Sunday, May 25, 2008

Detroit 4, Pittsburgh 0

Pre-game ceremonies during game one of the Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday, May 24, 2008. Detroit Red Wings Vs. Pittsburg Penguins.
It began with a sinister omen for the Penguins…and Stephen King couldn’t have scripted it better if he had tried:
DETROIT -- If you had told me yesterday that Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury would fall flat on his face last night, I wouldn't have believed you.
But it happened.
Twice, actually.
So eager was Fleury to get on the Joe Louis Arena ice for the start of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against the Detroit Red Wings that he missed the last step leading out of the runway from the dressing room and went down in a heap for all in the big, hooting crowd to see. At that point, it was really easy to think bad omen for your favorite hockey club, but those in the Penguins' dressing room -- some of the most superstitious people in the world -- denied that vehemently after the game, a 4-0 loss. They were just glad Fleury didn't break his arm.
As it was, only the man's pride was bruised.
Fleury would ache much more after what happened in the next 21/2 hours.
I literally did not believe my eyes when I saw Fleury fall to the ice…and he fell, he didn’t stumble. The resulting back-up of storming Penguins behind Fleury was reminiscent of the Keystone Cops. But Fleury got to his feet and the Pens continued to take the ice at The Joe normally. I thought “Wow! This is amazing. Karma!” And I hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet…
The pre-game ceremonies gave me goose-bumps. Literally. Here’s the biggest reason:
The NHL brought out Mario Lemieux and Detroit great Steve Yzerman to drop the ceremonial first pucks before Game 1 last night at Joe Louis Arena.
Post-Gazette photo)
Both men are living legends in their respective cities and both men led their teams to Stanley Cups in the modern era. And there they were: side by side at The Joe, dropping the ceremonial first pucks. That, Gentle Reader, was a sight to see. And then… the game.
Now that Game One is over we know a few things about this Stanley Cup Final:
  • Marc-Andre Fleury can be beat. Often. If you consider four goals in a single game “often.” I do.
  • Crosby, Hossa and Malkin can be contained. Shut down, even. Hossa is the only guy out of Pittsburgh’s Big Three who managed more than three shots on goal during the entire game.
  • The Wings are ON their game… for the moment. There’s no better team in the NHL when the Wings are “on.” None. Period. Full-stop. Every aspect of their play is simply stunning right now… be it offense, defense, passing, checking, hitting, or goal-tending. ALL of it.
And that’s just for starters. Here’s what Bob Wojnowski, one of Deetroit’s hockey pundits, has to say about last evening’s doin’s:
DETROIT -- This is what the Red Wings can do better than anyone. They can make opposing stars flat-out disappear. Poof. Gone. And they can conjure up their own stars out of, well, practically nowhere.
Mikael Samuelsson wasn't nowhere when the Stanley Cup Finals began Saturday night, but he sure wasn't anywhere prominent. Then all he did in Game 1 was go out and find the puck and keep flipping it past the goalie.
If the Wings are going to be this opportunistic and this smothering, and if Chris Osgood is going to be this darn good, the young Penguins could be in for a major schooling. Samuelsson scored the first two goals and the Wings were their standard puck-possessing selves, while harassing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin all over the ice in a 4-0 victory at Joe Louis Arena.
The first game of the NHL's showcase event was a one-sided show, especially after the Wings' shaky first period, especially when they started skating and bumping Crosby, especially when Osgood helped them survive the first-period flurry, when they were whistled for four straight penalties.
"We're a different team than what they played before," Osgood said. "We possessed the puck and we like to do it the majority of the time, if we can. I mean, that's the best defense, when we have the puck. I think we do it better than any other team in the league and that's what makes our defense so good."
Osgood was being modest, of course. He's an astounding 11-2 in these playoffs, and in this one, he made a couple of great saves on Marian Hossa early and a huge one on Crosby later. Crosby and Malkin couldn't generate much, and every time Crosby looked up, he was getting banged by Zetterberg or defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
And yes, that was the "other" superstar out there, Pavel Datsyuk, hitting any Penguin that moved. (Datsyuk led the team with six hits).
The Penguins will re-group. As a matter of fact, Pens coach Michel Therrien began juggling his lines during the second period last night in what appeared to be a desperate shot at making something…anything… happen. It was painfully obvious there wasn’t anything going on with the Pens usual lines.
With his team failing at the puck-possession game, Penguins coach Michel Therrien went away from the line combinations he had been using since the start of the playoffs and tried many different variations, but none of them worked.
At one point he had Crosby with Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Malone. Later in the period he had Crosby at center with Malkin on the left wing and Hossa on the right. Malone played on the left wing alongside Jordan Staal and Petr Sykora.
In the third period Therrien rolled only three lines and they were completely different than how he started the game.
So. We’ll see what we’ll see, eh? There’s still “a lot of hockey to be played” in this series. The Wings have to be pleased. Their fans are pleased. Everyone outside of Pittsburgh is pleased.
Coach Therrien ain’t pleased:
“Definitely that was the worst performance of the playoffs,” Therrien said. “We didn’t compete like we were supposed to compete, and it’s a good lesson.”
School ain’t out yet, Coach.
Chris Osgood raises his stick to the crowd after he was named one of the stars of the game.
David Guralnick / The Detroit News


  1. Congratulations on win #1. Now, how many more times do they have to win before they win?

  2. Sorry I missed the "Keystone Cops" impression and the game!

    I like the separate comment box and have thought about it for myself. What do you think of it? You may have to email me with instructions, oh Blog Yoda.

  3. Four of seven, Becky. Just like the World Series. Only better. ;-)

    Lou: Check your mail... I sent screen caps to your Hughes address three minutes or so ago. No bounce yet...

  4. Thanks. Buck. For what it's worth, I don't watch the World Series either.

  5. Congratulations Buck! I hope your Wings serve you well.


Just be polite... that's all I ask.