LIVE BLOG: GAME 3
06.02.2009 / 9:50 p.m. ET
Synoposis: Dominating period by the Penguins to earn this victory. I must say I didn't see this coming after the way the Wings controlled the play in the second period, but the Penguins turned it on in the third, got the Wings chasing and kept the pressure on Osgood. They finally did what their coach wanted them to do and that's send pucks and bodies at the net. Gonchar's power-play goal was a direct result of Guerin screening in front. If there was a rebound, Crosby was there to whack it in. The Penguins outshot the Wings, 10-3, in the third period after being outshot, 14-4, in the second. It was a stunning reversal. They were outshot, 29-21, in the game, but they won. Fleury played a huge role.
19:03: Penguins 4, Red Wings 2. Osgood wasn't off for even 10 seconds when Talbot fired the puck from the red line into the empty net. Dare I say this one is sealed and we've got ourselves a series? I dare.
18:00: Big faceoff win by Crosby over Zetterberg.
17:58 (TV timeout): Hossa has been awesome for the Wings tonight, but so far has nothing to show for it. What an incredible period this has been. The pace has been unreal. I give Osgood another minute in the net before he comes skating toward the bench. Don't go anywhere hockey fans.
15:58: Talbot rips one off the post and then had another great chance in front that Osgood stopped. Two glorious opportunities to take the 4-2 lead missed. Let's see if it burns the Pens. Crazy hockey going on right now. Is this the excitement you were all pining for? Is this good enough? I think so.
15:00: Great shift by Hossa, Filppula and Co. No goals, though. Great puck possession. Great surge to turn the momentum of this game before Crosby and Kunitz went in for a failed two on one.
12:30: The Pens are winning, but I think we're going to start seeing Crosby and Malkin every other shift. They have to push for that fourth goal to give Fleury a cushion.
10:29: Penguins 3, Red Wings 2. There it is. The goal they earned with a remarkable start to this period. Hey Gonchar, welcome to the party pal. What a ripper and both Guerin and Crosby were in front of the net. Perfect goal. Perfect power play. They did it all well because they made every simple play in the book on that power play. It really was just a matter of time. The Penguins are surging and Crosby is on the scoresheet with an assist.
9:06: The Penguins are going on the power play and they earned it with their play in this period so far. Ericsson is going off for interfering with Cooke. Touchy call, but a penalty nonetheless.
8:19: Big save by Fleury on a great snap shot by Franzen. Let's all remember that save. It could be important.
7:26 (TV timeout): Good start to the period for the Penguins. They came out of the dressing room the way they needed to and now they have to build on that solid start. The Penguins attacked early and are outshooting the Wings, 7-0, so far. Maybe the guy who just emailed me is right, the Penguins were just biding their time in the second and will have a big third.
6:00: Boy that seemed like a forever shift for Kennedy, Staal and Cooke. Shorten 'em up boys. This one could go longer than 60 minutes.
2:00: Ozzie with two big saves. Remember last game I said Osgood normally has to make eight or so huge saves in a game for the Wings to win. They don't get bigger than those two on Staal and Cooke.
0:34: There they are together again at the start of a period, Crosby and Malkin with Fedotenko on the left wing. They should stick with Crosby and Malkin together for the rest of the game. That's just my two cents. It will help to get Crosby going.
0:00: How about the star power in the building watching tonight's game: Trottier, Lemieux, Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman. I'm sure there are others.
Synopsis: The Penguins are lucky that this game is still tied 2-2. The Wings dominated the second period with 14 shots to Pittsburgh's 4. They held the puck in for extended periods of time and had some pretty good chances, too. Yes, the Penguins played well enough defensively to keep them off the board, but the offense needs to show up now, which leads me to this: As much as I defended him earlier today, I have to ask, Where is Crosby? He's a minus-1 with only one shot on goal in 15:27 of ice time. He's won eight of 14 draws, so that's pretty good, but it's about time he showed up on the scoresheet. Malkin has a pair of assists tonight and a plus-1 rating, so he's contributing. Crosby better start. No better time than the present. It's not helping Crosby that Zetterberg has a goal and an assist tonight as well as a 6-3 record on faceoffs and four shots in 15:01 of ice time.
18:00: Well, Samuelsson is OK as he was on the ice for the last 30 seconds of that power play. The Wings had a lot of possession, but they couldn't squeeze one by Fleury. If the Penguins can get out of this period with the score still tied at 2, I'd go as far as saying they'd be lucky.
15:35 (TV timeout): Here comes the Wings' chance to win the period. They are going back on the power play thanks to Satan hooking Helm. The Wings are already outshooting the Pens, 12-4, in the period.
13:40: Samuelsson looks hurt. He struggled to get off the ice. Olczyk said he bumped with Eaton. We'll keep an eye on that. Otherwise, it looks to me as though the Wings are controlling the play.
10:49 (TV timeout): The shots are 21-10 in favor of the Wings and 9-3 in this period. The Penguins are up 18-10 in hits. This is looking more and more like a Wings game. They're outshooting the opposition and not doling out nearly the same amount of punishment. However, the score is 2-2 and the Penguins are finally getting some breaks. Plus, the faceoffs are even at 16-16. Oh, and great job by Christine Simpson to spot Bryan Trottier in the whiteout crowd and get him for an interview.
8:15: The Penguins caught another break there because it looked from here that Cooke should have been called for hooking Ericsson. The Wings clearly thought so.
7:01 (TV timeout): How is it that I am constantly seeing Crosby on the ice at the same time as Zetterberg? I imagine it's because Bylsma doesn't want to disrupt the flow of the game by concentrating too much on matching, but that's the one matchup everyone thought he was going to try his hardest to get away from. Crosby has been good out there, but he hasn't stood out. Maybe Bylsma does need to think about getting Crosby away from Zetterberg. Maybe Babcock is outcoaching him.
6:00: Look out, the Wings are starting to possess the puck a lot now. They are controlling the game now. Could it just be a matter of time until they score?
2:15: Laziness by Fedotenko led to a breakaway by Samuelsson, who rang one off the post. How many times do we have to say that you can't get lazy or too cute or whatever against the Red Wings? The Penguins are lucky. Fedotenko is lucky.
1:20: Great shift by Hossa, who is getting booed every time he touches the puck. Fleury needed to make a good stop and he did.
Synopsis: The Penguins couldn't do anything with that last power play (there is still two seconds left on it), but they enter the first intermission with confidence having tied the game with a power-play goal. Each team potted a man-advantage goal in the period, which was clearly the fastest and most offensive period of the series so far. It's what a lot of people expected. Now we've got some open hockey. The Penguins still need to do a better job of crashing Osgood's crease, but overall they've been good and so have the Wings. Should be an interesting second period.
18:02: Franzen's stick gets caught in Adams' skates and now the Pens are going back on the power play for at least the rest of the period. Olczyk is right. Instead of going shorthanded for playing with six men on the ice, the Penguins have taken advantage by the non call and now they are playing with some serious confidence.
15:57: Penguins 2, Red Wings 2. OK, Crosby is vindicated for not burying that chance. Letang gets the power play goal. That looks like the goal that the Penguins needed because it's not one we would have expected Osgood to give up. Letang had a good shot and it might have been deflected in front, but it went shortside on Osgood. They may have just found a hole. We'll see.
15:46: Oh man Crosby can't get a better chance than that one. What a great save by Osgood. I'm sorry, but Crosby has to bury that one.
14:46 (TV timeout): The Penguins fans groaned when Cleary had his arms wrapped around Eaton and the officials didn't need to listen to them. It was a penalty and now the Penguins have a chance to flip the momentum in this game again. They have been stagnant through the neutral zone ever since Zetterberg scored. And, I don't think it's necessarily because of the Wings. The Penguins are not connecting on passes.
13:19 (TV timeout): OK, the officials are going to get drilled for that one, but that may be the break for the Penguins, who had six guys on the ice for 20 or so seconds. Olczyk was going nuts about it. I'm flummoxed by how nobody saw it. As if the officials don't take enough heat, good lord they're going to get hammered for not seeing that.
11:33: Red Wings 2, Penguins 1. Fleury looked very sharp on the power play and still the Wings were able to score with nine seconds left on the advantage. Franzen gets his 12th of the playoffs. Zetterberg's pass was tipped by Cooke and went right to Franzen, who was ready for the puck and didn't seem affected when it altered its route to him. Another fortunate bounce for the Red Wings. At what point do the Penguins get one? You have to think it's coming, no?
9:42: Oprik buried Cleary and that's going to give the Red Wings the first power play of the night. Orpik goes out for interference. Orpik has to be more careful from here on out because those pushes are apparently going to be called tonight. Wings are 0 for 3 in the series and the Pens have killed 13 straight penalties.
8:48 (TV timeout): Already Game 3 has a lot more speed through the neutral zone, which is something a lot of fans were calling for, especially those that comment on this blog and email me. As a result, we've already got two goals and it's not even 10 minutes old. Good start, but I just can't get over the fact that Zetterberg was as open as he was on that play. I need to see a replay again to see where all the Penguins were, but I think they were in the middle of a change.
6:19: Red Wings 1, Penguins 1. Where was Gonchar and better yet where as his help. There was a loose puck in front after Gonchar poked it from Leino, but Zetterberg was wide open without a Penguin around him. He's going to score that goal every single time. Crosby was around the play, but nowhere near Zetterberg. Good point by Olczyk on the changes, but come on, you can't leave Zetterberg alone. He's the last guy you can leave alone. So, 1-1. It's interesting already.
4:48: Penguins 1, Red Wings 0. Detroit couldn't weather it long enough. What a fantastic shift by Malkin and Talbot that leads to Talbot's goal off a great shot from between the circles thanks to a pretty pass from Malkin. The Wings helped it out by turning the puck over in the defensive zone, a pass to Dan Cleary that was behind him that he couldn't handle. This is exactly what the Penguins needed. That can't be overstated. A quick goal, the fans are in it and now the Wings have to press for the equalizer. Huge. Huge.
4:00: It appears to me right now that the Wings are just trying to weather a good start by the Penguins. Osgood looks sharp, which is a good sign. Too many icings so far for the Wings. The shifts get long that way.
2:30: Here's another new line combo for the Penguins with Staal on the ice with Cooke and Satan. They're all mixed and matched now, so forget about my previous post about what the lines are going to be. Clearly Byslma has made some changes, at least for the start.
1:00: Already an interesting move by Bylsma as he puts Crosby with Malkin and Guerin. I like it. That's Bylsma showing the urgency of this game. If it stays that way throughout the game and the Wings can't get the matchups they want, that could be very dangerous for Detroit. Then again, Zetterberg was on the ice for part of that shift.
0:00: You see Bylsma has already started getting Crosby away from Zetterberg. He started Staal's line against Zetterberg's line, but Lidstrom and Rafalski were out there.
Crosby says the Penguins are better suited to be down 2-0 this year than they were last year. No kidding. Now we'll see how they really handle it when the puck is finally dropped.
Jeff Jimerson really rocks that anthem. He doesn't have a big voice, but it was fantastic to hear live in the building and pretty darn good to hear on TV. The fans in Pittsburgh just love that guy. He's some sort of cult hero. I don't get it, but Jimerson must love it.
The whiteout always looks cool, but trust me when I tell you it looks better from a bird's eye view from the press box.
Mario Lemieux is sporting a pretty decent playoff beard. It looks like he has groomed it, but not bad nonetheless. Think he could suit up tonight for Pittsburgh? That may give Mike Babcock something to think about.
"His tenant won the faceoff," Doc Emrick says. Eddie Olcyzk started cracking up. I did too, it was a very funny line.
On to the game.
Projected lines for Game 3
06.02.2009 / 8:03 p.m. ET
We're only a few minutes away from the most important game of the 2008-09 NHL season. The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a must win situation. A loss tonight and, well, you know the drill.
Here are the anticipated lines for tonight's Game 3, which can be seen on Versus, CBC and RDS as well as NHL International:
While watching the NHL Network
06.02.2009 / 6:45 p.m. ET
It was nice to see that during the NHL Network's preview show that they detailed pretty much everything I wrote about in my previous entry regarding the Penguins.
The Staal factor? Check. The Gonchar factor? Check. Bylsma's task of getting Crosby away from Zetterberg? Check. Marc-Andre Fleury's play? Check.
OK, enough gloating from me. I know most of that was fairly obvious and anyone who watched the first two games could have picked up on it.
My guess is the lineups will look the same tonight as they did in Game 2. That means I think Bylsma will stick with the conventional 6-12 approach and Mikael Samuelsson will be in the lineup for the Red Wings.
Chalk both up to a hunch, but I think we can say them with some certainty even though the NHL Network listed only 11 forwards when they posted the lines.
Great point by Larry Murphy during the Networks' show when he said Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin, the wingers on each side of Sidney Crosby, have to produce. We can't overlook that fact.
Bob Errey just said Marian Hossa is "known as the Benedict Arnold around these parts." Yeesh, enough already. The guy left town because he thought Detroit gave him a better chance at winning a Cup and now the Penguins have a chance to beat him and show him he left for nothing. It's not as if this was Mario Lemieux leaving Pittsburgh. Hossa played in the Steel City for less than four months and he was brought in as a rental.
Time to grab a bite to eat before I nestle in for a long night of blogging. I'll post the lineups and line combinations soon and then the Game 3 live blog will be on. Remember, the game is on Versus tonight.
From the Penguins perspective
06.02.2009 / 1:41 p.m. ET
Play harder and smarter hockey. That's what you hear everyone saying now about what the Penguins need to do to get back into this series. Hey, where is Sidney Crosby? That's a popular comment, too.
Boy, people just love to trash on Crosby, don't they? I really don't get it, but it seems like the popular thing to do.
If I may get on a soapbox for a minute here, Crosby is so good for the game and people are forgetting that. This is not me talking as a League employee, but simply just a hockey fan. Crosby is an elite, elite, elite player and he's also a wonderful representative for the NHL and hockey players at large. Nobody works or plays harder than Crosby. And, you never, ever hear anything seedy about the guy's personal life.
Maxime Talbot refers to Crosby as a hockey geek. What's wrong with that?
Anyway, hate him if you want, but usually it's the best players that draw the most attention, positive or negative, from sports fans. If anybody denies that this guy is one of the most talented athletes on the planet right now, they are not watching him play.
I'm sure I'll get drilled for my opinions by some of my faithful readers who call Crosby "Cindy" and think he's nothing more than a "whiner" who gets shoved in hockey fans' faces while the NHL privately prays that he wins the Stanley Cup.
It's not true. Believe me.
OK, enough of that. On to my five things to watch from the Penguins' perspective tonight:
1. Will Dan Bylsma be able to unleash Crosby?
I said in my earlier post regarding the five things to watch from the Wings perspective that I think tonight's game will test Bylsma's coaching chops. What I mean by that is it will be up to Bylsma to make sure Crosby isn't on the ice at the same time as Henrik Zetterberg. Of course, the two top centers will find each other at times tonight, but Bylsma, who is afforded the last change now, needs to make sure Crosby doesn't spend the entire game in Zetterberg's shadow. If Crosby can get away from Zetterberg as well as Nicklas Lidstrom, he'll be allowed more freedom in the offensive zone and that could get his entire line going.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury
He needs to be awesome tonight and anything short of that is not good enough. Fleury has been good at times so far in this series but he's also let in some questionable goals (Abdelkader's in the third period of Game 2 immediately comes to mind). The Wings have gotten very solid goaltending from Chris Osgood and Fleury can't get outplayed again. He needs to make the easy saves and the hard saves and he can't let the in-between shots get past him. If he gives up three goals tonight, it could be tough sledding.
3. Sergei Gonchar
Now is the time for the Penguins' best defenseman to step up and play his best game. Yes, I know his right knee probably still bothers him, but Gonchar hasn't been terribly effective in the series so far and he has to be tonight. Of course, it will help if the Penguins get some power plays, especially early, because that's Gonchar's bread and butter. Overall, though, I think he would agree that he could be doing more. He'll need to play his best game of the series tonight.
4. Jordan Staal
When the Penguins played the Capitals, Staal was basically outplayed in that series by fellow third line center, David Steckel. It's happening again. Detroit's third line center, Darren Helm, has been far superior to Staal in just about every area. They have each played 49 shifts so far, but Helm is winning the battle by a country mile. Helm is 22-10 on faceoffs (69 percent) while Staal is 9-25 (26.4 percent). Helm has four shots and 15 hits. Staal has four shots and four hits. Helm has an assist. Staal is pointless. Helm is a plus-1. Staal is a minus-2. And, Helm has played nearly five minutes less than Staal. If Staal is supposed to be this elite checking center with an incredibly bright future, he can't be outplayed by Helm. He needs to be much better.
5. The start
It's cliché, I know, but everyone and their mother will be watching to see how the Penguins start tonight's game. I'm no different. I don't think the first 10 minutes will be telling of how the game is going to go, but the Penguins desperately need to come out of the gate flying. Yes, they'll have their home crowd behind them and that will help, but it's how they play that matters. They'll need to attack right off the hop. Pressure the Wings and force mistakes. Crash the crease. The more they do that, the more likely they'll be to cash in on a lucky break our bounce, something they couldn't do in Detroit.
From the Wings perspective
06.02.2009 / 11 a.m. ET
The blog took most of Monday off to re-energize after a demanding 48 hours over the weekend.
Translation: I needed to get off my butt and do something else for a little while, and I would have if not for the Montreal Canadiens stunning the hockey world with this decision, which leaves the Florida Panthers having to go through this process.
Anyway, we're back today and it'll be a day of blogging leading up to Game 3 tonight. So, let's get her going right off the hop here with a list of five things to watch from the Detroit Red Wings' perspective tonight.
I'll post my list of five things to watch from the Pittsburgh Penguins' perspective later, but first the Wings:
1. Marian Hossa
I'm not one to buy into all of the juiced-up crowd hype. Hossa is well aware he'll receive a cold greeting in the Igloo (see what I just did there? Clever, eh?). I'm more interested in what kind of impact Hossa will have. You see, he's been good in these playoffs, but six goals in 18 games doesn't exactly put him in a $7 million a year category. Sorry if that seems harsh, but it's the truth. Now, a big game tonight for Hossa silences all of his doubters (if any are really out there). The guy is a fantastic player and he has had an impact what with his two assists and eight shots on goal in the first two games. It also should be noted that he's playing without Pavel Datsyuk, who has been his center for most of the season. All that and I still am looking for more from him.
2. Will Mike Babcock be able to get the matchups he wants?
Great question and the likely answer is no, at least not all the time. The Wings are the road team now, which means they lose the right to have the last line change off of stoppages in play. That means if Babcock wants to keep Henrik Zetterberg on Sidney Crosby (and, why wouldn't he?) he'll have to do a lot of changing on the fly. Crosby will undoubtedly be freed from Zetterberg's shadow for some parts of tonight's game and we'll see if that unleashes him. More than anything, though, I think this matchup in this game will test Dan Bylsma's coaching chops. However, we'll get to that later. For now, the Wings know they'll have to defend Crosby with more of a committee approach tonight because of the last line change thing.
3. Chris Osgood
The guy hasn't allowed more than a goal in each of the last four games. He has allowed more than two in only five of his 18 starts in this postseason. We all know the Penguins will need more than two goals to beat Detroit (at least we can assume that, right?), so is Osgood due for a bad game? I don't know and I don't really think so because the guy is clearly in a zone and playing the best hockey perhaps of his entire career. That being said, if the Penguins get some constant pressure tonight they may find some holes in Ozzie. If not, the Wings will be up 3-0 in this series.
4. The kids
OK, so Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Jonathan Ericsson have been the talk of this series so far and rightfully so. Abdelkader has two goals. Ericsson has a goal and has played some key minutes on the back end. Helm has been one of the Wings best forwards. However, now they are playing as the favorites and people are expecting a little bit more from them. As I said, I'm not a big believer in the juiced-up crowd theory so I don't think the capacity crowd inside Mellon Arena will affect the Wings' kids. However, how they handle the pressure of having to deliver more based on what they've already done will be interesting to see. Expectations go up when you perform at a higher than expected level. Abdelkader is probably pressure-free because anything he gives the Wings is a bonus. After all, he's a fourth line guy who had only four games of NHL experience before this Final began. Helm and Ericsson are different. They are playing very key minutes.
5. More puck possession
The Wings have won the first two games and gone into the third period with leads in each. So, as one e-mailer pointed out to me, that is probably a good reason why they're being out shot. The Penguins are pressing in the third and have outshot the Wings, 24-11, in those 40 minutes through the first two games. The Wings, though, have outshot the Penguins, 45-41, in the other 80 minutes. The Wings thrive on being a puck possession team and they usually are at their best when they have a lead. They'll need to be better tonight in their puck control and possession, especially if they again take a lead into the third period. If you let the Penguins swarm, eventually they're going to cash in.
(Late) Morning reading list after Game 2
06.01.2009 / 11:18 a.m. ET
Sorry for the delay this morning, but commuting problems are to blame. I won't go into it, but suffice it to say that NJ Transit is the bane of my existence.
Now, on to NHL.com's coverage of last night's game:
Because Shawn begged me to lead off the reading list with his story, I guess I can oblige. What a self promoter, huh? Just kidding, just kidding. Anyway, Roarke wrote an in depth piece about how the Wings are taking advantage of the Penguins' mistakes but the Penguins can't do the same when the Wings make a blunder.
"In these tight games here, every turnover or mistake out there is critical," Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson told NHL.com. "Both teams have very good offensive guys out there, so I'm not surprised that those things happen."
Mr. Game Story, Phil Coffey, has all the details of Game 2 right here.
Back-to-back 3-1 victories to start the 2009 Stanley Cup Final have the Detroit Red Wings right back where they were against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the '08 Final – leading the series 2-0.
Mike Morreale, who flew into Detroit on Sunday and will be with the boys for the rest of the series, wrote about Chris Osgood stoning Evgeni Malkin yet again and how that led to a frustrating finish for the big Russian center.
"I turned it over when I went to play it off the boards back there; it went off my stick and that was a great pass to get it to (Malkin)," Osgood recalled. "To be honest, I saw the puck at the last second -- it hit my shoulder and glanced off the post, so I made a good play after making a bad play behind my own net."
Just in case you weren't aware, Malkin will not be suspended by the NHL for the instigator penalty last night according to rule 47.22. The instigator penalty he received at 19:41 of the third period was rescinded roughly an hour after the game.
Following review, NHL Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said: "None of the criteria in this rule applied in this situation. Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight. A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident. Neither was the case here and therefore the one game suspension is rescinded."
Larry Wigge wrote this piece about how evident the speed both teams have was in Game 2. The transition game, Wigge wrote, was spectacular and just because there were only four goals scored doesn't mean there wasn't much offense in the game.
"We knew this was going to be a game of will," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "The speed made the game flow go from end to end. First it was all us. Then all them. Momentum back and forth. It was pretty exciting to watch. You could really feel the electricity in the crowd."
Dave Lozo was on the Sidney Crosby beat again, only this time the story focused on No. 87's struggles against the Red Wings, in particular Henrik Zetterberg. Crosby insists he's not frustrated, but he's been so close so many times that you have to figure that human nature takes over and frustration does set in.
"We know that our game can be successful," Crosby said. "We truly believe if we play the same way, we're going to come out on the right side of things. We just need to make sure we stick to things, keep playing the same way we are and bear down on our chances."
Bob Condor, aka 'The Boss,' got into the writing act with a story about the Wings' kids coming through. Justin Abdelkader has two goals already. Jonathan Ericsson has one and has played some key minutes. Darren Helm has been one of Detroit's best players.
"We're used to back-to-back (games)," Abdelkader said. "We did it all year in Grand Rapids (AHL). For me, Helmer and Ericsson it's nothing new. We even have some three games in three nights."
John Kreiser again detailed all the pertinent numbers in Game 2.
33 -- Times that a team has won the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, including Detroit against Pittsburgh in each of the last two springs. Of the previous 32, only the 1971 Chicago Blackhawks failed to win the Stanley Cup.
And, hey, even I contributed this story last night from my couch.
So while this year's Final may look and feel different than last year's, when Pittsburgh also trailed 2-0 but appeared dazed and confused after being outscored, 7-0, the Penguins still have to win four of five against Detroit to win the Stanley Cup, starting Tuesday in Game 3 (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
LIVE BLOG: GAME 2
05.31.2009 / 10 p.m. ET
Synopsis: Frustration boiled over for the Penguins at the end and I'm not buying McGuire's point that Pittsburgh is not in trouble until they lose on home ice. Um, they're down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final, that's spells trouble to me. Yes, the Penguins are going home and yes they were unlucky tonight (I can think of two posts), but the Wings deserve a lot of credit for their play in these last 48 hours. Were they perfect? No. They were good enough. The Penguins weren't.
19:42: Talbot pushes down Osgood with his stick in a bit of a cheap shot, a frustration push. Malkin has lost all of his equipment in a fight with Zetterberg. That's a lot of star power in a scrap. You know what, this looks like sheer frustration on the part of the Penguins. I don't know if this is setting the tone or just a bit of ridiculousness. If the Penguins wanted to set the tone, they would have done it much earlier than this.
19:30: Fleury is off. He should have been gone much earlier.
18:30: Jamming and scrambling in front and the Penguins still can't get it past Osgood. Finally on the ensuing faceoff, Malkin and Crosby together. Too late?
17:22: The Penguins are playing much better now, but they're down two so desperation has set in. Right now I'm thinking that these first two games couldn't have gone any better for the Wings for so many reasons. The fourth line has been great. They've dominated in the matchup against Crosby. Malkin hasn't been nearly as big of a factor as he needs to be. Osgood has been excellent. They're winning without Datsyuk and Draper.
13:25: Perfect kick save by Osgood on Crosby, who made a great move to get the shot on goal. As McGuire said, Osgood did look behind him because he thought the puck beat him. Boy his eyes must have lit up when he didn't see it.
11:30: You're seeing some double shifting of Crosby now. He was just out there with Dupuis and Satan. As expected, in the third period Bylsma has essentially gone back to 10 or 11 forwards. Good point by McGuire when he said that it's time to get Malkin and Crosby out there every other shift, which means one of them will always be on the ice for the last eight minutes.
9:13: Boy did Lidstrom look calm in settling that loose puck after Kunitz's shot on goal was stopped by Osgood before rolling through the crease. Lidstrom is such a calming influence. He doesn't make mistakes.
6:53 (TV timeout): Are we looking at the same game tonight? It appears so with the only difference being the Penguins scored first tonight whereas the Wings scored first last night. The Penguins have also been much better in the faceoff circle (22-20), but they trail 3-1 and Abdelkader made it that way early in the third, just as he did last night. The Penguins need to amp it up right now. Let's see if they can.
2:47: Red Wings 3, Penguins 1. Are you kidding me? Abdelkader again? With the same score on the board? At virtually the same exact time? I can't believe this. Abdelkader made it 3-1 at the 2:46 mark of the third period last night. He makes it 3-1 tonight at the 2:47 mark of the third period. This was a one against three and Abdelkader gained the blue line over the left circle. The bounced across and he gathered it again at the top of the left circle and fired the puck into the far top corner. This is a horrible goal by Fleury, who needs to make this glove save. The puck was knuckling a bit and Fleury looked so dejected afterwards. I just can't believe Abdelkader did it again.
1:39: Crosby takes his first shift of the period with his normal wingers, Kunitz and Guerin, and they put together a great shift. Crosby had two glorious chances to jam the puck in, but he couldn't do it. The first one hit the post. The second was smothered by Zetterberg. I wonder if/when Bylsma will put Crosby and Malkin together. This is a must win period now.
Synopsis: Well, the Penguins did get out of the period trailing only 2-1 despite a frantic finish by the Red Wings. The game seemed to turn in Detroit's favor after a strong shift by the fourth line and third defensive pairing just two minutes into the period. A shot on goal by Leino at the 1:50 mark was the Red Wings first since the 9:44 mark of the first period. They scored shortly after and again roughly halfway through the period. Helm is again having a strong game. He has two shots, four hits and is 7-4 on faceoffs. Crosby is 9-4 on faceoffs, but he has only one shot on goal. The third period should be awesome.
19:15: Great muscle job by Cleary to get the puck in front and then a glorious chance for Franzen, who appeared to miss the net. The Wings are buzzing, absolutely buzzing. If the Penguins can get out of this period down 2-1 it will be nothing short of amazing.
15:42 (TV timeout): Crosby just looked like he was unleashed on that last shift. Due to the icing, the Wings had to keep Maltby, Abdelkader and Holmstrom on the ice and Bylsma took advantage by putting Crosby, Guerin and Staal (a new combo) against them as well as Detroit's third D pair of Lebda and Ericsson. It was a good break, but again, Crosby couldn't capitalize.
13:10: What a great pass from behind the net by Crosby to Guerin, who rang the one-timer off the post. That's a bad break for the Penguins, who may wind up needing that one back.
11:07: Is that the third time Filppula has been kicked out of the faceoff circle? I wonder what he's doing.
10:29: Red Wings 2, Penguins 1. Right after a good PK by the Penguins the Wings score because they were able to keep the play going despite the fact that Malkin came on the ice. Hossa sends puck to the net. Of course, Holmstrom was in front. Malkin barrelled in, but the puck went rolling across the crease and Filppula somehow managed to use his backhand and roof it into the far corner while falling away. I don't know how he did that. The key, in my estimation, is the Wings were able to keep the play going after the power play had expired.
8:15: So much for that surge. The Wings are going on the power play for the first time tonight as Malkin was called for interference on Ericsson. The Wings got only one power play in last night's game and they didn't capitalize.
7:30: Good shift by Crosby, Guerin and Kunitz was followed by a good shift by Adams, Dupuis and Satan. Those back to back solid shifts stole some of the Wings momentum, and they clearly had it before that goal. It goes back to that shift where Leino finally got the Wings a shot. Now it appears the Pens are surging.
4:21: Red Wings 1, Penguins 1. Helm wins the faceoff from Talbot and gets right to the front of the net. His screen allowed Jonathan Ericsson's shot to go by Fleury to tie the game. As I said, the icing kept the group of Pens defenders on the ice and that turned into a huge faceoff win by Helm. If Talbot wins it, the Pens can get a change. They were tired and it showed. McGuire immediatlely made that point, too.
4:17: What a great shift by Hossa, Filppula, Kronwall and Holmstrom. The icing will keep the Penguins defenders, Eaton and Letang, on the ice as well as Fedotenko, Malkin and Talbot.
3:19: Malkin stoned by Osgood. That's huge save No. 2 of tonight's game. Ozzie has been good. He needs some help now.
1:50: Ville Leino gets the Wings just got their first shot on goal in about a decade. It finally looks as though the Wings had some life in their offensive game. They need more of that. Let's see if that shift by the fourth line and that shot by Leino helps.
Synoposis: The Penguins looked like a dead team skating in the first 10 or so minutes of the game. The Wings had the first six shots on goal until Letang's blast was stopped by Osgood. I think the entire period changed on Crosby's roughly minute-long shift that finished at about the 12:20 mark. His speed finally put the Red Wings on their heals a bit and the Penguins started buzzing from there. They built on it on the next shift and eventually forced a penalty. Forty-two seconds later they scored and it's 1-0. The Pens also had the last 10 shots of the period and by the end they were really taking it to the Wings. Crosby was 4-1 on faceoffs.
16:50: Penguins 1, Red Wings 0. Power play goal. Great possession on the power play for the Penguins, who after a netmouth scramble were able to score the first goal of the game. Malkin got it after his shot was knocked into the net by Brad Stuart. What an unreal scramble and great work right in front of the net by Crosby and Guerin. Crosby won the all important faceoff and the Penguins kept the puck in the entire 42 seconds of the PP.
16:08: The speed has picked up in this game and the Penguins are forcing the pace. It has led to a cross checking penalty on Niklas Kronwall, giving the Pens the first power play of the game.
13:26: Best opportunity of the night so far for the Penguins. Malkin had a great headman pass to Ruslan Fedotenko, who had a burst through the zone and got off a shot. As I expected, Crosby's shift has seemed to energize the Penguins. Kunitz just had a shot stopped and held leading to a TV timeout as I was typing this entry.
12:20: Crosby just finished his best shift of the night and it started when he stole a pass from Tomas Holmstrom. Let's see if that shift energizes the Penguins.
10:50 (TV timeout): Not much to report since my last update. Yes, the Wings are controlling the neutral zone as McGuire just pointed out. It appears, at least right now, that the Penguins are content with skating around and not doing much. That's going to have to change. From the Wings perspective, they've got some decent energy, but nothing to write home about. How about some action boys!
7:56 (TV timeout): The Penguins have won four of the first seven faceoffs, but they have only the one shot on goal (Letang's). They have also been charged with four giveaways while the Red Wings haven't been charged with any. I am not sure this is the start Dan Bylsma was hoping for. Mike Babcock has to be pleased.
6:57: First big save of the night for Osgood on Letang's one-timer. He said to me in that interview I blogged about earlier that he knows he has to make seven or eight big saves each night for the Wings to win. Usually it doesn't take much more than that. That stop on Letang was the first one tonight.
4:41: Still waiting for the Penguins to show up. Clearly they're not having the same type of start tonight as they had last night. Could legs be an issue? I don't see how.
3:00: Abdelkader just about pick-pocketed Fleury, who should probably think about staying closer to his crease, especially when he doesn't have a lot of help. Fleury's stickhandling isn't his best attribute.
1:40: Franzen has had two chances already created by some nifty plays by Zetterberg. Both came on the same shift and were against Crosby's line. Franzen is almost the forgotten man at times. The great matchup of Crosby and Zetterberg is what we talk about, but that also means Guerin or Kunitz have to answer for Franzen and Cleary. Not easy.
0:00: Boy does Crosby look focused. Great shot of him on the bench there. Look out for him to have a big night.
From the great stat department, NBC just showed that Henrik Zetterberg was on the ice for all or part of Sidney Crosby's 25 shifts last night. Crosby has to find a way to free himself of Zetterberg's shadow tonight.
Great interview by Pierre McGuire with Dan Cleary. Of all the reasons for stopping Crosby last night, Cleary summed it up best when he said, "We've got Nick Lidstrom back there." Of the talk about the Red Wings' old legs churning last night, "We've got Darren Helm." I like both reasons. I'm buying.
Jordan Staal told Darren Pang that they have to win the faceoffs. He then smiled and looked at Pang. He knows that's an obvious statement, but it's going to be so important for the Penguins to win the draws tonight. Twenty-nine percent is not going to cut it.
Good point by Eddie Olcyzk about the second chance opportunities. However, he thinks the Penguins will need more second chance opportunities while I think the Penguins had some last night because Chris Osgood had some rebound control problems at times. The Penguins will get second chance opportunities tonight (that's just the way things go at this stage) and they'll need to make them count.
Mike Milbury and McGuire talked about power play problems last night for the Penguins. I can understand why because the Penguins were not good on their two advantages, but it's not the reason they lost the game. Now, I do expect special teams to play more of a role tonight, so we'll talk power play and PK after tonight's game.
Time for hockey.
Projected lines and some pre-game analysis for Game 2
05.31.2009 / 7:05 p.m. ET
Well, here we are again, 24 hours later and we're already talking about the second game of the Stanley Cup Final. Kind of odd, huh? Hasn't happened since 1940.
Anyway, it appears that after just one game Dan Bylsma is going to scratch his 7-11 approach and go with the more conventional 6-12 approach, meaning six defensemen and 12 forwards. Philippe Boucher, who has played admirably since Game 5 against Washington, is out and Pascal Dupuis is taking over as the fourth line left wing.
With a 12th forward in the lineup, the top three centers won't have to play the extra shift in the first two periods. Things may change if the game is close toward the end of the second and definitely in the third, but the lines should be less fluid at the start tonight.
And, one more thing, Marc-Andre Fleury needs to be better tonight. Captain Obvious right here, I know. He may have to steal one tonight. He at least has to outplay Chris Osgood.
The Penguins lines will look like this:
As for the Wings, no Pavel Datsyuk again and no Kris Draper again. That means the lineup and the lines should look exactly the same as they did last night. That means Justin Abdelkader will get another chance for a big moment. Here is what we're talking about:
The great matchup again tonight will be at the center ice position between Crosby and Zetterberg. I'm also looking to see if the Penguins can push the pace a little bit more. Larry Murphy mentioned on the NHL Network's preview show that if the Pens can do that it may force Detroit to take some penalties.
Special teams could play a role tonight. They didn't last night as there were only three penalties called and neither team cashed in. I think it's a safe bet to say there will be more penalties tonight.
And, I'll put it to you this way, the Penguins may not win a game in this series if they win only 29 percent of the faceoffs.
OK, I'm live blogging again. Stay tuned.
Osgood said this would happen
05.31.2009 / 3:30 p.m. ET
About a week and a half before the end of the regular season, I got Chris Osgood on the phone for an interview. The topic? Obvious.
I wanted to ask him if he really felt in his heart that he would be able to turn things around entering the playoffs and if the questions about him being the Wings' weak link were warranted?
Osgood, who was at home, couldn't have been more honest and forthcoming for this story.
He told me that he had been feeling good since Christmas and even though the Wings gave him a 12-day sabbatical between starts in February, Osgood was confident that he was fully prepared to lead this team into the postseason.
"To be totally sincere," Osgood told me, "I really feel I'm going in the right direction heading into the playoffs. I feel that is going to be my time."
Osgood has dealt with the questions throughout his career. Before these playoffs began, some people in the hockey world still viewed the guy with three Stanley Cup rings, including two earned as a starter, as a career backup.
I think it's safe to say that Osgood is no career backup. And, it's also safe to say that Osgood can rise to the occasion with the best of them. He has been excellent in these playoffs and if he stays that way and the Wings go on to win the Cup, Osgood could win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Now we'll be talking about a goalie with four rings, including three earned as a starter, and a Conn Smythe Trophy. If he isn't a lock already (and I think he should be), that would put Osgood into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
A good friend who has been around Osgood since he turned pro told me that the difference between Osgood this year and in years past is his attitude. He is almost defiant nowadays and it appears as though he's taking it personally when people question him.
I have heard him reference his 15 years in the League, his 389 wins, 70-someide playoff victories and three Cup rings in a few interviews. If you dare question Osgood now and you're going to get an in-your-face answer.
That attitude is why Osgood has found the key to his past success in these playoffs. The only thing he hasn't done is flip all his detractors the bird, and I wouldn't be surprised if he does that soon (probably not, he's too mature and too much of a good guy).
The best part of that 15-minute phone interview I did with Osgood that night is he thanked me at the end. I could really tell that he had a lot to say and he appreciated the fact that I gave him the forum to say it. He knew I wasn't going to blast him, so he could be honest and forthcoming.
And, needless to say, his foreshadowing was incredible.
"You have to be honest with yourself," he later added. "I know I have to play like I did last year in the playoffs. If I don't, the chances of us winning aren't very good."
Morning reading list after Game 1
05.31.2009 / 10:25 a.m. ET
Good morning power players. Lots of coverage from the NHL.com crew off of last night's 3-1 Wings' victory. Your lineup includes Shawn P. Roarke, Dave Lozo, Larry Wigge, Phil Coffey and John Kreiser.
Coffey has the game story covered right here.
In a game that perfectly illustrated the slippery nature of hockey, the Red Wings took advantage of the breaks presented to them -- especially the lively end boards at Joe Louis Arena -- and the Pens could only shake their heads at the numerous chances that defied logic and stayed out of the net.
Roarke has a very interesting story on the lively boards at Joe Louis Arena and how they played a part in the Wings first two goals of the night.
"They're quick," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who is 1-3 in the Finals at the Joe, said of the boards. "They bounce a lot. I didn't think it would happen twice tonight. I'll try to forget about it. I'll watch the tapes and try to do something else."
Wigge has got the story of Jonathan Ericsson's marvelous return from an emergency appendectomy just 72 hours later. Ah, the joys of modern medicine, especially for a young guy.
"I couldn't believe how good I felt," Ericsson, 25, said. "I was strong, not sluggish at all ... though I'm a little tired right now."
Wigge also details the rise of Michigan's own Justin Abdelkader, who scored the Wings third goal last night. Abdelkader is from Muskegon and went to Michigan State.
"I've played on every stop on I-96 from Muskegon to Detroit," Abdelkader said, "so you can't believe the great taste I have in my mouth after savoring that one."
Lozo has the story of Sidney Crosby covered. Crosby admitted that he gave Kirk Maltby a two-handed whack after the game. He's a feisty one that No. 87.
"He was doing what he always does, he was giving guys lip service and things like that," Crosby said of what started the dust-up with Maltby. "I two-handed him on top of the foot there as we were skating by. So he felt like it was necessary to keep talking after the game, and I thought I'd whack him and that was it."
Lozo also was in the Pens room to get the thoughts of Fleury, who allowed three goals on 30 shots.
"I'll check the tapes and see what happened," a bewildered Fleury said.
Kreiser, who like me is back east, detailed all the pertinent numbers from Game 1. Nobody does numbers better than John Kreiser.
0 – Final games worked by referee Denis Larue and linesman Derek Amell before this year. Both worked a Final game for the first time on Saturday night. The other two officials had more experience -- referee Paul Devorski did his 16th Final game, and linesman Pierre Racicot worked his 11th
Finally, here's the notebook off of last night's game. Included are items about Chris Osgood's two biggest plays of the night, the Red Wings 39-16 domination in the faceoff circle, Dan Bylsma defending the use of his timeout late in the second period, and thoughts on the officiating.
"It was chippy out there, no doubt," Maxime Talbot said. "The referees did a great job tonight. They let us play. Some plays that might have been obstruction or hooking penalties during the regular season weren't called. They just allowed two good teams to go at it."
Penguins get Winged again, take 1-0 series lead
05.30.2009 / 11:20 p.m. ET
OK, so we like to say we didn't see this coming. We like to say that the Penguins' experience from last year was going to make a difference right off the bat. It's hard to say it wasn't because Pittsburgh came to play from the jump, but the Red Wings are still the Red Wings and they showed everyone tonight.
The Penguins played a good road game. They really did. They played well. That's what is so frustrating for them. Detroit is so darn hard to beat.
Faceoffs? Detroit won 39 of 55, a huge advantage that matters.
Goalies? Osgood was better than Fleury, who got burned by those springy end boards.
Stars? Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Franzen were better than Crosby, Malkin and Gonchar.
Pace? The Wings liked it for at least 40-45 minutes of this game. That's enough time.
Momentum? The Wings have it now. It's a quick turnaround to Game 2 and I'm not sure who that helps most. It's not enough time for the Wings to lose momentum, but the Penguins know they need to be better in many areas and instead of talking about it incessantly they'll get right back out there and try to do it.
Personally, I thought Crosby had a good game and he found himself in areas to score. It's going to be tougher for No. 87 in this series because Zetterberg is always going to be around him. I still think Crosby played well, but he needs to find a way to get free of Zetterberg tomorrow night, at least for a couple of shifts. He will be able to do that in Game 3 when the Penguins have the last change, but the Pens may need Crosby to produce some points to avoid going into an 0-2 hole.
That's it from me tonight. I'll let the boys on the scene take over with their plethora of stories coming your way. Remember, check back here tomorrow morning for a reading list. It'll have all the stories you can find throughout the site located in one area.
LIVE BLOG: GAME 1
05.30.2009 / 8:15 p.m. ET
Synopsis: The Red Wings take the opener, 3-1, thanks to a dominating defensive effort by Lidstrom, Rafalski and Zetterberg, The Joe's springy boards, a couple of game-changing saves by Osgood and a huge advantage in the faceoff circle. Stuart, Franzen and Abdelkader get the goals. Osgood stopped 31 of 32 shots. Fleury couldn't catch a break with those boards and let in three goals on 30 shots. Not to beat a dead horse here, but the Wings did it again. Discipline, poise, control. The Penguins had it all, but so did the Wings and they were better. They got the goals when they needed them and the saves when they needed them. Don't they always.
19:20: Good-bye Fleury. He is on the bench. Went there with about two minutes to go. With a two-goal deficit, Bylsma had to do it. The Wings somehow kept the puck in the zone and didn't score, wasting about 40 seconds in the process. They iced the puck with 40.7 left.
17:15: The Red Wings are 36-16 on faceoffs. Can't stress enough how important of a stat that is for Detroit. Zetterberg is 13-5. Helm is 11-4. Abdelkader is 4-1. Crosby? He's 6-12. Staal? Also 6-12.
15:40: Fleury came way out there and things got really crazy. Fleury is swimming all over the ice. Things finally calmed down, but it was a risky move by Fleury to come out as far as he did. The risk paid off. "What wonderful chaos and the fans love it," Emrick said.
12:22: After an icing, Babcock uses his timeout. So, neither team has a timeout left. That probably won't matter too much for the Wings at this juncture, but it might for the Penguins.
TV timeout (11:47): Gotta agree with Olcyzk here and say I'm not at all surprised the Wings fourth line is getting ice time at this juncture of the game either. Abdelkader, Leino and Maltby have earned it. Perhaps if this was a one goal game we wouldn't be seeing so much of them, but it's a two goal game because of Leino and Abdelkader.
10:00: The Pens are buzzing now. About three minutes ago I thought the Wings were going to be able to lock this down, but the Pens are definitely buzzing. We'll see if it does anything for them on the scoreboard.
4:06: More of Crosby in front of the net and the puck winds up on Osgood's back. Not sure if I buy that Osgood knew the puck was on his back. I think he just luckily rolled the other way. He's got a lot of padding on and I'm not sure he could feel it. Then again, who am I to say? I'm sitting here.
2:46: Red Wings 3, Penguins 1. Leino battles with Mark Eaton behind and gets the puck to Abdelkader. He finds it in the air, glvoes it with his right hand, puts it down to his stick and bangs it in. The kid from Michigan is never going to forget this moment. It's his first NHL playoff goal and it couldn't come at a bigger time for the Wings. Great play by Leino behind the net for his first playoff point.
2:15: Gill's lack of speed kills him as Helm goes right around him. Gill's long reach saves him as he pokes the puck away from Helm on the breakaway. Whew. Lucky for the Pens right there or this game could have been 3-1. How can you not like Helm right now? The guy is good.
0:50: Look where Crosby was for that opportunity. Right in front of the net. It's a good trend to set for his team in this period.
0:00: When leading after two periods, the Wings are 9-0 in these playoffs. This is a tenuous 2-1 lead, though. Pittsburgh has been pretty good.
Synopsis: We're going to remember that period for two reasons: 1) Osgood's save on Malkin's breakaway 3:27 into the period to keep the game knotted at 1-1. 2) Zetterberg's faceoff win against Crosby at 18:46 coming out of a Penguins timeout. Sixteen seconds later, Franzen banked the puck in off of Fleury with his backhand and the Wings take a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. Bylsma smartly used the timeout, but Crosby needed to help the Pens out by winning that faceoff. Zetterberg also kept the puck in the zone and made a great pass under pressure from Kunitz. Of course, the springy boards played a factor. Good penalty kills by the Wings, too. We can't forget about those. Lidstrom has played a game high 15:40.
19:02: Red Wings 2, Penguins 1. The timeout matters little now. Goal for the Wings. Franzen gets it. His 11th of the playoffs. Great shift after a great faceoff win by Zetterberg against Crosby. The faceoff win mattered most because it made Gill and Scuderi, Crosby, Kunitz and Guerin play defense again after a 30-second breather. Crosby needed to win that draw.
18:46: The Penguins needed a breather after an icing and now they don't have their timeout anymore. Bylsma had to use it right here.
18:00: Darren Helm is getting some serious ice time. It shows you how much Babcock likes the kid. He deserves it, too, becuase he can skate, shoot, score and he's not a liability on the defensive end.
13:44: Adams goes for hooking Hossa to give the Wings their first PP of the game. Very effective start to the PP for the Wings. They set up, moved the puck around and got a good look, but Samuelsson didn't shoot it. Lidstrom shoots the puck toward the net. See. He does it. Rafalski a blast toward the net that Fleury holds. Cooke is lucky he didn't get an elbowing penalty on the late hit on Holmstrom. The Pens get the kill, but the Wings can build off of this PP.
12:30: Abdelkader had a great chance to score a goal but Gonchar took him out of the play. Like Eddie O. said, I thought for sure Gonchar was going to the box on that play for a tripping or a hooking or a holding. No call suggests they really are letting them play, perhaps too much? Right after that play Satan had a chance in front but he failed on his attempt. Wild, wild action.
TV timeout: Good catch by McGuire to mention the line of Crosby-Malkin-Cooke. Very interesting timing by Bylsma to put 87 and 71 together. It's a tie game and the Penguins haven't been pushed around in the game. McGuire suggested they're going for some offense, which is obvious, but I think Bylsma is just trying to keep the Wings honest.
7:05: Another PP chance for the Pens as Samuelsson yanks down Staal and gets called for holding. Cleary a short-handed steal and shot that gets deflected into the netting by Fleury. Cleary really does it all for this team. Nobody should be surprised by his effectiveness. Lidstrom steps in front of a pass and the Wings clear it down. What a play! The Penguins are having a great deal of trouble setting it up. I thought the Wings PK was their downfall. What happened? Detroit is 2-for-2.
4:38: First power play of the game goes to the Penguins as Brett Lebda goes off for slashing Talbot. Lidstrom had the first clear. Lidstrom had the second clear. Lidstrom gets the third clear. Ericsson gets the fourth clear. Helm gets the fifth clear. How did Malkin not score on that opportunity after Gonchar's point shot? Helm with the sixth clear. Would love to get a replay of Malkin's chance. Anyway, outside of that opportunity, the Wings dominated on the PK.
3:27: Osgood stones Malkin on a clean breakaway. Remember that play. Remember it. I know it's early, but that could be a series changer right there. It's at least a game changer for now. What a save. That was unreal. The poise. The control.
0:26: Great job by Osgood on Guerin there. Osgood is going to have to be better with his rebounds because the Penguins are a lot better at going to the net this year than they were in last year's Stanley Cup Final.
Synopsis: It's 1-1 and this game is physical. Pittsburgh leads in the hitting department, 17-15. That's a lot for the first period. Wings are up 11-7 in shots. Darren Helm is 5-0 on faceoffs and Jordan Staal is 0-5. No power plays in the period. Lidstrom played a game-high 8:05. Not bad for an injured guy, eh? Crosby played a team high 7:26. More balanced ice time for the Penguins than for the Wings, but that's to be expected with Datsyuk and Draper out of the lineup. Great pace to this game.
18:37: Penguins 1, Red Wings 1. Ruslan Fedotenko gets the Pens on the board thanks to a terrible turnover by Stuart, who tried to bank the puck off the half boards. The puck went right to Malkin, who did a masterful job of switching his stick from his right to left to take the pass away from Stuart. Eddie O. had a great description of it. Malkin then shot the puck and Osgood left the rebound in front. Fedotenko used his backhand to sweep it into the net. Turnovers kill. They just kill.
Third TV timeout: The Penguins still seem poised, but Detroit is controlling the play. The Pens are doing a good job of playing the physical game, but there is a fine line between being physical and too physical against these Wings. Positioning is so important and you can not take yourself out of the play by going for a big hit.
13:38: Red Wings 1, Penguins 0. The first goal of the series goes to Brad Stuart. And, how fitting is it that the puck went off the active boards. You have to be aware of these boards. Giveaways by Scuderi and Gill didn't help, but that's a tough break for Fleury and the Penguins. Stuart's shot from the left point bounced off the boards and then off Fleury's backside (it appeared). Marian Hossa was right there. Now it will be interesting to see how the Penguins react. They're down a goal and they can not wilt under the pressure of trailing. Dan Bylsma said they wouldn't. We'll find out.
Second TV timeout: More hitting. Crosby on Zetterberg. Stuart on Letang. Anybody else think Crosby's hit looked almost accidental. Stuart's was not. I can't stress enough how Games 1 and 2, since they are back to back, really should be viewed as a 120-minute game and the carryover effect could be huge. McGuire just got Babcock and the coach said, "I like the game, it's pretty entertaining even for a coach." Babcock smiled. Wow. He is wary of the turnovers. Agreed. You can't turn the puck over against either of these teams.
10:40: Malkin has to settle the puck and pull the trigger there. That was a lost chance. I agree with Larry Murphy, who said on the NHL Network's preview show that Malkin needs to have a good Game 1 to get confidence for the series. He's an incredible player, but can be streaky at times. He has to keep playing the way he has been for three rounds in order for the Penguins to win. They can't win if Malkin is a passenger.
First TV Timeout: I think the Wings have had the better of the play so far even though the Penguins do look poised, as Pierre McGuire said. Still, the Wings had the better start in my opinion. It has, though, been a phenomenal start with great, non stop action.
8:05: Orpik crushes Hossa. That's what Orpik does so well. He hits and he hits hard. Remember the shift he had in last year's Stanley Cup Final when he had about four hits in 16 seconds. This was a clean, hard shot and Hossa didn't see it coming. Like I said, big hits tonight could play a role in tomorrow night's game, so look out for Orpik.
4:13: First break for the Penguins. Zetterberg hits the left post.
2:37 (roughly): First reference from Eddie O. of the springy boards at the Joe. Definitely alarming for the Penguins, who aren't used to them.
1:13: Osgood looks good already with a pair of saves, including a beauty on Maxime Talbot from the right post. Osgood deserves way more credit than he gets. I'll have more on this later, but I am not at all surprised he's had this much success in the playoffs so far. He basically predicted it to me about two weeks before the postseason started. I'll post that story later.
Faceoff: Lidstrom and Rafalski starts against Crosby. No. 87 is going to have to fight through that matchup and the one he'll face against Henrik Zetterberg, who started with Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen.
Puck drop: Gordie Howe. Ted Lindsay. Doc Emrick said it best, "How great it is to see them on the ice together here."
Anthem: Riveting. I could feel the intensity and emotion from here. It's always one of my favorite parts of the game, seeing the towels waving and the fans getting into a tizzy.
Projected lines for Game 1
05.30.2009 7:50 p.m. ET
No Datsyuk and no Draper means strange looking lines for the Wings. They go as follows:
Expect to see Dan Cleary moving up and down the lineup to match against Crosby and/or Malkin. The top four D will also be matched against both Nos. 87 and 71. The third pair will see a lot of Jordan Staal. I think it's fantastic for Ville Leino and Justin Abdelkader to be on a line with Kirk Maltby, who is a four-time Stanley Cup champion.
The Penguins will again be going with the 7-11 approach. Their lines look very similar:
Again, look for Crosby, Malkin and Staal to get time on the fourth line with Adams and Satan. If it's a close game in the third period, Crosby and Malkin will be rotating shifts. Crosby will probably see a lot of Zetterberg. That's definitely something to watch. I'm curious to see if Staal's line will be matched against Hossa. Not sure.
Enough talking. Drop the puck.
More notes while watching the NHL Network
05.30.2009 7 p.m. ET
Great point made in the segment with Dave Strader and Joe Micheletti about Dan Bylsma and last year's Final. Bylsma said he and his coaching staff indeed watched video of three games from last year's final and he found out, as if he didn't already know, that the Penguins were a much different team a year ago.
Bylsma, though, was talking about strategies and systems, not maturity and experience.
Michel Therrien was the coach last year and he preferred a more defensive style. Bylsma lets the Penguins go. Now, Therrien's approach obviously worked since Pittsburgh did go to the Final last year, so let's not just kill the guy because he's no longer with the club, but Bylsma does not feel the Penguins will be affected if the Wings score first tonight. Last year, after the Pens played well in the first 8-10 minutes of Game 1, the Wings scored first and it was downhill from there.
"We're not going to wait to see what happens," Bylsma said this morning. "We're going to try to come out and establish our game."
Now we have heard both coaches say the fact that there is a game tomorrow night will not affect their decision making tonight. Both Babcock and Bylsma said ice time for certain players won't be affected so they are fresh tomorrow.
All I have to say to that is, we'll see. I can pretty much guarantee both coaches are thinking of this as a 120 minute game, not just a 60 minute game. That's how the Penguins and Caps treated Games 4 and 5 of their series, and that included travel from Pittsburgh to D.C.
I specifically remember Caps wing Brooks Orpik telling me that they were cognizant of the fact that any hard hit laid in Game 4 could have a carryover effect into Game 5. If tonight's game in Detroit is physical, it will matter tomorrow night.
Holy cow, Mario Lemieux took the podium! I'm shocked.
Super Mario has been very reserved in his ownership role and has tried to stay out of the spotlight for the most part. I'm a little surprised he took the podium today, but I'm glad he did. Fans want to hear from the great 66.
How awesome is it that Lemieux and Crosby talk hockey at the dinner table. Boy would I love to be a fly on the wall in that kitchen or dining room for one of those conversations. Imagine how much knowledge Mario's kids are going to have when they get older. Yeesh, they'll be experts.
I've gotten a lot of e-mails ripping me for this story comparing the '84 Oilers to the '09 Penguins. I feel vindicated now because Lemieux sees the similarities. Thank you, Mario.
Did Bob Errey just say Chris Osgood didn't play a role in last year's Final? Huh?
He was the starting goalie for a Stanley Cup championship team. I would say that he played a pretty big role and I expect him to as well this year. I will say the same about Marc-Andre Fleury.
They're the starting goalies. They will be talked about.
Notes while watching NHL On the Fly at the Stanley Cup Final
05.30.2009 6:30 p.m. ET
This is a balanced broadcast for the NHL Network, anchored by my friend, Brian Duff. Bob Errey broadcasts Penguins games locally on FSN Pittsburgh and Larry Murphy does some work for FSN Detroit. They are the perfect guys to give analysis on these teams as they have watched them all season long.
Judging by the video they showed of Sidney Crosby's media session in his locker stall after the Penguins morning skate, No. 87 looks incredibly focused. The look he had on his face was the same look I saw on his face as he walked past me on his way to the visitor's locker room at Verizon Center two hours before Game 7 against the Capitals. We know how that one worked out for Crosby and the Pens.
I love the way Mike Babcock handles himself in his press conferences. He listens intently to the question and answers honestly without holding back too much. If he has something to say, he says it. If he doesn't, the answer is very short and to the point. He has the look of someone who doesn't necessarily want to be sitting up on the podium answering questions, but he understands it's part of the job and he does it very, very well.
They showed the People Mover. They showed the People Mover. I love Detroit's People Mover. All I can think of is the monorail episode in The Simpsons.
How long did it take Wings assistant Paul MacLean to grow that moustache? That is a thing of beauty. Oh, and Babcock's bench mate had some pretty good insight as well.
They're right about Johan Franzen. He doesn't get enough respect. I expect him to play really big in this Final.
Ramblings as we approach 8 p.m. ET
05.30.2009 / 5:35 p.m. ET
Game 2 has been set for 8 p.m. ET Sunday night on NBC. But, before that...
Pavel Datsyuk is out for Game 1. Kris Draper is not going to play either. Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson are in.
The Red Wings will again be shorthanded, but getting the two Swedish defensemen back in the lineup, particularly Lidstrom, is huge for this team. And, that is probably the biggest understatement of the day.
As for the Penguins, Sidney Crosby says they're not motivated by the fact that the team has another crack at the Penguins. The Cup, Crosby says, is enough motivation.
I'll buy the second part, but Crosby hasn't convinced me of the first. There's simply no way Pittsburgh isn't more amped up to beat Detroit than say Chicago or any other team. The Red Wings broke their hearts last year. Boy would the Pens love to flip the switch.
I know it's cliché to say the first 10 minutes of the game will be of the utmost importance. After all, aren't the second 10, or the third 10, fourth 10, fifth 10 or sixth 10 important, too? It's a silly statement, but that being said, I'm going to pay special attention to the Penguins in those first 10 minutes because it could be telling of their confidence.
Brooks Orpik says it's sometimes easier to open on the road because they don't have to play to the fans. Again, I'm not buying what Orpik is selling. You mean to tell me that Orpik would rather open at the Joe instead of Mellon Arena?
Yeah, didn't think so.
I'm not certain of it, but since the Penguins are going with 11 forwards again I bet Jordan Staal gets some ample time on the fourth line with Craig Adams and Miroslav Satan early in tonight's game. Dan Bylsma will want to manage the ice time of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin so they are fresh for the third period. Just a hunch, that's all.
How Marc-Andre Fleury handles the in-your-face play of Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen will go a long way in determining how much, if any, success the Penguins will have in this series. Fleury, like the rest of this team, has grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years and he must show poise in the eye of the Wings' storm.
The Wings want to get to the puck possession game early. Sounds obvious, I know, but if they do they could quickly put the Penguins on their heals and sap some of their confidence. A quick goal by Detroit should not be devastating to the Pens, but it will get them thinking. Vice versa, if the Penguins score first, it'll be business as usual for the Wings. That's what experience does for a team. It allows them to stay even keeled all the way.
Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino, welcome to the show. With Datsyuk and Draper out, these two rookies are getting their first Stanley Cup Final action. Ericsson is, too, but he's become a regular in Detroit. Abdelkader and Leino are not, but they'll have the winged wheel on their chests tonight so they better come to play.
The NHL Network will go to NHL On the Fly Live at the Stanley Cup Final at 6 ET for a two-hour preview of Game 1. I'll be watching.
Keep your computers on and charged. The Armchair Power Play is just getting started.
The morning of Game 1
05.30.2009 / 9:35 a.m. ET
In a matter of a few hours the morning skates at Joe Louis Arena will be over. The teams will head back for a relaxing afternoon. They'll have a team meal and pre-game naps will be in order before they head back over to the Joe for Game 1.
I'm assuming that Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson are both going to play for the Red Wings and both Pavel Datsyuk and Kris Draper will not. I also assume that the Penguins will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
Based on those assumptions, here are the five things I'm going to be watching for tonight:
1. Crease Crashers
I definitely think the two people in the hockey world that will be working the hardest tonight are Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury. I say that because both are going to have to fight through screens and worry about being bumped while being bombarded with shots. From the Penguins' perspective, watch Sidney Crosby (I know, how can you not, right?) Crosby has done a masterful job of going to the greasy areas to score goals this playoff season. He'll be in Osgood's face more than once tonight. Obviously, Fleury is going to have to deal with Tomas Holmstrom, Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen, etc. The team that does a better job of crashing the crease will be at an advantage. You have to think it'll be the Wings, but we'll have to wait and see.
2. How the Wings handle 7-11
The interesting thing about the Penguins lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen is most of the time it gets Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice for an extra shift every other rotation with Craig Adams and Miroslav Satan. That means added responsibility for the Wings' defensive pairs that will be matching Nos. 87 and 71. I expect Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski to be on Crosby watch while Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall will be on Malkin watch. Usually when the opposition's fourth line is on the ice Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn't have to worry about matching, but with this set up he has to at least be aware. Then again, it's not as if Brett Lebda and Ericsson are slouches.
3. Penguins power play vs. Wings penalty kill
This will be huge. The Wings' penalty kill was only 73.7 percent in the first three rounds while the Penguins' power play was nearly 20 percent. As we all know, special teams makes the difference in close games and this is where the Penguins might have a big advantage. You would have thought by now the Wings, with all of their defensive talent, would have figured out the PK. They haven't. They were 78.3 percent in the regular season. Now they have to contend with Sergei Gonchar and Malkin at the points, Crosby or Jordan Staal down low and waves of wings including Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko. And, I think they'll have to do it without Datsyuk.
4. Wings power play vs. Penguins penalty kill
The best defense against a sub-par penalty kill is a fabulous power play and that's exactly what the Wings have. Flip it around and now the Penguins are going to have to deal with a group that is better than 25 percent in the playoffs. The Penguins PK is 83 percent, but Detroit is a different animal altogether.
Detroit is better in the circle with a .528 winning percentage. The Penguins are dead even at .500. Like special teams, faceoffs are huge in close games, especially between two teams that love to have the puck. You would think that without Draper and possibly Datsyuk, the Penguins have an early advantage in the circle. Not so. Henrik Zetterberg comes in with a .551 winning percentage on his 322 draws and both Valtteri Filppula and Darren Helm are at least 50 percent. The Penguins have just two centers that are 50 percent or better. Crosby has won 54 percent of his 422 draws in these playoffs. He takes just about all of the power-play draws and is 63-52 so far. Jordan Staal is also better than 50 percent on 265 draws. He needs to be better when shorthanded (just 22-32 so far).
Come on back later in the day for another pre-game update, and then follow along with me as we watch Game 1 together, armchair to armchair.
Comparisons: Why not? They're fun
05.29.2009 / 11:40 a.m. ET
Across the news landscape today you will find comparisons between the Edmonton Oilers circa 1984 and today's Pittsburgh Penguins. Heck, just look here and here, and that's only what's on this web-site. TSN.ca and ESPN have also covered it.
Granted, these comparisons only go so far because the Oilers won the Cup that year to start a dynasty whereas the Penguins haven't won anything yet.
So what? That detail doesn't matter right now. If we only talked about comparisons after they were obvious, what fun would that be?
None at all.
We talk about comparisons before the entire story is complete because it's more interesting that way and it gets people talking before the series begins, which, of course, is always the point.
And, really, when you really take a close look at it, the comparisons between the '84 Oilers and the '09 Penguins are quite unbelievable. Take them for what they're worth and have fun with them instead of getting all hot and bothered over them.
-- The Oilers lost to the dynastic Islanders in the '83 Final before beating those same Islanders in the '84 Final.
-- The Penguins lost to the NHL's modern day version of a dynasty, the Red Wings, in the '08 Final. They have a chance to beat those same Red Wings in the '09 Final.
-- The Oilers had Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, the NHL's best young dynamic duo of that generation and a pair of future Hall of Famers.
-- The Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the NHL's best young dynamic duo of this generation and arguably a pair of future Hall of Famers. Though, it should be noted that Gretzky trumps both of them. There will never be another Gretzky.
-- The Oilers fought adversity on Feb. 12, 1984, when they lost to the Hartford Whalers, 11-0. It was their fifth straight loss.
-- The Penguins fought adversity all the way up to Feb. 15, when Michel Therrien was fired and replaced by Dan Bylsma.
-- The Oilers won 18 of their last 22 games after that loss to Hartford.
-- The Penguins won 18 of their last 25 games after Bylsma took over.
-- The Oilers needed seven games to beat their biggest rival, the Calgary Flames, to advance to the Conference Final.
-- The Penguins needed seven games to beat their biggest rival, the Washington Capitals, to advance to the Conference Final.
-- The Oilers swept the Minnesota North Stars in the Conference Final to earn a second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
-- The Penguins swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Final to earn a second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
So, yeah, I think the comparisons are warranted. Who cares if the Penguins haven't won yet? If they do, these comparisons are validated. If they don't, well, we move on, admiring the dynastic Red Wings all the way.
That's a win-win for me.
Catchy title to the blog, eh?
05.28.2009 / 2:30 p.m. ET
'Armchair Power Play' comes from the idea that I will be sitting right next to the armchair of my living room couch, likely with my dog, Charley, by my side, watching and blogging the Stanley Cup Finals between the Red Wings and Penguins.
Well, my wife is due with our first child - it's a boy (right wing?) - any day now, so traveling to Detroit at this stage is sort of looked at as a no-no in my household. Heck, I'm scared to even go down the street to the 7-11 to get a fountain coke, and I love my fountain cokes.
You just never know. Or, at least, that's what I'm told. Remember, this is my first.
So, forgive me, but this is the way I'm going to have to cover the Stanley Cup Final. It's not ideal and I will miss being in the arenas, but the NHL.com boys will be providing both you and me all of the information we need about the upcoming series. We've got a tremendous crew in Detroit right now. Nobody covers the NHL better than our guys.
My role with this blog is to give a personal touch to what we're all seeing live on television and reading about in the various articles being published right here on NHL.com or various publications across the continent.
It'll be mostly analytical with opinion and some backstories to back up what I'm writing. Usually, my writing will just be me thinking out loud. So, I'm basically saying you'll have to deal with my rambling.
I encourage you all to participate in this blog experience, too. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. I'll be checking both daily (unless my wife goes into labor) and will be referring to your comments in my daily blogging.
I'll be doing live blogging during the game, but it won't be anything to do with play-by-play. I'll try to take you inside the game a little bit. I'll also be blogging before and after games and on off days.
In the morning after games I'll be providing a morning reading list, which will give you links to all of the stories off of the previous night's game that were written by the NHL.com crew.
You'll be dancing around this web-site. It'll be your hockey oasis.
So, come along and join me as we venture through the Stanley Cup Final together, from one armchair to the other.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com