Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 10, 2009

Drake: Home ice a big advantage

It allows Detroit to put Zetterberg on Penguins' Crosby

BY JAMES COOK

TRAVERSE CITY -- Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals will be a big advantage for the Detroit Red Wings.

And not necessarily because of the crowd, says former Red Wing and Traverse City resident Dallas Drake.

"The matchups are probably the most important thing," Drake said Tuesday. "They get last (line) change and get certain people on the ice against certain people. That makes a lot more difference than a lot of people give it credit for. (Pittsburgh coach) Dan Bylsma is able to get who he wants out there and keep (Sidney) Crosby away from (Henrik) Zetterberg, so it makes a big difference."

In games at Detroit, where the Wings get the last change and have been able to stick Zetterberg on Crosby, the Penguins have been outscored 11-2.

Crosby has long been the NHL's darling, compared by many as the next Wayne Gretzky. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been one of the most potent one-two punches in the NHL this season, but neither factored into Tuesday's scoring as Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg shut down the duo.

"I think the NHL would love to see Crosby win a Stanley Cup," Drake said. "I don't know why they don't promote Datsyuk and Zetterberg as much as they promote those guys. But they just don't."

The Penguins pushed the series to a decisive Game 7 in Detroit on Friday with a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

"Home-ice advantage is obviously a big part of that," Drake said. "Pittsburgh is a different team at home. They play with a lot of confidence there."

Ironically, Pittsburgh's 4-2 loss to Detroit in last year's finals has made them a more potent team to face this time around.

"They're a lot more experienced team," Drake said. "They know what to expect from the Red Wings. They just have more confidence now. Last year was a learning experience for a lot of those guys. They're all a year wiser."

That didn't necessarily apply in Saturday's Game 5, when Detroit jumped all over Pittsburgh at Joe Louis Arena and the Penguins responded with some chippy penalties in the third period.

"Pittsburgh took a few penalties and started taking liberties with some of the Red Wings guys when the game was pretty much over," Drake said. "They were trying to make it an ugly game. They still have some young guys."

Detroit, meanwhile, is a veteran and battle-tested team that has won four Stanley Cup titles since 1997.

"They just don't get rattled," Drake said. "They've got so many guys who have been in that situation that they just know what to expect. They find a way to slow their heart rate down a little bit and just play."

Drake was part of Detroit's 1989 draft, which was featured in a Sports Illustrated story this week pointing to the Wings' selections that year as one of the best draft's in NHL history, as well as one that ushered in the era of European players with selections such as Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov.

The Wings ended up getting six players in that draft who played in the NHL, three of whom are still in the league 20 years later (Lidstrom, Fedorov and Mike Sillinger). Drake just retired last year after a 15-season NHL career that ended by hoisting the Stanley Cup.

"That's something that just doesn't happen much, and may never happen again," Drake said of Detroit's 1989 draft.

Speaking of never, Drake thought he may not get to lift the Cup before his playing days were over.

Then he signed with Detroit after playing 13 years for Winnipeg, Phoenix and St. Louis.

"There were times in my career that I never thought I'd be able to do that," Drake said of his experience with the Cup, which he later brought to Traverse City. "It was a big fog. Watching it back on tape, I didn't realize what I was doing. I knew where my kids were sitting and I tried to get the best view of them I could."