The 2009 Stanley Cup Final is starting to feel like déjà vu all over again.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings are battling in a rematch of last year’s Cup championship and so far, at least in terms of the end results, the sequel has closely resembled the script from the original.
In both cases, Detroit took Games 1 and 2 at Joe Louis Arena to take a 2-0 series lead and then Pittsburgh triumphed in Game 3 at Mellon Arena to avoid a 3-0 hole and make it a 2-1 series.
While on the surface it may appear that nothing has changed, the Penguins feel that this year’s plot is not the same as last season.
The biggest reason for optimism is in the details. Last year, Pittsburgh was pushed around in the first two contests, losing 3-0 and 4-0 respectively. This season, the Penguins played much better in the opening two games. They were an even match for the Red Wings and the outcomes weren’t as lopsided.
“I think we're a lot happier with the way we've played,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “Last year’s first two games, I look back on those and we weren't happy at all. We knew we had a lot of work to do. We hadn't found our game yet.”
“Last year, coming back home, yes, we won Game 3, but I remember coming back home we were not as confident,” Maxime Talbot said. “They dominated us. They shut us down the first two games in Detroit. This year I felt like we competed way better. We had chances to win both games. We came back, we won Game 3 like last year.”
Now the Penguins’ goal is to make the sequel deviate from original with a plot twist in Game 4. Last year the Red Wings won Game 4 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Though the Penguins fought back with a Game 5 victory, Detroit eventually bested Pittsburgh in six games.
Pittsburgh wants to avoid that replay and even this series at 2-2 with a Game 4 win Thursday night at Mellon Arena before heading back to Detroit for Game 5.
“We know how big this Game 4 is now,” Talbot said. “Because we lost it last year, and it was hard to come back from a 3 1 deficit. This year we're just a little bit more aware. We know we need to win this game.
“We know if we play our game, and we play in their zone, being patient, we know Game 4, we can have it. And it's a turning point of the series. Being down 3 1 or going 2 2. So from the experience of last year, I think we feel it's different, and we're up to the challenge a little bit more than in last year.”