LCS Hockey: Born Again
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June 26, 2019
Online: 42

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Deja Vu All Over Again

Chris Osgood
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

Different year. Same result.

The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped Game Two 3-1 to leave Detroit with a pair of losses. But not all 0-2 deficits are created equal.

Unlike last year, when Pittsburgh seemed completely overmatched through the first two contests, the Penguins went toe-to-toe with the filthy Red Wings, only losing out due to more bad luck and yet another soft goal from their netminder.

The Penguins outshot the Wings again, this time 32-26, and carried play for large portions of the game. They forced the Wings into 21 more giveaways, and they even reversed their faceoff fortunes, winning 53% of the draws. Kid Crosby did most of the damage, taking 10 of 15 against Henrik Zetterberg. But it still wasn’t enough.

The Pens cashed their lone power play of the night to take a 1-0 lead at 16:40 of the opening frame, and it came courtesy of their first good bounce of the series. Evgeni Malkin jumped on a loose puck in the slot and snapped a shot into a dog pile in front. Brad Stuart and Chris Osgood, both on their wallets, flailed at the bouncing biscuit, and Stuart ended up knocking it into his own cage. That’s a shame.

But it wasn’t long before Pittsburgh’s bad luck returned. The Pens rode the momentum of the power-play tally into the second and seemed on the verge of breaking the game open until Malkin rifled a point-blank chance off the right post.

If Geno scores there, it’s 2-0, and the Pens are in total control. He didn’t, so they weren’t.

Not long after, Detroit tied it on a Jonathan Ericsson point shot and took the lead on a Valtteri Filppula backhand flippula. A lack of whistles helped both goals. Mikael Samuelsson ran interference on the first one, and Maid Marian broke Pascal Dupuis’ stick on the second. Oh well.

Crosby rallied the troops and did some fine work behind to cage to set the table for Bill Guerin, who ripped another shot off the bar. Metallurgy save!

Yeah, that’s right. I’m not scared to make an obscure Doug McLeod reference. You’re welcome. But no matter how bad it gets, Pens fans, just remember: at least Doug McLeod isn’t calling the game.

Early in the third, Crosby wheeled from behind the net and fired a shot off the far left post. The puck slid back through the crease, and Sid grabbed it again and stuffed the rebound under Chris Osgood. Unfortunately, Zetterberg is tops when it comes to covering pucks in the crease.

That’s two times in two games Zetterberg should have been called for a penalty shot. What can you do? At least the stripes are calling all the interference penalties… oh wait, never mind.

Just a minute and eight seconds after Crosby rang the post, Justin Abdelwho? launched a pitiful snap shot from the top of the left circle that floated over Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove. Game over.

Hey, when did the Pens trade for Simeon Varlamov? Complete garbage. Tommy Salo thought that goal was soft.

The difference in this series has been goaltending. Fleury’s given the Wings three goals. Pittsburgh has no chance to win unless Fleury gets his head right. He tends to steal one game a series. He better make it two.

It can be argued Malkin’s post early in the second was the true turning point, but the Wings swung momentum a few minutes later with yet another titanic shift similar to the effort that led to Franzen’s goal in Game One. This time it was the five-man unit of Filppula, Hossa, Franzen, Stuart, and Kronwall doing the honors.

Kronwall started it all by darting around Max Talbot at the left point and pressing the net. The Wings cycled the puck for a good 30 seconds and eventually forced an icing.

In the same situation in Game One, Dan Bylsma elected to call a timeout, and the Wings ended up winning the faceoff and scoring anyway. In Game Two, Bylsma chose not to take the timeout. Darren Helm beat Talbot on the draw in the left circle, and Ericsson blasted a point shot through Helm’s screen to knot the game 1-1. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The game ended in style, with Malkin and Zetterberg trading punches. Geno originally got tagged with the instigator, meaning he’d be subject to an automatic one-game suspension, but the league quickly rescinded the penalty and announced he’d be available for Game Three.

Before you filthy Detroit fans start crying about it and claiming conspiracy, this isn’t the first time the league has wiped off the “automatic” suspension. The rule was put in place to prevent goons from making a sideshow of the final minute of a lopsided affair. Each case gets reviewed, and if it’s deemed the altercation started from normal competition, the suspension gets waived. Deal with it.

Detroit fans should be lucky Zetterberg doesn’t get suspended for being a (sunshine). Way to keep the mittens on, Hank. What a (sunshine).

The whole thing started when Max Talbot used his blade to dig for a rebound in Osgood’s belly. Talbot pushed Osgood over, and no, it wasn’t a spear, and got two minutes for it. To his credit, Zetterberg stepped in to defend his netminder. And Zetterberg is cool with defending teammates as long as it involves some minor hair pulling and general bitchiness.

Malkin came to Talbot’s aid, and he wasn’t shy about giving Zetterberg the business. Geno got the gloves off and started wailing, connecting with an uppercut before missing with a wild haymaker and tumbling to the ice.

That’s when Zetterberg went to work. Assuming, of course, one can call waiting for the referee to grab Malkin before throwing uppercuts with a gloved hand “work.”

No matter how you slice it, these first two games have been tremendous. Both teams are competing at a level far above anything we’ve seen to this point in the postseason.

The Penguins have played great. Everyone’s playing the system and competing. Crosby was excellent in Game Two. Malkin is bringing it every shift. They’re matching Detroit every step of the way. The difference in Game One was two bad bounces; the difference in Game Two was three posts.

While the 0-2 hole may be the same, this is completely different than last year.

”I think way different,” said Mike Babcock. “I think last year the Malkins and the Crosbys were engaged about Game Three. I think this year when the puck dropped they were engaged. And sometimes that's just not understanding or knowing what the situation is going to be.

“But this team, the Pittsburgh team has played hard from the drop of the puck. Every inch of the ice is a battle out there with them. There seems to be momentum swings. We take over and then they take over.”

The tough part for the Penguins will be remaining committed to the plan even though they’ve yet to be rewarded. Don’t worry if the horse is blind, just load the wagon.

LCS Hockey: Born Again
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