Monday, May 26, 2008

Tough road to climb, Pens lose

Game 2 saw much of Game 1: the Red Wings dictated the tempo of the game, took away time and space, covered their end well and sat on their lead. Their execution was flawless, very machine-like.

But before we all say the sky is falling, consider:
  • First of all, it doesn't matter if you lose the first two games a combined 7-0 or 7-6 or 17-16. All that matters in the end is the result. Detroit won. Won convincingly. Sure, that's undisputed, but the home seed is pretty much supposed to hold serve in a series like this. Detroit was up 2-0 on Nashville early but when they came back for game 5 the series was 2-2.
  • It's not the Pavel Datsyuk's and Henrik Zetterberg's that are running around unchecked and scoring at will, it's been guys like Mikael Samuelsson, Brad Stuart and Valterri Filppula. Detroit's skill players have played well, but they're not the ones primarily skating circles around the Pens or producing points.
  • To that point, the Red Wings' powerplay was 0 for 8 this game. The Pens have been outclassed, but they haven't been totally outmatched.
  • Michel Therrien has tried a lot of different personnel combinations, but none has paid off in goals. Several times tonight guys like Jordan Staal, Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone and more had great chances with pucks on their sticks in prime scoring areas. They just didn't execute well or didn't get the bounces to convert.

It's been very clear that Detroit is excellent at pressuring the puck, clogging the area between the bluelines and forcing mistakes. So you have to adjust. The Penguins showed a lot of signs of adjustment. Several times when they tried to breakout down one side Detroit would play their system and overload it with defenders. In that situation you have to play the puck back to the other side (usually back to a defenseman) and quickly play the puck around. This worked, to varying degrees of success, but none resulting in a goal.

Pittsburgh has gotten several favorable calls, but not much in this series. The refs called a bunch of fairly unreasonable penalties, especially with Chris Osgood doing his impression of JFK a couple of times. Still, in instances when the Pens showed frustration, like Ryan Whitney or Roberts' 3rd period roughing penalties the refs were right on it. There's nothing wrong with calling penalties at the end of the game to keep things from spiraling out of control, but it seemed like the Pens were slapped with more infractions then really what was warranted.

In the end though, it is an 0-2 deficit to climb out of. There is bright spots, like the play of guys like Staal and Sergei Gonchar (28:35 played, 4 hits, 1 takeaway 1 blocked shot) that gives a little glimmer of hope....If Nashville beat Detroit twice in their own barn, so can the Penguins. Give the Red Wings all the credit in the world for just humming along like the well oiled machine that they are.....But if the Pens can score the first goal of Game 3 on Wednesday night, this series could be very far from over.

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