Thursday, November 8, 2007
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Modano = Greatest American Ever
This morning breaks down last night's historic game.
Top of the morning, hockey fans! Last week we examined the "Who Cares" rallying cry of this year's World Series victors, and, using the power of imagination, applied it to the Stars' chances of going 70-0-0 the rest of the way. I was going to spend this week writing my annual Ranking the Sexual Deviants of the Western Conference (#27: Sandis Ozolinsh- Likes to hold the camera), but a Very Special Moment happened in last night's game against the Sharks, one which Dallas Stars fans will remember for years to come.
I'm talking, of course, of that amazing Sharks goal in the second period that was mysteriously called back.
In more than a decade of watching hockey religiously, there is one cardinal rule about goal scoring that, I think, applies to all hockey fans regardless of age, creed or vision: that is that every single goal scored against your team is the result, somehow, of cheating. At least that's the instinctive gut feeling a true fan gets at the moment he/she/it realizes that the puck has defied the gods and allegedly crossed that unholy line.
The perfect example of this: Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against New Jersey, in multiple overtimes, and no one is scoring. Suddenly, without notice, Jason Arnott streaks in from nowhere to end a long and insufferable series with a single undefended shot. But wait!-- on the replay!-- that sure looks like an illegally-curved stick to me! Alas, the refs had already taken their vacation homes in Newark and would not review said goal, and the Stars were denied a second straight Cup.
(Reportedly, Arnott has gone back to his cheating ways with Nashville --just sayin', in case we somehow meet those classless rule-benders in the playoffs at some point.)
Now, by my count --which relies on a very fuzzy memory, damaged over the years by insane amounts of Guinness and ice cream-- when the Stars won the Cup, we had two, perhaps three goals by other teams disallowed for weird reasons. Specifically in that four-game Edmonton series, we could barely contain their youthful, Golden State Warrior-esque vigor and verve, and barely hung on to win that series in an undeserved sweep. Since then, I've almost come to expect goals against he Stars to be disallowed for arcane reasons... and have been sadly disappointed after every enemy goal.
No longer! Last night's disallowed goal was a stroke of pure genius on the part of the refs, who later tried to make up for their obvious mistake by calling a string of phantom penalties against the Stars' dirtiest players --I'm talking to you, Jere-- genius, because it was waved off for goalie interference, yet there was no penalty on the play. Brilliant! If this is sign of things to come, then Stars fans would be well-suited to start reserving their prime viewing spots for the Stanley Cup victory parade as soon as possible.
Oh, Modano also tied, then broke, some scoring record as well.
Allright, allright: this time, I'll give Mike his due. Both goals were amazing displays of Thor-given hockey talent, highlight-reel quality shots that should dominate Sportscenter for weeks. Even more impressively, right after the second goal, Modano actually went out of his way to use his 6'3, 210 pound frame to throw a pretty good check: obviously, he's feelin' it now! These are all excellent signs, especially since, for the first month of the season, Modano looked like a schlump out there, skating in circles, refusing to even try to win puck battles, and just setting a miserable example for the rest of his team.
There was even speculation on Andrew's Stars Page that Modano was asking for a trade, was going to retire after he broke the record, was about to be waived, etc etc. After last night's game? Look over your shoulder, Gretzky! Modano's a-comin!
In all seriousness, like a lot of Stars fans, I've had a love-hate relationship with Modano. When Dallas won the Cup, the Question of the Day was "Modano or Peca?" Modano always seemed like easily the most talented player on the ice at any given time, but he was always the laziest player on the ice at any given time, and over the years, once the Stars stopped winning playoff series, it became easier and easier to blame Mike's "eh, so what?" attitude on the Stars' on-ice disappointment. When the time came for Modano to decide whether to stay in Dallas for less money, or hoof it for ca$$h to Boston, I was firmly in the camp of having him spend his golden years skating lazily in Beantown, and using his cap space to buy some players who provided energy and excitement on the ice. When Armstrong signed him for a mere $3.5 million per season, I changed my mind, since, after all, Modano was now getting paid less than almost any big-name player in the league: low risk, high reward.
Kudos to Mike for breaking the record that only he and a few stathounds really cared about, hopefully this is what he needs to crawl out of his self-imposed shell and start enjoying playing hockey again. Also, he'll be happy to know that my non hockey-watching wife thinks he has great skin (although he's no Trevor Daley in that department).
On a side note, San Jose Sharks fans are among the best in the world! Two standing ovations for Mike! And down 0-2 at that point, as well! I guess I shouldn't be too surprised: not every fan base is as classless as Nashville's, who regularly sucker-punch puppies and follow each other into public restrooms for fun. The Sharks' fanbase has always been amusing, even when they were booing Eddie 'The Eagle' Belfour for majorly dissing on their team's chances of ever winning a Stanley Cup.
That's all I had for this week. Tune in next week when I break down the only playoffs that really matter.