-The Pittsburgh Penguins
have to believe they can still beat the Detroit Red Wings
because really, what's the alternative?
"Everybody is still confident," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
said. "We'll show them the best we can do."
Through four games in this Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins have shown the Detroit Red Wings
only bits and pieces of their best, and all of that came in the last two games when they were buoyed by their boisterous white-clad fans inside Mellon Arena.
They were outplayed and, to a degree, outworked in Games 1 and 2 last week at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, which is where they'll play Game 5 Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) with the Stanley Cup in the building and the Red Wings' champagne on ice.
Yet, this belief that permeates throughout the Penguins' dressing room and now into their team hotel in downtown Detroit is contagious. Despite the long odds and the fact that they haven't scored a goal that counted in Motown since Dec. 12, 2005, the Penguins say they're not nervous and they're not questioning themselves.
It's the opposite, in fact.
"I don't think there's really anything to be nervous about," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
said. "We have to make sure we empty the tank and play desperate and see where that takes us. But I think we learned from Games 1 and 2 and realize that when we play our game we're going to create chances, and we'll give ourselves a better chance to win."
They're going to have to find a way to do it for 60 minutes, which they really haven't done yet against the Red Wings.
Even when the Penguins won Game 3, they dominated for only 20 minutes bridging the first and second periods. They held on in the end despite being out-shot, 16-5, in the third period.
In fact, the third period, which was the Penguins' best period in the first three rounds, has been their biggest hurdle against Detroit. The Red Wings have outscored them, 6-1, and out-shot them, 45-24, in the final 20 minutes.
"I'm not sure," Penguins defenseman Darryl Sydor
said when asked why Pittsburgh isn't controlling the third period anymore. "It just comes down to puck management. Right now they have it. We need to just be confident and composed.
"And, you look at their second goal (in Game 4), it wasn't the prettiest goal, but it was the winning goal," Sydor continued. "That's what it's going to be. The two teams are similar. They both want the winning goal. They both want the puck. They're better with the puck. That's one of our goals, we need better puck management."
Even still, the Penguins believe they can own the third period in Game 5.
"We've been a good third period team," Crosby said. "I think discipline will be big. Make sure we stir the box, give ourselves some momentum, and we're consistent. In the third period you have to turn it up a notch, and we have to make sure we do that."
It's not for lack of effort. That much we know.
The Penguins battled hard for the equalizer Saturday night and were gifted with a two-man advantage for 86 seconds halfway through the third period. Despite numerous attempts at the net they still came up empty in easily the most important power play of the series.
Than again, their power-play woes in this series have also been well-documented. Pittsburgh has scored only twice on 17 power plays in the series, which is a paltry 11.8 percent success rate. In the first three rounds it was 16-of-65 (24.6 percent success rate).
"We just have to relax and play with more confidence on the power play and I think we'll be fine," winger Marian Hossa
said. "We had great power plays, and right now I think we're trying to do everything so quick. Obviously, they're doing a good job. We have to give them credit, but we clearly have to be more patient and find a low-risk option and maybe shoot the puck more with the traffic."
It would help the Penguins both on even strength and the power play if Evgeni Malkin
locates his scoring touch. The Russian superstar has been held pointless in this series and is a minus-3. He has scored only one goal in the last eight games.
As a result, Malkin has been taking a lot of heat from the media these days for his lack of production at such an important time. He looked both depressed and frustrated following Game 4 when he sat at his locker stall with his head in his hands.
When asked Sunday if the criticism of Malkin is warranted, Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien
said, "It's not up to me to say that."
"He's a good kid. He means well. And, it's not a matter that he doesn't want to have success," Therrien also said. "He wants success for our team, his teammates and for himself, too. We're supporting him. He's a kid that we really believe in."
There's that word again, believe.
We keep hearing that from the Penguins, who insist they still do despite the obvious fact that the Red Wings are winning almost every facet of this series. Still, the Penguins almost laugh at the notion that people are already handing the Stanley Cup to their opponent.
"We know how to play hockey," Jordan Staal
said. "We know how to win."
But can they do it in Hockeytown?
Guess what? They believe they can.
They get one chance to prove it to the world.
"The team that wants to keep playing plays with a lot of desperation and urgency, keeps it simple and just never says die," Sydor said. "That's what we're going to do (Monday). We're going to make it very tough."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com