OUR SERIES, THEIR SERIES AREN’T ALWAYS THE SAME

DENVER — Brendan Shanahan stood alone in his street clothes near the lower seats of the Pepsi Center. He watched the Red Wings staff unload duffel bags of equipment.

“How are you guys doing after last night?” I asked.

“Oh, good,’ he said. “Man, there was a moment there where I said to myself,
‘This is so bleeping great! Overtime in the playoffs! Two best teams, us against the Avalanche!’ We were playing hard. It was really close.

“I mean, it would have been great if we won, we let one slip away, but, you know, it’s overtime, things happen.”

In journalism, that’s called burying the lead.

But Shanahan is not a journalist.

And that is what this column is about.

Patrick Roy isn’t a journalist, either. That was easily apparent Tuesday at the Avalanche’s practice facility south of Denver. While his teammates mingled with the media in the required daily session, Roy sauntered in, looked around, made a face as if to say, “No way I put up with this,” and passed through without a word, disappearing behind a door.

“Isn’t Roy coming out for interviews?” I asked an Avs PR man.

“He spoke last night. He is not speaking today. He will speak tomorrow night, after the game.”

Oh. One might think — given that he knocked in two Red Wing goals in Game 2, and was bailed out of embarrassment only by an overtime score by teammate Chris Drury — that arrogance would not be Roy’s playing card today.

But that thinking is flawed. And here’s why:

Our Series keeps it interesting

There are two series going on here. Ours — by that I mean fans, journalists, analysts and talk-show hosts — and Theirs, by which I mean the guys who actually play.

In Our Series, each game brings a new analysis, a new declaration.

In Our Series, when the Wings win Game 1 on a hat trick by Darren McCarty, it proves that “Detroit is superior because it gets goals from its supporting cast.”

In Our Series, when the Wings lose Game 2 in overtime, it proves “they can’t count on goals from the supporting cast, the stars have to score!”

In Our Series, Game 1 shows Patrick Roy is vulnerable, because “he gave up three goals to McCarty!”

In Our Series, Game 2 shows Patrick Roy is amazing, because “he managed to win despite his mistakes!”

Overreaction? Of course. Instant analysis? You bet. Heck, I can tell you right now what happens the next few games of Our Series. If the Wings win Game 3, it will prove Detroit is “resilient” and the Avs are “backed against the wall” in a “must-win game” because they “don’t want to go back to Detroit down, 3-1.”

And if the Avs win Game 3, they will be “on a roll” and have “all the momentum” and the Wings will be “backed against the wall” because they can’t go “back to Detroit trailing, 3-1.”

If you are now nodding in embarrassment — as I have, myself — don’t. It’s OK to play Our Series. It’s how we keep things interesting.

Let’s face it. If, after every game, all you said was “We’ll see how it goes,” what fun would that be? You wouldn’t be fans, or broadcasters, or journalists.

You’d be . . . players.

No time for panic in Their Series

“I’ve always thought it’s harder to go through this as a wife, a family member, or a fan than as a player,” Steve Yzerman said as he prepared for Tuesday’s skate. “We just ignore what’s said. It’s too much up and down.”

“It’s crazy,” Shanahan added. “If we play great, and a puck bounces off the wall and hits Dom in the head and bounces in — Ah! The sky is falling! If it hits Roy in the head and it goes in, we’re great!”

Chris Chelios was more succinct. “Everyone has an opinion. Big deal.”

Can’t argue with that. On the other hand, as long as we have opinions, here’s one more from Our Side. . . .

Roy was ripe for picking in Game 2. And if the Wings had managed to beat him, when two of their goals were his misplays, it might, for the first time, have put the Wings inside his head instead of the other way around. And with the Avs down 0-2, and having shattered Roy’s amazing streak of always winning after a big loss, Detroit would have been sailing, in the driver’s seat, a heavy favorite.

But “would have been” are words from Our Series, not Theirs. In Their Series, the players dress, they skate, they think the thoughts that help them win, and they go on.

Shanahan put it beautifully.

“Our job this time of year,” he said, “is not to panic.”

Right. There’s enough of that out here already.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” from 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR.

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