The wife sighs. She has seen this before. Her husband is face-down in the pillow, Monday morning, and he is not moving.

“You’ll be late for work,” she says.

“Can’t do work,” the husband mumbles.

“Why not?”

“Red Wings tonight. Need sleep. West Coast game. Gonna be up late.”

“What about your job?”

He pulls the pillow around his ears. “This is my job,” he yells.

The wife sighs. She has seen this before. Last year, to be exact. The Red Wings, heavily favored to win the Stanley Cup, lose the first two games of the playoffs — at home — and are in a must-win situation on the other side of the country.

Everything stops. Everything that isn’t about hockey, that is. Shopping. Chores. Jobs. Everything stops. This is our job now. Worrying about the Red Wings. Worrying and staying awake.

“How about some coffee?” the wife says, arriving with a pot.

“Save it for tonight,” the husband mumbles. He rolls over. He lifts his head.
“But honey?”

“Yes?”

“Could you bring me the video of Game 2?”

There must be someone to blame

Not that anyone needs to see that again. Game 2 is the same as Game 1. And Game 1 was a nightmare. The Red Wings fire a million shots. They put one or two holes in the armor of Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Then, while they’re reloading and saying, “Man, are your arms tired from shooting?” the Ducks sneak in the game-winner.

“How about some breakfast?” the wife says, arriving with a plate of food.
“Here. Have some eggs. Then you can go to work.”

“EGGS?’ the husband yells. “EGGS? Are you CRAZY? Eggs come from CHICKENS! Chickens look like DUCKS! Ducks are the ENEMY! For God’s sake, woman, whose side are you on?”

The wife sighs. She has seen this before.

“No eggs,” she says, dumping the plate.

“Never do that again,” the husband says.

Last year it was Vancouver. The wrath of the Canucks. Ducks. Canucks. It even sounds the same. Last year, the Wings were out-hustled. They couldn’t score enough. Their goalie was in doubt.

This year they are playing decently. They are showing hustle. But they cannot score enough. And their goalie is in doubt.

“It’s not Cujo’s fault,” the husband grumbles, holding a flashlight under the blanket to read the stats. “It’s not his fault. It’s not his fault. Well, if he didn’t let in that one goal . . . But it’s not his fault.”

“Honey, look,” the wife says, walking the children into the bedroom. “The kids are here. Won’t you get them off to school? And then you can go to work?”

“Kids,” the husband says, popping out from under the cover. He smiles. The kids smile back. One of them says, “Look, Daddy,” and holds up his Mickey Mouse doll.

“ARRRGH!” the husband screams. “Mickey! Donald! DUCKS! DISNEY! Dear Lord in heaven, someone’s brainwashed my children!”

The wife sighs. She has seen this before.

“Go on downstairs, kids,” she says.

“Is Daddy OK?” one of them asks.

She looks at her husband, who has dived back under the blankets and is muttering, “Luc was robbed, Luc was robbed.”

“He’ll be fine, sweetheart,” she says. “Daddy’s just got a lot on his mind right now.”

Playoff fever is contagious

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? How do you get it OFF your mind? How do you stop wondering if the Wings can turn it on tonight, and Wednesday, and Saturday and Sunday? How do you keep from worrying that by the end of this week, the only sport in downtown Detroit will be professional baseball, which, the way the Tigers play, is an oxymoron.

How do you keep from wondering if the Wings are a tad complacent this postseason, a little too confident that they can overcome anything? How do you keep from wondering if Scotty Bowman was the key last year? Or Dominik Hasek? Or Steve Yzerman, who is clearly not as dangerous as he once was despite his heart of a lion?

How do you pass the time until 10:30 p.m., when they drop the puck? How do you stay awake past midnight?

“OK,” the wife says, re-entering the bedroom. “I put the kids on the school bus. I dumped breakfast. And I called your office.”

“What did they say?” the husband asks.

“Nobody was there,” she says. “They all called in sick.”

The husband shrugs. He feels ashamed. He looks to his wife.

“Now what?” he says.

She removes her shoes. She crawls into bed. She buries her head in a pillow.

“Do you think Fedorov is 100 percent?” she says.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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