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Armchair Power Play

by Dan Rosen
Sidney Crosby, come get the Stanley Cup
06.12.2009 / 10:55 p.m. ET

He beat Lebron James to a championship. He beat Alex Ovechkin to a championship. He is only 21 years old. He is a Stanley Cup champion, and the youngest captain to ever hoist the Stanley Cup.

First time in his life he has touched it right there, right now. And he raised it up with some energy. He kissed it. He screamed with it in his hands. He skated it around the ice.

Sidney Crosby is now a champion. Sidney Crosby is now officially great.

Bill Guerin gets the Cup next. Fourteen years after he raised it with the Devils, he raises it again.

Sergei Gonchar raises it for the first time. He got it after Guerin.

Next up was Miroslav Satan, then Petr Sykora (who cursed). NBC panned to Mario hugging his tenant, Sidney Crosby.

Hal Gill lifted the Cup and then handed it to Philippe Boucher. Boucher gave it to Ruslan Fedotenko, who has now lifted it up twice.

Fedotenko handed it to Craig Adams, who has also now lifted it twice. Adams passed it off to Mark Eaton and then they panned away to McGuire interviewing Crosby.

"It's unbelievable," Crosby told McGuire. "This is the stuff you dream about as a kid and it's reality now. I couldn't feel any better."

Crosby said he didn't say a thing to the players after the second period even though he was injured.

"I just wanted them to keep doing what they were doing," Crosby said. "It's not easy watching."

Meanwhile, the Cup ceremony was ongoing. Finally, they panned back and we saw Fleury holding the Cup up high and then he passed it off to Talbot. Fittingly, they had the handoff because they were the two heroes tonight.

Malkin lifted it up and passed it to Jordan Staal, who can now share this honor with his brother, Eric. Hey, Marc, your turn.

Eric Godard and then to Kris Letang. Then, NBC goes back to McGuire, who had Fleury.

"I knew there wasn't much time left," Fleury said of the finish. "I had to just get my body out there."

He wound up making the save with 2.7 seconds left and then I don't think the second one got on net, but Doc just gave him credit for that 23rd save.

The coaches are lifting the Cup now. The players are still hugging on the ice. Soon they'll make their way to the locker room where the party will continue. I can't even predict what will happen next.

The training staff is raising it up now, too. Yes, they get deserve it. They are just as much a part of this team as the players. In fact, on a lot of occasions, they allow these players to play.

McGuire now with Mario.

"Any time you have Sid on your team, and Malkin and Fleury and Staal, and you can go down the line, I think you have a chance to be successful," Lemieux said. "Again, when you have Sid on your team, anything is possible."

Mario also told McGuire that Crosby has an open-ended invitation to stay at his house. I would give it to him, too. His focus is incredible.

Now McGuire is with Talbot.

"I'm not going to lie, we were trying to hold on," Talbot said. They were interrupted by Lemieux hoisting up the Cup and the fans there started to cheer. Mario gave it to Crosby.

Yes, Mario gave the Cup to Crosby. Talk about a passing of the torch.

Talbot was about to answer one more question before interrupting McGuire, "I gotta go get in the picture."

Yes, the picture. It will never fade.

What a fantastic night.

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins and everyone back in the Steel City.

Thanks for reading the Armchair Power Play blog. Hope you enjoyed it.

Malkin wins the Conn Smythe
06.12.2009 / 10:43 p.m. ET

Evgeni Malkin: Art Ross Trophy. Leading scorer in the postseason. Conn Smythe Trophy.

Hart Trophy next?

Babcock greets Crosby
06.12.2009 / 10:40 p.m. ET

"You played great. That's great leadership by you."

That Babs is one classy dude.

06.12.2009 / 10:00 p.m. ET


Synopsis: Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sidney Crosby will raise the Cup in moments and it's well-deserved. The Penguins earned this one. Down 0-2 to the Caps, and they won in seven. Down 0-2 to the Red Wings, and they won in seven. Both wins were on the road. It's incredible, folks, just incredible. Even Detroit fans, as stunned and heartbroken as you are right now, clap your hands and tip your cap to the Penguins. That's what happens after a series ends. Just as the players shake hands, the fans should as well.


19:53: Zetterberg beat Talbot on the faceoff. Hossa threw one off the catching glove. Puck got under some bodies. 6.5 seconds until the Stanley Cup. Let me hear ya Pittsburgh.

19:44: Detroit empty net. Penguins are 16.1 seconds away. Faceoff, I think, is going to the neutral  ice.

19:35: Filppula wins the draw and Ozzie goes back to the bench.

19:28: Thirty-two seconds til the Stanley Cup. Detroit offsides.

18:55: Lidstrom saves the day. He grabs a shot headed for the empty net out of the air.

18:43: The Penguins are 1:17 away. Kronwall's shot I think hit Staal's hip or something and then off the crossbar. Faceoff in the Pens zone. Timeout Red Wings. Osgood is off.

17:45: Kronwall hit the post. Holy cow he hit the post. Great shot. Only the second one that has beaten Fleury all night, but the hockey gods, folks. Oh those hockey gods.

17:00: Will Osgood go off earlier than the 19-minute mark? I'm thinking yes. Desperate times.

16:15: Great play by Kunitz. A hustle play and he got the puck, settled it and dumped it in, allowing a change for the Penguins. Very important. Short shifts on both sides now, and that's why Kunitz's play is magnified. He allowed for that change.

15:00: New life for the Wings. They look re-energized. Wow. This is a different team. What energy they have gotten from this goal, and now the Penguins have something to worry about. They're shorthanded and it's Crosby that can't play.

13:53: Penguins 2, Red Wings 1. A fantastic shot from the point by Ericsson after a great energy shift by Filppula, Hudler and Samuelsson down low. Lidstrom cross-ice to Ericsson for the one-timer that might have knuckled. Just as I said the Wings looked tired, they got a great energy shift from their energy guys, Filppula, Hudler and Samuelsson. It's a game now. This is going to be a fantastic finish.

12:30: Is it possible that Pittsburgh looks more desperate now? Are the Wings tired? I'm thinking they are. They're a step slower and as a result they don't appear as desperate. Yes, they're human. It happens.

11:19 (TV timeout): Very interesting stat by Doc. No team has ever won the Stanley Cup after coming back from 0-2 down in two series'. The Pens were down, 0-2, to the Caps and won in seven games. They were down 0-2 in this series and right now are in control of Game 7. No team has won a Game 7 on the road since 1971. The Penguins are 8:41 away.

10:15: Right out of the TV timeout, Crosby got his first shift of the period and his first shift since he needed help off the ice after getting run into the boards by Franzen. He lasted about 40 seconds and came off. McGuire said he didn't look good. It's a good thing his team is up 2-0 and there is no tomorrow.

9:35 (TV timeout): The Wings are working the puck well, but in the last minute and a half there they started having problems connecting passes and getting the puck out of the zone. Osgood had to freeze it and now he faces a faceoff to his right. Pittsburgh still doesn't have a shot in the third, but time is running very short on the Wings, who can't solve Fleury tonight. Right now, Malkin is the front runner for the Conn Smythe. He has a primary assist tonight.

8:15: Another good hit by Orpik, this time with his shoulder on Zetterberg. Orpik has not laid good shots on Datsyuk and Zetterberg in this period. Very important.

6:45: Pavel Datsyuk, meet Brooks Orpik. Huge hit by the Pens' big hitter behind the goal. Nothing is going to come easy in this period for the Wings. Already too much time has run off the clock. The Penguins are holding their ground nicely.

5:10: Still no sight of Crosby on the ice. Hey, maybe he's just thinking, "You know what, I'm hurt and not going to play, but this is a much better seat than the one I had in the dressing room."

4:35: The Penguins dodge the bullet and kill the power play.

3:37: Fleury is playing so big tonight. If he wins this one, do the fans in Pittsburgh finally get off this guy's back? I hope so.

2:36: First great chance for the Red Wings to cut the lead in half. Mark Eaton is going off for tripping Samuelsson. Power plays don't get much bigger than this.

2:00: I think we can safely say now that the Wings are going to throw everything they possibly can at the Penguins in this period and they want to - nay, have to control the puck.

0:00: Crosby is back on the bench and presumably will play in the third. He looked OK in that little twirl he took around the zone prior to going to the bench to start the third. Also, as I expected, Datsyuk is together with Hossa and Holmstrom. Babcock listened to me. Ha.


Synopsis: From Pittsburgh's perspective, a 2-0 lead is everything you want. The only thing you'd like now is for Crosby to come back for the third period. From Detroit's perspective, you can take this one of two ways: A) Be happy with how you finished the second period and carry that momentum into the third; B) Be frustrated that you couldn't capatilize in the last two minutes of the second period and carry that frustration into the third. It's rare that you see the Red Wings frustrated, but it's also rare - at least in these playoffs - that you see them trailing after two periods on their home ice. It's because they have made some egregious errors in judgement (mostly by Brad Stuart). Detroit is owning the faceoffs (23-13), but the Penguins got physical in that period and cut the deficit in hits to 30-27. Each team has 17 shots, but I think five from Detroit came in the last four minutes.

19:30: Great surge by the Wings through some excellent play in transition. Nothing to show for it, but if they can keep it up for these last 30 seconds then momentum will be on their side going into the second intermission. We saw what momentum did for Pittsburgh after the last period.

17:52: Bad break for Detroit and a good one for Pittsburgh as the shot from Zetterberg goes right off of Cleary's leg (it appeared). Interesting point by McGuire, who said, "Sometimes the hockey gods just aren't with you." Is that what we're seeing tonight? Maybe on that play, but the Penguins, at least in my opinion, have just been better and more cohesive tonight. Plus, their goalie is outplaying Osgood, who has been pretty good himself.

17:00: Tremendous defensive hustle play by Lidstrom, who used his long reach to poke the puck just far enough away from Staal, who had beaten Rafalski into the zone. Who knows if Lidstrom saved a goal, but his hustle certainly thwarted a chance.

16:00: Boy the Penguins are doing a wonderful job of making the smart, simple plays on both ends. They are doing a great job of frustrating the Wings and not letting them get anything settled. As soon as the Wings are in the zone, the Penguins are swarming to the puck and forcing the Wings to give it up quicker than they'd like.

14:13: Is it just me or do the Wings look out of sorts now. I'm not saying they're bickering or have lost their composure at all, but they do look out of sorts. Two offsides in a row and a couple of giveaways. Both are usually signs of a team that doesn't have a good rhythm.

13:30: Still haven't seen Crosby yet. I wonder, with a 2-0 lead, if Bylsma is going to keep him out until the third period. Why risk further injury to him in the second when you could use him in the third. Plus, you're up 2-0 so you have time to get him back out there. No need to rush right now.

12:20: The Wings are not going to score if they can't get the puck deep. That's the first part of the equation.

11:46: An icing by the Penguins. Faceoff by down near Fleury. Can the Wings do anything with it. Filppula's line vs. Staal's line.

11:38 (TV timeout): Bylsma just told McGuire that Crosby has an injury to the mid section and he will be back.

10:07: Penguins 2, Red Wings 0. Max Talbot. Max Talbot. Oh man, Max Talbot. He just rifled a hard shot over Osgood's glove and right into the top right corner of the net. He kept the puck the entire time and just ripped it. Wow. Game 7s always make a hero out of someone, and right now it appears Max Talbot is going to be that hero. Still lots of time to go and still no Crosby.

9:10: Doc just gave us the first update. Crosby is still not on the bench. They're probably doing all kinds of testing on that left leg right now. I wonder if it's broken. The way he went into the boards and the grimace he made as he did suggests it's serious.

8:20: The Pens get the kill. The Wings, who finally settled the puck in the zone for the last 30 seconds of the power play, need to shoot more both on even strength and on the power play. Shoot the puck at Fleury. Challenge him. It's the only way to beat him.

6:16: Detroit is going on its first power play of the game. Great chance to get a goal here to tie this one up. Now, back to Crosby. He got railed into the boards by Johan Franzen and it's definitely something with his left leg. We're going to have to rely on McGuire to get the news on his status. He was hunched over and needed help getting into the dressing room. It'll take something fierce to keep him out of this game, so we'll have to wait for the diagnosis. The Wings, though, can take advantage of something big here as Gill is going off for holding Datsyuk.

5:40: Crosby hurt? Yes. he's going into the dressing room behind the Penguins bench. We'll monitor.

4:50: What a little back and forth right there. Helm gets stoned by Fleury and then Cooke couldn't capitalize on the breakaway. Whew. Fleury may not look good playing the puck behind the crease, but he does look good in front of it now. He is stopping everything. Osgood stood his ground well, too, and even got run into hard by Cooke, who upended him.

4:10: Nothing doing on the 4-on-4. Fleury is having a lot of trouble when he plays the puck behind the net. He should stay in his crease and let the D-men play it. I think I said that in Game 2 as well. Fleury is not very good at playing the puck yet.

1:59: It's time for 4-on-4. Both penalties were kind of weak. Great point by Eddie Olczyk on the Orpik dump-in. He was behind the red line, but the linesman waved off the icing. They are allowed to do that. More on the 4-on-4. Lots of room out there now.

1:13: Penguins 1, Red Wings 0. Right now, Maxime Talbot is wearing the cape. Orpik shot the puck in and Stuart got it in the corner, passes the puck off the skate of Malkin and Talbot got it and shot the puck through Osgood's five-hole. Ah, the all important first goal. It belongs to Pittsburgh and that's probably just considering how they finished the first period.

0:45: I don't think we have seen Malkin and Crosby together at even strength yet. Nor have we seen Datsyuk play center yet. I wonder if it stays scoreless if the coaches will continue like this.


Synopsis: Scoreless first period, and I think you could say it was about 60-40 in favor of the Penguins and maybe even 65-35. The Wings had the better start, but the Penguins were better in the middle of the period and I give the Pens the edge at the end, too, because of that shift by Malkin, Talbot and Fedotenko. Some good chances for the Wings, specifically by Maltby and Filppula, but Fleury looks strong. On the other side, Osgood looks good, too. It's 10-6 Pittsburgh in shots, but 11-3 Detroit in faceoffs and 21-12 in hits. So, the Wings have been more physical, but they have not been able to hold their possession after winning all those draws. The faceoff win doesn't matter unless you keep possession. Overall, great first period. Can't wait for No. 2.

19:50: The Wings are lucky. Right now I think you could say that because Malkin, Talbot and Fedotenko did a masterful job on that last minute-plus shift, keeping the puck low and eventually tiring out Stuart and Kronwall. Pittsburgh didn't score, but that was basically the last shift of the period and that means the Penguins carry momentum into the first intermission.

17:55: What a great save by Fleury, who looks very good right now, on Maltby off of the faceoff win by Draper in the zone. Yup, that could be one of those memorable saves I like to talk about. Put that one in your memory banks.

16:50: Great point by Pierre McGuire when he said the Staal line is "starting to percolate here." I couldn't agree more. They were not good on their first shfit, but they've gotten better and so far they have been Pittsburgh's top trio.

15:44 (TV timeout): Still scoreless and Staal has the only faceoff win for the Penguins. Hey, they finally won one. Pittsburgh is outshooting Detroit, 7-4.

15:00: OK, I'll admit it, I'm dead wrong. That power play has energized the Penguins, who are swarming now. They are doing a good job of getting it below the Wings' goal line and that's exactly what they want to do. It's where they do their best work.

13:40: Momentum to Detroit now for killing that off. You could argue that the big mo belongs to the Pens for all of the sustained pressure, but I'm going the other way because out of all of that they didn't get the first goal of the game. Sure, their PP is going to be confident the next time they're on it, but for now the Wings have the big mo.

12:55: What a play by Cleary to get his stick in the passing lane and chip the puck out. The Wings PKers were dead tired because the Penguins are doing a marvelous job on this power play.

11:24: Right after Kronwall laid what Emrick loves to call a "Kronwallian hit" on Talbot, the Penguins are going on the power play after Brad Stuart slashed down and broke Malkin's stick. Here comes the first chance for the Penguins.

10:45: Good sign for Fleury because he handled the first odd bounce of the night. He looked good there. Was out high and square.

10:33 (TV timeout): Still searching for a Marian Hossa sighting. I know he was on the ice when we went to commercial, but nothing from big No. 81 yet in this game. The Penguins still haven't won a faceoff (0-6), a trend that has to stop if you're a Pittsburgh fan. The Wings have 15 hits to the Pens' 7.

9:25: Jonathan Ericsson was in the right place at the right time there as he denied Staal's rebound attempt that might have resulted in the first goal. Kennedy had a good rush. Good turn of events there for the Penguins.

8:15: Once again Eaton and Letang were on the ice against Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Cleary and once again the Wings' top line got the better of the play and some good pressure. Crosby, Kunitz and Guerein were the forwards, but the Wings kept the puck in. That's a wasted shift for Crosby, who needs to be playing offense, not defense.

6:48 (TV timeout): Staal and his linemates, Cooke and Kennedy, just completed a much better shift than the one they previously had. Helm has been a standout so far with three big hits. The Wings are 4-0 on faceoffs so far. The Wings have had the better start, which we should have expected since they are the home team and playing off the home crowd. The Penguins should calm down now and start playing more of their game, if the Wings let them. Wow. Ali is in the building and wearing the winged wheel.

5:35: Great start for the Wings and some nice defensive plays, including the one on Brett Lebda by Malkin, by the Penguins. The Wings have the better jump now and they seem to be more physical right now, too. Pittsburgh needs something to flip the momentum of this game.

4:00: The Penguins do not want Mark Eaton and Kris Letang on the ice defending the zone against Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Cleary, Rafalski and Lidstrom. Some good chances there for the Wings. Home ice advantage matters.

2:35: Wonderful first shift for Darren Helm, who outplayed Jordan Staal on that shift. Staal has to be good tonight for the Penguins. We already see that Helm is going to be. When Staal is good and he contributes, the Penguins usually win.

0:50: Excellent first shift by the Wings. Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Cleary set the tone for this game. The Wings have an excellent jump right now and they are hitting. No reason to hold back now.

0:00: Kunitz-Crosby-Guerin start vs. Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Cleary.


Too much talk already. Drop the puck. Let's get it on.

06.12.2009 / 8:00 p.m. ET

There are 40 players who will take the ice tonight that will never forget this moment and one of them will walk away as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

Game 7 is minutes away from beginning and you need to keep hitting refresh on this page for the Live Blog. But first, the expected lines and lineups for tonight's game.

I'm putting Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together, but my guess is that Mike Babcock will separate those two tonight, either at the start or some point in the game. Datsyuk would go to the middle and play with Hossa and Holmstrom. Just a guess.

I'm also putting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on separate lines, but I suspect Dan Bylsma will have them together as much as they're apart tonight.

By the way, Chris Osgood is 3-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average at the Joe in this series. Marc-Andre Fleury is 0-3 with a 4.33 GAA in those games. Interesting.

Another thing that's interesting: This is the 87th playoff game in 2009 and the last time the road team won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final was in '71.

87 and 71. Those two numbers ring a bell?

The projected lines:




Fleury (Garon)

Red Wings



Osgood (Conklin)

Get up, Game 7 fans.

06.12.2009 / 6:38 p.m. ET

The only Stanley Cup Final Game 7 I have ever attended was in 2003 at the arena then known as Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. I was working for The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) at the time and was backing up Tom Gulitti, the newspaper's still excellent beat writer for the New Jersey Devils.

I remember the day before at the Devils media availability there was this feeling that something was different, something exciting was in the air. If I remember correctly, John Madden's face looked as if it had been put through a meat grinder, yet you could still see the serious scowl he was sporting.

There was tension, nerves, excitement all wrapped into one and this was just inside of me and we were still more than 24 hours from the opening faceoff.

At the morning skates the following morning, I remember being inside the Devils dressing room and standing near Ken Daneyko, who coach Pat Burns was inserting into the lineup for the first time in the series. He was replacing Oleg Tverdovsky.

Daneyko, sporting an incredibly scruffy playoff beard, was beaming like a rookie again. He was thrilled. Game 7 wound up being his last game ever and he went out a champion, even taking the ice on the final shift of the game. He was as nervous as he had ever been in a hockey game.

Martin Brodeur was also addressing the media in his usual calm, cool and collected manner.

Once Brodeur was done talking - and his stall was closest to the door - I remember walking outside and standing face to face with Madden. He was addressing the media in what we call a scrum - lots of reporters circling around one player - and he looked like he wanted to kill everyone. He didn't stare anyone in the face, just across at the adjacent white, concrete wall and his eyes were burning a hole in that.

I remember thinking they better drop the puck in this game soon or Madden might be a danger to society. He was that focused, that intense. It was unbelievable. I had never seen anything like it and I haven't from that point until this day.

I was able to go home for a few hours to grab lunch and relax a bit before going back for a long night of hockey and beating the deadline clock writing. I stopped in the parking lot and met up with a couple of friends who were enjoying (a little too much, I think) their own tailgate after just securing tickets to the game via a scalper for a hefty sum.

They were pumped. I was pumped. It was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. I couldn't wait to get inside.

Like the players, once inside the arena all the media members went about their business as normal. Food intake was at a premium. Dinner at the Meadowlands was never great, but it was edible and that really all that matters when you have hundreds of sports reporters in the same building.

The building was so loud, like I had never heard before. The chanting for Brodeur, for Scott Stevens, for Scott Niedermayer, for Daneyko and all of the Devils was amazing.

After a scoreless first period, Mike Rupp scored the first goal of the game 2:22 into the second. Jeff Friesen scored roughly 10 minutes later and added another goal, the insurance goal, with 3:44 to play in the game. Both of Friesen's goals were unassisted.

Dan Bylsma played 11 shifts totaling 8:25 that night. Mike Babcock was the coach who sent him out there.

As all this was happening, I was writing feverishly. It's what we do in games like this. We are so focused on our task at hand that we don't get to enjoy the thrill of what is happening in front of us until it's all over. Then you remember everything so vividly.

Daneyko, who I wrote about that night, got his moment that night, skating on the final shift and being one of the first to mob Brodeur. Niedermayer had the bittersweet experience of beating his brother, Rob, despite their mother, Carol, pushing hard for Rob to win.

J-S Giguere got the Conn Smythe Trophy that night, but Scott Stevens and the Devils got to lift the Stanley Cup.

I got to experience the greatest thrill of my career, and yes, I did get doused with champagne in the Devils' dressing room.


Someone will be getting that same experience tonight.

They'll never forget it.

06.12.2009 / 4 p.m. ET

There's nothing like doing some light reading while your boss turns his head. Or, if you're lucky, your boss is looking over your shoulder reading with you. And, better yet, if we're lucky, both of you are on separate computers reading

Remember, the more hits we get the better.

Sorry for the little plug there. Let's get to what the boys out in Detroit have already produced off of today's morning skates.

The great Phil Coffey has the preview of Game 7 right here.

"I've been exactly in this situation before," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who lost a Game 7 in the 2003 Final while coaching Anaheim -- ironically with Penguins coach Dan Bylsma as a Ducks player. "In saying all that, we're going to have two really excited teams. We're going to have a great crowd here. For us, in Detroit and in Michigan, this has been an unbelievable run for our city and for our state just because of the economy here and for the people. It's been absolutely fantastic. "Now we've got to finish it off. Should be fun."

Shawn Roarke offers this tale about how the gameday routine is easing the nerves for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unlike Detroit, every Pittsburgh player (minus the injured Petr Sykora) took the morning skate. It was not optional and it never is the morning before a game.

Normalcy ruled the day.

"Billy Guerin might not like that a whole lot, but most of the guys are out there," Captain Sidney Crosby said, smiling as he took a poke at his veteran linemate. "We've always liked to skate on game days unless we're playing back-to-back games or something like that. It's pretty rare for us not to (skate). So, we might as well keep it the same."

Our relentless Mr. Roarke also tells us this story about Brooks Orpik being a hit in this series because of, well, his monstrous hits. Orpik has one more game to pound the Red Wings and this time he hopes it's into submission.

"Brooks Orpik is a guy that I think a lot of teams are looking for that element in their defensive corps -- a guy who can skate well and punish the other team's skill players in the offensive zone," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He does that repeatedly. He's a physical presence every night. Guys know when he's out there.

Similarly, our top righty out of the pen, Dave Lozo, tells this tale of the Red Wings from the morning and how normalcy also ruled their day. As he usually does, Mike Babcock went for a run before coming to the rink. The Red Wings' morning skate was optional and only a few players took their option.

Nicklas Lidstrom, who tonight will finally do something he hasn't done in his illustrious career (play in a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final), this everything will be normal even at the opening faceoff.

"I think it's going to be like any other game," Lidstrom said. "We're going to chat a little bit with (Chris Osgood), get a feel for what he wants to do as well, but I think it's just going to be the same approach as any other game. Stick to your game plan. You've got to keep it simple out there and really pay attention to details.

"I'm going to do the same as I always do," Lidstrom added. "Have a pre-game meal, pre-game nap and come back here again for the game. Nothing's going to change."

Fellow blogger Mike Morreale tells us in this story how Kirk Maltby was able to take his mind off of Game 7 yesterday by attending his 5-year-old daughter's gymnastics meet. Today, though, Game 7 is obviously all that 'Malts' can think about.

"It's easier said than done to not think about the game," Maltby said. "It's no different than any other big day in your life, whether that be graduation, marriage or something like that. It's hard not to think about it and go about a daily routine, driving around town or even seeing someone turn on the TV without noticing something about the game. But, for me, I'll concentrate on doing my normal routine as I would on game day and it'll be fun tonight."

Veteran scribe Larry Wigge has all the news and notes from this morning in the notebook. He takes a look from behind the bench, at the numbers and former Game 7 star Ruslan Fedotenko and much, much more.

"We were a very good team until they scored," Babcock said of what he remembers from Game 7 of the 2003 Cup Final when he was coaching Anaheim. "Then we were paralyzed. We started worrying about what wasn't going to happen instead of just playing the game. Sometimes I think that's what happens at this point: the prize gets in the way of the execution and the details of the game."

For a historic look at Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Final, our resident historian, John Kreiser, offers us this story.

No team has ever scored more than four goals in Game 7 of a Final, and 11 of the 14 games were decided by two goals or less.

Kreiser also takes us through all the important numbers heading into Game 7. Things look good for the Wings.

Home cooking -- Home teams are 12-2 in Game 7 of the Final and have won the last six. The most recent team to win the Cup with a road win in Game 7 was the 1971 Montreal Canadiens, who rallied from a 2-0 second-period deficit for a 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium.

06.12.2009 / 1:10 p.m. ET

Q. Win or lose tonight, does it feel weird for you to know that this is all going to be done? Some of the players talk about win or lose, day off tomorrow. Is it weird for you after your whole season the way it's gone and coming here?
How do they know I'm going to give them a day off (laughing).

Q. Fair point.
It does seem weird. You know, you battle and you win to go further and further and further. You know, you go to Game 7 in round two to get to the next round. You seem like you're playing for your team's life. Now it will be over after tonight. It's going to be a good thing for one team. The other team's going to wish it was a nine-game series.

Q. Asking you to get in touch with your inner Conde Nast. How many hotels do you plan to stay in in Detroit before this thing is over?
I think this was the last one we could possibly change, isn't it? All in good fun.

Q. All year you do exactly the same things, you show up every day for the morning skate, you have your meal and everything. Is that all done for today because it's normal now? You know, today's such a big day, but you have this base as a player that you work with. Is that why that's done all year?
You know, this is the time of year where you say stuff and knock on wood a lot. You hope, when you call up the hotel, the availability's not there, so you can change. So the one thing I do know for sure in having experienced this in '03, the days off are not that comfortable. There's thoughts and there's watching the clock, and waiting for the next day. But when you get to a game day, and you get to a morning skate, and you get to a meeting, and you get to going back to the hotel for lunch and then getting some rest, then getting up at the same time you get up always, that is normal. That feels comfortable because you've done it so many times before. And, yes, it does provide the structure, does provide the atmosphere that you can say this is just another game. We're going out to play something we've done a hundred and whatever, 12 times, it is already this year. It does feel much more close to normal than a day off does. So the structure does give you that sense of, hey, this is just another game.

Q. You guys went to the body pretty early on in Game 6 and kind of got them on their heels. It seems when you've had successful lengths of time in games going to the body has been fairly critical. How do you take that and bottle it and try to do it in their building where you guys haven't been able to have much success?
Almost every time we've been able to do that it's been because we've executed with the puck -- you know, execution, puck management. If you turn the puck over with their 'D' faced up ice, then they get going in transition, and you don't get after their team as much. If you have speed in the neutral zone, force 'D' to go back for pucks and now you have to turn and go back, now they go 'D' to 'D', and now you have another chance to pressure defensemen. If you stay in the offensive zone now on a loose puck, you know, a rebound goes in the corner, you have a chance to go leave a mark when you do that. So a lot of it has to do with how well you can execute. How well you can support the puck, and how well you can be with getting it behind the 'D' with good puck management to give yourself that opportunity. When we've had success, that's something we've done well. Something we'll definitely look to replicate early on.

Q. The two teams seem to take very different approaches to the morning skates. Most of Detroit's regulars have not skated, and their coach did not skate. Did you consider doing something like that? And while you were out there, did it occur to you that would be the last morning skate with this particular club?
Yes, it did. And just to reiterate about the normalcy, we normally skate on game days. So to give an optional would have been something out of the ordinary for us. So we did what we normally do and have done and stuck with that for today.

Q. Mike Babcock said that if anything before the game tonight he wants to be calmer and more boring than usual, and that his message is just be ordinary. He doesn't want to add to the excitement. Have you thought about what your pregame talk with the team will be and what kind of mood you want to give them?
I've been forced to think about it by questions over the last couple of days (smiling). But typically I reserve those thoughts for what I'm going to say for the afternoon when I'm resting a little bit. I'm pondering what I think the right message is, and what I think our team needs and what I'm going to say. I don't have anything written down or prepared. I don't think it's going to be a Herb Brooks or a Vince Lombardi type of speech. Typically the meeting that I will talk is about 8 to 10 minutes. Now as the series wear on they get hopefully shorter to 4 to 6 minutes, really brief time. We know what to expect from this team. There will be some minor adjustments and things we need to remind the guys about. This one is going out and playing the game. You know, we know how we need to play, and it's about playing that way and not getting caught up and putting your toe in the water and seeing how hot or cold the water is. This is one you jump off the end of the dock and you dive right in. Play our game, play the way we need to, execute the way we need to execute so we can dictate where the game's played and how it's played.

Q. Can you recall your favorite pregame speech that you ever heard as a player in your career?
Sorry, I don't know if I can remember a favorite one. No, I don't have one. I don't have a Vince Lombardi draw, maybe because I haven't won the Championship.

Q. You've got a guy in that room in Fedotenko who has had a big Game 7. Do you anticipate maybe leaning on him or asking him to maybe at least describe what that moment is like?
No, I haven't gone there. Again, he has talked in our room in the last few days, but that's not odd for guys to have done that and given the opportunity to do that. So we've talked about this game yesterday as a group, and he was one of the guys that talked. And there are other guys as well talking about how we think we need to play and just how we're going to approach the game. So, again, did we lean on him, yeah? Because he did speak up. But he's not going to wave a magic wand tonight for us.


06.12.2009 / 12:52 p.m. ET

Q. Is anything that you've done in your hockey career prepare you for this game?
CROSBY: Yeah, I think it does. All the big games you've played, and you try to draw on your experience from those, and how you prepare and things like that. I think, you know, all these things you work on whether it's before the season or over the course of the season, this is when it pays off. These are when your good habits and your work ethic, hopefully this is when it shows through as far as individually and as a team. So, the game doesn't change. You know, the stakes are different. But, you know, you've got to play the same way.

Q. I just wondered, Detroit had an optional today, most of their guys didn't skate. Your full team was out there. Do you prefer it like that, more like a normal game?
CROSBY: Yeah. Most times I think guys take optionals on our team. That's just the way it's been. Billy Guerin might not like that a whole lot, but most of the guys are out there (smiling). We've always liked to skate on game days unless we're playing back-to-back games or something like that, it's pretty rare for us not to. So we might as well keep it the same.

Q. Is there something that maybe was a last morning skate for this team? Was it something that you wouldn't have missed it for the world kind of thing?
I mean, at this point you want anybody to do whatever it takes them to get ready. If that means they need to have a skate off, then that's fine. I don't think that was really going through a lot of guys' heads the fact that that was the situation. I think everyone was just preparing. I don't think there's much of that thought going through their mind. But you are right, that's probably the last time this group of guys will be skating together out there for a morning skate. But at this point, I think everyone's pretty focused on what they need to do.

Q. What is the challenge for you tonight to make sure that you try to not do too much and put this whole game on your shoulders?
I think it's pretty easy to do that at this point. I haven't put that pressure on myself all playoff long, and I'm not going to start in Game 7 of the finals. So we've gotten this far because of the way we've played together. If we're going to pull this one out, it's going to be because of our team. I don't see that being an issue as far as personally trying to push and do too much. I know what I have to do. It's a matter of going out there and contributing. But that's not really something I'm too worried about.

Q. Is this fun for you? Or is this all business approach? And will you say anything to your teammates in the room prior to hitting the ice?
It's a little bit of mixed emotions, I think. You're excited and at the same time you have to make sure you remind yourself that you have to focus on the same things and keep it as much as routine as you can. Even though, like I said, it's a different situation. But, you know, I'm excited, and I don't think a whole lot needs to be said at this point. We all realize what we have to do as individuals out there. We know what makes our team successful, and we know what it takes. So it's just a matter of going out there and doing it.

Q. In the morning skate before Game 7 when you put a puck in the top shelf and it stays there for about 15 minutes, is that any kind of good Omen going into tonight's game?
I hope so (laughing). They don't usually go top shelf, so I'll take those ones. But certainly I'd like to see one go in tonight, for sure.

Q. As a connoisseur of many Detroit hotels now, are you consulted before the team changes, or is this just Dan? As captain, do you get a say or does Dan say we have to go to a luckier hotel?
Yeah, they run it by me and a couple of guys. Not just me but, you know, at this point I don't think we have too many options, so (smiling) I don't think this one needed to be run by anyone. We knew it was probably a good time to switch it up, so we decided to.

Q. It was less than four years ago in Ottawa where you were the first overall pick. Now you're in a Game 7 in the Cup Finals. Can you have imagined that kind of journey that quickly for yourself individually?
No, I mean, honestly not. I don't think I was even close to looking this far ahead. You know, I think as a young group and the team that's been put together here we've probably accelerated that learning curve more than a lot of people thought. So we've given ourselves an amazing opportunity, and it would be great to be able to accomplish this here tonight.

Q. You said earlier you talked about the games in your life that have prepared you for this. We all know about Washington and World Juniors, take us back to before Sid Crosby was famous and the games that were like Game 7's for you when you were making your way? Big games? Anything you really remember?
Yeah, tons. You know, there's so many. I was lucky to play on a really good team in Minor Hockey where every year we won our last game. But I remember being nervous before those games and thinking they were everything. Never thinking this might happen. So I can look back there's a tournament in my hometown called the Joe Lamontagne Tournament, that was the big tournament for us. We hosted it. We had won it a couple of years, lost it a couple of years. I remember being especially motivated for that one.

06.12.2009 / 12:22 p.m. ET

Q. Any lineup or line changes for tonight?

Q. This morning when you woke up, did it feel any different?
BABCOCK: Well, I think pretty much I did exactly what I always do. Went for a run. Went through the game. Did all the stuff I've always done. I think yesterday for me was different because it's exciting. I mean, it's just flat out exciting to be here. Anywhere you go in this town, people are talking about it, and excited about it. And plan on watching it. It should be good.

Q. You always talk about trying to keep everything the same every day. Will there be something that you'll say, something different before the team goes out on the ice that you can share with us, that you wouldn't in Game 4 or 5?
BABCOCK: You know, if anything, I'll probably be calmer and more boring. No, I don't believe in that. I believe that we're a prepared group. That we don't need to get them more excited. That's not the issue here tonight. It's controlling your emotions so you're at the right level of activation so you can execute. That will be what we talk about.

Q. This time of year and prior to Game 7 you read and you hear about all these statistics that have nothing to do with tonight's game, but for instance, no road team in professional sports has won Game 7 in the Championship Series since the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979. Do you pay any attention to that? Are you heartened by that at all?
No, I don't even think about that. You know, I just tell you that we have a group of guys in there that we feel we've got a pretty good handle on what's going on in our organization, and we talked to each other and gather information from one another. And I've talked to all the key players on our team in the leadership group. We feel we're prepared for the opportunity, and we're excited about the opportunity. I think that's the key thing here is, just like I've heard everyone else say, it's as good as you get. I mean, to me this is what it's all about. And it should be a great game and a lot of fun.

Q. Given the so-called Cup hangover that other teams have had in recent years, you're here in Game 7 of the Cup Finals. It's been a long year up and down. Do you take stock in that that you've sort of in a lot of ways beaten the odds that other recent Cup champions weren't able to overcome?
For sure I do. I'm very, very impressed with our group. This to me, in all the teams I've ever coached. I mean, we had a great team last year, don't get me wrong. And, I've coached lots of good teams that have won. But this team here has found a way to keep overcoming. No matter who gets hurt. No matter what goes wrong, they keep on keeping on. I've been so impressed with the leadership of Nick Lidstrom and the stick-to-it-ivness of the group, and finding a way. There's lots of times this year it didn't look very pretty, and we've found a way to be here. I think you take a lot of stock in that. The other thing you do is there's going to be -- the game's going to end tonight, and everyone's getting ready for next year. Now we're a couple of months behind. And we plan on being good again next year, and then the year after that. And to me the test of time is important for players. It's important for coaches, and it's important for our organization. So, yes, that's important to us.

Q. So many players said after Game 7 against Anaheim that that was the loudest they'd ever heard this building. You have to expect tonight it's going to be even louder?
Oh, it better be louder. I mean, it should be a lot of fun. I hope they're cheering the Zamboni before warm-ups starts. One of the fondest memories I've ever had of Game 7 was when I coached major junior hockey in Spokane. I don't know how we did it, but we managed to coach our team into a 3-0 deficit against the Portland Winter Hawks and we ended up winning in Game 7. But I remember getting back from the road trip. In those days you traveled, well, junior hockey you traveled on the bus, you got in the games the next day, and the people were in their tents waiting to buy tickets. I just remember the building shaking before the warm-up. It was absolutely shaking. It was exhilarating for the players, and we found a way to win.

Q. I know you focus on the game first and foremost, but will you take a moment either when you're out there on the ice before it starts, during the Anthem maybe a time out to just soak it all in and realize how fortunate you are?
I do that every night during the National Anthem. You know, so during the National Anthem it's a private, special time. You're there. You get to enjoy it. I come out, I wave to my family, and I do that every single night. It should be good. Obviously, anybody in this room, we're all real blessed. For me to get the opportunity to do what I get to do for a living, incredible.

Q. We've talked about this before, but to a lot of people tonight this is more than a hockey game. It happened with the Spartans in Detroit, and just can you elaborate again on how special this could be to the city and to the state of Michigan?
Well, I think obviously the Spartans did a great job. And we were able to host the Final Four here. You know, the community really got behind it, and they got to play in it. I think it was fantastic. The same has happened here with the Red Wings. The ladies always tell me in the playoffs when I'm walking out or coming in, the ladies remind me every time, Coach, we got to get a win today, I want to work tomorrow. That hits home. They don't mind telling me either, they make sure (laughing). And I respect that. I really do. Because there's lots of people that get to work longer because we played better. That's one of the things Kenny Holland and I, and I said this, we talked about this during the Anaheim series, we have to find a way to keep playing, and so here we are.

Q. Obviously, this game's going to be special for the young kids, but how excited are you for the veterans of the group?
Well, I think it's special. I'm not the oldest guy, Cheli is (smiling). But I think it's special for everybody. Anyone who is involved in this. Steve Yzerman told me the other day when I was talking to him about what he thought, he told me he never got this opportunity. You know, what a great thing. Since '51, no one has. Mr. Lindsay comes in, Mr. Howe comes in, they always share their experiences, Alex Delvecchio with us. But this is one to me you're going to remember forever. And there's lots of them. If you're fortunate to be involved in hockey, and you're fortunate to be around winning, when I think of…and I can picture it in my mind's eye right now -- winning the CIU National Championships and those players, and I can picture the World Jr., and World Championships and all those things. Can you picture all the winning you've done, you walk together forever. This is no different here today, this opportunity we have.

Q. Guys make names for themselves in Game 7, like Fedotenko. Do you wonder in your room who that guy might be tonight?
Yeah. That's an interesting thought. I haven't thought about it like that. I'm looking for ordinary. And what I mean by that is I'm looking for everyone to just do their part. If we all just do our part, we're going to be a real happy group. Yes, someone's going to get a chance to be the guy who scores the game-winning goal or whatever. Obviously, there's lots of guys on our team that have to have thought of it themselves. I told people the other day I used to be Bobby Orr scoring a goal in road hockey. Now these guys have an opportunity to do it for themselves, that's pretty cool.

Q. You've talked and your players have said you're excited about this situation, yet, none of you would have said that prior to Game 6. You didn't want a Game 7, obviously. How much of a refocus? You've had three days to chew on a tough defeat. How much of a refocus is needed to get back in the moment now? Or do you have enough of a veteran group that you don't worry about that?
I think probably before we landed, but definitely by the next morning. I mean, you're disappointed. Don't get me wrong, we lost the game. But this is a pretty good. I've said this a hundred times. I don't know how to say it any different. This is a pretty good opportunity. I think even you people that are covering it got to be excited about it. It's a great thing, and it's great for our game. I say this to coaches and to referees and to players all the time, the better we all do of selling our game, the longer we're all going to work. And the bigger and the better job we do at it, and we're all in it together, really, in the end, because the better our game is. The better off we all are. And I think that's a real important thing. When you think from a lockout to where we are now, how far we've come, fantastic thing.

Q. I know yesterday you mentioned in the room that you mentioned the '72 Bruins. Can you talk about why you talked about them?
Well that's who I remembered. As a kid when I was 9 that's when I was playing road hockey, that's what I was thinking about. You know, and Bobby Orr was my favorite player. You know, I didn't know that even to be honest with you, I didn't know they had beaten the Rangers 4-2, and it was actually 3-0, and he scored the first goal, the guys dug it out for me after that. I didn't know any of that stuff. I just knew that's who -- you know, later on, whether it be Rogie Vachon, they were always yelling about whatever it was, there were always kids names they're yelling. I'm sure in Detroit where they've got the nets out all the time they're yelling Ozzie, as he makes a great save. That's a great thing.

06.12.2009 / 11:03 a.m. ET

Goalless so far. It will no doubt help the Detroit Red Wings win if at some point tonight Marian Hossa can say goalless no more.

This has been a series to forget for Hossa. He's been really good at times and invisible (Game 6) at others. He has had chances and has been able to throw his body around a bit, but the results are not there.

Hossa is a plus-1 in this series with three assists and 20 shots on goal, but he has no points and only three shots in the last two games.

Tonight, though, Hossa can be the guy that the Wings rally around (as if they need any more motivation). If you're a teammate of this guy, you do not want him to go through the kind of public ridicule he will go through tomorrow if the Wings lose.

You all know the story.

Hossa departs Pittsburgh for greener pastures, leaving roughly $30 or so million on the table. He picks Detroit because he thinks the Wings will give him the best chance at winning the Cup, and make no mistake, this guy is all about winning.

You do not leave $30 million on the table if you're not.

Anyway, now he could lose in the Cup Final for the second straight season and his former teammates in Pittsburgh can be the ones that beat him.

OK, so you know the story. For some reason I felt the need to rehash it. No clue why.

Game 7 is Hossa's chance to take back his pride and get the Wings over the top. A goal from him might be the most important ingredient to a Cup championship because it's something he has yet to deliver.

Even if he doesn't score a goal (and the Wings don't need him to score to win), Hossa needs to be an engaged and effective player tonight. He wasn't in Game 6 and nobody can convince me otherwise.

To get him there, Mike Babcock might have to consider taking Pavel Datsyuk away from Henrik Zetterberg and reuniting Datsyuk with Marian Hossa and Tomas Holmstrom. Neither Hossa nor Holmstrom have produced in this series and both have proven chemistry playing with Datsyuk when Datsyuk is in the middle.

Yes, I know last game I vehemently supported Babcock in his desire to keep Datsyuk and Zetterberg together. How could you not? Those two were wonderful in Game 5. Now, though, might be time to go back to what worked so well during the regular season.

The Wings need Hossa to have a big night and they need the same from Holmstrom. Datsyuk is good enough to force it upon both guys.

06.12.2009 9:20 a.m. ET

Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, the greatest event in all of sports.

Hook, line and sinker. I am in. All in.

People talk about how the Super Bowl is the greatest event in all of sports, but in my mind it doesn't compare to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.


The Super Bowl gets an immense amount of hype, but once the opening kickoff is in the air it becomes nothing more than a regular football game. Unless you get a game like in 2008 between the Giants and Patriots, the game doesn't live up to the hype it gets.

Plus, the Super Bowl comes around every year without question.

Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final doesn't get near the amount of national and international hype the Super Bowl gets, but after the first puck is dropped it never becomes just a regular hockey game.

Xs and Os get tossed out and sheer will, grit, determination and heart take over. Players send themselves flying into the puck for the greater good of the team. They barrel into the corners with reckless abandon.

None of the 36 skaters and two goalies tonight will play as if they're worried about playing another game in the NHL ever. This is the only game that matters. There is no big picture, only the next shift.

Oh, and it doesn't happen every year, not even close. This will only be the 15th Game 7 in Stanley Cup Final history.

So, no, this is not just another hockey game. Mike Babcock and Dan Bylsma can't coach like it is and the players can't play like it is.

Final thoughts after 2-1 Penguins win in Game 6
06.09.2009 / 11:55 p.m. ET

So, we're going to Game 7, which is the most exciting event in sports. The Stanley Cup will be in the building, all polished up and ready to be awarded to the victor.

History suggests that will be the Wings because neither one of these teams can apparently win a road game. The Penguins will have to buck the trend to raise the Cup.

Tonight's game was all about the heart and grit that the Penguins have. I don't normally like to use those words because I think they get overused, but tonight was a perfect example of both.

The Penguins looked cool all night long. They never lost their composure even when Detroit was coming hard in the second period, early in the third and again late when it was pushing for the equalizer.

Tyler Kennedy and Jordan Staal provided the scoring lift. Marc-Andre Fleury once again showed why nobody should question his bounce-back ability, though one of these days Fleury will get more consistent game-to-game. If he hadn't given up five goals in Game 5, he wouldn't have needed a bounce-back effort.

Nevertheless, he had one, but the Penguins wound up winning in regulation because of Rob Scuderi, who made three saves in the waning moments of the third period while Fleury was out of the crease. Scuderi and Hal Gill were excellent tonight, as was Brooks Orpik, who is clearly doing what he can to cover up for Sergei Gonchar, who is obviously still slowed by his knee injury.

Matt Cooke played a gritty game. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin played gritty games. The Penguins, as a whole, just wanted this one a little bit more. Heck, they needed it more. The Wings still had an out and now they get to go home for Game 7.

They'll need a similar effort from Chris Osgood, who was spectacular. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg should stay together. If Mike Babcock wants to put Tomas Holmstrom with them, that's fine with me, but Dan Cleary may be fresher and better suited there.

The Wings, though, need more out of Marian Hossa, who is goalless in this series. Hossa is the big story now because he left Pittsburgh to win a Cup with Detroit. How ironic would it be if he loses to Pittsburgh? You've heard that question asked time and again in this series.

Well, Hossa has to be one of the guys that steps up for his own cause.

Two off days are coming up. Get ready for a mountain of hype for Game 7.

06.09.2009 / 10:40 p.m. ET


Synopsis: If it weren't for Rob Scuderi, we'd be in overtime right now. Staal and Kennedy had the goals. Fleury had some remarkable saves, including the breakway stop on Cleary with 1:19 left. Scuderi, though, had the three that will be remembered for the next two days. If he didn't put his body in front of the goal and stop two shots with his stick and another with his skate, it would be 2-2. Scuderi is one classy dude, and he was awesome.

20:00: This one is going the distance. Talbot cleared the puck down the ice with five seconds left and the buzzer sounded. This one is going seven. You gotta love it.

19:47: Huge pile up in the goal crease. Scuderi was where Fleury should have been and he may have put his hand on the puck. No, he didn't. The puck went under his hand and he stopped it with his left skate. He also made a save with his stick. Fleury finally got back, but Scuderi was remarkable in goal to keep the game 2-1. He made three saves in fact.

19:10: The Wings are keeping possession. The Pens have to get it out.

18:11: Oh man Fleury got a piece of that breakaway by Cleary and then if you watched him close enough he jumped up a few times, if only slightly. Not sure if his skates got off the ice, but boy oh boy was he pumped after that save. It was forehand to backhand and instead of going five-hole he tried to go to the left side and Fleury got it I think with his left leg or skate. Save of the game. Save of the season.

17:30: The Penguins are still doing a good enough job of limited the Wings possession time. As Olczyk just said, the blue lines are the key. Get it out, get it in.

16:24: Anybody that tries to tell me the NBA Finals compare to this is just nuts.

14:59 (TV timeout): Mad scramble by Osgood, who was way out of the net to gobble up the puck. The Penguins got away with another penalty and now both teams are 0-for-2, though the Wings' 0-for-2 looks a lot worse than the Penguins' 0-for-2 now. They needed a goal on one of those two advantages. It's still a one goal game and these last five minutes will be crazy because you just know the Wings are going to be coming in full gear.

12:40: Another power play chance upcoming for the Red Wings as Guerin is going off for high sticking Draper. The Penguins got away with it once. Now they have to kill off another penalty. The Wings had good possession and a great chance for a goal if not for Scuderi on the first power play.

11:18: The power play is over. The Penguins kill it off. Momentum Pittsburgh provided the Pens can get the puck out of the zone.

10:11: Rob Scuderi just saved the one-goal lead. Huge play. The puck was right there for Lidstrom and Scuderi was just able to get his stick on it before Lidstrom.

9:18: Malkin is going to the box for needleslly cross checking Filppula. This is the Wings' first power play of the game. It's almost as if Kennedy never scored now because we're right back to where we were and now the Wings are on the power play.

8:01: Penguins 2, Red Wings 1. Well then, it's a one goal game again and your four-time Cup winner Kris Draper gets it off a rebound from Ericsson's point shot. Did you see how poised Draper was on that play? It was incredible. Maltby was on the ice, too. Very good move by Babcock to get his experienced guys on the ice for the faceoff in a key spot. Oh, and Lidstrom was also out there.

7:48 (TV timeout: The Penguins are the more aggressive team now and it's showing. After a solid start to the period by the Wings, the Penguins have been able to turn the game in their favor again. They are owning the pace and playing a physical brand of hockey that is necessary when you have a 2-0 lead.

5:35: Penguins 2, Red Wings 0. The puck was just there for Kennedy after he got the puck around the left post and after what appeared to be a minor hesitation he banged it in and that could be the goal that clinches Game 7. Great job by the Penguins to keep the puck moving behind the goal line. Now the Wings really have to push and the Penguins better not stop pushing.

3:21: Osgood with another big save, this time on a Dupuis blast. Osgood has been excellent. If the Wings somehow win tonight, 2-1, tonight's effort clinches the Conn Smythe for Osgood.

2:00: Good start to the third period by the Wings. Olczyk makes the point that the Wings have started where they left off going into the second intermission. It took the Pens a while to put one past Osgood. Are the Wings on the verge now of beating Fleury?

0:00: Interesting switch that McGuire touched on early. Holmstrom is going to play with Zetterberg and Datsyuk now. Clearly will likely move down to the third line with Helm and Samuelsson. Holmstrom is used to playing with Datsyuk.


Synopsis: We're through two periods and it's 1-0 Penguins. The Red Wings have displayed no panic at all while the Penguins have showed the composure of a veteran team. The Red Wings were better after Staal scored his goal. At least they started to create some chances and Fleury (and the left post) came up big. The post, in fact, should have been painted black and gold. The Pens could really use another goal and the Red Wings could really use a power play opportunity.

19:24: Huge save by Osgood on Fedotenko to keep the deficit close at 1-0. Malkin made a brilliant play to get the puck to Fedotenko, who was just simply robbed. The Wings could build off of that save going into the second intermission and eventually the third period.

18:03: Oh man, Zetterberg was thisclosetoscoring. He hits the postand Fleury falls down on the puck, sitting on it. How lucky are Fleury and the Penguins? Wow. Great play by Zetterberg, but nothing to show for it. Big turn of events right there. Let's see if the Penguins can take advantage. They'll have to reverse the flow of this game, because right now it is in the Wings' favor.

16:29 (TV timeout): I like how McGuire keeps reminding us that there is no panic on the Wings' bench. There shouldn't be. They're only down 1-0 and it appears as if they have been able to stop the surging Penguins. A goal soon would help, but even if they went into the intermission down 1-0 they would be in decent shape. So, too, would the Penguins, of course.

14:11 (TV timeout): It appears that the Wings have finally staved off a little of the Penguins surge, which has only lasted for 30 minutes (ha!). They are getting some opportunities and some possession time now, but not much. The Wings have the last three shots in the game. Babcock told McGuire that he likes what is going on right now because they're only down 1-0 and they haven't been great yet. The Wings need more time in the offensive zone.

13:00: Marian Hossa is on the ice now and it's the first time I can remember Mike Emrick mention his name. I'm sure he did, but it didn't resonate with me. Hossa wants to win a Cup tonight. He's got to be better.

12:32 (TV timeout): They call it a game of inches, right? Well, if Mark Eaton doesn't get his stick in the passing lane about a minute ago, Johan Franzen would have had a great chance right in front of the crease to pot the game-tying goal. There was no discussion about Eaton's play by either Eddie Olczyk or McGuire, but it was important nonetheless.

9:30: Great blocks by Orpik and Sykora, who may not return for his next shift at least. The Penguins are laying out like a desperate team. I love it when a team is facing elimination in a tight series. They do just about everything they possibly can to keep the series alive, a lot of which is probably not endorsed by their mothers.

8:23: The shots are 21-7 in favor of Pittsburgh. The Pens look like a different team.

7:30: Boy the Penguins third line of Cooke, Staal and Kennedy has been awesome tonight. Cooke just drilled Datsyuk after Staal had an unbelievable chance in front. Kennedy also did a great job 1-on-1 against Datsyuk on the other end before that flurry.

5:23: No second chance opportunities for the Wings. The Penguins, as McGuire just said, are playing at a good pace right now. To turn it around, the Wings may have to start pressing a bit and force the offense. It gets risky when teams do things like that, but the Wings offense has been stale all game because of the Pens' defense and pace.

3:41: The Penguins are doing a marvelous job of not letting the Red Wings keep possession. The Wings thrive on the puck possession game and as long as the Penguins play defense like this, or offense like this if you will, the Wings are going to have to rely on Pittsburgh turnovers and/or penalties to get chances.

2:13: A little gamesmanship here by Chris Osgood? Johan Franzen goes into the boards hard, comes up a little lame, and Osgood tries to buy him some time by finding a problem with his helmet. Very interesting. I'm sure Ozzie will get drilled for this, but Fleury would do the same thing if Malkin went sliding backwards into the boards.

0:51. Penguins 1, Red Wings 0. Finally, the Penguins convert. Staal forced a 2-on-1 by chipping the puck up the boards and then he didn't give up on the puck when Osgood made the first save. He got another whack and put it in. It appeared there was confusion on the Wings bench and Brett Lebda pinched too high, allowing for the 2-on-1 with Staal and Cooke against Ericsson. Staal, as Pierre McGuire said, made a phenomenal decision not to pass the puck. Had he passed it, Ericsson, with his long reach, would have been able to thwart the pass.


Synopsis: The Penguins owned the period, outshooting the Red Wings, 12-3, but it matters little now because momentum belongs to Detroit for surviving the period, including a pair of Pittsburgh power plays. It remains a scoreless tie. The Penguins generated four of their 12 shots on the power play, but only one on their second advantage. The Penguins have to find a way to not get discouraged and keep the intensity up. The Red Wings, for as much as I believe they own the momentum now, have to find a way to turn it into offense. You can't keep the Penguins off the board for too long when they buzz like they did in the first.

18:23 (TV timeout): Almost a goal for Zetterberg, but Fleury, who hadn't faced a shot since Cleary's 5:27 into the game, was up to the task after a delicious move by Datsyuk around Crosby gave him a lane to pass the puck. This might be one of those saves we remember for the rest of the night. Let's just put it in the back of our minds along with Osgood's earlier stop on Crosby.

17:30: The Red Wings don't have a shot in the last 12 minutes. Cleary and Zetterberg are the only two Wings with shots in this game.

16:00: The Penguins are 4-for-13 on the power play in this series, but they're 0-for-2 in this game and that's all that matters now. Great play by Zetterberg to get the puck out despite a broken stick and a huge point-blank save on the ensuing rush by Osgood on Crosby. Huge kill again for the Wings.

13:29 (TV timeout): Here comes another chance for the Penguins on the power play with Filppula going off for tripping. Can I suggest that this is a must-score situation? Is that too rash? I don't think so. The Penguins are controlling this game and a power-play goal would make what they've already done matter. Remember the thing with the Wings is they strike the moment you give them an opening.

12:39: You saw the Wings try to play the dump and chase game about 20 seconds ago, but Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi did a masterful job of snuffing it out and eventually moving the puck up the ice. I don't think the Red Wings are going to get frustrated that they can't get the possession game going because right now it appears content on playing the defensive game, matching when they can. That can only last so long, though.

10:20: Excellent shift by Cooke-Staal-Kennedy. They kept the pressure on, which the Penguins have to do. Continue pressuring and hope that eventually a hole opens up somewhere. It looks like the Wings are just trying to hold on now, and they can't get consistent possession.

8:47 (TV timeout): Penguins lead in shots, 8-2. They are making the early push, but like I've already said a couple of times, with nothing to show for it, how much does the early push really matter? It will matter if they can get a goal soon, but if the Wings score off a turnover or something like that, watch out because the game will turn in Detroit's favor quickly. That being said, if Malkin and Crosby stay together, you'd have to expect the chances will continue to come.

8:19: The Penguins are getting some good early opportunities here, but they haven't finished yet. A goal soon would make those opportunities worthwhile. If they don't score soon, it'll only get frustrating.

5:27: It's a missed opportunity for the Penguins. Excellent play by Nicklas Lidstrom to force the turnover in the zone and get the puck up the ice. Pittsburgh can't sacrifice these quality opportunities and expect to force a Game 7. Just saying that now.

3:35: Huge save by Fleury on Zetterberg right there. It was a wide open chance for Zetterberg, who then skated right into Fleury and received a goalie interference penalty despite Staal pushing him into the goalie. Questionable call, but a huge momentum shift for the Penguins. Remember, momentum shifts matter in these games and now the Penguins have a chance to take advantage on the power play.

2:23: It's interesting that Jordan Staal did not take the offensive zone faceoff after the icing. Tyler Kennedy did. Staal has been brutal on faceoffs in this series. I did not see if Staal got thrown out of the circle.

0:45: Hey, does Dan Bylsma read this blog because Crosby and Malkin are out there together on their first shift along with Bill Guerin. By the way, it was on the shift after Zetterberg and Datsyuk started the game together.

Sykora in; I'm not even going to pretend to know the lines
06.09.2009 / 8:07 p.m. ET

Dan Bylsma has inserted Petr Sykora into the lineup for Game 6 tonight and is benching Miroslav Satan. It's not a surprise that Sykora is in or that Satan is benched. Satan is a right wing and so is Sykora, and Bylsma was not about to bench Bill Guerin, Maxime Talbot or Tyler Kennedy.

As for the Red Wings, no changes in the lineup. I expect Mike Babcock to start the game with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together on the same line with Dan Cleary. We'll see if it lasts. I'm hoping Bylsma starts the game with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin together as well.

The Penguins better score an even strength goal. The Red Wings better weather what I expect will be a strong start by the Penguins, who will be flying out of the gate and buoyed by a whiteout crowd.

Remember, I may have to duck away from the live blog to continue coverage of the Phoenix story. But, I will post as much as I possibly can.

Hearing in Phoenix taking my day away
06.09.2009 / 5:44 p.m. ET

Just a quick note to say that I am following the news coming out of Phoenix, where the relocation hearing in Judge Redfield T. Baum's courtroom has been going on since noon ET.

This assignment has obviously pulled me away from this blog for the moment. I hope to return tonight for the Live Blog, but one of my colleagues in Pittsburgh may be starting it without me.

What we do know now is that Dan Bylsma is considering inserting Petr Sykora into the lineup tonight to add some offensive punch. This, by the way, is the same Petr Sykora who hasn't played in over a month and has scored only two goals since March.

Then again, Sykora has a history of scoring big goals in the Stanley Cup Final, including his winner in triple-OT that ended Game 5 last year. While with the Anaheim Ducks in 2004, Sykora scored the winner that ended the fourth-longest playoff game in NHL history.

An eye for an eye
06.09.2009 / 11:55 a.m. ET

The plan heading into Game 5 was to have Pavel Datsyuk start on the wing with Henrik Zetterberg in the middle. If Datsyuk was moving around well enough, the general thought was he would move to center.

After watching a few shifts, Mike Babcock would have been insane to move Datsyuk anywhere and he knows it. The combination of Zetterberg and Datsyuk made me (and Pierre McGuire) think of the Harlem Globetrotters.

They were artistic, unstoppable. So, you'd have to think they're going to stay together tonight.

Well, that's what Babcock is thinking, too. He said Monday that he really liked the look of Zetterberg and Datsyuk together and they will start Game 6 on the same line as well. If they play like they did Saturday night, look out Pittsburgh.

Dan Bylsma should take a page out of Babcock's book and start tonight's game with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the same line. What's more, Bylsma should stick with that superstar combination for more than just one shift.

Since the Penguins are at home and have the last change, making it tougher for Babcock to match Zetterberg against Crosby, it just makes more sense for Bylsma to load up for extended periods of time.

It's Game 6 and you trail 3-2. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Now, I understand it appears easier for Babcock to load up with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, even on the road, because of the depth the Red Wings have down the middle. He can still use Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm and Kris Draper as the centers on lines 2-4.

With Bylsma, taking Malkin out of the center position means the potential of either Tyler Kennedy or Maxime Talbot moving from the wing to center. Both are more than capable of doing it.

Bylsma would have a couple of options here, but my hunch is that he would play Crosby in the middle with Malkin on the right and Ruslan Fedotenko or Chris Kunitz on the left.

If he chooses to go with that combo, it pushes Bill Guerin to a line with Maxime Talbot and either Fedotenko or Kunitz. And, that leaves the third and fourth lines (Cooke-Staal-Kennedy, Dupuis-Adams-Satan) in tact.

These are all guesses here, but if Babcock is going to load up with Datsyuk and Zetterberg again, then Bylsma should put Malkin and Crosby together. Now, just imagine what will happen when those four are on the ice together.

Holy smokes it would be awesome.

Dog days of a series

06.08.2009 10:25 a.m. ET

Two days between games in a series provides enough downtime to make even a lazy man antsy.

The great thing about back-to-back off days is it allows the players plenty of rest, ensuring that they'll be at their maximum best (or should be, at least) for Game 6 and that means we should see some great hockey.

The back-to-back days off also allow for people like myself and all of my colleagues in Pittsburgh (and Brian Compton in Detroit) to dig for analysis stories that will hype the series even more.

However, sometimes that hype becomes even too much. I can guarantee you that right now each and every media person covering this series is asking themselves the same question:

"What else is there to say?"

I've done it plenty of times myself.

The reason is we've heard all about how the Wings depth has shown through and how Pittsburgh lost its cool in Game 5. We know the Penguins are resilient and we know composure will be key if they are going to send this series back to Detroit.

We also know that the Penguins have a ton of confidence in Marc-Andre Fleury, who is primed for a bounce back game.

Pavel Datsyuk's impact? Yup. Home-ice advantage in this series? Covered. Marian Hossa being one win away from proving he made the right decision last summer? Those stories are everywhere. How momentum means nothing in a series? You've read all about it.

Every story has been written, dissected, analyzed, etc. However, between now and the drop of the puck tomorrow night at Mellon Arena those same stories will keep cropping up, those same questions will continue to be asked.

It's what happens when you have 48 hours separating games.

Just as the coaches and the players get tired of answering questions about all of those topics, we media members get tired of asking them. However, everyone is assigned to write a story and the work needs to get done to keep this series in the national spotlight.

You all should know, though, that everybody who writes about hockey is just like the rest of you: We can't wait for 8 p.m. ET Tuesday night so we have some new material.

Morning reading list after Game 5
06.07.2009 / 10:40 a.m. ET

By now you know the outcome. Some of you are surprised that Detroit won, 5-0, while other morning quarterbacks are saying, "See, I told you so." Nobody on the crew is saying that, but the boys do have plenty of material for you to read today.

Shawn Roarke gets you going with the game recap right here. Roarke plays off the notion that the Wings came back with an emphatic answer to the Penguins, who did some talking after Game 4, questioning if the Wings, specifically Henrik Zetterberg, were tired, worn down and frustrated.

"Anything like that -- too old, too tired, too slow, that doesn't bother us one bit," said Detroit forward Dan Cleary, who had the game-opening goal. "We pride ourselves on being a good team, being fast, working hard and we showed it tonight."

Sticking with the idea that the Wings may have once been tired, Larry Wigge offers this report on what Detroit looks like with its full allotment of stars. Yes, Pavel Datsyuk was back, so the lineup look normal again and you saw the result.

Suddenly, the fatigue that seemed evident in the Red Wings' game and the unusual number of giveaways they had in Games 3 and 4 in Pittsburgh were afterthoughts. And the power play that Babcock said "sucked the life out of the team" in Game 4 was downright dominating, scoring three times.

Speaking of Datsyuk and Zetterberg, Brian Compton goes into detail about the two superstars playing together on the same line, making sweet artistic plays out there and combining for four points in the victory. They played off each other so well and the rest of the Red Wings looked calmer as a result.

"It's special ... we did it together," Datsyuk told in a post-game, walk-off interview. "I tried to do my best. In the playoffs, it's a different story. It's always harder to score. We're happy to win."

Wigge also touched base with Dan Cleary in this piece. Cleary was questionable before the game and he didn't skate in the morning, but he pushed aside any pain to play and wound up with the game-winning goal.

"It's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. You don't find any more important than that. There's no way I was going to miss this one," Cleary said. "I was pumped before the goal and like the rest of the team we just seemed to feed off that goal and kept rolling and rolling."

Chris Osgood didn't have to do much - only 22 saves - but he played a huge role within the first seven or so minutes last night and Compton details that all right here. By the way, Osgood also chipped in with an assist on a long outlet pass to Marian Hossa, who then set up Valtteri Filppula's goal.

Osgood's performance -- especially in the early going -- shouldn't go unnoticed. While he faced a total of 12 shots over the final 40 minutes, Osgood was required to make 10 saves in the opening period and allowed his teammates to find their legs before Daniel Cleary made it 1-0 at 13:32.

Ah, but then there is the Penguins side of things. Mike Morreale suggests the "Penguins were rudely shoved off Cloud Nine in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final." Tremendous lead Mike.

It wasn't until a string of five consecutive penalties by the Penguins in the second period -- the first three of which became power-play goals for Detroit -- did the Wings truly begin to find their hockey legs. That's when the Penguins began to unravel right before the eyes of coach Dan Bylsma.

Morreale also delivers us this piece on the chased and humbled Marc-Andre Fleury, who was pulled after giving up five goals on 21 shots within the first 35:40 of the game. Fleury insists he has already put the performance in the rearview mirror.

"A loss is a loss, it doesn't really matter what the score is," Fleury said. "There's really nothing you can do about it right now. They played well and they put their chances in. I thought we had a pretty good start, but we did run into penalty trouble and it's tough against a team like this. They have a good power play and got some goals off it -- they took advantage."

Hey, even I got into the act from my couch, writing this story from the Penguins side looking forward into Game 6 at Mellon Arena. Use their chances, stay the course, keep their composure, and for cryin' out loud, get some elite performances from their superstars.

"We have two days here to regroup and refocus, and we will," Bylsma said. "They got the third game. They're one ahead of us, and we've got to go home and use that energy of that home crowd to our advantage."

And, finally, John Kreiser offers up all the pertinent numbers coming out of Game 5 in this piece right here.

4 -- Goals by Detroit in the second period, the most the Red Wings have scored in any period during this year's playoffs. It's also the Wings' biggest period in the Stanley Cup Final since April 26, 1966, when they scored four goals in the third period of Game 2, a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Detroit had scored four second-period goals in the first four games of this year's Final combined.

Final thoughts

06.07.2009 / 12:25 a.m. ET

The Red Wings were scary good tonight. The kind of good that makes you think this team there is no way this team does not raise the Cup again this year.

They did everything they wanted and even toyed with the frustrated Penguins at times. Boy does Pavel Datsyuk makes such a difference in this lineup. The Wings were a different team with him tonight. It wasn't even close.

The best news for Detroit now is Datsyuk has two days to continue to heal so he might even be better in Game 6. And, yes, as good as he was tonight, he can be better.

Scary, huh?

More tomorrow.

06.06.2009 / 10:45 p.m. ET


Synopsis: Fourteen of the last 19 teams that have won Game 5 in the Stanley Cup Final have gone on to win the Cup. So, there's a chance for Pittsburgh, but it's not a big chance. The third period tonight was as expected. The Pens committed some frustration penalties, some a little too close for comfort (Dupuis' head shot) and the Wings just played steady and rolled four lines. Datsyuk finished with 17:38 of ice time. I was eight seconds off. He had two assists and four hits. It was a successful return. The shots were 29-22 in favor of the Wings. Malkin and Crosby combined for TWO of those 22 Pittsburgh shots.

18:07: According to McGuire, Talbot just yelled to the Detroit bench, "We'll see you Tuesday." Talbot, meanwhile, was getting escorted off the ice. No need for him to talk right now. Nothing for him to say. Take your lumps, skate off the ice, get ready for Game 6. Do not talk when you're down 5-0.

17:00: Somebody wake up Chris Osgood. He may need to stay on after the game and take shots with the Black Aces and goalie coach Jim Bedard because he hasn't gotten enough work tonight.

15:50: I'm not going to make too big of a deal out of this, but Dupuis might get suspended for that clear shot to Kronwall's head. He may get fined instead. It's something to look for tomorrow or Monday.

15:30: They're chanting, "We want the Cup." It'll be in Pittsburgh for sure.

12:30: I'm surprised that Datsyuk is still getting shifts, but clearly he must be feeling good. To counter my point earlier that Babcock could rest him, maybe the coach is thinking the more he plays the better now because he did miss two and a half weeks. Either way, he is still getting shifts.

10:15: Crosby and Malkin out there together with Kunitz. Maybe Bylsma should think about using them together more in Game 6. Just a thought. If Datsyuk and Zetterberg are going to play together, why not load up against them. Then again, Datsyuk and Zetterberg may be separated in Game 6 when the Penguins have the last change.

9:28: Give Garon some credit. He's been alright since coming into the game. He thwarted a great chance for Hossa with a great pokecheck. Garon deserves some credit right now.

7:14: The Wings are going back on the power play. Malkin is in the box for hooking Hossa. That's three penalties totalling six minutes between Crosby and Malkin.

6:40: The NBC crew just talked about how the Wings were toying with the Penguins now, specifically Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Quick note: Crosby was on the ice defending that. Crosby needs to be better. He just simply needs to be better. No one has to tell him. He knows it.

3:30: The Penguins just look slow and dead right now, and you can't be too shocked. They are down 5-0, but they should at least try to start pushing. They're just skating around.

1:53: Hossa collides with Garon behind the net. He flies in there and Garon is jsut playing the puck, but I agree with Olczyk, no idea what is going through Hossa's mind on that play. Totally unnecessary with a 5-0 lead.

1:00: Datsyuk played 13:34 in the first two periods. He's on the ice right now. Let's see what his final ice time reads. I'm guessing around 17:30 or so.


Synopsis: The Penguins killed off the 5-on-3, but it doesn't matter. If you're thinking from a Detroit perspective, it was the perfect period and exactly what we have come to expect from the Wings. They pressure you and pressure you and pressure you until you make a mistake and then they pounce. Tonight, the mistakes the Penguins are making are giving the Wings power plays. If you're thinking from a Pittsburgh perspective, well, I don't even know what else there is to say. The Pens have officially come undone. I don't believe momentum carries over from game to game, so short of a miraculous third-period comeback, I don't think there is anything the Penguins can do in the final 20 minutes that will make them feel good. Oh, and Crosby is still missing from the offensive game. Malkin is, too.

17:57: Talbot looked like he accidentally tripped Datsyuk there, but then he went after Holmstrom. Either way, 5-on-3 for the Wings. The Penguins are not doing themselves any favors either now or going into Game 6.

17:37: Think Zetterberg is getting to Crosby? Yup. This was a horrible penalty by the Pens' captain. No need for him to take a baseball bat swing at Zetterberg's knees. Frustration is one thing. This was just dumb. As was Kunitz's penalty. The Penguins are unraveling. I can't sugarcoat it.

17:17 (TV timeout): How important is this lead for the Wings? Babcock doesn't even have to play Datsyuk in the third period if he doesn't want to. He can limit the minutes of Lidstrom, Rafalski and Zetterberg. The Wings, who everyone thought looked exhausted after Game 4, will have the third period of Game 5 plus another two days to rest before Game 6. They earned it.

15:40: Red Wings 5, Penguins 0. With 10 seconds left on what looked like it might have been a momentum turning PK by the Penguins, Detroit scores again. Zetterberg was alone in the right circle and he put a great shot over Fleury's shoulder. Here comes Mathieu Garon and yes, McGuire makes a great point here by saying this is a must move now because Fleury could continue to unravel tonight if he stayed out there. This 5-0 deficit is not all his fault, but he will take the brunt of the blame. He should be yelling at every one of his teammates because they are not helping him out.

13:50: No need for that from Kunitz. He got a roughing and could have easily, as McGuire said, gotten an instigator. Look at Bylsma on the bench. Very calm. Very cool. Very composed. His players need to follow his lead. Malkin had a frustration penalty and now Kunitz gets one. They're putting themselves in a major hole and not helping their goalie out at all.

13:00: Even when the Penguins have the puck, they're not generating much in front of Osgood. Send bodies at the guy. It obviously worked in Games 3 and 4. The Wings defense has something to do with that, of course. They're playing a very sound defensive game tonight. Great offense helps.

11:36: There was some of the possession Bylsma was talking about. The Penguins need more of that. There is still half a game to go here. The Penguins can't be thinking they're dead yet, but can we stop with this "they're not panicking" stuff. Of course they're not panicking now. They're better this year than last year. Last year is over. Enough already.

10:25 (TV timeout): Crosby? Crosby? Crosby? Has anybody seen Crosby? It's time for No. 87 to show up if for no other reason than to make this respectable tonight.

8:26: Red Wings 4, Penguins 0. OK, well, can we call it now? Datsyuk makes a bit of a difference. Holy cow. He won the faceoff and then he got the puck from the half wall across to Rafalski at the right point and the wrist shot went high and beat Fleury on the stick side. Holmstrom was in front, as usual. The Penguins are getting crushed right now in the special teams game. Win the special teams game, win the game. It's usually the case and the Wings are proving it tonight.

6:48 (TV timeout): Frustration penalty by Malkin. He is off for elbowing Franzen, and that gives the Red Wings a chance to really blow this thing wide open. At 3-0, I still give the Pens a chance. If they go down 4-0, forget about it. Malkin went high on Franzen with his elbow. He led with the elbow. It's a bad play by the superstar.

6:11: Red Wings 3, Penguins 0. And, they do. Gonchar in the box and Kronwall, who was playing with the puck low, went right through three Penguins players to cut in front of Fleury and he went to the shortside. Gill, Scuderi and Cooke were the Penguins defenders. That's unacceptable defense by the Penguins, even if they were on the PK. So far, Detroit, which was getting killed in the special teams department through four games, is dominating special teams tonight.

5:53: Gonchar goes off for slashing Datsyuk. The Wings really put the Pens in a bind here.

5:24: Hossa hits the post at the 5:37 mark. Possession, possession, possession. The Wings are dominating it right now. Yes, the long change is killing the Penguins. The long change means when the puck is in Pittsburgh's zone, it takes the Penguins longer to change players because they have to skate through the entire neutral zone to get to the bench. The Wings would have the same problem, if only the Penguins could keep the puck in the zone.

3:45: Staal with Guerin on his right and Dupuis on his left. Very interesting combo there. It's a result of Bylsma loading up with Malkin and Crosby immediately after the goal.

3:05: McGuire just announced that Filppula went to the dressing room. We'll wait for a report, presumably from McGuire. The Wings can ill-afford to lose Filppula or anyone really. He blocked a shot. As I type this, McGuire announces Fil is back on the bench. OK then.

1:44: Red Wings 2, Penguins 0. Well how about that. Just when the Penguins thought they might have been out of the woods, because the puck came all the way back to Osgood, well not so. Osgood recognized the quick change and he got a long pass up to Hossa, who delivered a brilliant pass to Filppula. He got behind the D and used his backhand to score. Great read by Osgood to go toward the opposite side of the benches, where there was a glut of players coming on and off.

0:50: A defensive play that might be forgotten, but should not be was just made by Cooke. He lifted Hudler's stick and if he didn't Hudler would have deposited the puck into the back of the net. It was open and he was standing at the left post. Very good play by Cooke.

0:00: Datsyuk is not on the ice to start the power play with Zetterberg and Franzen. Hudler is out there with those two as well as Rafalski and Lidstrom.


Synopsis: The Wings did what they wanted to do in that period. They got a good penalty kill and then they got the first goal. As Dan Cleary said, they didn't get the start that they wanted, but it didn't matter and it certainly doesn't matter now. They have 1:40 left on a power play to start the second period. The Penguins were not bad, but the Wings took it to them a bit after the goal. Pittsburgh needs a good kill to start the period and then they need to start getting the puck deep and cycling to get the Wings chasing.

19:39: Not a good time for the Pens to committ a penalty, but it's hard to fault Kunitz on this one. He went in with Zetterberg and he's just crashing the crease as he is told to do. He unfortunately got the wrong end of that deal with the ref calling him out for goalie interference, but I don't think Dan Bylsma will be too upset with Kunitz on that play. Just the refs.

17:10 (TV timeout): Since the goal, Detroit has controlled the play. The Wings are now getting the puck deep and they are tighter on their forecheck. It may behoove Babcock to leave Zetterberg and Datsyuk together. They have been marvelous so far and Cleary seems like the perfect fit with them right now. Plus, that Filppula line has been OK, too.

16:30: Barely a mention of Crosby so far. He's going up against both Datsyuk and Zetterberg, but it's not an excuse. He's got to be a difference maker and I can remember only one time that Emrick said his name so far tonight.

13:32: Red Wings 1, Penguins 0.
Unless, of course, Pavel Datsyuk does something great. He just did. This is why the Wings need him so badly. He's so smooth through the neutral zone. Dan Cleary is the recipient of a great, quick, short pass and Cleary did not waste any time shooting the puck. He used Orpik as a screen and the puck fluttered a little bit. Rafalski made a nice pass up to Datsyuk and the guy is just the king in the neutral zone. Boy was I wrong with my last post.

13:09 (TV timeout): Fleury has made some great saves to keep this a scoreless game, but I still feel the Pens are in control now because they are not letting the Wings possess the puck and they are keeping the pace at a very fast level. From my point of view, I think it's only a matter of time before the Penguins score a goal. Just a hunch.

12:00: Datsyuk looks pretty good, eh?

11:00: I am very impressed so far by the Pens' defensemen right now because they are not letting the Wings get the puck in deep too often. Pierre McGuire just said the same thing, almost.

9:16: Good kill by the Wings, which is a good sign for things to come. Their PK has been dreadful, but they held the Penguins without a shot on goal on that PP.

7:19 (TV timeout): Great stop by Fleury on a terrific redirect by Zetterberg and seconds later Kronwall gets called for tripping Kunitz for our first penalty and our first whistle of the game. Yeesh, we needed that whistle. The pace so far has been thrilling. The Penguins survived a surge there by Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Cleary and now are going on the PP. You can already see the difference Datsyuk makes. He is such an amazing playmaker. I think he'll be playing center soon enough. He looks good.
6:15: It appears so far that Babcock likes Filppula with Franzen and Hossa and Zetterberg with Datsyuk and Cleary. Still no whistle in this game. What a pace. This favors the Pens.

5:00: There has been some room through the neutral zone for the Wings, but they are having a problem getting the puck out of their own zone. The Penguins are controlling right now and they're playing their game. The Wings have to start possessing the puck soon or the Penguins will be up 1-0. It just seems that that is the way this game is going.

2:40: Great defensive play by Samuelsson on Fedotenko, who had an open half of the net to shoot at if he was able to settle the puck. Malkin's line, including Talbot and Fedotenko, have been marvelous so far. They're buzzing and they really took it to the Wings in that series. Like I talked about earlier, momentum right now appears on the Pens side.

1:00: Datsyuk on the left wing with Zetterberg and Cleary on his first shift. I wonder if that will stay or if Babcock will eventually put Franzen with Zetterberg and Datsyuk as I predicted earlier. NBC showed those three as the Wings top line. We'll see.

0:00: The Wings are starting with Filppula, Franzen and Hossa. Very interesting. I didn't have that as a line. No Crosby starting, so no Zetterberg.


The Red Wings haven't faced this kind of adversity in a Stanley Cup Final since 1995, when they were swept by the New Jersey Devils.

Too much is being made about Malkin going after Zetterberg at the final buzzer in Game 2. They're saying it was a momentum swing. It wasn't. It was a frustrated Malkin. He's been great all playoffs and he's been great in this Final not because he went after Zetterberg, but because he's a great player. Enough of that nonsense already.

Can't wait to see the goalies tonight. Will Fleury answer the bell again? Will Osgood be great on home ice again?

Datsyuk needs to feel good tonight because the Wings need him badly.

Are the Wings tired? Maybe. It won't show early tonight, but perhaps late. We'll have to wait and see on that one.

Drop the puck already!

Datsyuk and Cleary are in, Lines for Game 5
06.06.2009 / 8:07 p.m. ET

I waited a while for the official word, but I had an inkling that Dan Cleary was going to play when, while watching On the Fly at the Stanley Cup Final, they panned to the Wings playing soccer outside of their dressing room and Cleary was one of the guys kicking the ball around.

So, he's in for Game 5 and, obviously, Pavel Datsyuk is in as well. These are good things for the Wings because they need them both players to get their penalty kill (5 for 9) going and their power play (9 for 10) rolling. It would help if Marian Hossa, Tomas Holmstrom and Jiri Hudler got some goals as well.

The Penguins won't have any changes tonight, and why would they? Heck, even Max Talbot had to get interviewed in the pregame show by Gary Green again tonight because of his superstition.

Green interviewed Talbot before Game 3, and the Penguins won. So, he insisted Green interview him again before Game 4. Well, the Penguins won, so Talbot had to get his air time again tonight.

Very interesting. I think Ken Holland and the Wings are filing a grievance with the League as we speak.

Just kidding.

Anyway, this is what I presume the lines will look like to start the game:





Red Wings




Remember, the Wings lines will be fluid tonight if Babcock decides he wants to go back to matching Crosby. And, don't be shocked if early in this game you see Dan Bylsma load up and put Crosby and Malkin together with Fedotenko or Kunitz. Go for the early kill, know what I mean?

Game 5 Live Blog is coming at you.

Pav's back, so what now?
06.06.2009 / 5:40 p.m. ET

Pavel Datsyuk will make his Stanley Cup Final debut tonight. That much we most definitely know.

Where he'll play and how much he'll play is very much up for debate.

My hunch is that Datsyuk will play anywhere between 15-20 minutes tonight, depending on how he feels after his first four or five shifts. If he's feeling good, strong and healthy, he'll get closer to that 20 minute mark and he'll play a lot at center. If he's a bit off, you'll see him around 15 and most likely a lot in the defensive zone as a winger.

Datsyuk will likely start the game on the left wing with Henrik Zetterberg in the middle and Johan Franzen on the right. I'm hearing there is a chance that Dan Cleary is questionable for tonight (he didn't skate this morning), and if he can't than that will definitely be how the Wings start. Valtteri Filppula would then start between Marian Hossa and Tomas Holmstrom.

If Datsyuk feels good AND Cleary plays, he'll move to the middle between Hossa and Holmstrom. Filppula would bump down to the third line to play between Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler. Cleary, Zetterberg and Franzen would form the second line while Kris Draper, Darren Helm and Kirk Maltby would be the fourth line.

If Datsyuk feels good AND Cleary does not play, the lines are a jumbled mess again because I am not sure who would take Cleary's spot on the line with Zetterberg and Franzen. It could be Filppula. It could be Helm. It could be Hudler. It could be Mike Babcock mixing and matching them all.

Either way, I think if Datsyuk is going to play center tonight, his wings will be Hossa and Holmstrom. If he stays on the wing, he'll be with Zetterberg and Franzen.

Detroit's lines, though, could be fluid tonight if, as I expect, Babcock goes back to matching against Sidney Crosby and perhaps against Evgeni Malkin now that Datsyuk is back.

Datsyuk's return could also energize Holmstrom and Hossa, who have been shut out in this series.

Hossa has been good. In fact, I think he was one of the Wings' best players in Game 4, but he came away with nothing to show for it. I am of the opinion that Hossa has been taken a bit out of his element without Datsyuk around. Those two have demonstrated such obvious chemistry this season.

Holmstrom may just be showing signs of his age and wear and tear on his body. However, if Datsyuk is back and making his kind of plays, Holmstrom should get more chances than he has been getting while playing with Filppula.

We'll see. Remember, Game 5 Live Blog starts around 8:15 tonight and I'll try to post the lineups as soon as I can.

As 'Big Mo' turns
06.06.2009 / 10 a.m. ET

While sitting at the podium at separate times yesterday, both Mike Babcock and Dan Bylsma sounded very alike. Momentum, the coaches said, carries over from shift to shift, not game to game.

This series is the perfect example of that.

In each game, each team has had surges and in some instances goals have been the result. When goals have resulted, the team that survived the surge has stolen momentum.

Let's take a closer look…

Game 1

The Red Wings had a better start and they got the first break, bounce and goal when Brad Stuart's shot from the left point banged off the springy boards at Joe Louis Arena and squeezed into the net. The Penguins stayed poised and were able to turn the play a bit, winding up with Ruslan Fedotenko's goal in the final two minutes.

Chris Osgood made two huge saves within the first four minutes of the second period and then the Wings killed off two penalties. Detroit wound up with a power play later in the period and while it didn't score, the PP generated a lot of good chances. The Wings wound up scoring in the final minute to take a 2-1 lead. The goal came after sustained pressure and a Pittsburgh icing, which forced Bylsma to call a timeout to rest his players. Crosby lost the ensuing faceoff to Zetterberg and 16 seconds later, bam, Johan Franzen.

Game 2

The Penguins withstood a furious start by the Wings and wound up earning a power play chance late in the period because they turned the momentum and started generating chances. They scored on the power play after keeping the puck for the entire 42 seconds of the advantage. Pittsburgh took the last 10 shots in the period.

Osgood made another huge save early on Evgeni Malkin to steal momentum back for the Wings. Two minutes later the Wings got a great shift by the Hossa-Filppula-Holmstrom line, a trio that forced the Penguins to ice the puck. Four seconds later, with the same five exhausted Pittsburgh defenders on the ice, Jonathan Ericsson scored. Four minutes later, the Wings went on the power play. They didn't score with the man advantage, but kept the pressure up after Malkin came back on the ice, dug in and got a goal from Filppula off a pretty backhand. Advantage, Detroit.

Game 3

Fantastic start by the Penguins is rewarded when Max Talbot scored from between the circles at 4:19 to cap a phenomenal shift. Momentum didn't last long because the Wings caught the Penguins in the midst of a change and Zetterberg scored 91 seconds later. The Wings kept the pressure on and got a power play chance when Brooks Orpik went off for interfering with Dan Cleary. With nine seconds left on the advantage, Franzen scored his 12th of the playoffs. You see what momentum can do for you?

Oh, but wait, it can also turn on you when you don't get a break. Soon after the Wings took a 2-1 lead, the Penguins had six men on the ice for 21 seconds and no penalty was called. Less than two minutes later, the Penguins got a power play chance and they capitalized with Kris Letang netting the goal. Momentum to Pittsburgh.

Detroit did all it could to steal the momentum back in the second period, but Marc-Andre Fleury was warm to the task, stopping all 14 shots the Wings sent at him. The great goaltending gave the Penguins a chance to win the game in the third period, which they did by dominating the Wings for the final 20 minutes. Sergei Gonchar got the winner and the Pens outshot Detroit, 10-3, in the final period.

Game 4

You'd think that the Pens would be able to carry momentum over into Game 4 and it appeared that they did because they scored just 2:39 into the game. That goal by Malkin, though, was on a power play that Pittsburgh earned when Malkin's strong play behind the goal ended when Niklas Kronwall tripped him down. It had nothing to do with what happened in Game 3.

However, that momentum didn't last because the Wings started to buzz and finally got the equalizer at 18:19 when Rob Scuderi egregiously turned the puck over to Helm. Detroit kept momentum by scoring just 46 seconds into the second period and it appeared it would stay on their side when Malkin went off for hooking Ericsson five minutes later. The Wings got three shots on goal, and then another power play chance when Orpik was called for cross checking. Great opportunity, right?

Well, we all know what happened. Jordan Staal turned this series around with his incredible short-handed goal 8:35 into the second period and the Penguins would score twice more to take a commanding 4-2 lead into the third period. They didn't give any of it up and now the series is even at 2-2.

You can say that Pittsburgh now has momentum in the series, but all that goes away as soon as the puck is dropped a little after 8 ET tonight. The shifts are what matters. Game 4 means nothing right now. If Pittsburgh wins, yeah, we may look back on Staal's goal as the one that broke the Wings' backs. Then again, we might not.

Morning reading list after Game 4
06.05.2009 / 10:30 a.m. ET

From Jordan Staal's huge goal to Tyler Kennedy's huge goal to Sidney Crosby's huge goal to the Detroit Red Wings' lackluster power play, has everything covered from Game 4 last night.

So, here we go…

Shawn Roarke offers a rundown of the entire game here in his recap, detailing how the Penguins did not seem at all deterred after Brad Stuart scored 46 seconds into the second period. Three goals in less than six minutes was a pretty sweet answer. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were at the forefront of the surge.

But the Pittsburgh Penguins refused to buckle, something that did not happen in the first two games of this series -- a pair of two-goal losses to the defending champions. Instead, Pittsburgh showed championship character by fighting back -- led by inspiring performances from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- to take a series-changing 4-2 victory at Mellon Arena.

Mike Morreale wrote this story from the Red Wings' perspective. He ran with Mike Babcock's assessment that Detroit's power play "sucked the life out of us."

The Red Wings entered Game 4 third in the playoffs on the power play with a 25-percent success rate, but failed on all four of their chances. The Wings also allowed their first shorthanded goal of the playoffs after surrendering only four during the regular season.

We may remember Jordan Staal's short-handed goal 8:35 into the second period as being the biggest goal in the series, the turning point of the series. Brian Compton goes in depth on Staal's shortie and what it did for the Penguins and did to the Red Wings.

"It certainly changed the complexion of the game," Bylsma said. "They had the two power plays. There would have been a chance to go up 3-1, and Jordan with speed up the ice makes a strong move to the net like he can with his big body and scores a great goal for us. That kind of got us rolling there in the second."

Crosby finally broke through with an important goal in Game 4, set up by a brilliant play and pass by Malkin. Compton also has the details of Crosby's night right here, suggesting it was only a matter of time before No. 87 delivered in a big way.

Even though he didn't record his first point of the Final until the Pens returned home for Game 3 -- he assisted on Sergei Gonchar's winner in the third period Tuesday night -- most sensed that Crosby was on the verge of breaking through. That breakthrough came Thursday, and it proved to be the game-winning goal.

Larry Wigge got some time with Tyler Kennedy, who scored a monster goal off some brilliant tic-tac-toe passing to cap the scoring on the night. Kennedy, Wigge writes, loves it when the Mellon Arena crowd chants his name, and last night they were louder than ever before.

"That was maybe the loudest they've shouted my name," an excited Kennedy said. "It wasn't like scoring in Game 7 of the Cup Final like I did a thousand times on the driveway of my house in Sault Ste. Marie, but it's easily the biggest goal of my career -- and it's a pretty good feeling, especially since I didn't get a goal in the Final last year."

John Kreiser takes a look at the entire Pittsburgh experience from the Red Wings perspective and gets the feeling that nobody in that dressing room is panicking.

"We have to play better," Chris Osgood said after Pittsburgh's series-tying 4-2 victory in Game 4 at Mellon Arena on Thursday night. "We didn't play as good as we can. Probably our best game was our last game. We feel we haven't played our best yet, and it's 2-2. We're not going to panic. The bottom line is that we have to play better as a team. So far, it's 2-2. It could be 3-1, but I think we're about where we should be."

Once again, Kreiser also offers up all the important numbers from Game 4 right here.

6 -- Years since a team lost the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, then won the next two. Anaheim lost the first two games of the 2003 Final at New Jersey, then won the next two games at home. That series went seven games, with the Devils winning Game 7 at home.

From Malkin's Ovechkin-like jump into the glass after scoring his goal to Pavel Datsyuk's status and the Red Wings' swearing they are not fatigued, the Game 4 notebook is right here.

"We can't expect Pav to be the knight in shining armor and come and save us," goalie Chris Osgood said. "The bottom line is we were just giving them too many odd-man rushes. As a team, we need to play more desperate and sharper."

06.04.2009 / 10:50 p.m. ET


Synopsis: The Penguins never stopped coming and as a result they never allowed the Wings to get back in it, leading to a 4-2 win. I love the way they played that third period. They just kept coming and coming and yes, I also agree with Olczyk, who said he thinks the Wings older players look tired right now. They have to fight fatigue and be ready for Game 5. The Penguins will definitely be ready. Like I said earlier, it appears to me that the lightswitch has gone off and now the Pens believe they're invicible.

20:00: Orpik and Cleary get into it a little bit at the horn. No messages there. The city of Pittsburgh can prepare for Game 6.

18:27: Well, that ought to do it. Kronwall off for hooking Kunitz, who had a definite goal into the empty net if not for the hook. Perhaps the refs should have awarded a goal there, but it won't matter.

18:09: Osgood to the bench.

17:50: Osgood should be leaving soon if the Wings can get possession. It's always dangerous, but the Wings have to push for that goal.

17:00: Huge save by Fleury on Filppula after a great set up by Holmstrom. Very important save to keep the game where  it is, 4-2. Fleury has been tested tonight and he's passing it. He's got 37 saves. He'll be a story after this game for sure.

16:26: I like what Dan Bylsma is doing now. Crosby's line followed by Malkin's line. Keep putting the pressure on the Wings. Just because they're up two, the Penguins don't appear content.

15:27 (TV timeout): Well, they got the faceoff and they got the chance, but couldn't convert. Time is running short. You'll now start seeing the Wings press up, which could leave some openings for odd man rushes the other way. It's looking more and more like the Pens will hold serve at Mellon Arena and we'll have a three game series on our hands. Can't say enough about how important that SH goal by Staal has turned out to be in this game. It got the Pens started on their second-period surge when they scored three times in less than six minutes.

15:10: Icing by Pittsburgh. Key faceoff here for the Wings. They need a goal in the worst way and getting possession in the zone will help.

12:33 (TV timeout): Oh, now I see why Crosby looked a little dazed getting up before. It looked like Maltby's skate or stick got tangled with Crosby's skates. I don't think there was anything malicious there, and it might have also been a decent acting job by Crosby. Either way, no call and we move on. I don't think Maltby would be dumb enough to haul down Crosby in front of the refs on purpose with Detroit trailing by two. Crosby is back out there for the draw, so he's OK.

11:33: Great defensive play by Talbot. The Wings were buzzing on a great shift by Helm, Samuelsson and Holmstrom. Talbot was able to push the puck away and get a rush of his own, both turning the puck around and thwarting the Red Wings attempts. The Wings need a goal and soon.

9:55: Crosby struggled to get up after the play in front of Fleury. It took him nearly 10 seconds to get to the bench. I'm going to wait like you for the update on that one.

7:40 (TV timeout): The Penguins don't want to take too many chances now and as a result the Wings aren't getting many. Malkin, by the way, has a goal, assist, six shots and four hits in 15:55 of ice time. Yeesh. Those numbers are phenomenal. The Wings have yet to find an answer to him. It would help if they had Datsyuk.

5:03: One thing the Penguins are doing very well now is getting back. When the Wings are rushing, the Pens are doing a good job of having at least three guys back. It shows me that they are playing a more defensive style now, not trying to push as much. You can do that with a two goal lead, but if you give one up you have to be able to turn it back on again.

2:38: Detroit has turned the momentum with those last two shifts. Good surge, but nothing to show for it. Detroit needs to keep up this pressure. It's now time for them to play desperate hockey. Rarely do we say that about the Wings, but we have to now.

1:40: Great shift by Filppula, Holmstrom and Hossa. That has been the Wings best line in my opinion. This is one of those surges the Pens are going to have to weather.

0:27: Great pressure at the start by the Pens. This is what they needed. Like I said, do not take the foot off the gas pedal. Make the Wings turn and skate the other way.


Synopsis: Without question that was the best period the Penguins have played all series and that's why they have a 4-2 lead. They were not deterred by Stuart's goal or the back-to-back penalties and as soon as they put the pedal down they didn't let off the gas. They need to work that hard and continue playing that way until they get a 5-2 lead. If that happens, then they can let up slightly and focus on defending their own net. They don't want to give the Wings any life, though, so that means continue to keep the pace at this level. The Wings are clearly struggling with it.

20:00: Malkin didn't have much time to do anything with that breakaway. If he had an extra two seconds, we could be looking at a 5-2 game. Osgood made a good save, but Malkin couldn't do much with it.

19:30: Great play by big Hal Gill there to keep Hossa to the outside. If Hossa gets inside he might get a great chance on Fleury there.

18:15: Anybody else of the opinion that the Penguins look like they believe they're invincible right now?

16:35 (TV timeout): What Eddie O. was just saying I have been thinking all night. Why didn't I blog it? It appears to me (and Olczyk) that Babcock has gone away from the Zetterberg vs. Crosby matchup. Maybe he was deterred by the amount of minutes Zetterberg played in Game 3. It will be on again in Game 5 when the Pens have the last change and, presumably, Datsyuk is back in the lineup. However, you see the difference because Crosby has gotten some decent chances. He hasn't been hamstrung by Zetterberg all night.

14:12: Penguins 4, Red Wings 2. If you were asking for some skill, you just saw it there in three passes and two seconds. Holy cow. Tic-tac-toe. Crosby to Kunitz to Kennedy. Yikes, that was awesome. Kennedy needed to produce, too, and that was big. Great shift. Looked like he was shot out of a gun. I need to see it again to give a total analysis. Too quick. I was amazed at the goal, and what an important goal it is. Now the Penguins finally have their two goal lead. They should keep up the pressure. It's obviously paying major dividends.

13:45: Versus just listed the chances in this period as being 7-2 in favor of Pittsburgh. I thought it was more. The Wings can't get the puck over the red line.

12:40 (TV timeout): I needed this TV timeout. My hands are starting to hurt. There is so much action going on in this game. I guess the Penguins realized they can't stay stagnant or flat, because my word have they turned up the heat since Stuart's goal. By the way, Staal has a goal and an assist and Crosby has a goal and three shots. Malkin has been off the charts awesome.

11:10: Huge save by Osgood on Guerin after a Wings turnover. That one could have been a backbreaker. Again, Osgood has to make some key saves for the Wings to win and that was definitely one of them. Let's see if they can take advantage. First, though, they're going to have to get back to playing the way they were in the first period and early here in the second.

10:34. Penguins 3, Red Wings 2. Malkin made a great play along the half boards and then he made a tremendous play to wait for the defender to go down before passing to Crosby for the goal. Crosby is now on the board. The pace of this game is unreal and yes, Olczyk is right, the Wings have to slow it down. That PK by the Pens did wonders for them. The SH goal by Staal might be the one that gets remembered most in this series. Or, at least in this game. Timeout Detroit. Smart move by Babcock.

9:45: Momentum belongs to Pittsburgh now. A shorthanded goal and a tremendous kill has completely changed the way this game is being played. The Wings are still pressing hard, but the Penguins are getting odd man opportunities.

8:35: Penguins 2, Red Wings 2. Welcome to the party Jordan Staal. This is exactly what the Penguins needed. Not only is this a shorthanded goal, but it's scored by the much maligned Staal. He goes inside outside on Rafalski, lowers the shoulder, and gets it to his forehand for the goal. Wow. Great goal. Remember, the Pens still have to kill the power play.

8:00: What a backcheck by Franzen. Without it, Malkin may have scored a shorthanded goal.

7:43: Oh man, Orpik can't do that. The Penguins were getting away with it but now Orpik is going off for tripping Holmstrom and it's going to be another power play for the Wings. Forget the two seconds on the 5-on-3, that doesn't matter.

5:44: Just when I thought the Penguins were getting something started with that strong shift by Malkin, Talbot and Fedotenko. Well, they're now going on the kill. Malkin is going off for hooking down Ericsson. What a fantastic opportunity for the Wings to take a two goal lead, but then again, what a fantastic opportunity for the Penguins to get momentum with a good kill. Let's see what happens.

5:02: Lots of back and forth in the neutral zone now. The Penguins have to get something going fast. They can't stay stagnant. They got away with it in Game 3, when they were outshot 14-4 in the second period, but they've already given up a goal in this period and can't afford to give the Wings any more.

2:45: That's why Draper is in the game. He can lay hits like that on Staal. Energy, faceoffs. Draper is good with both.

0:46: Red Wings 2, Penguins 1. Fleury had two of his own guys in front of him and Stuart's shot from the point gets through for a goal. That's, um, not what the doctor ordered for the Penguins and exactly what the Wings needed. See what happens when you survive a turnover, it gives you a chance to take advantage. That's exactly what the Wings have done and, just as in Games 1-3, the Wings hold a 2-1 lead.

0:16: The Wings are already lucky as Hossa turned the puck over to Crosby, who came in and had a great opportunity. The Penguins need a strong start and they have to keep it up.


Synopsis: Emrick said it best when he said that there are surges, but I think Detroit had the better surges in that period. You can tell by the shots on goal. The Wings had 19 compared to the Penguins 11. Eleven is a good number for a period, but 19 is way too many to give up. The Wings started surging at around the six minute mark and I thought they did for most of the rest of the period. They wound up getting that equalizer from Helm because of Scuderi's terrible turnover. Fleury, though, looks very sharp. Since I got on him earlier today, I should also say that I thought Staal looked much better in that first period than he looked in any of the previous nine in this series. However, he was 0-6 on faceoffs in the period. That, my friends, has simply got to change.

20:00: Frantic finish. Fleury came up huge on Franzen or we'd be talking about a completely different game now. Osgood got lucky, too. He had to see Malkin flying in on him.

18:19: Red Wings 1, Penguins 1. You can't turn the puck over against the Wings and that's why. Scuderi with a terrible pass to no one and the worst part is he had time. Helm picked it off, walked in and went short side on Fleury. Turnovers man, turnovers. Good grief, you can't do that. Scuderi knows it, too. Did you just see his face. Olczyk is saying someone should have come to Scuderi and he's probably right, but Scuderi should have skated.

16:37: Well, there goes that. Guerin definitely got a stick up into Stuart's face and deserved the high-sticking. We've got 4 on 4 now and that should open things up for some free wheeling hockey. It has been very tight tonight so far.

16:27: The Wings are going back on the power play as Ericsson brings down Kunitz behind the goal with a hook. Hey, the stick got around Kunitz and he went down, so it's a hooking. Another great chance for the Pens here and if they go up 2-0 maybe then the Wings will start to press and open it up a little bit. Still might be too early for that.

15:45: Terrible turnover right there by Kronwall and he better buy Osgood a Primanti Bros. sandwich because the goalie just saved his butt.

14:18: Was Letang offsides? Should there have been a tripping called on the Pens right there when Leino went down? Should Cooke have been called for boarding or roughing Lidstrom? Some missed calls out there for sure, but nobody is perfect so let's just continue playing the game and keep the complaining about the officials to a minimum.

13:31: Well, the Pens killed it off, but there was plenty of drama both during the PP and long after it. Fleury had to swim to stop the play, but now the faceoff is right next to him. At least the Pens could get a change out there. The Pens should consider themselves lucky because there was no need for Eaton to cross check Holmstrom.

11:09: They say you earn your penalties by working hard and forcing the play. The Wings have done that for the last six or so minutes and they're going on the power play now. Eaton is going off for cross checking Holmstrom in the back. It was an unnecessary play and you just can't give the Wings these kinds of opportunities.

10:22 (TV timeout): The Wings have possessed the puck a lot more and they have made Fleury really work for his saves, but they've got nothing to show for it so far and the Penguins have taken advantage of their one glorious opportunity. The Penguins, though, need to turn the momentum back in this game. As sharp as Fleury has been, they can't rely on him all night. The Wings will break through if they keep this up.

9:16: Wow. Give Fleury a lot of credit there. Cleary had two whacks and couldn't get it in. If Fleury is going to play like this all night, might as well just call it 2-2 and head back to Detroit early. Nah, we've got at least 50 more minutes of hockey to go.

8:52: The Wings are pressing and buzzing right now. It hasn't done anything for them yet, but more possession and more crease crashing is essential if they're going to tie this one up. Fleury looks sharp, though.

7:47: Nice rush by Crosby in the transition, but a good job by Osgood to come out high and make the save. Yes, the puck was rolling, but Osgood did a nice job of cutting down the angle and forcing Crosby to make a quicker play than he would have liked.

6:08 (TV timeout): Great analysis there by Eddie Olczyk on the faceoffs. We heard some talk earlier in this series about cheating on faceoffs and how everyone does it. It's not illegal unless the ref calls you out on it, so if I were Crosby I'd continue to get in there last and fast. Why stop if the ref isn't going to make you stop.

5:51: Just as I wrote that previous entry I saw the Wings were starting to get their legs a bit. If it's one thing the Wings won't do it's panic. They never do and just because they're down early doesn't mean they will now. They just have to stay out of the penalty box because clearly their PK is just not good right now.

4:45: The Penguins appear to have way more jump right now than the Wings and obviously that's because of the power play and the goal. However, the Pens, specifically Malkin, earned that power play. Good save by Fleury there, but I am very impressed by the Penguins start. They can't have a let up.

2:39: Penguins 1, Red Wings 0. There it is. A good power play, a good walk-in by Staal, and a great shot on the rebound of Letang's shot off the back boards by Malkin. The Wings again struggle on the kill. At some point the Wings are going to have to find an answer for Malkin because he has been an absolute beast, and clearly he's engaged already tonight.

1:12: We've already got a penalty in the game. It's a tripping on Kronwall, who brought down Malkin. The PK has been a problem for the Wings. This is a fantastic opportunity for the Pens to get going early. Even if they don't score, getting momentum will help.

0:00: Cleary, Filppula and Hossa started this one together, so already my lines are off.


The Wings have not lost a Game 4 in these playoffs. In fact, they have scored six goals in each of them so far. Marian Hossa has all six of his playoff goals in Game 4s. Will the trend continue? Well, wait a minute here, the Penguins haven't lost a Game 4 yet either. Will that trend continue? Let's find out.

DATSYUK IS OUT; Projected lines for both teams
06.04.2009 / 8:06 p.m. ET

He skated in the pre-game and apparently Pavel Datsyuk did not feel good enough to go because he is not in the lineup tonight for Game 4. Doc Emrick just announced that on Versus. Kris Draper is, as we expected, in the lineup.

It's been the topic all day at Mellon Arena: Will he or won't he?

Datsyuk won't and that's not good for the road team, but the Wings are at least getting used to playing without Datsyuk and getting Draper back will certainly help, especially on their PK. He's a faceoff specialist. Datsyuk, though, would have taken some of the load off of Henrik Zetterberg, but that won't happen tonight.

So, with all that being said, here is what I project the Wings lines and pairings to look like:




As for the Penguins, I would expect things to stay the same, so their lines and pairings should look like this:




Game 4 Live Blog is coming right at you next here at the Armchair Power Play.

Looking for more from these three Penguins

06.04.2009 / 6:05 p.m. ET

Game 4 starts in a little less than two hours, which means the Live Blog for Game 4 also starts in a little less than two hours. And, no, we're still not sure if Pavel Datsyuk is going to play. Game-time decision.

Before we get to that, say around 8 o'clock when I post an entry about the lineups, I'm going to go ahead and call this one a must-win for the Penguins just as Game 3 was.

No matter how you spin it, if Detroit goes up 3-1 with the series shifting back to Joe Louis Arena, the sledding will be very steep for Pittsburgh. It happened last year and the Penguins managed to win Game 5 in dramatic, triple-overtime fashion.

Game 6 went to the Wings back at Mellon Arena.

Anyway, for the Penguins to win tonight, outside of the obvious (Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Gonchar all playing at their best), my hunch is that these three players will have to play their best game of the series, too:

Jordan Staal

Listen, you can't sugarcoat this, he hasn't been that good in this series. Staal is getting dominated in the faceoff circle and he has not produced anything offensively. Sure, his defense has been OK and his line, which includes Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, was better in Game 3 than it was at any point in Games 1 and 2, but Staal has to deliver more. He has to deliver in the faceoff circle and if he can produce a point or two tonight it could be the difference for the Penguins tonight. I know, you can say that about anybody who doesn't have an 87 or a 71 on the back of their sweaters, but Staal is better than he has shown and he needs to be at his best tonight.

Hal Gill

The big guy is an important defenseman for the Penguins and while he was better in Game 3 than he was in Games 1 and 2 (minus-4 rating), he needs to be that much better tonight. I say that because if Pavel Datsyuk does return for the Wings, their offense will be ramped up. I don't think Gill has let his lack of speed hinder him too much in this series, but I can remember one specific moment early in the third period of Game 1 when Gill's long reach made the difference after Darren Helm took advantage of his lack of foot speed. It's not a coincidence that Gill's minutes went up in Game 3. He played better than he did in Detroit, but he's still not using his size enough to play physical against the Wings. Let's see an even better game from the big guy tonight.

Miroslav Satan

It's hard to get on a fourth-liner who played about 10 minutes a game for not producing, but Satan has the ability to produce offensively for this team and when he does the Penguins are so much better. It's like added bonus offense for Pittsburgh when Satan does get into the flow. I'm not going to go into too much depth here, but if the Penguins can get something from their fourth line tonight you darn well know that could be the difference in going back to Detroit even.

Pavel's push to play
06.04.2009 / 9:30 a.m. ET

Pavel Datsyuk wants to play and Mike Babcock has insisted that if he's healthy enough to play, well of course the Hart Trophy candidate is going to play in Game 4.

That's going to be the talk this morning at Mellon Arena and my gut feeling says Datsyuk plays. Babcock already said that Kris Draper is in, too, so if Datsyuk does go that likely means Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino will be out of the lineup tonight.

It's a tough fate for a pair of rookies who have played well, but coming back into the lineup is an MVP candidate with two Stanley Cup rings and a 38-year-old veteran with four Cup rings. Easy choices.

Then again, I wouldn't be shocked if for some reason Tomas Holmstrom can't go. He did not practice yesterday, but everyone in the Wings management basically called it a maintenance day for the 36-year-old Swede. We'll have to wait and see on that.

So, what if Datsyuk does play?

Henrik Zetterberg will appreciate it. Datsyuk, remember, is also a Selke Trophy finalist and a former winner (2008) so he is fully capable of taking some shifts away from Zetterberg when Sidney Crosby is on the ice.

Zetterberg played more than 24 minutes in Game 3 and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he thought Zetterberg looked gassed because he was double shifting after a long first shift just so he was always out there to play against Crosby.

Of course, Zetterberg outplayed the Kid again with a goal and an assist vs. Crosby's assist, his first point of the series. Perhaps we should start focusing on what Crosby needs to do defensively against Zetterberg, but I'm sorry, that storyline just isn't interesting enough. (Wings fans can start writing their comments ripping me now).

The Penguins need Crosby to produce to win. The Wings don't necessarily need Zetterberg to pile up the points to win, especially if Datsyuk is going to come back into the lineup.

If Datsyuk is back, I suspect Babcock will start him on a line with Marian Hossa and Tomas Holmstrom (if Holmer is able to play). That would leave the trio of Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary together. However, I also think you'll see Datsyuk skipping a shift or two here and there because his foot is still not 100 percent.

Babcock could play around with his third and fourth lines by playing Darren Helm up or down. He's a versatile player and would be good with Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler or Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby. In last year's final, Helm played with Draper and Maltby and it was an excellent fourth line. It had a little bit of grit, a lot of defense and some excellent speed with Helm.

Valtteri Filppula obviously fits in, too. If Holmstrom can't go, you'll probably see Datsyuk with Filppula and Hossa. That was the line that skated together in Wednesday's practice. Leino was on the fourth line with Draper and Maltby. Filppula and Helm could take some of Datsyuk's shifts to keep the MVP candidate around 15-16 minutes of ice time.

If Datsyuk can't play, Draper will come in for Abdelkader (provided Holmstrom plays) and Leino will play. Getting Datsyuk back would be so huge for the Wings it's kind of hard to describe.

Just think about this: Evgeni Malkin is a Hart Trophy candidate, too. Would the Penguins have won Game 3 without him?

Not a chance, right?

The Wings have managed to win without Datsyuk, but I'm not sure how much longer that can continue, especially now that the Penguins figured out how to beat them.

(Late) Morning reading list

06.03.2009 / 12:25 p.m. ET

Sorry for the delay, but blame the Colorado Avalanche. They made this announcement this morning. Now, on to all the news you crave about Game 3.

In a twist for, Shawn Roarke has the game story, which centers around Sergei Gonchar, who Roarke rightfully calls the Penguins "heart and soul."

The mere fact that Pittsburgh isn't talking about that Game 4 with a sense of dread is because of the brilliance -- and composure -- of Gonchar," Roarke writes.

For more on Gonchar, read this piece by Larry Wigge.

When you are talking about the offense of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the conversation almost always comes back to superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- and rightly so. But even with all of that firepower, the Penguins' power play was noticeably inept for the first 4 1/2 months of the season. Not so strangely, one key player was missing until Feb. 14 -- veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who dislocated his left shoulder in the team's first preseason game on Sept. 20.

Mike Morreale details Sidney Crosby's night right here, explaining that Crosby does more than just put up numbers. He's all about the team.

"That's the mental and physical grind of the playoffs -- you're always adjusting constantly and working hard," Crosby said. "Some things don't go right and then there are some other times when you find a way to make things happen. You always talk about the next shift and that's how we have to look at it. It's a battle out there and it's tight, but it's playoff hockey and it's where we want to be this time of year."

By the way, Mike is keeping this blog about what goes on behind the scenes at the Stanley Cup Final. He's doing a tremendous job with it, too.

Since I was sitting beside Evander Kane and his father, Perry, and John Tavares' mother, Barbara, all night for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, I did have a great opportunity to chat with the parents of each budding hockey superstar.

Brian Compton put together this in-depth piece on why the Red Wings think they lost Game 3. Special teams was all the rage. Fatigue has nothing to do with it.

"That third goal was huge, and they got it on the power play," Zetterberg said of Sergei Gonchar's goal, which broke a 2-2 tie with 9:31 remaining and was Pittsburgh's second goal of the night with the man advantage. "I think we couldn't keep going the way we did in the second. If we would have done that, I think it would have been a bit different."

Compton, who was obviously in the Wings' dressing room last night, has some details of Marian Hossa's night back in his old barn right here. Interesting note: All six of Hossa's goals in this postseason have come in Game 4s.

Making just his second return to Mellon Arena since bolting the Pittsburgh Penguins last summer to sign a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings, Hossa was booed by the boisterous crowd every time he touched the puck in Tuesday night's 4-2 loss in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The boys put together this notebook, which includes items on the noise inside Mellon Arena, how the Red Wings are still very much calm and confident despite the loss, how nobody in that Wings' dressing room is blaming Chris Osgood, what the top prospects thought of the game and much more.

"They might have had to open (the roof) up," Penguins forward Bill Guerin joked about the seldom-used retractable roof at Mellon Arena.

Our numbers man, John Kreiser, who is on the scene in Pittsburgh, details the important stats from Game 3 right here.

3 -- Career losses in the Final by Osgood -- two against Pittsburgh last year and the third in Game 3 on Tuesday. He has a 10-3 career record in the Stanley Cup Final; his .769 winning percentage is still tops among all goaltenders with at least 10 decisions, just ahead of Hall of Famer Ken Dryden (24-8, .750).

Pens cut series deficit in half with 4-2 win
06.02.2009 / 10:50 p.m. ET

We knew that Fleury would have to be good tonight. He was, especially in the second period when he stopped all 14 Detroit shots.

We knew that the Penguins would need to get in Osgood's kitchen. They finally did in the third period.

We knew that Gonchar was going to have to play a role at some point. He did, scoring the game-winning goal on the power play with Ericsson in the box for interfering with Cooke.

We knew that at some point the Penguins would have to weather the Wings surge. They sure did throughout the entire second period, when the Wings outshot them, 14-4.

We knew at some point special teams would play a factor. It did tonight as the teams combined for three power-play goals, none more important than Gonchar's. The Pens outworked Detroit on that man-advantage.

Pretty it wasn't, but the Penguins got the job done tonight with important goals from Talbot and Letang, a pair of unsung, role players. The Wings got goals from Zetterberg and Franzen. Two stars. Unlike in Games 1 and 2, the Penguins got the production from their role players tonight whereas the Wings did not.

See the difference? It's obvious.

Malkin had three assists tonight and played very big. Crosby got on the scoresheet with an assist on Gonchar's goal. He still needs to be better.

The Penguins had to win tonight and they found a way, so now we have a series on our hands.

"You have got to give us credit, we were fighting and we never quit," Gonchar said to Gary Green on the NHL Network right after the game. "We played good hockey in Detroit and finally it's paying off."

Can't wait until Thursday night for Game 4.

Don't forget your morning reading list tomorrow, or if you're able to stay up late tonight, read all of the coverage tonight.


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