A View From the Other Side - 05.31.09
2008-2009 Stanley Cup Final
#4 East – Pittsburgh Penguins
#2 West – Detroit Red Wings
GAME 1: DET 3, PIT 1
GAME 2: May 31 @ DET, 8pm, NBC,CBC,RDS
GAME 3: June 2 @ PIT, 8pm, VS,CBC,RDS
GAME 4: June 4 @ PIT, 8pm, VS,CBC,RDS
*GAME 5: June 6 @ DET, 8pm, NBC,CBC,RDS
*GAME 6: June 9 @ PIT, 8pm, NBC,CBC,RDS
*GAME 7: June 12 @ DET, 8pm, NBC,CBC,RDS
* If necessary; All times Eastern
May 30, 2009
Pittsburgh Penguins 1
Detroit Red Wings 3
In the playoffs, every inch of space on the ice is contested and every bounce becomes magnified. If the bounce goes your way, luck is on your side. If it does not, the “Hockey Gods” do not smile upon thee that evening.
So went the luck of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, May 30 in the first game of the Stanley Cup Final against the defending champion Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings were able to capitalize on some fluke bounces that would end up behind Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury for the eventual 3-1 Detroit victory and 1-0 lead in the Final for Lord Stanley’s mug.
The incredibly energetic end boards of the Joe Louis Arena caused small dump-in shots to carom back out in front of both Fleury and Detroit goal tender Chris Osgood all evening. As luck would have it, Fleury would have flashbacks to last year – flashbacks that caused not so fond memories and not so fond results.
Detroit’s first goal was the result of a Pittsburgh turnover and a strange carom off the aforementioned end boards. Penguins defender Hal Gill attempted to clear the puck out of the defensive zone. He was unable to get it past Detroit blueliner Brad Stewart. Stewart, seeing that Red Wings RW Marian Hossa was down low by the goal line, attempted to dump the puck back in towards the net. The puck took a huge bounce off the end board, past Hossa and into the back of Marc-Andre Fleury’s leg. Hossa swooped in to find a rebound, but the buck was already behind Fleury and across the goal line. Fleury had inadvertently, while searching for the puck, knocked it into the net at 13:38 of the first period.
All was not lost, however, as the Penguins were able to tie the game late in the first period thanks to a great defensive effort from center Evgeni Malkin. Malkin attempted to block a passing lane in the circle to the right of Osgood, where defenseman Brett Lebda was scouting out the ice. Lebda attempted to clear the puck out of the zone to the left of Malkin, who quickly swung his stick around and intercepted the pass. Malkin swooped around and let loose a quick shot that Osgood was unable to control. The puck trickled to his left, where Penguins LW Ruslan Fedotenko was able to handle it and deposit the puck in the empty net at 18:37 of the first period, as Osgood was unable to recover his position. The goal was Fedotenko’s 7th of the post season.
Pittsburgh, using that late first period goal, came out into the second period inspired and wanting more. The Penguins sent 13 of a total of 32 shots on Chris Osgood for the evening in the second frame. None found their way past the three-time Stanley Cup winner.
Possibly the biggest save Osgood made in the second period was a little over 3 minutes into the period. Detroit had sustained pressure in the Pittsburgh defensive zone. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall skated towards the high slot near the blue line and attempted to take a shot. He was pressured by both Miroslav Satan and Evgeni Malkin. Malkin was able to poke the puck to center ice and take off with it, as Detroit’s Brad Stewart gave chase. All alone on a breakaway, Malkin sped into Detroit’s end of the ice, made one small move with the puck, to settle it down, and took a shot that ended up being gloved off by Osgood towards the glass and into the protective netting.
Three minutes later, with Brett Lebda in the penalty box for 2 minutes due to slashing the stick of Maxime Talbot in two pieces, Osgood made sprawling saves with Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, Malkin, and Chris Kunitz crashing the net in a mad scramble.
With six minutes left, Crosby took a partial break away into Detroit’s zone as the Red Wings were in the middle of a line change. Detroit d-man Brian Rafalski was turned inside out by Crosby, who did a “spin-o-rama” move and got a backhanded, one handed, shot off towards Osgood. Osgood fought it off to keep the game knotted at one a piece.
Pittsburgh’s Craig Adams received the only Penguins penalty for the evening, a 2-minute hooking penalty at 13:44 of the second period. This allowed Detroit’s potent power play, that has been in the top 3 for both the regular and post season. They were unable to convert, as Marc-Andre Fleury was able to make some key saves, even with Detroit’s main weapon power play weapon, the human screen known as Tomas Holmstrom, in front of the net.
Veteran left winger Bill Guerin, picked up by the Penguins for a conditional draft pick from the New York Islanders at the trade deadline, has been spectacular throughout the playoffs. However, he was unable to clear the defensive zone with one minute remaining in the second period. His clearing attempt was corralled by Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg, who fed the puck to Johan Franzen at the top of the circle to the right of Fleury. Franzen took the shot, which was deflected off of Penguins defender Rob Scuderi. Scuderi laid down to block another shot, as the puck careened towards the top of the left circle where Brian Rafalski took a slap shot. The puck sailed wide and into the end boards, which once again gave a hugely energetic bounce. Franzen took a swing at the puck, and backhanded it above a sprawling Fleury as he dove to attempt to cover the puck. The shot ended up bouncing off of Marc-Andre Fleury’s skate and went into the net at 19:02 of the second period for Franzen’s 11th goal of the post season.
“I wasn’t a very good goalie,” Fleury said during a post game interview. “It’s just the situation in this building where you know that pucks are coming off the backboards quickly. We’re aware of it. We practiced it and they got some fortunate breaks off it tonight.”
The final tally of the night came off of, yet again, another strange bounce. Detroit’s Ville Leino had the puck behind the Pittsburgh net. As he battled with Penguins defender Mark Eaton, he wheeled around and got the puck to Justin Abdelkader, a rookie who was told by Detroit head coach Mike Babcock that he may not even take a shift in the game, who took a quick shot from the goal line to the left of Fleury. The puck took a strange bounce off Fleury and the short side post and popped straight into the air. Penguins centerman Jordan Staal stood nearby, unable to locate the puck which was quickly coming down from the heavens above his head. The puck bounced just to the left of Staal and was poked at by Abdelkader. Fleury, unable to locate the puck while in the air, stayed low, covering the bottom of the net. The shot by Abdelkader found its way towards the far side. Fleury took a stab at it, but was too late. The Red Wings would be able to hold the 3-1 lead for the rest of the game.
Detroit was dominant in the faceoff circle throughout game 1. Of the 55 faceoffs held throughout game 1, Detroit won 39 of them for a 69 percent win rate. Henrik Zetterberg (15-5; 75%) and Darren Helm (11-4; 73%) lead the way in face-offs. On the flip side, it was a tough night in the face-off circle for Sidney Crosby who won only 6 of 14 face-offs (30%) and Jordan Staal, who won 6 of 13 (32%). With both teams playing a similar puck possession game, face-offs are crucial. With Detroit winning the majority of draws, they were able to impose their style and dictate play.
Between the pipes, Detroit’s Chris Osgood faced 32 shots on the evening, with the Fedotenko goal being the only blemish for the evening. On the other side of the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury faced 30 shots, with three making their way into the net.
With game 2 on Sunday evening, a 24-hour turn around gives little time for Detroit to rest on their laurels or for Pittsburgh to dwell on the bad bounces that doomed the first game of the Cup Final.
“I didn’t think we were too good in the neutral zone, we had too many turnovers,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said in post game interviews. “Tonight we got some breaks. I thought Crosby very, very determined tonight. I thought Crosby went to Zetterberg in the neutral zone, got him in the crosscheck. That’s just being competitive. When you’ve been here before, you know what to expect. They were very competitive. “
“We did some good things. We can do a better job,” said Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma to the post game media scrum. “Well, you know, we’ve done our homework on these guys. We know they’re good there. I know it’s an area of focus. They’re a puck possession team as are we. And starting with the puck is better than not.”
“One of the things we’ve talked about is our wingers being aware and ready to jump in and help out,” Bylsma continued. “The centerman doesn’t often win it clean back, a lot of those are puck battles off the draw. Being aware, being ready and winning those battles are the responsibility of the wingers and the “D” when it’s in the defensive zone. So that’s an area we can do a better job of. We’ll look at it, and try to get better in that regard.”
As for the quick turnaround between games, Bylsma said, “It’s good for us to get right back at it.”
And get back at it they shall, as game 2 is to be held on Sunday, May 31, at 8:00 PM ET.
3 Stars of the Night
1. Chris Osgood, DET, 0.969 save %
2. Evgeni Malkin, PIT, 1 assist, 4 SOG
3. Darren Helm, DET, 2 SOG
“Dan (Bylsma) played for me a couple of years, and Dan was a real important part of our team. We went to the Final with Anaheim.
He was a guy who was a heart-and-soul guy, a good teammate, a positive person. And he made his teammates better. After he was done playing, he was an assistant coach on our minor-league team. We talked a number of times and he wanted the job in Grand Rapids (AHL).
I think we’ve talked periodically since that time. But the reason Dan’s doing a good job is not because he talked to Mike Babcock or not because he played for Andy Murray or played for me, it’s because he’s a good person. He works hard, and he has a passion for the game. Now he’s sharing that with his players.
I just think he’s an intelligent guy. He’s a good family guy, and he’s worked hard over a long period of time and maximized his potential as a player and now as a coach to get this opportunity. He gets full marks for it.”
- Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock
“That would be a tough one to beat. But I think this one is right up there.”
- Detroit Red Wings LW Justin Abdelkader. Abdelkader was a standout for Mona Shores High School (Norton Shores, MI) and then Michigan State, where he scored with 18.9 seconds left in the game against Boston College in 2007. He considers that goal the “other” biggest goal of his life.
”I played him once in the last more or less year, so I really have no idea. I’ve seen him take slap shots on breakaways and do a bunch of different things. In my mind, I just wanted to stay up and be as big as I could, and just try to stay on net as much as I could. He’s got a great shot and he can make great moves. I was fortunate to get my hand on it.”
- Detroit Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood, on his save attempt on the breakaway by Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin
”Oh, it’s huge. It gives our team a boost, especially at that moment of the game. The momentum could have swung in their favor. So he came out big. He came out big on other occasions later in the game, too. I think one of their defensemen almost had a point-blank shot coming in the slot, and Ozzie made a big save. So you’re looking for those kinds of saves, and it gives your team that extra boost to stay in a game like this.”
- Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, on Osgood’s save on Malkin