By: Tom Millikan
Yesterday I wrote a blog about Game 7’s. I love them. I love when my team plays in them. I also pointed out that losing a Game 7 sucks! It hurts! It should.
The Red Wings choked away a 3-1 series lead. Choked is a strong work. It’s necessary though because the Red Wings have set a high standard: winning is all that matters. Dan Cleary even admitted as much after the game as they ‘failed’ in three tries to close out the Blackhawks.
You can choke and still be proud of the Wings at the same time. We can play the blame game all we want. You can even blame Niklas Kronwall who had the game-winning goal deflect off his leg. I’m not going to blame Kronwall though. I want a guy blocking shots. I want a guy who sacrifices his body. I want a guy that leaves it all on the ice.
A dejected Kronwall was consoled on the ice by Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard after the OT winner.
“Howie just came up and said, ‘You played well,’ ” Kronwall said. “Howie’s been so great for us. In the postseason I never seen him this good. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get one for him.”
Said Howard: “How do you get upset at somebody who is sacrificing their body to block a shot? Kronner has been huge for us all year. He doesn’t deserve that one.”
Kronwall has Howard’s back. Howard has Kronwall’s back.
We should all learn something from this inspiring postgame moment. A teammate stood by his guy. Howard saw the bigger picture here. He has Kronwall’s back no matter what. And he needs Kronwall if the Wings want to return to Stanley Cup glory anytime soon.
Championship teams share a trust and bond that often differentiates them from other teams. What I take away from last night is that the Wings still have that mentality in their lockerroom.
Sure head coach Mike Babcock can ruffle players’ feathers with his hard-nosed approach. Sure it’s debatable whether or not Jimmy Howard is a Stanley Cup caliber goalie. Sure it’s debatable whether or not Valtteri Filppula should ever don a Wings jersey again. Sure it’s debatable whether or not Johan Franzen is significantly overpaid in a cap world.
What’s not debatable is the Red Wings heart, desire and team mentality. They still have the ‘it’ factor. ‘It’ is the ultimate intangible that makes you a champion.
I’m still bitter from the loss as I type this. But I do see a reason for hope moving forward. It starts in the lockerroom. And the Wings have ‘it.’