Sunday, June 1, 2008

Stanley Cup Final Game 4

I think the picture says it all. Yes, they were at home and yes, they scored first but Pittsburgh was outplayed all over the ice as Detroit took a 3-1 series lead with a 2-1 win. The usually deadly Penguins power play was held to one goal on six chances as they were completely held in check by the Red Wings team defense. As someone who loves defense almost as much as seeing Cindy Crosby skate off the ice angry as a loser, I found the game wonderful.

*However, it may finally be time to give Marian Hossa a little bit of credit. I had been reluctant because of his tendency to disappear but his lightning fast hands gave the Penguins the first goal of the game. Of course, it came on a gift from the referees, but that is something else entirely.

*The refs called another inconsistent game on both sides. But that really isn't news so I won't dwell on it (this time).

*Cindy the Diver reared his pretty little head again, skating into Andreas Lilja and throwing himself forward to draw an obstruction call and give the Pens their five-on-three with 10 minutes left.

*There is something about the power play that makes television networks decide to cover it differently than the rest of the game. Where Versus seemed obsessed with the behind-the-net robo cam, NBC relied on a robo cam hung from the scoreboard above center ice. There are major problems with using both of those cameras: 1- you lose spacial perspective, 2- they are miles away from where most of the action is happening and 3- they are robo cams, a guy with a joystick in the truck is controlling them so they don't move smoothly. Don't get me wrong, both are good for replays, but for live action they just do not work.

*What did work nicely was the NBA-style shot chart that Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury used in between periods. During the first intermission it showed how the Pens were keeping the Wings to the outside - a great observation.

*It was great to see Ron Francis again during the second intermission. Always one of the classiest guys while he was playing he showed the same poise and intelligence that were the hallmarks of his understated but wonderful Hall of Fame career.

*Back to the game itself and where was Johan Franzen in this one? For that matter, the search continues for Evgeni Malkin. Hopefully he will be found in Sweden circa October 4th (when the Pens start next season against the Senators).

*Before the series a lot of people looked at the series as a nu skool vs. old school match up. Well, folks, in the NHL playoffs experience matters. The presence and poise of the Detroit geezers was as much of a factor in the win as the goals were. Even in limited minutes, guys like Darren McCartny, Dallas Clark and Kirk Maltby played a big role in keeping the Wings their game and in keeping the Pens off of theirs.

*The goaltending was pretty equal. While Chris Osgood made more flashy saves, Marc-Andre Fleury did so behind a defense that was under pressure all night. They blocked 21 shots to Detroit's 10 and if you combine that with being outshot 30-23, it was a firing gallery out there.

*Despite being under so much pressure, the defense was not to blame for either Detroit goal. Lidstrom's goal was a seeing-eye shot and Fleury should have come up with the stop of Hudler's eventual game-winner.

*Interesting stat of the game: for a puck possession team, the Wings were battered in getting the disc off of the drop, losing 32 of the 54 faceoffs.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Marian Hossa - one goal.
2-Chris Osgood - 22 saves.
1-Nicklas Lidstrom - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hossa - What hands. He had the beautiful lone goal for the Pens and hit the iron moments later in what could have been a backbreaker.
2-Lidstrom - The captain played more than 28 minutes and scored on an incredible blast through traffic. He was in the vicinity when Hossa got his but there was nothing he could do.
1-Henrik Zetterberg - Doc Emerick said Zetterberg's penalty kill shift midway through the third period "was a Conn Smythe shift." I disagree; that was a future Hall of Fame shift. Zetterberg seems to combine the best on-ice qualities of Steve Yzerman - both the young Stevie Y (offensive stud) and the older Stevie Y (Selke winner). He knows his role and dominates at both ends of the ice. Awe inspiring work by the underrated Swede.

1 comment:

Graying Mantis said...

Great game to watch. The 5-on-3 penalty kill by Detroit took my breath away. The passing and timing of Detroit's breakout plays are simply inspiring.

Some observations -- beside Malkin being missing, what happened to the great Petr Sykora? Now we know why the Rangers did not re-sign him. He has done the same disappearing act that Avery did against Buffalo last season.

Hossa has been great. His price tag has gone up.

Pens bloggers are worried that lightning in a bottle is about to expire and that free agency will decimate the team in the offseason. My oh my, the highs and lows of the playoffs.

There's been a lot of discussion about Zetterberg's lifting of Crosby's stick at the goalmouth during the 5-on-3 (I thought it was a brilliant, brilliant play) and also about the broken stick shot at Crosby not being called a penalty or penalty shot during that powerplay.

My response on the latter -- the refs must have missed it just like they missed Drury's face exploding into a bloodsoaked mess in Game 5.

You rely on inconsistent reffing and you get burned by it. So Pens fans need to suck it up and move on . . . to the offseason.