– Throughout all the days of hype leading to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Pittsburgh Penguins
talked about how they were well aware the Detroit Red Wings
were a totally different beast than anything they had faced in the playoffs.
Now they know why.
The Red Wings did a masterful job Saturday night of bottling up the Penguins’ attack and forcing them into turnovers they didn’t commit in any of the three rounds leading up to the Final. The result was a 4-0 loss for a team that needs to go back to the drawing board for Game 2 Monday night back at Joe Louis Arena.
“It’s going to happen. This is called adversity,” Penguins center Maxime Talbot said. “We’re going to make it a long series, but we have to be able to bounce back when adversity comes to us. We had bad games this season and every time we did we definitely bounced back. That’s what we’re going to have to do in Game 2.”
In order to do it, the Penguins know they’re going to have to play a little more dump-and-chase than they did Saturday night.
They did a good job of playing that way in the first period, with the result being 12 shots on goal, including seven spread over four power plays totaling 6:11. The Penguins didn’t score, but they set a good tone.
“We have a lot of speed that either we’re going to get the puck back or they’re going to get called for penalties,” Pens captain Sidney Crosby said about chipping the puck in and going to get it. “It doesn’t matter who we play – if we use our speed, we’re going to create penalties or chances.”
The Penguins did the exact opposite in the second period and wound up with only four shots on goal against the Red Wings’ 16. Due to numerous turnovers at each blue line they had only two decent scoring chances while Detroit had at least a dozen, including Mikael Samuelsson’s goal, a result of a bad Pittsburgh line change.
The Penguins had only three shots in the third period.
“We have to be patient and chip the pucks in their zone because they have their sticks everywhere and they check hard coming back,” forward Marian Hossa said. “Turnovers are killing us now. We have to learn from it and be better.”
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said the reason his team had so many problems getting through the neutral zone with possession was because there was too large of a gap between Pittsburgh’s defensemen and forwards. That gap enabled Detroit’s defensemen to move up just a little bit because they knew the Penguins would have to complete long passes to establish possession.
When the pass was attempted, a Red Wings defender was there to intercept it.
“We were kind of making it easy on them,” Orpik said. “We were making long passes and their ‘D’ was stepping up on them. It’s a tough play for our forwards. We have to force their ‘D’ to come a little further if they want to step up.
“If you don’t chip the puck in against this team, their transition game is so good and they just feed off all those turnovers. You have to make them earn their chances. You can’t give them the chances we were giving them tonight.”
With his team failing at the puck-possession game, Penguins coach Michel Therrien went away from the line combinations he had been using since the start of the playoffs and tried many different variations, but none of them worked.
At one point he had Crosby with Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Malone. Later in the period he had Crosby at center with Malkin on the left wing and Hossa on the right. Malone played on the left wing alongside Jordan Staal and Petr Sykora.
In the third period Therrien rolled only three lines and they were completely different than how he started the game.
Crosby was with Hossa, his original linemate, and Sykora. Malkin was with Malone, his original linemate, and Tyler Kennedy. Pascal Dupuis, who started the game on Crosby’s left wing, was with Staal and Talbot.
“We switched things around to create some more offense and it didn’t work tonight,” Dupuis said. “Maybe it will work next game.”
It better, or Pittsburgh will find itself deep in a hole it doesn’t want to be in.
“Definitely that was the worst performance of the playoffs,” Therrien said. “We didn’t compete like we were supposed to compete, and it’s a good lesson.”
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.