Tuesday, July 04, 2006

More Steve Yzerman memories

[More memories added]
I'll start with the most recent memories that stick out and try to work my way back through the years I've been a Wings fan. Like Brian's post, I'll probably be adding to this as I remember more specifics. 2005-2006 Season May 1, 2006 - Detroit Red Wings @ Edmonton Oilers - 4-3 L The Wings blew a three-goal lead in the third period and lost Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the Oilers on the road. Many of us suspected it was the last time we would see Steve Yzerman play and, of course, we were right. His final game didn't end with him on the ice, however, despite the Wings needing a good face-off man in the final seconds. As soon as the final horn sounded, Yzerman made a bee-line to Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish to congratulate him, showing the classy player he was, despite the ignoble end to his season and career. March 21, 2006 - Nashville Predators @ Detroit Red Wings - 3-2 (SO) L It was just the Wings' fourth shootout game but it became their second such loss as Brendan Shanahan couldn't match the Predator skater before him, Martin Erat. However, many fans nonetheless felt relief after that game because Steve Yzerman had been given the nod by Mike Babcock to participate in the shootout, in the sudden-death round. At the time, as Yzerman stood at center ice facing down Tomas Vokoun, "The only thing going through the mind of every Wing fan anywhere was this, 'I do NOT want to see Steve Yzerman fail,' " as IwoCPO put it at the time. He didn't fail. The Captain skated in and beat Vokoun low, keeping the shootout going. Even though the loss hurt, it would have hurt a lot more had Yzerman not scored there. January 11, 2006 - Detroit Red Wings @ Carolina Hurricanes - 3-2 L In their lone game against the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Wings ran into Martin Gerber and a quick-striking Carolina team that put up three first-period goals. With the score 3-0 'Canes and the period winding down, Steve Yzerman got the puck at center and took matters into his own hands. I wrote at the time,
"He took the puck into the Hurricanes' zone, maneuvered across the Carolina defense from left to right and then down the right boards before crossing back toward the net. Martin Gerber tried to poke check the puck away but he failed and The Captain backhanded it in as he fell, scoring just his 5th goal of the season."
It was a great goal and a great individual effort. Unfortunately, it was another loss nonetheless. December 6, 2005 - New Jersey Devils @ Detroit Red Wings - 5-2 W It was a veteran's game, with Brendan Shanahan scoring twice and Steve Yzerman scoring once. His goal evoked memories of the earlier stages of his career as he deked NJ goalie Scott Clemmensen with a fake to the forehand on a breakaway after receiving a good pass from Dan Cleary. The goal got the Joe rocking and we named it the top Wings goal of 2005. It came only a little over a week after The Captain had nearly retired, as Michael Rosenberg reported in May, and was a clear sign of his resurgence around mid-season. November 28, 2005 - Detroit Red Wings @ LA Kings - 5-2 W Only two days earlier, Yzerman had asked to be taken out of the lineup against San Jose after a head injury and problems with his knee flared up, according to Rosenberg. The Kings game was meant to be his last away game but that plan was disrupted by Robert Lang's second period groin injury. Yzerman was given more ice time and The Captain had, "one of his best outings of the season." He didn't look back after that. 2003-2004 Season May 1, 2004 - Calgary Flames @ Detroit Red Wings - 1-0 L The Wings lost Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals, falling down 3-2 in the series. They also lost Steve Yzerman, who was injured in a freakish accident involving a deflected Mathieu Schneider shot. The puck hit The Captain in the face around the left eye, scratched his cornea and broke his occipital bone. He reacted immediately and the image of him falling down, getting up and falling down again is etched in the memory of anyone who saw the game. Many feared the worst and when it later came out that he was okay and that he still wanted to play another season, it was an enormous relief. Without their leader, however, the Wings faltered and lost Game 6 by a score of 1-0 and were eliminated. 2002-2003 Season June 12, 2003 - NHL Awards Yzerman won the Masterton Trophy for his perseverance in returning from the major knee surgery he underwent in the summer of 2002. He missed the first 66 games of the '02-'03 season and only had 6 points but was very much deserving of that award. 2001-2002 Season April 17 - April 27, 2002 - Western Conference Quarterfinal Series versus Vancouver Canucks As is well-known, the Canucks stunned the Wings by winning the first two games of the series and throwing Hockeytown into doubt. Just before Game 3, however, Steve Yzerman gave a talk to his teammates and reminded them what they needed to do to win. They came out in Game 3 and, with the help of Nick Lidstrom's long-bomb goal on Dan Cloutier with seconds left in the second period, won 3-1. In Game 4, the teams were tied 2-2 going into the third period. Yzerman scored at :56, however, and broke the tie. The Wings won 4-2, tying the series at two games. They would go on to eliminate Vancouver in six. October 13, 2001 - Detroit Red Wings @ New York Islanders - 5-4 (OT) W In just the fifth game of the season, the Wings were already demonstrating the comeback magic that would serve them in such good stead throughout that year. They found themselves playing catch-up with the New York Islanders and their new goalie, Chris Osgood. Regulation ended with the teams tied at 4 after Yzerman made up for Max Kuznetzov's brutal mistake that had given the Isles a 4-3 lead. An exciting overtime period was capped off by a play that began with a strong save by Manny Legace. The puck went the other way with Kris Draper and Brett Hull on a 2-on-1, Yzerman trailing. Draper passed it across to Hull, who dropped it back to Yzerman. The Captain ripped the puck past a helpless Osgood to score his second of the night and give the Wings their fourth win. 2000-2001 Season April 11, 2001 - LA Kings @ Detroit Red Wings - 5-3 W The Captain left this game in the second period with a sprained ankle and did not return that series. The Wings went on to blow a two-game lead and lost in six. 1999-2000 Season November 26, 1999 - Edmonton Oilers @ Detroit Red Wings - 4-2 W At 12:30 of the first period, Steve Yzerman picked up the puck in the left face-off circle and took it behind the goalline, looking for someone to pass to. He saw Slava Kozlov on the other side of the net and tried to get the puck to him. It hit Tommy Salo's glove, however, and then his skate, before going into the net. It was a flukey way to score goal #600. I remember watching that game on our little black-and-white TV in the basement and I remember Yzerman's reaction: there wasn't much of one. He skated calmly to the bench as the Joe cheered him wildy and apparently planned to act as though it was nothing special. He had to give in, however, as he saw the reaction of his teammates and fans. He stood up on the bench and let the fans pay tribute to his becoming just the 11th player in NHL history to score 600 goals. 1998-1999 Season April 21, 1999 - Mighty Ducks of Anaheim @ Detroit Red Wings - 5-3 W Steve Yzerman scored a hat trick in the first game of the playoffs against the Ducks. The Wings would go on to sweep Anaheim but lost in six games to the Avs in the second round. Yzerman led the Wings with 9 goals and 13 points in 10 games that postseason. 1997-1998 Season June 16, 1998 - Detroit Red Wings @ Washington Capitals - 4-1 W I missed the '97 Stanley Cup because I was in Virginia visiting family. I remember seeing a news clipping about the parade a few days after it happened (which forever messed up the date I associate with the actual victory). I was home when the car accident took place, however, and I remember the shock of it. As is well known, the Wings dedicated the following season to Vladdie and Sergei and it culminated in their sweep of the Washington Capitals in the Finals. Having missed the first Cup made seeing the second awarded that much more special. The Captain did the right thing, raising it per tradition and then handing it off to Vladdie in tribute.


At 7/04/2006 02:34:00 PM, Anonymous Gabriel P said...

Though the impact of yesterday's announcement is going to be felt for a long, long time, there's another huge story going on too. Some sort of implosion is happening to the Wings' arch-rival, Colorado. First Forsberg and Foote, now Tanguay, Hinote and Blake. It would seem the Wing's Yzerman era isn't the only one that's over.

Although the Colorado/Detroit rivalry was rather anemic last year, I think it's finally safe to officially close the book on it. What do you guys think?

At 7/04/2006 04:46:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

I think games between those two teams will always have specifal significance for those who knew the rivalry at its peak, even if it no longer exists with nearly as much passion on the ice. It will always feel especially good to beat the Avs.


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