LCS Hockey: Born Again
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June 26, 2019
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(Sunshine) Detroit




Chris Osgood
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

Yeah, the filthy Red Wings took Game One 3-1. And I’m sure if they keep getting three fluke goals a game, they’ll be tough to beat. But this looks like it’s going to be a long, brutal series.

Pittsburgh outshot Detroit 32-30 and played the Wings on even terms all night. That shot total is significant. Last year, the Wings enjoyed a 36-19 edge in Game One, and the Penguins never outshot the Wings in any of the six games.

This game was as even as even gets. Both teams had to fight for space, with the best chances coming in tight around the cage. Not a lot of open ice. The difference in the game was three lucky bounces.

The first came at 13:38 of the opening frame when an innocent Brad Stuart wrister from the left point sailed wide, struck the endboards, and kicked in off the back of Marc-Andre Fleury’s right leg. Absolutely pathetic.

Fleury said he learned two things last year playing in Detroit. First, the doors to the ice are small. Check. Flower made it through without tripping this time. Second, he said the boards were wicked lively. Well, apparently Charles Foster Kane isn’t the only guy who needs more than one lesson.

Fleury could get away with mental mistakes against Washington and Carolina. Not against Detroit. Each goal carries colossal significance. He has to make the Wings earn everything they get. And he didn’t do that in Game One.

Unlike last year, Pittsburgh didn’t rattle. The Pens shook off the horrendous goal and bagged the equalizer at 18:37 when Ruslan Fedotenko feasted on a plump rebound. Evgeni Malkin made the play, plucking an errant Brad Stuart clear off the left wall and blasting a slap shot on net. Chris Osgood made the initial save but left the cookie for Fedotenko to wrap into the yawning cage.

And that’s how you have to beat Osgood. Listen, as much as I hate the guy, he’s superb on his angles and makes all the saves he should. But he has worse recovery than the U.S. dollar. Once he’s down, he’s done. Anything side to side is in the net.

Pittsburgh came out flying in the second period and dominated play for the first 10 minutes. But the Wings shifted momentum with two big penalty kills. The Pens came close on the first power play, narrowly missing on a mad scramble in the crease. The second advantage, though, was a complete debacle. Not even a hint of pressure. The Pens won’t win this series unless they convert power plays.

Detroit seized control after the second kill and buzzed the Penguin net on a few occasions, pressuring a beleaguered Penguin squad into an icing with 1:14 left in the stanza. Crosby, Guerin, Kunitz, Gill, and Scuderi were completely gassed. Dan Bylsma elected to use his timeout. Didn’t work.

Mike Babcock countered with Zetterberg, Franzen, Cleary, Lidstrom, and Rafalski. Zetterberg beat Crosby on the draw, a consistent theme all evening, and the Wings got the cycle spinning.

Guerin had a chance to clear and whiffed. Zetterberg kept the puck in along the left wing boards and slipped a pass to Franzen, who fired a shot from the top of the circle into Crosby’s shins. The puck caromed into the right circle, sitting on a platter for a Rafalski one-timer. Scuderi slid over to block the shot wide, but those pesky endboards caused more grief, spitting the puck back in front for Franzen.

Again, Fleury seemed completely shocked at the lively bounce and had to dive to his left in a desperate attempt to regain his net. In doing so, he inadvertently kicked Franzen’s backhander, which would have slid through the crease, over the goal line to give Detroit the 2-1 lead.

Another awful goal. At least the Wings earned this bounce with some hard work. Still, it doesn’t change the fact neither goal should have gone in.

Any hope of a third-period rally got kicked in the Charlie Browns when Justin Abdelkater scored 2:46 into the final frame. Justin Abdelwho?

That’s right, even the fourth-line scrubs were getting lucky bounces. Abdelkater slammed a puck in tight off Fleury’s pads and the rebound went straight up in the air. Fleury and Jordan Staal couldn’t find the biscuit, so Abdelkater signaled for the fair catch and gloved the puck to the ice. He then whacked it on one hop into the joint of the left post and crossbar. When it rains, it pours.

Pittsburgh wasn’t nearly as lucky. Later in the third, Crosby jammed a puck at the side of the net that flipped up and landed square in the middle of a prone Osgood’s back. Zetterberg jumped in and covered the puck with his hand while Osgood was still in the crease, but the refs didn’t call the penalty shot. Thanks for nothing.


TURNING POINT
Evgeni Malkin had the game on his stick early in the second when he pressured Niklas Kronwall (Detroit fans can read “tripped”) into a turnover at the Pittsburgh stripe and was off to the races.

Malkin skated straight in and wristed a shot off Osgood’s glove and into the mesh. Yippee.

Chris Osgood has the lateral movement of, well, Chris Osgood. If you take a shot, you’re doing him a favor. Go with speed, one move, and it’s in the net. Forehand, backhand, doesn’t matter. Make a (sunshining) move.

Then again, I’m not surprised Malkin butchered the chance. I’ve never seen someone so talented struggle so much on breakaways. It’s quite vexing.

Malkin has to score there. Those are the moments that swing games. Lemieux scores there. Jagr scores there. Malkin has to bury that. If he does, the Pens are up 2-1, and he sets the tone for the entire series.


KRONWALL’S A (SUNSHINE)
Niklas Kronwall continues to run people with reckless abandon. He tried to kill Malkin in the third period, literally launching himself at Geno only to end up splattered against the glass in the neutral zone. Incredibly, no penalty was called on the play. Nice to see the league is serious about protecting its players.


HIT PARADE
Illegal leaping aside, there were plenty of big hits. The game was much more physical than I expected, with the teams combining for 82 hits.

My personal favorite was when Brooks Orpik knocked that creep Marian Hossa loopy…

Aw, that was beautiful. Orpik is good people. I have that video running on a loop at the house. (Sunshine) Hossa.


FACEOFF FUTILITY
The Penguins got schooled in the circle. Detroit won 71% of the draws. Hard to get happy after that one. Crosby, the Penguins’ best draw man, was particularly dreadful, winning just six of 20 (30%).

That’s unacceptable. Each faceoff win is puck possession. The Wings are good enough without handing them control seven out of 10 times.


DETROIT IS GAY
The Red Wings are frustrating as all hell. They keep five guys back at center the entire game. There’s no room at all in the neutral zone.

If I’m Bylsma, I have my defensemen just hold the puck in the defensive zone until they commit more than one man. Seriously, just keep passing it back and forth until the Wings come get it. Who cares? Run the clock out if you have to. It would at least shine a light on how gay the Wings are.

Once more, all this nonsense goes away if the league would just adopt the defensive blue line for icing. That one change would cripple the trap and all similar neutral zone shenanigans. But that’s why I have all the vision and the rest of the world is wearing bifocals.

It also wouldn’t hurt if the stripes called an interference penalty once in a while.


BOTTOM LINE
This was a good effort for both teams. It truly was an even game. The Wings won because they got the bounces. Sure, they earned one or two of them, but the Penguins worked plenty hard themselves. They deserved a better fate.

Pittsburgh needs a split out of Detroit. With the margin for error so slim, it probably isn’t a good idea to fall behind 0-2. And they can’t waste these Datsyuk-less games.

If the Pens bring the same effort, and Fleury doesn’t put two pucks in his own net, I like their chances.




LCS Hockey: Born Again
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