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March 24, 2019
Motor City Massacre
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Really, 5-0? I thought Detroit was supposed to be wearing down. What happened? I donít want to write about this any more than I have to, so letís make this quick.
Pittsburgh came out flying and established an excellent pace. The Pens were getting the puck deep, finishing checks, cycling, and doing everything they had to do to be successful. It looked like a continuation of Game Four. The Malkin-Fedotenko-Talbot line was particularly dominant, misfiring on a few glorious chances in tight.
And then Marc-Andre Fleury gave up another soft one. Aw, that hurts. The Pens got rattled and completely fell apart in the second, butchering a line change and taking one foolish penalty after another. The Wings filled the net on the power play, connecting for three goals on nine chances, and that was that. Just awful.
At least the game wasnít televised or anything. I mean, could you imagine if the NHL had a prime-time network deal and this travesty was shown all across the nation?
This is what makes Marc-Andre Fleury so maddening. Great one second, terrible the next.
Fleury was strong early, stoning Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen on dangerous scoring chances. The Flower looked in total control. Thatís why itís all the more stupefying heíd surrender that pitiful goal to Dan Cleary.
Itís a 2-on-2. No threat whatsoever. Datsyuk moved it across to Cleary. Not hard to read. And Cleary pushed a fluttering quail to the cage that somehow eluded Fleuryís glove. I donít want to hear any garbage about it coming from between Orpikís legs. I donít want to hear how it dipped. That puck canít go in. Period.
Thatís a back-breaking goal. The Pens were taking it to Detroit. To have a shot like that find net, on a completely innocent chance, is demoralizing.
Even the second goal was questionable. Yeah, the Pens got caught in a line change, and Filppula slipped in free behind the defense, but Fleury didnít react well at all. Again, thatís an easy play to read. With the pass coming from the right wing wall, the flow dictates Filppula is going backhand. He didnít have much time or space. But Fleury didnít stay square and reached with the pad, opening the five-hole wide. Granted, everyone else on the ice screwed up too, but thatís when your netminder needs to bail you out.
The third goal was shameful in that the penalty-killers allowed Niklas fín Kronwall to walk in front like he was Steve Yzerman. Thatís on Gill and Scuderi. Still, Fleury didnít help matters any, dropping his paddle to the ice and leaning forward. If he maintains position, keeping a straight butterfly, that puck doesnít go in.
Once that third goal went in, the game was over. At least thatís how the Pens acted. Fleury was hopelessly screened on the fourth and didnít have much of a chance on the fifth. But the damage was already done.
Before the series, I said Fleury couldnít afford any soft goals against the Wings. Well, Clearyís was at least the fourth in five games. Thatís simply not good enough. Canít win Stanley Cups with mediocre goaltending.
Give Chris Osgood credit. He answered the bell in Game Five, making a desperation glove save in a goal-mouth scramble to keep the game scoreless early in the first when the Pens were rolling. He also made the long lead pass up to Marian Hossa to catch the Pens in the line change that led to Filppulaís goal.
Even though he clearly wasnít at full strength, Datsyuk is as smart as they come when taking away ice on defense, and his patience with the puck helped settle down the Detroit power play. Itís a whole new world with Pavel along the half-wall. The Pens would be wise to avoid the penalty box in Game Six.
Once you fall behind 3-0 to the Wings, itís pretty much over. And unlike the Flyers, the Wings arenít going to give you the chance to stir things up physically. Talbot turned the tide against Philly with a fight. The Wings wonít take the bait. Crosby tried to get Zetterberg to go, but no dice. No one on Detroit is going to drop the gloves. Ever. This is the one time a year when being a (sunshine) counts as being ďprofessional.Ē
But the Penguins have to be smarter than that. You canít be slashing guys in the foot or face-washing Darren fín Helm. The Wings displayed a championís poise. The Pens, well, not so much.
There are two days off before the series resumes Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. Heading into Game Five, those two off days before Game Six seemed like Detroitís last gasp. The Penguins are suddenly the ones who need to regroup.
Considering the stakes and the humiliating way in which they conducted themselves, what with all the cheap, selfish penalties, Game Five could very well be the most embarrassing loss in Penguin history.
On the bright side, momentum, while enormous within the course of a game, doesnít carry over between contests. Each game starts fresh. So this debacle is dead. Put dimes on its eyes. Bury it. Itís done.
Now, if youíll excuse me, I have to curl up with a bottle of gin and cry myself to sleepÖ