Saturday, May 24, 2008

Stanley Cup Finals Game 1: Pens v Red Wings (L 0-4)

Well. That was 7 shades of ugly. I feel safe in saying we all had high hopes after the Pens came out on the dominating side at the end of the first period. But then what the hell happened?! Only 4 shots in the second and 3 in the third??? TERRIBLE. And did it seem like the ice may have been bad to anyone else? It certainly seemed like the puck was taking some really strange bounces.

Right hand to God, when Marc-Andre Fleury stepped on the ice and fell, I immediately thought, "Oh man, I hope that's not an omen..." And THEN the announcer called told the crowd that "Pittsburgh Captain Steven Crosby" was coming out for the ceremonial faceoff. W-T-F?!?! I don't know how you can work for a hockey team and not know the name "SIDNEY CROSBY" so I'm forced to assume that the announcer did it on purpose to be facetious. Anyhoo, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman came out to drop the puck(s) for the ceremonial faceoff. It was a very cool moment:

From this picture, it almost seems like Yzerman is star struck by Lemieux - but who could blame him?

Right as the game got underway, Sid made a hard run to cancel an icing play, but he slammed into the boards for his efforts. I nearly passed out. He wasn't hurt. It just looked awful and shaved 3 or 4 years off my life. Big Georges Laraque and Darren McCarty had a battle of words that toed the line of becoming physical. Big hitter Niklas Kronwall drilled Jordan Staal - it was the first of many hits from Kronwall. Ryan Malone nearly got a wraparound chance, but it was thwarted by Chris Osgood.

Flower blocked a shot by Jiri Hudler. At virtually the same time, Kris Letang was called for interference. The Wings' power play lasted only 11 seconds because Tomas Holmstrom was called for high sticking Brooks Orpik. On the ensuing 4-on-4, Marian Hossa had a shot blocked and MAF lost his helmet after Valtteri Filppula went hard to the net. It felt like forever until the refs noticed MAF's exposed head and blew the whistle. Neither team scored on the 4-on-4 or their respective 10 second power plays.

A few scrums developed between the teams tonight. One happened after Holmstrom kept poking away at MAF after he froze the puck. Later, MAF made a beautiful save on Kirk Maltby. Jarrko Ruutu and Kronwall had words after Kronwall made an attempt to freight train Ruutu. Sid set up a spectacular play that got the puck to Pascal Dupuis, who then sent it to a wide open Hossa. But Osgood made a great save on Hossa's shot.

Niklas Lidstrom was called for hooking Bugsy. Detroit had an odd man shorthanded rush that Sergei Gonchar cancelled out nicely. Despite a pair of near misses, the Pens didn't score on their power play. We were told that 13,000 Pens-crazy fans showed up at the Mellon Arena to watch the game on the jumbotron. At $5.00 per ticket + Ticketmaster waiving all fees on the tickets = $65,000 for the Mario Lemieux Foundation!!!!!! :)

Darren Helm was called for tripping. Gonch broke Dan Cleary's stick with a shot. Osgood made a great save on a ricocheted puck that came off Sid's chest. Hossa and Tyler Kennedy both had unreal near-misses, but the Pens didn't score on this power play. With 4:40 left in the period, Lidstrom fired a shot that found its way to the back of the net. NO GOAL was immediately called by the refs because Holstrom put his stick between Flower's legs. In addition to the no goal call, Holstrom was given a penalty for goalie interference. Coach Mike Babcock nearly stroked out as he protested the call. On the ensuing Pens power play, Kronwall drilled Bugsy, and the Pens didn't score. With 59.2 seconds left in the period, Hal Gill was called for highsticking. The Red Wings didn't score on this half of their power play, and the period ended.

The Red Wings had just over a minute left to work on their power play, but they failed to capitalize on their advantage. The Pens got control as the penalty ended, but Gill had a split second issue coming out of the box, so he didn't get a breakaway chance. Kris Draper fired a shot that managed to hit one post, roll across the entire length of the crossbar, and bounce out off the other post. (It was quite amazing to see - probably impossible to duplicate. Well, not that anyone would ever want to duplicate it...)

Sid was called for a weak slash. The Red Wings didn't score on their power play. Later, the Saint made a beautiful lead pass to Dupuis, who was alone in front of Osgood. But Osgood made a great save on Dupuis, prompting the crowd to begin a chant of "OZZY!!! OZZY!!! OZZY!!!" Later, a fluky bounce negated an icing call, which enabled Filppula to fire a shot at MAF, who made the save. Sid was steamrolled by Pavel Datsyuk. Then, as Staal and Kennedy left the ice to make a change, Ruutu lazily sent the puck towards center ice. Mikael Samuelsson intercepted the puck and sped into the Pens' zone. MAF tightened up in the corner, so Sammy streaked behind the net and out around to the other side. Flower was unable to get to the other side, so Sammy stuffed it in for the first goal in over 30 minutes of play. [Pens 0, Wings 1]

Strangely, my text service sent me a message that Ruutu had scored for the Pens. I thought it was an isolated incident, but Friend of The Show Allison Y. sent me this screenshot from Yahoo! (click to enlarge):


It was about this time that the Pens' game did a 180°. They got too sloppy and - dare I say it - lethargic. Okay... Perhaps "lethargic" is too strong a word, but there definitely was no sense of urgency at all coming from them from this point on. And all the while the Pens played worse, the Red Wings play got better and better.

Immediately on the next play, Ryan Whitney took a penalty for holding. The Wings didn't score on their advantage. Henrik Zetterberg freight trained Sid. Flower made a great save on Datsyuk. Mad Max Talbot went full force at Kronwall, but Kronwall ducked and missed the brunt of the hit. (Mad Max would have sent him into next week if he had connected!) Whit fired a shot that was blocked. With 31.3 seconds left, Evgeni Malkin was called for tripping. The Wings didn't score on their abbreviated power play, and the period ended.

The third period began with GENO (← That spelling won by a LANDSLIDE! Over 92% of you preferred E over I.) still in the box. The Wings didn't score on the rest of their power play. A weird play started with MAF giving the puck to Geno in front of the net. Geno just kind of stood there as Samuelsson swooped in and swatted the puck into the net. Was it miscommunication? Who knows. What's certain is that things only continued to get worse after this goal. [Pens 0, Wings 2]

After the Pens had a great shift, Samuelsson and Sidney nearly came to blows as they went to their respective benches. A linesman came in to keep the peace. Sidney kept setting guys up, but the Pens just seem to be a split second off from their timing. This was DEFINITELY not the same Penguins team we've seen blow through 3 rounds with just 2 losses, that's for sure. Right off a faceoff, Hossa fired a shot that hit the post. Sid then tried to tip the puck in, but it bounced in favor of Osgood for the save.

Lidstrom was called for interference on Hossa. On this Penguins power play, Sid absolutely drilled Brad Stuart and knocked him down. Perhaps the Saint was venting a few pent up frustrations.

Sid had no way of knowing it was about to get worse though... A few seconds later Stuart cleared the puck the length of the ice. The puck hit the boards and bounced right to Cleary, who was in the perfect spot in front of MAF to fire the puck into the net for the shorthanded goal. [Pens 0, Wings 3]

Even then, the onslaught wasn't over. The Pens didn't score on their advantage, and with 1:52 left in the game, Ruutu was called for slashing. With just 12.2 seconds left in the game, Zetterberg scored the power play goal. [Pens 0, Wings 4]

At the presser after the game, Babcock was being a jerk to a reporter when said reporter asked about the goalie interference call. He threw a mini-tantrum then abruptly demanded to change the subject. Contrast that with Coach Michel Therrien's rather quiet, dejected demeanor. Yikes. I almost feel bad for the Pens - no doubt Therrien's going to give them a tongue lashing tonight!


The Pens remain in Detroit "Ock" City for Game 2. Hopefully they've learned as much from this game as they learned from the 2007 playoff series against Ottawa...

GO PENS!!!!!!!!!!!

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