Commentary

Is it closing time for Red Wings?

Updated: June 7, 2009, 4:15 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

DETROIT -- Picture, if you will, members of the Detroit Red Wings humming along to a tune until the puck drops for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.

"Closing Time" by Semisonic was a big hit 10 years ago, a song apropos for what the defending champs are hoping to accomplish Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

"You know, when you close out a team, it's not easy," Wings forward Daniel Cleary said Sunday. "You're taking away somebody's dreams that they live for, and it's not an easy thing to do. But it's all will and determination and how badly you want it. You've just got to out-will the other player."

Closing time
Open all the doors and let you out into the world ...

The salary cap has changed hockey. More teams will get a shot at the Stanley Cup even if the Red Wings continue to challenge that theory. Players will come and go. Talent levels will fluctuate. Even the mighty Red Wings know they won't be in this spot every year. That's enough motivation to close it out Tuesday night.

"The teams are so close now, your opportunities, I think, are so few and far between that you'd like to make good on the ones you get," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Sunday. "So I think that goes through your mind, and I think players and all of us get caught up in what you do if you won and all that. But the reality is that just gets in the way of executing and preparing.

"So, if we want to be good as a group, we've got to prepare individually to do what we do, and then we have a chance to do that," Babcock added. "When we get all caught up in the other stuff, you don't win. So enjoy today. It's a great day. They didn't have to come to the rink unless they wanted to. It's a family day. Enjoy that, and then let's get ready to get focused and get prepared."

Closing time
Turn all of the lights on over every boy and every girl ...

Every boy and girl who has laced up the skates dreams of holding that Stanley Cup. The Wings are one win away from it, and that's when the boy comes out, memories of playing for the Cup in the streets of Njurunda, Sweden, or Dearborn, Mich., or Carbonear, Newfoundland.

"When you only think that you need one more win, certainly the imagination is going to wander," said Toronto native Kris Draper, looking for his fifth championship ring. "But right now, you just have to keep everything in check. We haven't accomplished anything. You know, when we lost the two games in Pittsburgh, we basically said we're at a best-of-two-out-of-three now with having two games here at the Joe, and not getting caught up in anything.

"That's one thing this team has been good at, is just staying even-keeled, no matter how we play or what the circumstances are. And it's something that we're going to continue to do, is not get caught up in it. I would love to talk about that in a couple of days, but I know how much work we have."

Closing time
One last call for alcohol, so finish your whiskey or beer ...

Or champagne. Wings star Marian Hossa has never sipped from the Cup. He chose the Red Wings over the Penguins last summer in a controversial decision that fed much of the pre-series coverage and supposedly is fueling Pittsburgh's desire to stick it to him. But not much has been said about the flip side of those emotions: Players in the Wings' dressing room are motivated to help prove Hossa right.

"Every guy in that room wants to win for a whole bunch of different reasons," Babcock said. "But to have success, you have to want to do it for the guy next to you, and the guy across from you, and the guys you're playing with. You become a tight-knit, close group when you go to battle night in and night out.

"But winning together, paying the price, getting hurt, getting the puck out when someone's rolling over the top of you, laying down to block a shot, to me that's team-building. ... That's what this is all about. You win together today, you walk together forever. I'm a big believer in that."

Closing time
You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here ...

Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh will be an unwelcome place. Never will the Red Wings feel more despised than Tuesday night when they'll be trying to end the Penguins' season in a place where the home team has had tremendous success this postseason (8-2).

"You know what to expect going into Pittsburgh," Cleary said. "They play great at home. It's going to be a tough game. We've got to play even better than we did yesterday."

It's closing time. The Penguins hope to get two more rounds in before last call. The Wings are ready to call it a night.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.