Archive for May, 2009

There have been two teams, and two teams only, who have repeated as Stanley Cup champions between 1991 and 2008.

Larry Murphy has played for them both.

Murphy, the Hall of Fame defenseman, was on the Pittsburgh Penguins teams of 1991-92, and, of course, the Red Wings’ back-to-back champs of 1997-98.

I pointed that out to him today and he smiled sheepishly.

“Timing is everything!” he said, laughing.

Murphy, today, is enjoying his broadcasting life after toiling for nearly 20 years in the NHL.

Murphy works Red Wings games for Fox Sports Detroit, and also puts in time for the NHL Network on a national basis.

I nabbed him after the morning skate and asked him his impressions of Game One and the prospects for the rest of the series.

On the Pens in Game One this year as opposed to Game One in 2008: “I thought they were in the series early this time. They played a strong road game, but got a couple bad bounces and the puck ended up in their net. I think they’re realizing that when you play the Red Wings there’s such a small margin for error.”

On the Red Wings’ style of play in Game One, when I suggested that it looked like they played a “road game” in their own building: “That’s how they always play. So much of the Red Wings’ offense is based on playing good defense and the transition game. So it looks like they’re emphasizing defense. You won’t see players hanging out around the center red line, hoping for a turnover. That’s not acceptable here.”

On the Red Wings’ best offensive players also being their best defensive players: “Oh, no doubt! That’s what you want. If you have players who put up big numbers but then don’t do anything for you in your own zone, then it’s a wash. The Red Wings’ star players are always on the right side of the puck.”

On Evgeni Malkin, who Murphy said had to have a good start in this series: “I thought he played well. Last year he never got untracked. Obviously, he would have liked to score on the breakaway, but I thought he was into it. That said, he wasn’t the dominant player that we’ve seen in other rounds. But I think he got off to a pretty good start.”

On Sidney Crosby: “Obviously, he didn’t produce offensively the way he would have wanted, but I thought he was in the thick of things. Don’t forget–he’s going up against Henrik Zetterberg and that’s a tough matchup for any player. It wouldn’t surprise me if (Crosby) came out and got two or three points in Game Two.”

On the Penguins’ mind-set after Game One: “They have to make a series out of this. The longer it goes on, the more the pressure increases. But at least now they have the formula for winning. They just need to go out and do it. But there’s such a small margin for error when you play the Red Wings.”

On the importance of Game Two: “I think Game Two is always important because it’s the first game of a series where one team is facing adversity.”

 

I wrapped things up by observing that Murphy seems to really be enjoying himself as a broadcaster.

“Oh, it’s a lot of fun.

“One thing I learned is that it’s a lot easier being on the media side of things than being a player. Being a player, it was tough.

“Now I just say, ‘Come on, boys–it’s the easiest game in the world!’”

For other quotes after the Red Wings’ morning skate, go to www.twitter.com/thegregger63 and start scrolling!

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May
31

JLA End Boards, Role Players Help Wings Capture Game One

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The typical NHL shift is around 45 seconds in length.

Sounds easy, right?

Take a spin around the ice for less than a minute, then skate back to the bench for a few, to rest up so you can skate those 45 seconds all over again.

Piece of cake!

Wrong again, hockey socks breath!

Here’s an example of what I saw last night midway thru the third period of Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings’ Kirk Maltby, when he jumped onto the ice, had his helmet on and his breath inside him.

After those 45-odd seconds had elapsed, it took all that Maltby had to make it back to the Detroit bench.

His helmet was off, spinning around the ice like a curling rock, over in the far corner.

He could barely breathe.

And the JLA crowd ate it up. They roared their approval.

Maltby, plus youngsters Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm, had just spent their 45-second turn making a nuisance of themselves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ zone.

They created scoring opportunities. They played keep-away with the puck. They took some physical abuse in the process (read: Maltby’s missing bucket).

The Penguins’ defending zone was crawling with Maltby and his young linemates.

It was a grand effort, one that typified the Red Wings’ 3-1 win that nudged them ahead in this finals series, 1-0.

And it didn’t go unappreciated.

After the scintillating, gritty shift, as Maltby willed himself to the bench (he didn’t skate, per se, because skating involves moving the legs one in front of the other, and Maltby couldn’t, so he simply coasted), the partisan crowd got off their feet and gave the trio a rousing ovation.

After the game, I asked Maltby if that shift and the fans’ reaction to it reminded him of the heyday of the Grind Line, on which he played with Kris Draper and Darren McCarty so marvelously in the late-1990s, early-2000s. Won three championships, the Grind Liners did.

“You never like to live in the past, but yeah, this arena is awesome to play in,” Maltby said, appreciating the acknowledgement from the crowd for the hard work–not just on that shift but throughout all those Grind Line seasons.

“The fans are great (in Detroit),” Maltby went on. “They’re very hockey smart. They acknowledge all sorts of big plays, whether it’s a goal, or a hit, or a great save.”

On the way home from the game last night, I was trying to put into words how the Red Wings played, because it wasn’t a typical game for them. Mainly because they seemed to put defense first and offense second.

Then it occurred to me.

The Red Wings had won by playing the perfect road game in their own building.

Shifts like the one Maltby and The Kids had wasn’t the anomaly in Game One.

The Red Wings played it close to the vest, eschewing a lot of their famous puck possession for an emphasis on keeping Pittsburgh superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in check.

And, if we stumble upon a scoring chance, they seemed to say, then we’ll address that when the time comes.

Rare was the tic-tac-toe passing Detroit hockey fans have come to know and love. In its place for most of the night was grit and determination. And sticks in the way.

The Red Wings, maybe more so than in any other game this post-season, had their sticks in the passing lanes at seemingly all times.

The result was a severe limitation on the Pittsburgh transition game, which when it gets going can get a little Lakers Showtime on you, usually with Crosby and Malkin playing the parts of James Worthy and Magic Johnson. Or vice-versa.

There were no 2-on-1s for the Penguins. Not even, really, any 3-on-2s.

There was, for all intents and purposes, one odd-man rush–the clean cut breakaway that Malkin had early in the second period.

“Well, you try to get your stick on the puck and try to prevent those cross-ice passes, especially in our zone,” Maltby said when I brought up the Red Wings’ well-placed sticks.

“They have so much offense over there [in the Penguins' dressing room], with obviously Malkin and Crosby and they’re playing extremely well,” Maltby said. ”You can’t let them have any free passing lanes. Sometimes it hits your stick, sometimes it doesn’t, but you just have to make the play as difficult for them as possible.”

This was a grind-it-out win for the Red Wings. They were only 72 hours removed from clinching the Western Conference Finals. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun bellyached that there wasn’t enough pretty here, and too much ugly to befit the skill level of the two teams’ rosters.

I can see LeBrun’s point, to a degree, but because there’s so much skill, you’re bound to see it emerge sooner or later. It just might  not be as wide open or prevalent as what was displayed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Game One’s first period victimized both goalies.

At 13:38, Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart made a nifty play at the Pittsburgh blue line to stop a clearing attempt, then wristed the puck toward the Penguins net.

The live end boards at the Joe did the rest.

The puck was off the boards and back at Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury quicker than a Jose Canseco MMA fight.

The disc ricocheted off Fleury’s right pad and caromed behind him and over the goal line.

Stuart made no bones about it: sometimes it’s a designed play to shoot toward the net at JLA, instead of directly at it.

“Yeah, you do,” Stuart said with a sly grin when asked if the end boards are purposely used for ricochets. “We know how to play them here.”

Five minutes later, it was Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood’s turn to be red-faced.

Ozzie couldn’t gather in Malkin’s slap shot, and Ruslan Fedotenko made him pay.

As Osgood frantically tried to cover the puck with his trapper, Fedotenko poked it away, moved to his backhand, and neatly deposited the tying goal at 18:37.

The end boards picked up their second assist of the night late in the second period, a period that Maltby said was the Red Wings’ “nervous one, for whatever reason.”

But they survived it, killing off two power plays and dodging a bullet, in the form of Malkin’s breakaway.

Not only did they survive it, the Red Wings took the lead.

Brian Rafalski slammed a shot toward Fleury that went wide. Johan Franzen, the Playoff Scoring Mule, pounced on the lively ricochet and managed to tap the puck over Fleury and into the Pittsburgh net at 19:02.

The Penguins had outplayed the Red Wings in the middle frame, at times pretty soundly, yet still trailed 2-1.

2:46 into the third period, young Justin Abdelkader made a play normally befitting a veteran.

He took a shot near the face-off circle to the left of Fleury, and the rebound flew high into the air.

No one seemed to know where the puck was for a precious second or two.

That’s all Abdelkader needed. He never lost sight of it, and calmly knocked the disc down with his right glove, settling it, and slapping a shot over Fleury’s right shoulder.

“That goal kind of settled us down and enabled us to close the game out,” Maltby told me afterward.

So it’s one-nil, Detroit, and while I still believe this will be a long series, the Red Wings keep getting goals from the Abdelkaders and Darren Helms of the world. That makes them awfully difficult to beat.

And as for playing on back-to-back nights?

“Just get some rest, drink plenty of fluids, and get ready to go,” Stuart said when I asked him how the team would approach playing on Sunday. “It’s not like we haven’t done it before.”

Maybe in the regular season, Stewie, but back-to-back games haven’t been played in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1955.

Oh, the Red Wings won the Cup that year.

You know how superstitious hockey people can be.

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May
30

Me at the Stanley Cup Finals, Game One: End of 2nd Period Blog

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The end boards at Joe Louis Arena are having a career night.

They’ve assisted on both Red Wings goals, and Detroit leads, 2-1, after 40 minutes of Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the first period, it was Brad Stuart’s seemingly harmless wrister off the end boards that turned deadly for the Pens after the puck bounced in off goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s right leg.

In the second period–a period in which the Penguins probably deserved a better fate–Brian Rafalski slammed a slap shot wide of the net, the puck did its usual boogaloo off the boards at the Joe, and Johan Franzen tapped it past a sprawled Fleury at 19:02.

The Penguins played a much better period, out-shooting the Red Wings 13-11 and having the majority of the quality scoring chances.

One that comes to mind is Evgeni Malkin’s penalty shot-like breakaway early in the period, which Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood foiled with a quick glove.

The Red Wings know darn well how to play the boards at JLA, and they use that knowledge unabashedly in their favor.

The Penguins are certainly playing a much stronger Game One than they did in 2008′s Finals, but they find themselves having to play catch up, nonetheless.

Quick observations: the Red Wings are doing a good job getting in the way of Pittsburgh’s passing lanes, and goalie Chris Osgood has once again shrugged off a bad goal, which Ruslan Fedotenko’s was in the first stanza.

The Penguins seem to be a more physical, less finesse team than they were last year, which Osgood mentioned at Media Day on Friday.

Overall, it seems to be a fairly well-officiated game; the refs are “letting them play” for the most part.

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May
30

Me at the Stanley Cup Finals, Game One: End of 1st Period Blog

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So that’s what it might come down to, eh?

Boards as live as downtown Royal Oak on a Friday night. The puck pinballing off Marc-Andre Fleury into the Pittsburgh net.

If this was baseball, the official scorer would call the second goal E-G — an error on goalie Chris Osgood. Unable to gobble up a rebound, and a gift for Penguins forward Ruslan Fedotenko.

That’s what the first period ended up boiling down to, in Game One of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.

Brad Stuart opened the scoring, not that he was trying.

Stuart stopped a clearing attempt at the Pittsburgh blue line, and slung the puck toward the net. It wasn’t even on net, but at Joe Louis Arena, that’s not always the plan.

For the boards at the Joe often springboard the puck back toward danger. Never was it more so than here.

The puck caromed back into the right pad of Fleury, who was splayed out in the goaltending butterfly position.

Fleury likely didn’t even know that the vulcanized rubber disc even touched him. Likely it was the roar of the JLA crowd that tipped him off.

By that time it was too late. The puck had rattled off Fleury and slipped behind him, just over the goal line.

At 13:38, it was 1-0 Detroit. Stuart got credited for the unassisted goal, but the line should read:

Stuart 2 (end boards) 13:38; 1-0 Detroit.

Next, it was Osgood’s turn to play the fool.

Ozzie couldn’t gather in Evgeni Malkin’s slap shot, and despite a frantic attempt to cover it with his trapper, the puck lay loose for Fedotenko, who neatly put it to his backhand and flipped it into the open net.

At 18:37, the game was tied at 1-1.

Observations: this is going to be a long, bitter, angry series.

The teams have already seemed to work up a hatred for each other, although maybe it’s a carryover from last year’s Finals matchup.

Regardless, the play was chippy, the after-whistle stuff was nasty, and that was before the period was 10 minutes old.

The Red Wings carried the play, mostly, but after watching two fluke goals being scored, it makes one wonder if outplaying your opponent will mean a hill of beans in this series.

No penalties were called, which I think I like.

There certainly could have been, though.

Detroit’s Marian Hossa was mugged in the Pens’ zone, but the cops, er, refs, were looking the other way, I guess.

SOG: Detroit 11, Pittsburgh 7.

Fluke goals: one apiece.

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Just a reminder that I will be Twittering LIVE tonight throughout Game One, from the press box at the Joe.

Also, come here for live blog posts in between periods.

Tomorrow, I’ll be at Red Wings practice in the morning and will Twitter and file blog posts as well.

Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thegregger63

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May
30

Quiet Helm Lets Skating, Checking Do The Talking

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As long as there’s been hockey, there’s been The Pest.

He’s the gnat circling your face. The army of ants invading your picnic.

The hockey pest is a whirling dervish of skating, checking, and supreme harassment.

They’ve had nicknames over the years—like hockey gangsters.

Bugsy. The Rat. The Little Ball of Hate. Terrible Ted.

What pack of NHL banditos would be complete without guys with monikers like that?

Yes, those are actual tags hung onto some of the game’s greatest disturbers.

Bryan Watson so infuriated the great Bobby Hull during a Red Wings-Blackhawks playoff series that Bobby himself called Watson “buggy”, which got turned into “Bugsy.”

Kenny Linseman seemed to be so close to his opponents as to be inside their jerseys. No doubt it was an exasperated victim of Linseman’s persistence who first called him The Rat.

Pat Verbeek possessed the typical physical trait of the NHL pest: he was short. Hockey players have often subscribed to the Napoleonic Complex. And Verbeek added just enough mean-spiritedness to his play to be dubbed The Little Ball of Hate.

Terrible Ted, of course, was Ted Lindsay. Enough said.

So how could a certified hockey pest be such a nice, quiet kid? How could he be so unassuming and shy that you think you’re talking to a high school freshman instead of a key player on the defending Stanley Cup champions?

Darren Helm and I spent some quiet moments together Friday during Media Day prior to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Of course, that’s easy to do, because Helm makes a clam with lockjaw seem talkative by comparison.

This is how deep the Red Wings are: on just about any other team in the league, the player who scored the game-winning goal, in overtime, to send his side to the Cup Finals would be mobbed by reporters on Media Day—the first opportunity to get 1-on-1 time with the hero.

Yet there Helm and I were, amidst all the frenzy, while the cameras and microphones and notepads surrounded, well, everyone else, it seemed.

“I’m more of a depth guy,” Helm said, as I strained to hear him. “I just try to chip in.”

And this is the guy who coach Mike Babcock called “The Energizer Bunny”?

Someone replace his batteries!

Naah.

Helm does his talking on the ice, and that’s where he gets all pest-like.

Helm, making a nuisance of himself during last year’s Finals

 

Blazing speed. Obnoxiously persistent checking, to the point where sometimes you swear the kid is working with two sticks. Or that the Red Wings are working with two Helms: one for each side of the rink. At the same time.

I asked him how he learned to skate so doggone fast.

He gave me one of his “Aw, shucks”, embarrassed grins before practically whispering, “Just hard work, I guess.”

I didn’t buy it. And I won’t, until I see a rabbit on a treadmill at the gym.

Or until I see a gym, period.

Helm is the 22-year-old Manitobian who propelled the Red Wings to where they are now—about to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals: The Sequel—thanks to his goal at 3:58 of overtime on Wednesday night in Game Five of the conference finals against Chicago.

Not that you would know it.

The reporters continued to ignore Helm as he told me about how his parents instilled a work ethic into him and that “anyone in this room” could have gotten that series-winning goal—present company excluded, of course—and that he plays “hard between whistles.”

The more I talked to him, the more I either wanted: a) him to be six years younger, or b) my daughter to be six years older.

Memo to all you dads out there: you’d be thrilled if your little girl came home with a kid like Darren Helm in tow.

The Red Wings, for all their success, have remained an even keeled, level-headed bunch. There’s not a prima donna in that dressing room. And there won’t be in the future, if the future is in the hands of players like Helm and Jonathan Ericsson and even Henrik Zetterberg, who’s not all that old yet himself.

I liked Helm from the get-go last year, when he functioned as a sort of X-factor for the Red Wings in the playoffs.

The speed, of course, stood out first. How could it not, when Helm makes everyone else on the ice look like inanimate objects?

Then there’s the dogged checking—fore and back—which is so thorough that you can practically hear the other team’s guys sigh in annoyance from the press box.

And don’t forget Helm’s uncanny ability to “chip in,” as he puts it, with the occasional big goal.

Why, he’s Kris Draper—only 16 years younger and with more of a scoring touch, at least so far.

Since we had so much time to chit-chat, I asked Helm to describe the series-winning goal against the Blackhawks.

“The play was pretty fast,” he said of the course of events, in which a Brett Lebda shot from the point ping-ponged off the end boards and ended up in the goal crease, behind goalie Cristobal Huet.

“The puck was just lying there. I poked it in.

“But it all happened pretty fast.”

Only Darren Helm could describe scoring a clutch goal as if he was a mugging victim, giving his statement to police.

But just because Helm is young and looks like he’s about to cut your grass for ten bucks, doesn’t mean that the kid isn’t mature.

To wit, about the big goal on Wednesday night: “That goal doesn’t mean anything now. We’re trying to win the Stanley Cup.”

Ahh, so THAT’S why everyone was leaving him alone.

Why bother talking to a kid who just scored a goal that doesn’t matter anymore?

Especially when you can barely hear what he’s saying.

No worries; Helm’s play is like fingernails on a chalkboard to his beleaguered opponents.

He’ll get his unflattering nickname, soon enough. Which means he’s doing his job quite well.

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May
29

W-h-o C-a-r-e-s-?

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First, let’s call it for what it is, not what its title is.

The National Spelling Bee has nothing to do with spelling.

Well, maybe a little bit. But only a little bit.

The Bee is, in fact, a test of one’s memory. The ability to remember the order in which the letters of words that no child will ever use, come in.

It’s a demanding, almost cruel ordeal we put the children through.

And what do they get out of it, exactly?

Nausea. Cold sweats. Fainting spells — no pun intended. Wracked nerves.

Besides, the Indian-American kids seem to have this down pat, so why bother anymore?

This year’s winner is a 13-year-old girl from Kansas who is now the seventh Indian-American child to win the event in the past 11 years.

Her name is Kavya Shivashankar.

“Spelling has been such a big part of my life,” said the Scripps Spelling Bee 2009 winner to the Associated Press. Kavya has been participating in national bees for several years, including the 2008 Scripps bee.

I’m sure she’s a sweet girl, but she’s got it all wrong.

Spelling hasn’t been a big part of her life. Memorization has been.

I’m not sure why we have spelling bees, if the words that are included have a 0.1% chance of being uttered in everyday conversation.

Look, I think the idea of a spelling bee, in its purest form, is a grand idea.

There’s nothing wrong with knowing how to spell, No. 1.

I don’t know about you, but I encounter bad spelling on a daily basis, and not just on Twitter or in e-mails.

How about on menus, or on signs?

And not just the handwritten ones, either. The kind that actually have to go through (you would assume) some sort of proofreading process.

So I’m not anti-spelling. Far from it. As a writer and editor, good spelling is sort of a part of my life.

But I’m anti-child abuse, and that’s what I see the spelling bees–with these high stakes–as being.


Kavya being consoled after being eliminated from the 2008 National Bee

If we’re going to have a National Bee, how about testing the kids on words they’re likely to encounter somewhere other than a medical or psychiatric journal?

That’s right–little Kavya’s winning word was “Laodicean,” a phrase referring to lukewarm or indifferent feelings toward religion.

Yeah, that’s something 13-year-olds are talking about at lunchtime.

According to this story, Kavya used the technique of writing the letters into her palm with her finger while saying them aloud.

Mirle Shivashankar told the AP that his daughter’s victory was “the moment we’ve been waiting for” and “a dream come true.”

That’s all well and good, but these bees make me almost more uneasy than the kind that buzz around and sting.

The reason? They simply aren’t, anymore, within the framework of what well-meaning spelling bees used to be.

A true spelling bee was designed to get kids to learn how to spell words, not medical terms or sociological categories.

Today’s bees, which are the culmination of local and statewide bees prior to them, aren’t designed to be helpful at all to the kids’ futures.

It’s all about who can cram and memorize the best.

Let’s have bees that ask kids how to spell “bankruptcy” and “foreclosure”. Maybe “waterboarding” and “recession.”

Too easy? Maybe. But more reflective of life.

Recent bee champs have gone on to great things in life–doctors and engineers, for example.

Wonderful. But my gripe isn’t that the kids aren’t smart enough to make it in today’s world.

Let’s just not call them “spelling bees” anymore. Because they’re not.

Fie on them!

F-i-e. Fie.

Categories : Enotes, society
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May
29

No More Mr. Nice Guy: Verlander Turns Mean And Wins Again

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Being a nice guy is overrated.

A team’s ace pitcher doesn’t have to be a Dale Carnegie protege.

The exact opposite, in fact, is often what’s needed.

Bob Gibson had it.

“It” was the disposition of a hungry, caged lion.

Especially on the days that he was slated to pitch.

It was best to stay out of Gibson’s way on those days. Gibson was never really known as a congenial man–still isn’t, frankly–but he turned positively wretched when his turn in the rotation came up.

His teammates stayed far, far out of his way. Gibson, they said, walked around with a puss about as sour as under-ripe lemons. Then he went out and treated opposing hitters as if they went pee-pee in his Corn Flakes.

Jack Morris, one of the best money pitchers of his time–or anyone’s time, for that matter–also had “it.”

Morris was an angry man, especially when he played in Detroit. I ought to know. I followed Morris from the day he arrived from Evansville as a rookie in 1977, to the day he fled after the 1990 season as a free agent.

Morris was the Tigers’ Gibson: the unequivocal ace who was mad at the world–or at least at the Yankees, or the Orioles, or the Blue Jays.

There was plenty of hate in Morris to go around.

The writers weren’t safe. Neither were his teammates.

Morris reminded me of another high-strung Detroit athlete, Lions quarterback Bobby Layne.

Layne was known to kick his offensive linemen in the shins when they blew an assignment.

There was a line attributed to Layne, probably true.

It came as he entered the huddle prior to the game-winning drive in the 1953 NFL Championship Game.

“Alraght, fellas,” Layne drawled, “y’all block and ole Bobby’ll pass y’all raght to the champeenship.”

The Lions blocked. And Layne, true to his word, passed the Lions to the championship over the Cleveland Browns at (then) Briggs Stadium in Detroit.

Morris, when a Tigers player would boot a baseball, forcing “The Cat” to get four outs that inning, would glare at the offending teammate.

The teammate wouldn’t glare back. He knew better.

Morris’s will was never more on display than in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series.

He pitched 10 innings of shutout ball in the Metrodome, leading the Twins to victory over Atlanta.

Manager Tom Kelly didn’t dare remove Jack.

For my money, if I needed a baseball game won, I’d want Jack Morris on the mound.

The Tigers’ ace of today, Justin Verlander, is shucking the nice guy label, kind of.

“I’m not as nice anymore,” JV said recently, explaining his mood on the days he starts.

Verlander is on a roll right now, mowing down hitters and giving up runs begrudgingly and miserly.

He’s becoming angry on the mound now, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’ve seen the Verlander of old on the days he was slated to throw, and he was anything but mean.

Quite the contrary.

Laughs. Smiles.

Loosey-goosey comes to mind.

Which was fine–then.

But after a miserable 2008, JV thought that walking on the dark side was worth a try.

Right now, his stuff is filthy and his mood is nasty.

It’s a combo that has worked for the Bob Gibsons and Jack Morrises of the world.

If you can’t beat ‘em…

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May
29

At The Finals: Red Wings Presser

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Following are some highlights of the Detroit Red Wings presser, held downtown at the RenCen at 1:45.

Mike Babcock

On injuries: Everyone is ready to go. Pavel Datsyuk is a game-time decision.”

On the schedule: “Well, they don’t ask me, but it seems to me that the NHL could have used more time to hype the series.”

On NBC/Versus commercials for the league: “Sometimes I wonder if they know that we won last year!”

On being at the Finals: “I love seeing how excited the players are.”

On the Finals themselves: “One night you win and you feel like a million bucks; the next night you lose and you feel like you got your heart ripped out.”

On the schedule in the playoffs: “I could have gone bear hunting in the days between some of the games!”

On whether the Red Wings have an advantage in terms of experience: “I think that’s out the window because the Penguins were here last year.”

Nick Lidstrom, Marian Hossa

Hossa

On the Pens: “They’ll be hungrier than last year. And better prepared. Last year (when he was with Pittsburgh) we were at The Finals but we kind of were wondering what was going on. Before we knew it, we were down 2-0.”

On signing with Detroit: “It was a very tough decision but I made it and obviously it was between two teams and they’re the two best teams in hockey.”

On the prospects of playing Pittsburgh in the Finals as the playoffs went on: “I started to realize that we could play the Pens in the Finals as I watched their games. Will be very interesting for me (smiles).”

Lidstrom

On being injured: “It was very hard watching a playoff game.”

On what happened: “It happened during Game Three in Chicago.” (he wouldn’t say what the injury was)

On young guys like Darren Helm and Jonathan Ericsson: “The experience the guys got from last year’s playoffs was key to our success in this year’s playoffs.”

On the playoffs: “Even after 17 years, I still get butterflies playing in the playoffs. I still get nervous.”

On the Finals schedule: “You’re just excited to be here. I don’t think fatigue will be a factor.”

On Ericsson: “‘Johnnie’ doesn’t look nervous in the playoffs. He’s just getting better and better.”

Henrik Zetterberg, Chris Osgood

Zetterberg

On Hossa: “His skating ability and size are big forces. He’s been unbelievable.”

On Sidney Crosby: “He’s a great player. You have to be on your toes when he’s out there or else he’ll hurt you.”

Osgood

On what he’s learned about this year’s Red Wings: “That we can turn it on when we want to.”

On his season: “I wasn’t mentally ready for the season to start. I guarantee that I won’t have a regular season like that again.”

On experience: “We turned it on against Columbus. We didn’t panic against Anaheim. We ran out of gas at the end of Game Five against Chicago but we found a way to win.”

On Finals schedule: “It’s fun once the games start, and the crowd is loud. At this time of the year, you really don’t want to practice. You want to play games.”

On Helm and Ericsson: “I knew they were good. I didn’t know they were that good. They help inspire us older guys to keep up with them.”

On the Pens, 2009 version: “They aren’t trying to score pretty goals as much. Last year they played a lot on the perimeter. This year they’re going to the net and cycling more. And they have guys like [Bill] Guerin, who’ve won the Cup before.”

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May
29

Me at The Finals: A rundown

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For those interested, here’s a quick rundown of my schedule of events this weekend for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Friday, May 29

1:45: Press conference with Red Wings players made available to the media. Will Twitter as I go, and will post the best comments here.

Saturday, May 30

Will attend Game One. Will Twitter during the game and post live blog updates here between periods.

Will post any highlights from the postgame pressers here and on Twitter.

Sunday, May 31

10:30am: Will attend Red Wings practice and will get 1-on-1 interviews afterward. Will post highlights here.

I am NOT attending Game Two, but I will attend Game Five in Detroit, should it be necessary (likely it will be).

Join me all weekend!!

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