but one wonders if the Wings are starting to crawl under their skin and set up shop.
:: By all accounts, the Red Wings are loose. They’ve treated this series as they would any other, and I’m starting to wonder if they’re playing into the Sharks’ biggest fear of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy of post-season underachievement.

WHAT WE LEARNED IN GAME 6
:: Jonathan Ericsson is capable of playing a strong game. And Valtteri Filppula is the opposite of “sucks.”

THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN GAME 7
:: Big time emotion from both squads… but composure from the veteran Red Wings ranks.

The marbles. I want all of them.

The triumvirate of The Production Line gentlemen are out of pocket at the moment, so there won’t be any analysis yet again (and for that, we apologize). But your Detroit Red Wings have forced a seventh game against the San Jose Sharks. I’ll spare you the bullshit statistics and won’t bore you with the minutiae about the odds. The Red Wings no longer have to win four straight. They need only win on Thursday.

And you can bet your sweet ass they can.

Waiting for them on the other side of Game 7 are the Canucks… and then the Bruins or Lightning. Do you think any of those teams pose the kind of threat that the Sharks posed?

The answer is a resounding FUCK NO THEY DON’T.

Bring on Game 7, and bring on the Conference Finals.

The Audacity of Hope

Final
Red Wings 4 Sharks 3

Sharks lead the series 3-2.

Thoughts
When these playoffs opened, Mike Babcock laid out the phrase “Race to Four” when describing how the Red Wings would approach each series. If that mantra carried over to this series against the Sharks, then the Red Wings are playing the part of the tortoise to the proverbial “T”.

The Wings, all but written off in this series after dropping the first three games, now find themselves on a plane back home to Detroit for a sixth game in a series that many believed would be over tonight. Sure, the Wings claimed Game 4 at the Joe, but all one had to do was look back at last season’s series against the Sharks to find a reason to let doubt creep in. Up to this point, everything that had transpired in this Western Conference Semifinal reeked of the 2010 series that saw the Wings battle to the very end yet eventually fall short in San Jose in the fifth game. Heading into the third period tonight, it looked like history was on its way to repeating itself yet again.

Then it happened. No, then IT happened. The Wings finally found that elusive extra gear that they’ve been missing ever since the calendar rolled from 2010 to 2011. Down two goals to a talented foe in their own building, the Red Wings finally decided to start playing hockey. They relied on the system and the talent that’s been in place since day one, and lo and behold, things started to fall into place. Some call this puck luck, which has definitely not been in Detroit’s camp against the Sharks. Personally, I still believe you make your own luck. Maybe not the luck itself, but luck favors those who put themselves in a place to find it and the Wings finally found IT. Maybe they just gave up hope and said “Ah, FUCK IT. Let’s just play.” If so, we’ll take some more of that.

Yes, it was ugly at times. The first two periods were a terrifying mess of sluggish play and fear of making a mistake. The Sharks knew that and capitalized on it, hoping to deliver the same knockout blow that they did last year. But then something changed. Kronwall blew up Clowe. Datsyuk flipped the switch. The Rig scored (did I type that correctly?) and Dan Cleary decided to get back to grinding. It’s fitting then that a team that has struggled to find consistent offensive production this series finally got some goal scoring help from the muckers and grinders. The system? It worked tonight. In a game that was never destined to be easy, the Red Wings decided they hadn’t given everything they had, and their reward is a chance to keep the magic alive back home at the Joe.

Now, there’s momentum. Sure, the Wings had “momentum” after the Game 4 win, but that was more wishful thinking than anything else. Like I said, this script was all too familiar. Yet now the script is gone. Where there was five last year, there’s now six. Where the Wings were 0-7 in games where they trailed a series 3-1 on the road for Game 5, they are now 1-7. The story has now changed. This is uncharted territory for this era of these two teams playing each other. And that’s where it gets terrifying. With last year no longer a point of reference for optimism and/or pessimism, hope can begin to spring. Sure, the odds are still against the Wings in this series and there’s a very good chance they could end up losing this series, but 3-2 is much more manageable than 3-1. Sure, the Wings were dismal at home during the regular season, but now Tuesday night promises to be one of the most raucous crowds the Joe has seen in a long time. Sure, the defense has to get better, but the penalty kill was perfect tonight and there’s that goalie the Wings have who’s been standing on his head and doing everything in his power to keep his team in this series. That’s the audacity of hope. The odds may say no, but the heart says yes.

Who are we to disagree?

See you on Tuesday.