-- A wise man once said, "it's never a series until someone loses a home game."
Welcome to the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, where the Red Wings or Penguins are loathe to lose at home. Thus far, home cooking has been delicious for the hosts and more than a little inedible to the visitors, hence the 2-2 tie after four games.
Game 5 is Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) at Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings snack on the fruits of the home-ice edge -- the last change and a boisterous crowd on their side. Thus far in this series, those elements have been put to good use by both sides and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock sees this thing turning Detroit's way.
"You know, and I'm not trying to avoid any questions anyone asks me, but I'm a big believer in us," Babcock said."So they've won two games. Let's come to the rink (Saturday), let's get ready to play. We'll be all right."
"They're going home," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
said. "They get Game 5 at home, and they're going to regroup, and they'll be refocused and re-energized and they're going to get the bump and the boost from their fans, and then it's about how the game is played once the puck is dropped.
"So we came (to Pittsburgh) and won two games. It's 2-2 now, and Game 5 is a game in and of itself. Each team is going to be ready to try to establish their game right from the hop."
"Hop" may be a key word as the Penguins are saying they see evidence their fast-paced, physical play has worn down Detroit veterans like Henrik Zetterberg
and Nicklas Lidstrom
. As you might expect, the retort from the Wings is akin to "Hogwash!" Still, the Red Wings will be plenty relieved if Pavel Datsyuk
is cleared for Game 5, giving Detroit a Hart Trophy finalist starring as the cavalry coming over the hill. Asked about Datsyuk's status Friday, Wings coach Mike Babcock said, "He'll go."
As for the fatigue factor, Babcock chalked it up to the circumstance of the Penguins netting three goals in rapid succession in the second
"I thought our team after they got up 4-2, I mean, we had a push, but we didn't have energy," Babcock said. "You know, is that because we're worn right out or is that because it happens all the time, when one team scores a few goals, bang, bang, bang, the other team doesn't have as much energy and the other team gets more excited? We're going to find this all out (Saturday).
"I think you're allowed to say whatever you want," Babcock said of reports the Wings are tiring. "You guys write the stuff. That's fair to me. I've got no problem. They won the last two games. You know, we're probably getting a little too much credit after we won two games. But that's not going to win the series. You know, they're going to win the series or we're going to win the series, and it's not going to be based on what people speculate. It's going to be based on what we do or what they do. So we'll see what happens."
And as another wise man said, winning the Stanley Cup is just so darned hard.
"I've said this many times during the playoff run, the greatest thing about this trophy is how hard it is (to win)." Babcock said "And when you have injuries, it's harder.
"Suck it up and find a way to win. Who cares? No one cares except about the team who wins in the end. You get your name on that thing, it's the greatest summer of your life. That's still our plan."
"I've said this many times during the playoff run, the greatest thing about this trophy is how hard it is (to win). And when you have injuries, it's harder."
-- Mike Babcock
Right now, the Penguins are hitting on all cylinders. Marc-Andre Fleury
has raised his game in goal considerably from so-so efforts in Games 1 and 2. Evgeni Malkin
is piling up points at a rate that may well compare favorably to a fella named Gretzky before all is said and done. And perhaps most importantly, Sidney Crosby
's relentless hard work is finally being rewarded with some points.
Now, the talk about this series is it boils down to a best-of-3, with the Wings holding the home-ice edge and both teams have been, or are being, counted out, the Penguins after the losses in Games 1 and 2, and the Wings after the losses in Games 3 and 4. You might think such shifts would drive the players and coaches batty, but Bylsma let the cat out of the bag, noting they don't pay attention to what's being said outside the dressing room.
"It's hard because there's lots of talk about it, mostly from outside, you know, in our room we were not talking about getting bad breaks or it's a referee's call," Bylsma said. "We weren't saying that. We were talking about playing our game and what we can do better and how we need to play better. That's what we're talking about."
"You know, it's interesting," Babcock said. "And I said this to the players, too. If you listen to what people on the outside say, Pittsburgh was done after two games. I don't think anybody in our locker room thought that. Now if you listen to what people on the outside say, the Red Wings are done after two games. So I don't think that's what we think. What we think is we've got the best two with two in our building that we're going to come here (Saturday) and play well.
"They're going home. They get Game 5 at home, and they're going to regroup, and they'll be refocused and re-energized and they're going to get the bump and the boost from their fans, and then it's about how the game is played once the puck is dropped."
-- Dan Bylsma
"Win or lose, we talk about what we did well, and what we can improve on or how we can execute better to get to our game. And we did the same thing after Game 3, and we're doing the same thing (Game 4). We've got to get to our game. We've got to play ... we can play better. We can bring a different level to our game. We did at times. We had a different level in the second period there. But as a team we're always focused on what we need to do, what we're doing well, and how we can do things better.
"Hopefully we bring that level-headed approach, whether it's a loss or whether it's a win," Bylsma said. "We're no closer to the end than they are. We have two more wins to get, and we have a tall task going into a tough building against a very good team who is playing well. It will all happen on Saturday for Game 5."