Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Stanley Cup Final Game 5
The Red Wings lost a disgraceful triple overtime game to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night 4-3 in Detroit. Why do I say disgraceful instead of epic - the word most writers are using? Because Detroit utterly dominated 90% of the game and allowed a lesser team to beat them with the biggest prize in sports on the line at home. If the Pistons can fire Flip Saunders after three seasons where they go 176-70 in the regular season and 30-21 in the postseason, with back-to-back trips the Eastern Conference finals each year, then Mike Babcock should start getting nervous. He needs to get his team to dominate on the scoreboard the way they do everywhere else in the arena.
Blowing the game with 34.3 seconds left was bad enough but it happens. Not being able to score over the next two and a half periods against a team that was clearly exhausted was pathetic. And what is worse is that they weren't beaten by the Penguins top players - Cindy and Gina weren't all that good (actually I would go so far as to say Malkin was pathetic). It was depth guys like Jordan Staal, Adam Hall and Max Talbot who did the most damage. That is playoff hockey - its the time when the best team, from top to bottom, wins and Detroit wasn't it last night.
*Everyone is raving about how well Marc-Andre Fleury played and he did have a solid performance. I am finally giving the kid with the day-glo smile some credit ... but not much. His performance was nothing compared to that of either Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov in the Stars/Sharks four OT game. I'm sorry, I'm just not that impressed. He did play solid and made two or three amazing saves - that kick save on Samuelsson was fantastic - but for all of the pressure Detroit put on, most of their shots were quite savable. That was mostly thanks to the Pittsburgh defense, who blocked an amazing 31 shots (including 10 by Brooks Orpik).
*Putting Talbot on the ice at the end of regulation for Fleury was a masterstroke by Michel Therrien. As Kurt Russell said to Noah Emmerich in Miracle as Herb Brooks to Craig Patrick, "I didn't even see him out there." Detroit didn't recognize him as a threat and allowed him to set up on the doorstep where he got two chances to bang home the equalizer.
*I watched the game at the ESPNZone in New York where there were a bunch of Canadians watching as well. They pointed out that Ryan Whitney makes an obscene salary of four million dollars. For the most part he hasn't been worth it, but when you look at the numbers, he played almost 51 minutes in the win - five minutes more than Nick Lidstrom. That's impressive no matter how you look at it.
*Petr Sykora was completely absent from the series, having done nothing over the first four games. Then he steps out and 'calls his shot' saying he would score before getting a gimme goal. And Pittsburgh people are hailing him as a hero? Give me a break.
*Sure Darren Helm scored a goal and had a game-high six hits in just 13 minutes of action, but he should still consider another career. When you have a breakaway in the most important game of your life, you have to at least put the puck on net. It was mortifying to see the Wings best scoring chance of the game go flying over the bar. At the same time, you have to wonder why Babcock gave him such little ice time when he was so dangerous.
*In keeping with questioning of Babcock's decisions, you have take a look at dressing Tomas Holmstrom. He clearly wasn't playing his best hockey and wasn't a factor in the game. Most of the Wings shots were blocked before it got to him or he was on the wrong side of the crease when they did make it on net - another credit to the Pens defense perhaps. Darren McCarty didn't see a lot of time in Game 4 while subbing for Homer, but his presence was huge. As a motivator and a grinder, he could only have helped Detroit.
*The officiating was terrible - both overtime interference calls were really weak while some severe infractions were missed - but the deciding call that ended up winning the game was clear-cut. I have to say that it was impressive that the refs were able to catch it, considering there wasn't much blood - they couldn't see it cascading down Chris Drury's face earlier in the playoffs but they saw it on Rob Scuderi's bearded mug. Amazing how that works when he is a teammate of Crosby's. (Bitter? Yes, yes I am.)
*Dan Cleary played just over a half an hour of the game. Did you see him? I didn't.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Zetterberg - two assists.
2-Petr Sykora - game-winning goal - this is why I do my own stars. He doesn't do anything for (four games and) 109 minutes and gets a gift power play goal and he was a star in the game? Give me a break.
1-Marc-Andre Fleury - 55 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Pavel Datsyuk - I thought Big Z played great too but Datsyuk quietly had the best offensive performance of any player in the game. As I said earlier in the series, if he ever gets more confidence in his shot, watch out ...
2-Fleury - Detroit took over 100 shots so the kid had to stay on his toes.
1-Pittsburgh's defense - If I had to pick one, it would be Orpik over Whitney by a hair but the whole unit (even Frankenstein Hal Gill) played solid hockey while the Pens offense was incapable of pushing back at the Wings.