When asked if his team is starting to give the Detroit Red Wings
too much respect, Pittsburgh forward Maxime Talbot
didn't totally agree, but he didn't disagree either.
"Maybe," Talbot told NHL.com. "That was a big point in the start of the playoffs. 'Oh the Red Wings, oh the Red Wings.' Maybe everyone was looking up to them, but why? Why? They're in between what we want. They're the last team we need to beat to win the Stanley Cup and we have to hate them for that."
Hate is a strong word, but maybe a little bit of it started to creep into the Penguins' senses in the third period of Game 2 Monday night. Only their "hate" turned into 38 penalty minutes, which isn't the best way to go about channeling it.
The best way for the Penguins to hate the Red Wings is to force the Red Wings to hate them back. And, right now the Red Wings just appear indifferent toward their opponent mainly because the Penguins haven't given them a reason to feel otherwise.
"They play a game that they're not really in your face. They just play a puck-control game," Penguins forward Gary Roberts
said. "They don't really make you that mad at them. After last night, hopefully we've built a little of that anger up and we use that to our advantage (Wednesday) night."
One advantage the Penguins will finally have in the Stanley Cup Final is of the home-ice variety, which has proven beneficial to this team. They haven't lost a regulation game at Mellon Arena since Feb. 13.
"We're playing well at home. That's a positive thing," Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis
said. "It's the only positive thing about being down 2-0 right now. We feel great playing at home. I don't know, it may be the only good side of it."
The bad side is the Penguins have yet to find a way to execute their game plan against the Red Wings. They keep talking about doing it, but with only 41 shots and zero goals through two games their talk is proving to be a little bit cheap at the moment.
"We have to stop talking," Talbot said. "It's nice to talk, but at some point we have to act. We have to do it. Obviously we give them a lot of credit and they're playing good, but it's desperation and everything that surrounds that. We know what it takes."
What it takes, according to both Sidney Crosby
and coach Michel Therrien
, is for the Penguins to use their speed by moving their feet. They did a better job of in Game 2 than they did in Game 1, but with no tangible results it's hard to feel good about it.
"I think it's the nature of the playoffs, you're not going to get a lot of chances but when you do get them you have to make sure you put them in," Crosby said. "As far as strategy goes, I think it just comes out of execution. I said it before, but you just need to make sure when you get those chances, you bury them. They're not out-chancing us by a whole lot, to be honest. We just need to make sure we put the puck in the net."
As much as Crosby and the Penguins want to talk about execution, the antidote to the Red Wings' domination may be as simple as getting one bounce or one break to go their way early in Game 3.
It doesn't mean they have to execute perfectly, but if they just somehow find a way to score the first goal they feel they can be as good defensively as the Red Wings have been.
The Penguins are 10-0 in the playoffs when they score the first goal. They've lost four straight when giving it up. Overall, they've lost three of their last four playoff games after winning 11 of their first 12.
"If you give us a break, we'll play defense like they do and people will laugh at them," Talbot said. "It's not an excuse, but if we got a bounce this series could be different. In Philly we took the lead and against the Rangers we took the lead. Ask them how good we were defensively. It's tough to catch up when you're trailing all the time."
The problem, though, is it's tough to take a lead when you're searching for solutions as to how to figure out the League's foremost defensive system. The Red Wings have clogged the middle and negated the Penguins speed and skill.
The Penguins tried to skate around the middle during the second period Monday by chipping the puck in and going after it. But they know that's a difficult strategy to sustain because it gives the Red Wings a chance at all the loose pucks, too.
"We can't give it back to them easily," Crosby said. "Sometimes we have to be smarter with our dumps or maybe have a little more patience. Maybe make a few passes instead of getting sucked into going into areas where they want us to go."
Added Dupuis: "Obviously you have to chip it in areas where you're either going to get there at the same time as them or you're going to get it. As soon as they get it they support each other really well."
That support the Red Wings give one another eventually wears the other team down, which is the beauty of their puck-possession game.
"You feel like you're chasing the puck all night," Roberts said. "That's really what it's felt like for us, chasing the puck all night. You use up so much energy trying to find the puck, that by the time you get it you're exhausted."
If that's not enough reason to hate a team, what is?
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com