Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley were the first to line up — Fairley won, barely — but Washburn immediately called for a rematch, asking the rest of the group how many were picking Fairley to repeat.
There are so many questions that still need answering at this point it’s hard to know where to start. Or where and when this’ll all finish for Detroit and Chicago in their last wild West showdown.
They found their legs. And then they used them. Again and again, shift after shift, the Red Wings did, pulling together until they’d pulled even, skating away with Game 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Recent history suggests they can’t. The salary cap is designed so they won’t. But that won’t stop the Blackhawks from trying to become the kind of team that dominates the NHL in a way the Red Wings and Devils did for long stretches of the last two decades.
Somebody better kick the Mule again. And they’d better do it while the Red Wings are still alive and kicking because they’re probably not going to be for long if they don’t get something more out of Johan Franzen in the Western Conference semifinals against the Blackhawks.
The consensus national player of the year announced he was turning pro last month, and last week the point guard announced he was bypassing more high-profile sports agents to sign with his father, Benji Burke, a newly licensed agent, and his cousin, Alonzo Shavers, who has a relatively small list of NFL clients.
This one was hardly Howard’s fault. For nearly 50 minutes, he was about the only reason the Wings still had a chance to steal an early series lead, or at least force overtime.
Now the task is to beat the Red Wings, beginning with Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday at the United Center. And that’s something this Chicago team and its coach have yet to do, even as they’ve done just about everything else.
They’ve held on this long. But how much longer can they keep holding on? That’s the immediate question, as the Red Wings flew to California on Saturday after forcing a win-or-else Game 7 against Anaheim on Sunday night. But that’s also a question about the future.
Howard stood in his crease and just shook his head, wondering how a simple game of 5-on-5 could’ve become so lopsided. At times, it seemed as if he was the only one playing defense. At times, he probably wished he was.
In addition to his primary role as a Detroit Lions beat writer, John has covered the last three Olympics for the News. He also has served as the beat writer covering the Red Wings -- including every playoff game during three Stanley Cup runs -- as well as college football and hockey.
- John can be reached at John.Niyo@detnews.com.
- Favorite sports venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif. -- Postcard view, perfect weather, and a football tradition that still means something, BCS be damned.
- Least favorite sports venue: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla. -- This is why kids play Nintendo these days.
- Favorite sporting event, journalist: Game 4, 1997 Stanley Cup Finals -- After 42 years, it was about time, eh?
- Favorite sporting event, spectator: 1998 World Cup in France -- Vive le pastis!
- Favorite athlete interview: Igor Larionov -- Talked about a lot more than hockey with the "Professor"
- Favorite movies: "Rushmore," "Caddyshack," "Harold and Maude"
- Favorite quote: "How about a Fresca?" -- Judge Smails
- Favorite restaurant: Local -- Streetside Cafe, Birmingham; Anywhere -- Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn (Big Sur, Calif.)
- Favorite drinking establishment: Tom's Tavern (7 Mile and Wyoming, Detroit) -- Tom's gone, but Ron has kept the light on and the roof's holding steady.
In the Blogs
- Angelique Chengelis
- Terry Foster
- Tom Gage
- Jerry Green
- Lynn Henning
- Ted Kulfan
- Tom Markowski
- Chris McCosky
- John Niyo
- Bob Wojnowski
- Donna Terek
- Editorial + Opinion
- Nolan Finley
- Paul W. Smith
- Frank Beckmann
- George Will
- Thomas Sowell
- Froma Harrop
- Charles Krauthammer
- Clarence Page
- Kathleen Parker
- Michael Barone
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