Well, the Pens outplayed the Canes for the first three games, why not make it four, right? Carolina came out with a much different game plan tonight. They were wildly aggressive defensively, and it created some chances at the other end. For us, that is. It was a desperate tactic by a desperate team and it backfired.
Cam Ward and Eric Staal both finally showed up today. It helped, but not enough. Staal opened the scoring and played like a wild man all day. It looked like he really wanted to make up for his lack of scoring in the first three games. I have never seen someone play with that kind of intensity and effort before. Even though he plays for the other guys, you’ve got to admire that. Ward made some absolutely brilliant saves. The Fedotenko goal was his defense not picking up a man. The Talbot goal was a fluke that wouldn’t happen again in a million years. And the Guerin goal was the Hurricanes playing desperate and risky and getting bit. None of them were totally his fault, and you have to feel for him. That’s 20 goals in 4 games for the Pens. He has to be shouldering a lot of the blame right now.
So I guess its now ok to look across to the Western Conference to see the match-up in the finals. And well, well, well, if it isn’t our old buddies the Red Wings. Now, I’m going to assume Detroit finishes the Blackhawks off, but if they don’t I can’t see Chicago posing much of a problem. They’re us from last year. A good young nucleus with a solid goalie and little to no playoff experience. They’ll be a formidable foe soon enough, but right now they’re getting their ears wet. So Detroit it is. They’re almost exactly the same squad that beat us last year. They play the same style. They have mostly the same roster (with one exception that will be pounded to no end). We’re the ones that have changed. We have a new coach, new system, new role players, new everything. I’d like to think that the new way to play is better, but there’s no way to tell. We’ve faced Detroit twice this year, but Bylsma wasn’t behind the bench for either. I think we’ll have better luck for two reasons: one is the faster pace we now play at, and the other is the experience we gained last year. There is a big step up in intensity from the regular season to the playoffs. We learned that two years ago against Ottawa and haven’t made the same mistake again. Last year we learned that there’s another step up in intensity in the Finals. Detroit was ready and crushed us in the first two games. We got our sea legs back and took 2 of the next 4 games, but the damage had already been done. We know what to expect this time, and the chances of us getting shut out for games 1 and 2 again are slim and none. I also think that our style matches up better against the Red Wings this year. Detroit is a skilled team that plays a puck possession game and is tremendous in transition. Sounds awfully familiar, right? Last year we played into their hands. We were patient and slow on offense and focused on defense. What happened last year was that we didn’t get set up enough on offense to score, and before we could get the clamps on defensively, they had already run down the ice and scored. This year we’re going to match their style of play almost exactly. It’ll be a lot more fun to watch, and will open up a lot more chances for us. I still don’t think Chris Osgood is as good as his reputation. He lets in some softies. We just didn’t get enough pucks on net last year to test him. It should be a fun series. Assuming it happens, that is. For now, I’m going to put my feet up and hope the Western teams go 7 and beat the tar out of each other.
Oh, and by the way: the lucky jersey/hat combo has now worked for 11 straight games. I’m getting frightened.