That's a lyric from the Kid Rock song "Wasting Time". Not my favorite song of his (I am a fan though) but a darn good lyric. And one representative of this year's version of the Detroit Red Wings.
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Everyone in Detroit remembers Steve Yzerman lifting the Stanley Cup for the first time. Even if they didn't see it live or weren't old enough to really remember it. The image has simply become iconic to the city of Detroit. But what does "in it to win it like Yzerman" mean? Well few hockey fans need to be reminded that Yzerman was one of the best offensive players to ever play the game. Yet even with him and an increasing amount of talent around him the Wings were unable to find playoff success. Then came Scotty Bowman. Then came Yzerman becoming a player who worked harder on his all-around game. Hard, hard work. Blue collar stuff. Then came Lord Stanley. Then again. And a little bit later, again.
Since then the Red Wings have almost been the joke of the NHL. They have been largely ignored this year by ESPN when they actually do cover hockey. They have been Don Cherry's "darlings" in recent years past. Great regular seasons, and disappointing playoff performances. As noted by many the Wings are a very European team with the likes of Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Datsyuk leading the team. And the stereotype is out there that Europeans are all skill and no work/grind which is what really counts come playoff time. Thus early exits for an extremely skilled team.
But now the Wings are heavily favored over an upstart and extremely talented Dallas team to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. What's changed? (Well, admittedly the Stars are still being underestimated... I'm reading far too many people say that they aren't a scoring team... since when does being 2nd the Western conference in the regular season in scoring doesn't count as a high scoring team?) The Wings are finally being picked to go to SCF because they're "in it to win it like Yzerman". It's because they work. And they work hard.
Earlier this year Wings' color commentator Mickey Redmond said that the reason the Wings were on such a tear was not only because of their skill, but because they were simply outworking other teams on a daily basis. There's a reason the leading scorer in the playoffs was dubbed "The Mule" by none other than Yzerman himself. There's a reason that Detroit's top two offensive players - whom were in the top ten in scoring in the league this year - are both nominees for the selke trophy.
Many people say that the Wings are soft because they always have the puck and thus usually aren't throwing hits. (Oddly enough Detroit defenseman Nicklas Kronwall has four of the biggest hits of the playoffs.) But there's a reason the Wings always have the puck. It's because they're constantly working to have the puck. Whether it's Datsyuk fighting off checks from three players to make a pass or Holmstrom fighting through all kinds of punishment in front of the net to continuously screen opposing goaltenders this Wings team does work.
Also, there's reason that Babcock has been nominated for the Jack Adams trophy even though he coaches such a highly skilled team. It's because he has instilled a work ethic into this team that is very blue-collar. Very "American". Very Yzerman.
Now that I got that off my chest, here's to what should be a great, hard-fought, and close series between the Wings and Stars. Let's Go Red Wings!
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