Back-to-back games annoy Terrible Ted

Cam Cole
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Dinged Wings face much healthier Penguins Saturday and Sunday in Detroit

It was the year of the Richard riots. The Detroit Red Wings, defending Stanley Cup champions, were engaged in an epic 1955 final with the Montreal Canadiens, minus The Rocket, who had been suspended for the playoffs by Clarence Campbell.

The schedule called for Game 4 at the Montreal Forum Saturday night, April 9, and Game 5 on Sunday, April 10, at the Detroit Olympia. Each team held serve all through the series, winning its home games, and the Wings won it in seven.

Jim McFarland folds Detroit Red Wings uniforms after Stanley Cup final logo patches were applied to them at his shop in in Wyandotte, Mich., on Thursday. Game 1 of the best-of-seven NHL final will be played on Saturday in Detroit, with the defending champ

Detroit -

It was the year of the Richard riots. The Detroit Red Wings, defending Stanley Cup champions, were engaged in an epic 1955 final with the Montreal Canadiens, minus The Rocket, who had been suspended for the playoffs by Clarence Campbell.

The schedule called for Game 4 at the Montreal Forum Saturday night, April 9, and Game 5 on Sunday, April 10, at the Detroit Olympia. Each team held serve all through the series, winning its home games, and the Wings won it in seven.

Fifty-four years have passed since the National Hockey League asked two finalists to play on back-to-back nights. There are any number of health issues arguing against doing it in an era of four-round playoffs.

But that's how this Cup final will start, with games Saturday and Sunday evenings at Joe Louis Arena - and Ted Lindsay doesn't like it.

He's got plenty of company in Hockeytown.

Terrible Ted, who'll be 84 a month after this year's final ends, answered his cellphone Wednesday and began firing on all cylinders at what he called "the dumbest thing I've ever heard of in my life" - his Red Wings, beat up and exhausted after their 2-1, Game 5 elimination of the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, having to go back at it three days later.

"Is this supposed to be the premium event of the National Hockey League, or not?" said Lindsay, who played in that 1955 series, scored four goals in Game 2, a finals record at the time, and remembers the Saturday-Sunday games as not being any better an idea then than it is now.

"Except we were so stupid, we didn't know anything different," he said.

"But we only played two rounds then. And when you got on the train, it was like being at home, except with no children running around. We had a Pullman car, and we got good rest, believe me.

"These guys have just gone through three very tough series - played probably the best team in the league other than them, in Anaheim, just finished another hard series and now you're going to have one tired team with a lot of injuries. Pittsburgh's probably not as tired because they had a fairly easy time of it, but they're only getting one more day's rest."

The 1955 Red Wings played 11 playoff games to win the Cup. The 2009 Wings have played 16 (and the Penguins 17) just to get to the final, and few believe this is going to be a short series.

"I think the league is wrong," said Lindsay.

The problem is, the league is wrong no matter what it does.

The original plan, starting the final on June 5, would have meant a nine-day hiatus. That idea, which contemplated a June 16 finish if it went seven games, was so fiercely criticized on both sides of the border, the NHL eventually backed off and started looking at an earlier start date.

But beginning it Saturday, then going Sunday as well to get maximum NBC coverage, is not being well-received in Detroit, either.

"Normally, when you win in five games you get a nice little break," Wings head coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday night, "but it seems like we're trying to make up for all the breaks we had in the earlier rounds by jamming it all in here at the end."

In one sense, the Wings were authors of their own misfortune. If they had swept the Blackhawks as the Penguins did the Hurricanes, they'd have been finished Sunday and had two more days of rest than the Pens.

Indeed, if they had lost Game 5 Wednesday, Game 6 wasn't scheduled until Saturday in Chicago, and the league probably would have gone back to its June 5 start for the final.

Bad timing, that's all.

So now, a healthy Pittsburgh team, on an extra day's rest, faces a Detroit squad that ended the Chicago series without its No. 1 defenceman and No. 1 forward - Nick Lidstrom (lower body injury) and Pavel Datsyuk (foot) - as well as another longtime nucleus player, Kris Draper (groin), emerging star defenceman Jonathan Ericsson (appendectomy), and with Marian Hossa nursing a swollen knee from a third-period collision Wednesday.

"Five injured guys, and three of them would be the stars of 29 other teams in the league," said Lindsay. "It's ridiculous the NHL would authorize playing Saturday-Sunday when they're trying to showcase the best of the best."

Injuries, though, are the x-factor of every Stanley Cup marathon, and if the NHL built in extra days now so the Wings could get closer to full strength, it would be tampering with the most elemental force of post-season hockey: attrition.

The Wings might not like it, but they're going to have to suck it up, and play the games.

Organizations: National Hockey League, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens Chicago Blackhawks Game 4 Montreal Forum Detroit Olympia

Geographic location: Detroit, Hockeytown, Pittsburgh Anaheim Chicago

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Recent comments

  • Doug
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Boo-hoo.
    This is the same state that Pittsburgh was in last year.

    Who expects to go through a 4-game series playoffs without some bruises?

    The Stanley Cup is not easily won, by any team.

  • Doug
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Boo-hoo.
    This is the same state that Pittsburgh was in last year.

    Who expects to go through a 4-game series playoffs without some bruises?

    The Stanley Cup is not easily won, by any team.