Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stanley Cup Final Game 3

Disclaimer: I had to tape the game so I avoided all score updates until I could watch the game. I watched intently until Cindy scored to make it 2-0 and then pretty much fast-forwarded through the rest of the game. At that point you knew instantly that the Penguins weren't going to lose at that point and they didn't. As I picked the Wings in five, I figured Pittsburgh would win one but I would rather it come in a closely-contested game rather than a gimmie.

The Wings dominated the first period and came out of it down 1-0. Then they were immediately put back on their heels with a cheap hooking penalty at the start of the second and that was that as the Pens capitalized to double their lead. For as good as the Wings were in the first, they never got the swagger back, even after Franzen's great goal. But the bigger problem was that they weren't the same team that played in Detroit at all. Throughout the game they passed up good shot opportunities and barely played the body. They allowed Pittsburgh to dictate the tempo and that is how you lose, especially to the Pens. The scary thing is that they still could have tied the game with a late power play but were in utter disarray and didn't even get a good chance out of it.

I wish I could say that the coverage by NBC was much, much better than Versus but it was only marginally so. Some thoughts on the network's performance:

*The Edge shave gel wipes were gross money grabs that looked terrible. The company won't sell any more cans and the broadcast looks cheaper for having done it. Everyone railed on Fox when they did the same kind of gimmick during the World Series and All Star game so NBC and the NHL mimics it. For shame.

*I understand the appeal to talk to the coaches during TV time outs but at this time of year - more than any other - we are just going to hear another selection of boring cliches. Its a waste of time that should be better spent with quality analysis or even more billboards (so you don't have to stoop to that wipe nonsense).

*I fast-forwarded through the first intermission feature on Cindy. I understand that the network and the league loves the Cole Harbour Kid - they feel they need a superstar to attract viewers (to a team game) - but if you are watching hockey on a Wednesday night that has both baseball and he NBA Finals, you already know who the Pens captain is.

*HOWEVER, for all of the bad stuff, it was a great idea to get Alexander Ovechkin in the studio for the second intermission. You can't help but love AO. Where Cindy is this benign polished PR machine, AO has a personality and isn't afraid to show it - in spite of his struggle with the English language. He is awesome, even when struggling through awkward moments with Mike Milbury. Too bad he plays on the same team as Tom Poti.

*And from the NHL's talent to NBC's (or is it lack thereof?): The talking heads mentioned how loud the fans were a few times but not once did Doc, or Eddie or Pierre actually shut up so you could listen to them for more than a second or two.

*At no point should a viewer wonder what just happened without a replay or an announcer immediately following it up with the answer. It happened several times, starting with the first Pens penalty (the roughing to Staal). They eventually showed the replay but Eddie O was too busy talking about another less-important play (which occurs all too often with him).

*I also noticed a font/super that was put up without a background - something that should cost someone some pay; amateurish mistakes on hockey's biggest stage are inexcusable. That kind of stuff doesn't happen during the Super Bowl, it shouldn't happen here.

Ok, enough ranting about the broadcast; onto the game:

*Pavel Datsyuk skated through four Pens on the opening play of the game, before making an ill-advised, yet all-too-typical pass to a covered Tomas Holmstrom. Can you imagine how good Datsyuk would be if he got some confidence in his own scoring ability?? Unfortunately it was a sign of things to come as the Wings tried to force passes all night long.

*Chris Osgood was jumpy and got himself out of position numerous times. This was the first game where the Pens put serious pressure on him and he gave up three goals. He was also beaten on three other shots that I counted but the puck hit the iron twice and he was able to dive and stop the puck from trickling over the line on the third. Not a Conn Smythe-worthy performance. When the Wings win he shouldn't get the MVP trophy for the same reason that Marty Brodeur never did - its easy to put up good numbers when you are barely tested.

*Cindy's goal to open the game's scoring was an utter disgrace by the Wings. Not only was it an Lilja-sized screw up by Brad Stuart, Osgood should be shot for letting it go through his legs. Embarrassing.

*Cindy's second wasn't better. After another iffy call the Wings left Cindy alone on the doorstep. Having watched the Rangers leave Crosby open in the same spot and get burned again-and-again-and-again-and-again, I am sick of seeing it. And, to be honest, I thought Detroit was better than that.

*Pittsburgh's third goal came from good-old fashioned hard work and the stupidity of Osgood. The Pens battled hard around the net and Ozzie wandered from the crease. As he was trying to regain his positioning Adam Hall got him with the puck and that was it.

*Where was Nick Lidstrom in this? He got an assist but was almost invisible - when you are winning that is a good thing but when you lose ... terrible.

*NHL Conspiracy Theorists: A cheap holding penalty is called a minute into the game to give the home team a power play. Was it a penalty? Technically, yes. Was it a penalty that was called all season long? Nope. It happened throughout the game and was infuriating to watch, especially as clear bigger calls weren't made. NBC caught Rob Scuderi cross checking Tomas Holmstrom four times in a row, Sergei Gonchar punching Holmstrom in the head several times, Brooks Orpik shoving a Wing into the post to knock the net off (and 'coincidentally' getting a goal nullified), Jordan Staal getting Nick Lidstrom in the face, etc. But at the same time there were non-calls the other way - too many Wings on the ice, Kronwall clearly grabs Ryan Malone's arm ... nothing. So its not a conspiracy, just incompetence?? I would rather give Bettman credit and say that he fixes the games instead of being stupid and employing idiots.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Johan Franzen - one goal.
2-Marian Hossa - two assists.
1-Sidney Crosby - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Franzen - While the Pens went after him at the end of Game 2, he wasn't intimidated and continued to play in traffic. He kept going to the net and he got a his goal because of it.
2-Brooks Orpik - The future Ranger (fingers crossed) played a physical, positionally-sound game defensively that included more than four minutes of work killing penalties.
1-Pittsburgh Penalty Killers - This one includes Orpik but these guys kept Detroit to just one goal on five chances and made the pivotal kill late in the third period. Fleury made a few big saves, Scuderi blocked shots and the forwards - especially Hall and Max Talbot - didn't allow the Wings to get set up or settled.

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