Monday, May 26, 2008

Stanley Cup Finals Game 2: Pens v Red Wings (L 0-3)

These are indeed frustrating times. Nineteen years and one day since Gary Roberts won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames, he rejoined the Pens' lineup for Michel Therrien's line shuffling. The changes didn't spark anything. Detroit has held Pittsburgh scoreless for 2 full hours of play. Here's how things went down.

Early in the first period, Sid was tripped (no call) but he still managed to make an unreal pass to himself, which then enabled him to make a beautiful centering pass to Ryan Malone, who promptly fanned on the shot. A short time later, Sid stole the puck from Chris Osgood, but Nicklas Lidstrom blocked Sid's wraparound chance. Another heavy hit came from Niklas Kronwall, but this time he left his feet as he nailed Jarrko Ruutu (no call). Brad Stuart drew first blood when he took a slapshot that bounced up and over Marc-Andre Fleury for the goal. [Pens 0, Wings 1]

Rob Scuderi took a friendly-fire stick to the face from Hal Gill. Dan Cleary got a clean lead pass for a break; fortunately his shot went wide. At the 10 minute mark, we're told that the Pens had yet to register a single shot on goal. Allow me to be Captain Obvious here for a second, but this is not how Cups are won. A turnover to Tomas Holmstrom behind the net enabled Holmstrom to send the puck to the front where Henrik Zetterberg was ready to fire. The puck trickled through MAF's five hole, and Holmstrom sneaked in behind to help the puck complete its journey over the goal line. [Pens 0, Wings 2]

Stuart took the night's first penalty for tripping, and despite some unreal chances (especially one extremely close call by the Saint), the Pens didn't score on their advantage. Pascal Dupuis made a neat little ducking play to escape a big hit. Bugsy was called for interference. Luckily the Red Wings didn't capitalize on their advantage. Evgeni Malkin, who has drawn sharp criticism for his performance in Game 1, drew a hooking penalty on Cleary. The Pens had another set of near misses from Roberts and Jordan Staal, but again they couldn't score on their power play. With just 2 seconds left in their advantage, Roberts was called for a roughing penalty. The period ended with the Wings ahead by a pair.

The second began with Roberts in the box with just over 1:45 left on his penalty. The Pens (Dupuis in particular) couldn't clear the puck to save their souls, and finally play was stopped when Flower made a freeze. The Wings didn't add to their lead on this power play. Flower made a beauty of a save on Cleary, and Sid blocked a shot from Brian Rafalski. Then Sid won a face off in Detroit's zone. He sent the puck to Dupuis, whose shot literally ping-ponged between at least two Red Wings' sticks, but Osgood kept it out of the net.

Holmstrom was called for slashing, but the Pens didn't get a power play because Brooks Orpik was called for roughing at the same time. On the ensuing 4-on-4, Staal made a fantastic backchecking play on Valtteri Filppula to prevent him from getting a breakaway chance. Neither team scored. Later, Dallas Drake put a hit on Orpik that looked to me like it involved his elbow, but no call was made. Stuart hauled Sidney down, but no call was made. The Pens' best opportunity of this series came when Andreas Lilja fell when attempting to receive a pass in his own zone, and Roberts took the puck. Roberts set up Staal for a shot, but Staal just missed because he stutter stepped ever so slightly. Off a faceoff, Bugsy was forced down to the ice, but once again, no call was made.

The Saint was setting guys up all over the place, but - as with Game 1 - the Pens' timing seemed to be an issue again tonight. Bugsy was called for a weak slashing penalty. While shorthanded, Flower made a series of wicked saves. His only mistake came when he attempted to clear the puck, but a Red Wing was able to glove it down and keep it in. Fortunately, Mad Max Talbot made a sweet diving poke check to clear the puck out. The Red Wings didn't score on this power play, and the second period - the FIFTH CONSECUTIVE SCORELESS PERIOD FOR THE PENS - came to an end.

At the start of the third period, Sergei Gonchar fired a shot that Osgood blocked. Marian Hossa then was called for a weak holding penalty. The Red Wings didn't score on this power play. Later the springing boards reared their ugly heads again when Flower was behind the net attempting to play the puck, but it hit said boards and popped way out in front of the empty net. Fortunately, a Penguin got to it first. Bugsy put a late hit on Zetterberg. Pavel Datsyuk came in to defend his teammate. Bugsy and Datsyuk were given coincidental roughing minors. Sid and Gonch had a pair of near misses, but neither team scored on the 4-on-4. Tyler Kennedy made a nifty little play to keep the puck in the offensive zone as he swooped in on his knees. A handpass between the Red Wings was not called.

Drake was called for tripping after using his stick to haul Roberts down to the ice. Sixteen seconds in, Stuart pushed Bugsy into Osgood, but of course the refs didn't see it that way. Bugsy was sent to the sin bin for goalie interference. Filppula scored after getting around Kris Letang, fooling MAF, and making an impressive nearly diving shot. [Pens 0, Wings 3]

Mad Max had a good rush through neutral ice with Roberts, but Osgood made the save. Then Roberts put a huge hit (and maybe a left hander to the chin) on Johan Franzen, who was back for his first game after missing 6 with "concussion-like symptoms." Franzen was evidently okay because he felt good enough to get into a fight with Mad Max on his next shift. Franzen pitched a fit that he was given a penalty for his efforts. It was pointless because Detroit still ended up with the power play since Mad Max was given a double minor penalty for roughing, while Franzen was given just one. The Red Wings didn't score on their power play. Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe was shown in the stands taking it all in.

To be honest with you, I pretty much checked out and stopped taking notes from this point on until there was 1:08 left in the period. It was at this time that Petr Sykora barely touched Osgood, who was behind the net attempting to play the puck. But from Osgood's reaction, you would have thought he'd been shot with a high powered sniper rifle. This (naturally) caused all hell to break loose. Geno, Roberts, and Orpik were all involved in separate fights - Orpik ended up with blood on his jersey, though I couldn't tell where it was coming from. Syko was given a minor for goalie interference in addition to all the penalties doled out for the melee, so Detroit ended up with a power play to end the game. No more damage was done, and the game ended with another shutout.

I'm not a coach. I don't know what the Pens need to do, but I know they need to do something, and they need to do it now. Otherwise, they may as well just hand Detroit the Stanley Cup right now. The uneven calls aren't helping, but they've faced all that before and still came out on top.
Detroit is good - they are by far the best team the Pens have faced all season - but I know that our Boys of Winter are better than this. The Pens MUST figure out how to win a game at the Joe Louis Arena if they want the Cup. They cannot get it without at least one win there. [*Sigh*] They get to come home to friendly faces for the next two. Game 3 is this Wednesday at 8:00pm Eastern.

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

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