Hometown boy hits it big with Wings
Brian Rafalski, who grew up minutes from Joe Louis Arena in suburban Dearborn, thought he had the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in Game 5. To make up for it, he scored right out of the gate in Game 6.
Rafalski’s fourth goal of the playoffs gave the Red Wings the all-important first goal in Game 6. Taking a pass from Henrik Zetterberg, he skated it in towards the Penguins goal, and fired a wrist shot into the back of the net.
“Yeah that was great for us, to get a score and take the edge off of things, and give us the lead,” Rafalski said. “Put them behind the eight ball a little bit, put some pressure on them, and then (Chris Osgood) responded and played great.”
Valtteri Filppula scored in the second, and Zetterberg scored in the third as the Red Wings marched to a 3-2 victory en route to their fourth Stanley Cup title in 11 years.
“It’s a dream come true … grew up watching, and wishing, and hoping, and to finally have it realized,” Rafalski said, “it’s phenomenal, it’s a great feeling. My family in town, and everybody, I’m part of the Red Wings now.”
Rafalski, who grew-up cheering for the Red Wings, learned the game on youth teams at Melvindale’s local ice arena. He attended Southfield (Mich.) Christian High School, and some years later, he found his way back home, just in time to win a Stanley Cup with his hometown team.
The 34-year-old took a round-about way to get to this moment. Having not been drafted, the University of Wisconsin graduate traveled to Europe, where he played a season in Sweden and four in Finland. New Jersey signed Rafalski in 1999, and he totaled five goals and 27 assists in his first season. In his seven seasons with the Devils, the right-handed defenseman accumulated 44 goals and 267 assists with an astounding plus-100 rating. Along the way, his name was engraved on the Stanley Cup – twice, in 2000 and 2002.
“This is what I wanted,” said Rafalski, who signed as a free agent with the Wings last July. “This is the whole reason, and for our family, put the other jerseys in the back of the closet, we all wear red and white with pride. It got a little tight at the end, but we played hard, and Ozzie played great, and it was a great win.”
Rafalski had 13 goals and 42 assists in the regular-season, finished second in playoff scoring amongst defensemen with 14 points, one behind teammate Niklas Kronwall.