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Starkey: 'Decrepit' Wings fly past Pens

| Sunday, June 7, 2009

DETROIT — If you listened to all the hyperbole heading into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, you would have thought the Detroit Red Wings were now known as the Decrepit Red Wings.

Their top center, Henrik Zetterberg, who is all of 28, was apparently going to be fitted for a walker, a respirator, bifocals and false teeth on the club's off day.

The rest of this ancient group -- including guys such as 22-year-old Darren Helm, 25-year-old Valtteri Filppula, 28-year-old Niklas Kronwall, 29-year-old Johan Franzen and 30-year-olds Daniel Cleary, Marian Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk -- was so drained that cots were going be placed in the dressing room for between-periods naps.

Well, guess what• The Red Wings probably have enough energy left to take the Stanley Cup for a little stroll around Mellon Arena come Tuesday. You know, so long as it doesn't interfere with any early bird specials or keep them up past their bedtimes.

Detroit put itself in position to win its fifth Cup since 1997 with a monster effort Saturday night, embarrassing the flustered Penguins, 5-0, at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings now have two off days to recover from raising their arms in goal celebrations all night.

"I keep hearing about how old we are," said coach Mike Babcock. "I think if you go through and take out a few guys, I don't think we're that old."

The feisty Babcock then took an opportunity to poke a little fun at all the stories of his club being worn down, stories he insisted he didn't read (yeah, right). He should know that the tired talk was not a media creation but rather the result of some Penguins players making the assertion.

"We had no jump in the last game when they scored all the goals, (and it) didn't look like they had much jump when we scored all the goals," Babcock said. "It's amazing how tired you look when you're not scoring and they are."

Zetterberg, singled out by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik as looking gassed in the previous two games, promised his team would be ready for Game 5, saying, "We will be fresh and have a lot of energy."

Detroit also had Datsyuk back. He's only one of the five best forwards in the world. He hadn't played since Game 2 of the Western Conference final because of a foot injury but made his presence felt early, knocking Evgeni Malkin to the ice behind the Penguins' net and assisting on the game's first goal at 13:32 of the first period.

That goal came only after Detroit weathered an early Penguins' storm. The Penguins got nothing done on an early power play, barely able to gain the offensive zone.

"That was a big boost for us," Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski said.

Leading, 1-0, Detroit began the second period on the power play and scored right after it expired, thanks to a sloppy Penguins' line change. Filppula took a pass from Hossa and slid a backhander between Marc-Andre Fleury's pads.

Later in second, Kronwall, not exactly known as a stick-handler, went through Penguins defenders like Mario Lemieux for a power-play goal, and the Wings tacked on two more for a 5-0 lead. Fleury didn't make it out of the second period.

Massive frustration set in for the Penguins, who started committing penalties left and right, including Sidney Crosby's slash on Zetterberg and Talbot's whack at Datsyuk's foot.

Those who wrote off the Wings as too old and banged up really should have known better.

Not that this series is finished. The Penguins have shown too much resolve and talent to be counted out. It's now up to them to hold serve, which is all they really did in Games 3 and 4.

Maybe it's good this game was a blowout. Maybe the Penguins will come out for Game 6 as indignant and insulted as the Red Wings apparently were last night.

Win on Tuesday, and the Penguins will set up a crapshoot of a Game 7. Meantime, the old silver chalice will be in the house Tuesday, just in case.

I'm thinking that'll have even the Decrepit Red Wings full of vigor.

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