Tag Archives: Red Wings

Pens 2 Red Wings 1…..aaaaaand Championship!

image from postgazette.com

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

Wow.  Euphoria is an understatement.  Hey, remember this commercial?

Oh, yeah.  The circle becomes complete.

So what in the world happened tonight?  How did we do the impossible and beat Detroit in their own barn?  Well, the way I see it, we did two things.

1) We capitalized on Detroit gifts.  The Wings were turning the puck over like a ’57 Chevy.  We were able to cash in on two of them, and that’s all we needed.

2) We flooded the inside on defense to limit the Red Wings cross ice passes.  A lot of the goals Fleury has given up this series have been rebounds and cross-ice passes that Marc-Andre can’t get to.  This time we forced them to hurt us from the outside, and it worked.

Everyone on the team played poorly last time we were in the Joe, and everyone played outstanding this time around.  A total team effort.  The Wings got their chances in this one, but no one can say the Pens didn’t deserve the win.  Best of all, you can’t claim Bettman gave the cup to the Pens.  Detroit was starting to get a serious case of Philly-itis.  By which I mean starting to blame losses on the theory that Gary Bettman is giving victories to the Pens so Sidney Crosby can win a cup and they can market the heck out of him.  Just look at this cartoon in the Detroit Free Press today:

image from freep.com

image from freep.com

That’s classy.  But with an advantage in penalties (3-2) in the deciding game, its hard to defend that theory.

So how about Max Talbot being the hero?  Now he really CAN call himself a superstar.  He’s been flying around like a maniac throughout these finals, and he’s been consistently pushing himself.  I have to say that I’m happy to see him get rewarded for his hard work.  He deserves this.

You’ve also got to tip your cap to Fleury.  I have no idea how he didn’t get to be one of the 3 stars of the game.  As I said before, the Pens forced to Wings to take some shots from distance.  When you do that, you put pressure on your goalie to make the save.  And Fleury made almost all of them (one hiccup can be excused, I guess).  He even made a game clincher with 1 second left that was all desperation.  I have to admit, were I in that situation, I probably would have been thinking about skating the trophy and not making the save and blown it.  But that’s why he’s an NHL goalie and I’m not.

So Pittsburgh gets its 3rd Stanley Cup trophy.  I think the 80’s Oilers comparisons will continue to roll in, which is a bit harsh.  They’ve won one trophy.  Let’s not claim this as the start of a dynasty quite yet.  But it’s still a great win for the players and the city.  Enjoy it.  On my way home tonight, I saw a lot of people doing just that.  A LOT of people.

…and for the record.  I had a huge grin on my face when they showed Hossa in the handshake line.

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Pens 2 Red Wings 1

image from freep.com

image from freep.com

Game Recap

That, um, face wash above (if you can call it that) comes from the Detroit Free Press.  The home town paper is putting up pictures like that?  That’s harsh.  But I’ll take it.  So we got a lot of luck today (payback for the first two games), and combined that with desperate hockey to get a win.  Textbook playoffs.

I explained how to attack the Detroit defense in the post after game 4.  It was working well, but we went away from it a bit in this game.  Tonight, we went for quantity over quality.  We were basically throwing as many pucks on net as we could and going for rebounds.  It carried the day tonight…..barely.  Usually I’m all for shooting as much as possible.  I’m a big fan of the saying ‘any shot on net is a good play’.  But Detroit is so good at clearing rebounds, and they cluster around the net so much, that I wonder if that’s the best attack.  I don’t know.  You can’t argue with success, but I have to admit I’m a bit worried.  I really do think that the consistent way to fill the net against Ozzy is to get him moving.

You have to admit that our desperation played a huge part in this game.  We were facing elimination and we played like it.  We were blocking shots left and right (though I’d like to see a few more diving blocks instead of trying to stand up against them), and we were diving after clearances trying to make a play.  Detroit, naturally, couldn’t match it.  In game 7, however, we’re on a level playing field.  The one consolation is that we’ve been banging them around all series.  Game 7 is where playing that style really pays off.

Ozgood stood on his head today.  Both goalies did, actually.  But Ozgood was tested way more often.  He made all the routine saves.  That’s his game.  He’s not athletic.  If you get him moving, he’s terrible.  I still maintain that he’s got some huge gaps in his game.  However, you won’t ever find him out of position and he’s very smart about when to be aggressive.  Fleury plays on the edge more, and saves himself with his athleticism a lot.  Who would I want more?  Well, being in solid position and knowing how to play smart is something you can learn.  Athleticism is not.  Fleury has a LOT of upside.  He showed that tonight.  That break away save on Cleary with a minute left?  Clutch.  We need that again on Friday.

Rob Scuderi had the game of his life.  He was johnny on the spot a couple of times.  First with 10 minutes left he clears a rebound that had goal written all over it if he loses the foot race to the puck.  Lindstrom is going to be seeing that one in his sleep.  After that he makes another heads up move (and a couple of saves) clogging up the crease.  Anyone else notice him trying to cover up the puck?  Smart move now that we’ve established that that’s legal now.  Scuds was just solid overall tonight.  He was winning the battles against the boards, he was hitting, he didn’t make too many errors.  Great game.

Finally, I’m going to do one last thing.  I’m not really into the cheap shots (I like to actually show some knowledge of the game), but I can’t pass this one up.  I’m going to miss one thing after the finals: Mike Babcock press conferences.

Mike Babcock:

The Sweedish Chef:

Man.  So THAT’s what happened to him!  I always wondered.  Jeez.

So that’s my one low blow for the series.  I’ll be more classy from now on.  I promise.  Game 7 on Friday night.  As they say: anything can happen in game 7.  Time to make history.

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Pens 0 Red Wings 5

image from postgazette.com

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

So, first and foremost, I have to come clean.  This one was my fault, guys.  I went to an all day music fest yesterday (part of the reason it’s taken me so long to post), and I didn’t want to roast in my jersey.  I know, I know.  The hockey gods have spoken and I’ll be suited up on Tuesday.  You can bet on it.  My apologies for this debacle, however.

So what happened besides my bad luck?  Well, we played a very good first period.  That’s for sure.  We were down 1-0, but you had to feel alright heading into period two.  Then we started taking extremely stupid penalties.  Datsyuk was really good.  Much better than expected.  So instead of saying ‘hey!  The Red Wings just got better!  That means we have to step our game up, too!’, we said ‘hey!  Datsyuk is playing well!  Hack his foot!’.  That’s always a mistake.  The NHL has proven time and again that they’re extremely stupid.  Especially when it comes to officiating.  But even the NHL knew what was going to happen to Datsyuk.  He’s a star, too, and the NHL protects its stars more than any other league.  If you didn’t think the refs would be watching for that and calling it, you’re crazy.

Fleury’s going to take some heat in this one, but once again I’ll defend him a bit.  Yes, he had a mental collapse and let in a lot of goals that didn’t have any business going in.  But putting Detroit on the power play for literally HALF of the second period?  You just can’t do that.  Not against that team.  We also reverted to old habits defensively and let them camp in front of the net.  That’s a tough situation.  I hope Fleury is smart enough to realize that this was a period where his team put him in a position to fail.  He let some softies go, but he was put in a bad spot first.

Overall, we had a mental breakdown.  That’s heartbreaking to see from a team with this much talent.  However, they have 3 days to calm down and learn from it.  Coach Bylsma is made for this situation.  There were times here where I wished we had a fire and brimstone coach to get some more energy out of them, but this is one time where a calm, methodical coach is probably for the best.  Game six is on Tuesday.  I can’t see this game being repeated.  We’re not going out that way.

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Pens 4 Red Wings 2 (again)

image from freep.com

image from freep.com

Game Recap

I couldn’t resist putting that picture up because if you look closely, you’ll notice a Red Wing fan along the glass cheering with everyone else.  What can you say?  People from Michigan grow up with hockey.  They know a good team when they see it.

But in all seriousness, we can’t get too cocky.  We’ve found some chinks in the Wing’s armor, but we have our own warts as well.  Detroit had a lot of awfully good chances throughout the game.  But enough of the downer stuff.  The major discovery during the home stand was how to get open looks.  In Detroit, we went straight at Osgood with limited results.  He’s a big guy, and can clog up a lot of net by just standing there.  We also tried cross-ice passes to try to get him to move laterally.  That didn’t work, either, because the Red Wings bunch all 5 guys front and center.  They play almost the equivalent of a 1-3-1 zone in basketball.  It’s all about rotating and trapping.  Getting a pass through all that is nearly impossible.  But in Pittsburgh, we figured out the puzzle.  If you’ve noticed, we’ve been cycling along the boards a lot more lately, and we haven’t been going through the middle much.  The reason is that having the puck circle the boards forces the Red Wing defense to expand and opens up a lot more ice to do things.    The perfect example is the first goal from Tuesday night.  Here’s a video.  Pause it as soon as it starts.

Now look at Talbot’s position.  Right in the middle of Detroit’s 5 defenders.  How did that happen?  Well, un-pause and look at the replay.  The puck starts out at the blue line, followed by a pass to Geno along the boards before getting off the centering pass to Talbot.  Because of the puck movement along the extremes of the zones, Detroit defenders are covering the blue line, the side boards, and behind the net (Fedotenko was still hanging out back there).  With the aggressive nature of the Wings defense, this created a vacuum in the middle of the zone where Talbot could camp out for a second.  Now watch the Gonchar goal  (3:30 mark).  Same thing.  Missed shot and the puck gets corralled behind the net.  Instead of going for the middle of the zone, we rotate the puck around the boards to Sarge, and that opened up a lane for him to shoot.  There’s no video for tonight’s game, but I saw a lot of the same things going on.  Very good to see.  Detroit’s defense is like a Hoberman Sphere (one of these things:

image from  craftyhandstoyland.com

image from craftyhandstoyland.com

).  You have to expand it first to create room to work in.  You expand it by passing along the outer edges of the offensive zone.

The offense seems to have found a key, but what about the defense?  Well, that’s not so easy.  Detroit is very good around the net and punishes every one of your mistakes, so you have to limit them.  Rob Scuderi turns the puck over, and we pay for it.  Bill Guerin gets out of position, and we pay for it.  We’ve fixed a lot of the squatting Detroit was doing.  We’re knocking guys on their butts if they’re in front of the goal.  That’s step one.  Step two is limiting our mistakes.

So there was one other note from tonight: Detroit looks tired.  I have to admit, I usually don’t like to say a team looks tired, but Detroit looked really beat.  They were coughing up some turnovers they rarely ever do, they were taking some penalties for being slow, and they let some odd man rushes go.  We’re a pretty fast team, but Detroit is a really fast team.  There’s no way I would have ever dreamed of getting as many odd man rushes against them as we did this game.  And it’s all because of Detroit being slow to get back.  The good news is that we’re cashing in on them.  We got 3 goals on rushes this game.  The bad news is that might not last forever.  But, hey, as long as they still commit penalties, it’s all good.

So, like I said at the beginning, this is no time to get over-confident.  The other side will not be laying down.  I’ll tell you that much.  We had a fairly good game.  But, like the saying goes, the series hasn’t started until someone loses at home.  We held serve.  Time to go to Detroit and get this series started.

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Pens 4 Red Wings 2

image from postgazette.com

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

Phew.  We needed that.  It was a completely different game out there tonight.  Everything that people were blaming losses on changed.  Fleury played better (but still not great.  He let out some dangerous rebounds).  We finished a lot more shots instead of hitting iron.  The refs gave us a few power plays that we could convert on.  Plus, the players must be reading this blog.  Last post I said that we needed to match their obstruction and manpower around the net.  We did that.  We were just as much into the clutching and grabbing and lifting sticks as they were.  And we got away with it just like they do.  We even were able to kill some of their sustained pressure at times because of stealing the puck away.  We beat Detroit at its own game tonight.  They were still dangerous.  They have a ton of speed, and they’re still very strong against the boards, but we at least put ourselves on even footing this time.  I think if we keep this up, we have a shot, but we can’t rest on our laurels.  We were in this position last year (down 2-1 at home with some momentum) and lost.  There is work to be done.  We can do it.

On a side note: the man advantage we gave ourselves for half a minute (I guess some fellow Pens fans might call it making up for the calls that should have been made).  By the book, that’s an obvious penalty.  Definitely should have been called.  However, I feel confident that I can say, after telling Pens fans that the refs didn’t cost us the game after Sunday night,  that that call was not the reason Detroit lost tonight.  Don’t whine.  Don’t cry.  Move on.  If you’re a Wings fan who needs to take solace in something, remember this: it really didn’t affect the chances at all during that play.  The puck was around the net the whole 20 or 30 seconds, and the extra man was a defenseman who was out of the play pinching the boards, anyway.  If you look at the replay, we had two guys pinching the boards and a third defenseman at the point.  If the third defenseman wasn’t there, we would have been running the same play the same way.  No advantage.  It’s just like a crosscheck behind the play were no advantage is gained.  So quit crying and lets go to game four.  I’ll go on record saying that this is pretty much another must win on Thursday.

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Pens 1 Red Wings 3 (again)

image from msnbc.com

image from msnbc.com

Game Recap

Ouch.  We have another decent game, and we just can’t win.  Literally.  Sustained pressure resulted in an advantage in shots.  We got a power play goal.  There were no more crazy bounces off the boards.  This were going our way.  But a couple of dirty goals and the first true softy of the series later, and we’re in an 0-2 hole.

This doesn’t seem fair, does it?  We’ve had two pretty good games and nothing to show for it.  It seems like luck is totally on the side of Detroit right now.  Frustration is settling in on Pens fans.  Something must be wrong if we’ve played well twice and lost.  But what is it?  I’ve heard a lot of grumbling about the officiating.  I’ve heard that the superstars need to get us on the board more.  Most people seem to blame Fleury.  I don’t agree with any of them.  Let me tear down those three arguments and then i’ll place blame where I see it.

Lets get to the refs first.  The Wings are slashing like its going out of style.  They’re covering up pucks in the blue paint.  They’re getting away with penalties left and right.  But as long as its not being called, you have to play on.  We have guys that can deke you out of your skates and see the ice like no one else on earth.  A tightly called game definitely favors us.  A loosely called game does not.  Pens fans are coming to that realization right now, and we don’t like it.  But as long as they’re letting everything go at both ends (which they are), there’s nothing you can do.  In other words, it’s not their fault they’re cheating.  It’s our fault for not cheating, too.

The next argument is that the superstars need to score more.  This hits upon one of my pet peeves: people who equate playing well and scoring.  Yes, scoring is an easy way to see if someone is playing well, but it’s an awful way to tell if someone is playing poorly.  Crosby had some excellent set-up passes this weekend.  Malkin got a goal and was one of the few guys who could stick handle through the Wings.  We’re getting shots on net.  Good shots.  We’ve clanked some off the iron.  Some have fallen right on Osgood.  The bottom line is that we’ve been playing good (not great, but good) in the offensive zone despite not lighting up the scoreboard.

Finally, Fluery seems to be getting dumped on a lot right now.  Which is a shame.  Osgood is playing great, and he’s playing good.  Nothing to be said for that.  Fleury had some awful bounces in game one, but the majority of his troubles are the result of his defense.  He’s constantly being screened (see first goal game 2).  He’s got a sea of red jerseys in front of him to put home rebounds.  He needs his defensemen to really clear some space for him.  I know that the Pens are deathly afraid of drawing an interference penalty and putting the potent Red Wing power play on the ice, but you’ve got to re-read the first argument in this post.  The refs have swallowed the whistles.  Go ahead and clear the front of the net.  If the refs call it, THEN you can scream bloody murder about the refs screwing you.  It really is a shame.  Fleury has played well enough to win.  That third goal last night was the only one that is truly soft.  He just needs some help from his friends.
So if it’s not the offense, and it’s not the goaltending, and it’s not the refs, what is keeping us from winning?  Answer: the game plan.  When you play Detroit, you know exactly what you’re going to get.  They play smart, efficient, (boring if more teams did it) hockey.  They are the masters of obstruction.  They feel what they can get away with and toe the line perfectly.  That only comes with experience.  If you stick-handle too much they just gang up on you, lift your stick, and go the other way.  That seems to happen to us a lot.  They put a screener in front of the net throughout the game.  He might even still stay back there while the rest of the Wings play defense.  Every man on the ice is watching rebounds off Ozgood and helping to clear them.  It’s smart.  It’s efficient.  They’ve been doing it for years.  Heck, they did it to us last year.  But we still act like we don’t know how to deal with it.  If they punish you for stick-handling too long, then don’t stick-handle.  Use you’re vision to find someone else in open space.  They double team a lot, so someone has to be open.  If they put guys in front of the net, then match them.  Make it a scrum in front and see who wins.  We might be surprised to find it could be us more than not.  More or less, we have to beat them at their own game.  It can be done.

I’ve been saying this all playoffs: the series doesn’t start until someone loses at home.  Time to protect our house.

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Pens 1 Red Wings 3

image from postgazette.com

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

Ouch.  We played hard tonight.  We got some pressure on the Wings defense.  I can’t pick out much more that we can do better.  But we still lost.  Fleury was surprised by the lively boards at the Joe twice.  That can’t happen.  He’s played there once this year and three times last year.  He knows what to expect by now.  But that’s an easy fix.  Osgood responded to me saying he lets in some soft goals by making me eat my words.  He played terrific last night.  If he can do that consistently, we’re in trouble.  I just don’t think he can do that consistently.  That shot that landed on his back?  That’s as sure of a sign as any that he’s just having a good night.  We had a lot of missed opportunities last night.  The two penalties in the first period in a game where whistles were rare.  Malkin’s breakaway.  You can go on and on.  Those will start to go our way eventually.  Bottom line: stay the course.  Nobody said this was going to be easy, but if we keep playing like we did last night, good things will come our way.  Quick turnaround until game 2, but that’s ok.  I’m sure our guys are chomping at the bit to get another chance at them.  If we can steal one tonight, we’re still in great shape going back to the ‘Burgh.

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