Maybe the Pittsburgh Penguins
will find that swagger and confidence they used to have somewhere inside Mellon Arena. They will have to if they want to bring the Stanley Cup Final back to Joe Louis Arena, which during the course of the past three nights became their personal house of horrors.
The Penguins were again stifled and shut out, this time by a 3-0 margin Monday night, by the ever-disciplined, ever-patient and ever-dominant Detroit Red Wings. Detroit won Game 1, 4-0, and leads the best-of-7 Final by a 2-0 margin.
But Pittsburgh is 8-0 at home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far and hasn't lost in regulation at Mellon Arena since Feb. 13.
Of all the streaks the Penguins have going now – 120 minutes in the Stanley Cup Final without a goal being the most obvious – the Penguins' home winning streak can't end Wednesday night when the series shifts to Pittsburgh for Game 3.
"Look at me, I'm really positive," said Penguins forward Maxime Talbot. "We're going home. That's a great thing. This isn't like losing the first two at home. We lost two away games. We've been really successful at home, so this team is really excited."
Talbot had earlier called Mellon Arena "home sweet home," but unless the Penguins figure out a way to get some sustained offense against the Red Wings their old barn will only be like another version of Joe Louis Arena.
"We have to be poised," Penguins forward Gary Roberts said. "We're in the Stanley Cup Final. We understand what's at hand here. We understand what we need to do to get back in the series. We can't be frustrated. We have to find a way to pull together."
After rolling through the first three rounds by using their speed to control the puck, the Penguins have so far spent too much time chasing the puck in the Final. The Red Wings have taken away Pittsburgh's speed by taking away the middle of the ice. The Penguins have yet to figure out a way to counter that tactic.
"It's strange," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "We have had success with one formula the entire playoffs and they have kind of taken it away. It's not easy to switch in just a second. You have to adjust quickly and that's something we'll have to do in Game 3, but it's not that easy. We did it at times and I thought we did it well, but you can't flip it like a switch. It takes a little time."
When the Penguins did get some sustained offense Monday night – and it was rare – it was because their defensemen cheated up a little bit. However, that's a dangerous ploy to use against Detroit, which has such a quick transition game.
"You know, I thought we were pretty good (at quick transitions)," Penguins forward Marian Hossa said, "but these guys are really good."
An answer such as that could suggest that the Penguins are beginning to doubt themselves, but they insist that's not the case.
Instead, the Penguins talked about their second period Monday night when they finally generated some even-strength chances. They didn't have an even-strength shot until the game was more than 25 minutes old; but they had six in the second period when they were chipping pucks in and going after them.
"We chipped it in and had a good first man on the forecheck," Scuderi said. "I thought we started to turn some pucks over and create some chances off of that. It's a positive to look at. We're not thrilled about losing the first two games, but at least we see some ways we can start to get back into this series."
Apparently, though, it's going to take a different game plan to do it because the Red Wings have done everything in their power to neutralize the Penguins speed and big-time players.
Sidney Crosby was one of the Penguins better forwards in Game 2 – he had six shots on goal, an even rating and won 57 percent of his faceoffs. However, the Red Wings have turned Evgeni Malkin into a non-factor.
Malkin, a Hart Trophy candidate, didn't even register a shot on goal Monday night and was a minus-2 in roughly 22 minutes of ice time. He had only one shot on goal and was a minus-1 Saturday night.
"I thought his intention was there tonight," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said of Malkin. "We've got to keep supporting him and eventually players like this, usually they find ways."
If Malkin is going to skate his way into a positive contribution, he -- like the rest of the Penguins -- may have to just play a little grittier. At least, that's what some of their veterans believe.
"They're taking away the middle a lot and we've had success going through the middle (in the past)," defenseman Hal Gill said. "Now we have to find a way to have success going down low and getting some ugly ones. It's going to be some ugly goals, but we're going to find a way to get them."
Added Roberts: "They just do a great job of supporting each other. Every time you look up you have a red jersey in your face. We have to find a way to get more support for each other. It appears we're kind of off on our own a lot trying to make plays. We need to get closer to each other to make quicker plays and get pucks to the net."
Fortunately for the Penguins, they now get the chance to try this formula back in their old barn, where they have been unbeatable for three-and-a-half months.
"Something must be open, right?" Hossa said. "Right now we're chasing pucks too much. We have to get tape-on-tape passes and play simple. If we chip the puck we have to get support. Right now they're getting the pucks. We're making it easy on them."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com