Welcome to the Great Grant Fuhr Show! Damn what a game from our veteran net minder. The Blues came into this game with what seemed like, little hope of winning it. Everyone counted the St. Louis Blues out. Damn did they want to make sure they were in it to win it. This mustachioed Quenneville guy really seems to know what he’s doing eh? [Coach Q replaced Iron Mike late in the season on December 19th, 1996. It was sudden and from what I have read no one really knew what to expect from the young coach even after he steered the Blues out of a slump and into the 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs.]
The Blues came out of the proverbial gate with a pep in their skates. They looked like a band of teenagers barreling out of class for summer vacation, with out the vacation part. However the Red Wings were right there with them. The Blues owe the first period to their defense and to Grant Fuhr who kept the team in front of him from going behind, particularly on the power play. Geoff Courtnall would be the first man in the sin bin of the series at 14:56. Giving the wheel with wings the man advantage for 2 very long minutes. The Wings would put a remarkable amount of pressure on the man advantage. They kept the puck down in the Blues defensive zone. Miraculously the Blues would kill off the penalty and prevent the Wings from even getting a shot off. [Interesting to note that the Red Wings had failed to capitalize on zero of their 13 attempts on the man advantage against the Blues that year. Also ESPN2 had the best graphics. God I miss the 90s!] At 12:29 the Blues would get a shot at the power play after a spectacular play by Pierre Turgeon to keep the puck in deep and pressure the Wings Netminder with the help of Brett Hull.
The Blues power play would give up chances to Detroit, including a dangerous 2 on 1 chance with Kris Draper and Nicklas Lidstrom leading the charge for the Wings. Luckily the Blues strong defense were there to shut the Wings down and keep the game at 0-0. According to ESPN2 broadcast color commentator Darren Pang, Nicklas Lidstrom has a wicked slapper that Al MacInnis was lucky to break up the play at the Blue Line to prevent a goal. [Panger loves to use the lingo of the day! 1997 Pangerisms!] The game would start to get rather feisty as the STL ramped up the hitting. At 7:16, the Blues would swarm the Wings net as if there was no opposing player around it. Pavol Demitra [RIP] would make a sweet ass pass from behind the net to Courtnall who would bang it in the net. 1-0 Blues!
Shortly after the goal, at the 6 minute mark the Blues would give up another power play to the Wings. Detroit would ramp up the physicality of the game and spend most of the time in the Blues defensive zone. The Blues would kill off yet another penalty, but the Wings would maintain the momentum as the got off a few chances on several rushes. But Fuhr and the strong defense would be there to shut them down. In the first period alone the Blues gave up 3 odd man rushes to the Wings. Fucking ESPN would cut to commercial as the Blues went on the power play and would return after Turgeon would score to give the Blues a 2-0 lead. [It was common for the games on ESPN to cut to commercial and return after play resumed. It seems the NHL has exactly no footage for the Turgeon goal, So I choose to believe he rode in on a T-rex with Raptor Jesus and mystified the wings to simply tap the puck home.] The period would end with a Blues 2-0 lead as a building full of Angry Wings fans. Totally awesome!
The Second period would pick up right where the first period ended. Detwat was pissed at the team from St. Louis and it showed. They came out of the gate like an angry older brother of the Blues. Clearly the Blues stole their favorite toy and wouldn’t tell them where they hid it. So scraps along the boards were a prevalent staple to the opening of the second act. Our old friend, turned traitor, Brendan Shanahan was in the Mix as the first few minutes of the second period ticked away. Shanny got into it with Defensemen Chris Pronger after Prongs decided it would be like totally cool for him to slash and take down Darren McCarty. McCarty would go after Pronger and the boys would all chirp and pump up their chests as Referee Bill McCreary circled trying to break up the scrum. The Blues would come out of it with a power play as the period progressed.
Tonight was all about the defense and specifically the net minders for each team. St. Louis would hold a lot of pressure on Detroit’s Mike Vernon. Taking the majority of the shots for the period were the Blue and yellow. Shots rang out from every angle and distance. Hully seemed like he was using his rage against The Jackass Upstairs to fuel his game and it showed as he took several quality shots throughout the period. [Mike Keenan and Brett Hull were in the midst of a very public feud during this time that ultimately saw Keenan lose his coach position with the team to Joel Quenneville. The icy hatred of "Iron" Mike can still be felt in many bars across St. Louis County. Seriously though, Fuck Mike Keenan.] The Wings were counting their blessings as they went to the locker room. The score easily could have been 4-0 or higher if Vernon hadn’t been there to save their asses.
The period would end with the Blues till on top 2-0.
The Third period belonged to Grant Fuhr. The man was on FIRE! Early in the period the Blues gave up several rushes to the Wings but Fuhr was there to keep the puck out of the blues net and maintain his shutout. While their goaltender kept the score where it was the Blues ramped up the speed and the hits even more. As the tenacity grew so did the penalty count. The Wings couldn’t seem to stay out of the box. The Blues took advantage of their power play chances but could not capitalize on them.
Fuhr was everywhere, up down and all around! He did what he does best and stood up the the wings offense and shooters. He gave literally no fucks about last years series with the deadthings. He deserved the shut out, he sure as shit earned it. The game wrapped up with the blues on the power play for the last 2 minutes. Fuhr made saves on Steve Yzerman and Lidstrom early on to keep the lead. Detroit would pull Vernon to give the wings a 6 man advantage but failed to capitalize as Grant Fuhr earned his 4th Playoff shutout.