DETROIT – A bad line change led to the Red Wings first goal, and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held off the scoreboard in a 4-0 Detroit win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, putting the Pittsburgh Penguins in a place it hasn’t been all postseason – behind.
Pittsburgh swept the Ottawa Senators in the opening round of the 2008 playoffs, then pounded the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers in back-to-back 4-1 series wins. The youthful Penguins won the first three games of every series.
Now the Penguins find themselves behind 1-0 in a Stanley Cup finals where experience is the main question mark. The Red Wings roster has 23 past Stanley Cup winners to their credit, while the Penguins have four.
The Penguins were out-shot, 36-19, on Saturday, generating only 10 even-strength shots. They were 0-5 on a power play that ranked at the top of the NHL postseason statistics. According to the final stats, Pittsburgh had 10 giveaways, and only three takeaways. And after winning a few early face offs, they lost the fight between the circles, finishing 33-of-61 and 5-of-13 on their power plays.
“This is only one game,” Pens coach Michel Therrien said. “We would like to have had a better result yesterday. I didn't think we played a good game. And the Red Wings played really well. I mean, in time I believe we could play a lot better.”
Crosby, the youngest captain in finals’ history, said the game was a lot closer than the final score revealed.
“I wouldn't change anything, to be honest,” Crosby said. “We had our chances, and we didn't put them in. It came down to execution. But it's pretty tight. It's playoff hockey, comes down to whether you put the puck into the net or you don't. I don't think they did a whole lot to shut us down completely. It was tight checking, and they got their chances. We got ours. And we'll continue to try to create things and battle.”
The Penguins’ coaching staff decided that changes were in order, however, and Saturday’s practice showed major line shake-ups. Gary Roberts, a 42-year-old grinding forward, will dress for Game 2, replacing Georges Laraque. Monday’s Pittsburgh starting forward lines will look as follows:
Marian Hossa - Sidney Crosby - Ryan Malone Maxime Talbot - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora Pascal Dupuis - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy Gary Roberts - Adam Hall - Jarkko Ruutu
“We've got to make adjustments … every team has to make adjustments through the course of the playoffs,” Therrien said. “And we believe those adjustments are going to help us to get success.”
Crosby said that Robert’s physicality will help Pittsburgh’s chances of winning Game 2.
“He's going to bring physical presence.” Crosby said. “Obviously his experience, too, but he's a guy that can go out there and really give you momentum with a big hit or creating that energy that you need sometimes. So I think when he's out there, every guy on the ice knows it. He's someone that's going to bring a lot of energy for us.”
The Penguins hope for a better performance from Malkin as well. The Hart Trophy candidate had 22 shifts and 17:46 of ice time in Game 1, but registered only one shot with a tripping penalty and a minus-1 rating. He has scored only two points in his last five games, after recording 17 in the previous 10 postseason games.
“First of all, we still have a lot of confidence in him,” Therrien said. “He's a world-class player. He needs to stay focused. He needs to stay on top of his game. He needs to skate. He needs to battle. And if he's doing those things, good things can happen to him. But we do have a lot of confidence in him. He's going to bring his game where it's supposed to be.”
Crosby said that experience is not an issue heading into Game 2.
“I don’t think experience affects your effort,” he said. “I don’t see that being a factor. If you make an inexperienced mistake, a bad penalty or something like that, maybe you can say that. But I don’t think inexperience was what affected our game. It’s got to be effort and attitude, and I think we’ve always bounced back. All season we faced adversity, I think we should expect the same here.”