Q: This may sound odd, but I'm a lifelong Wings fan who doesn't think he'll be upset if the Red Wings lose this series. It's the first time I can remember thinking this is going to be fun to watch, win or lose, (because) the best two teams are going to play. I believe even a non-hockey fan should enjoy this.
Bob Schofield, Hazel Park, Mich.
MOLINARI: The e-mail above arrived before Game 1, and history tells as that as the series moves along, the emotions of fans on both side will become more raw, their passions more overheated. Fact is, there's a pretty good chance that if the Penguins win the Cup, the gentleman who wrote this will discover that he really is at least a little upset that Detroit was beaten.
Nonetheless, partisans on both sides of the series -- and there's no question that the Wings and Penguins have large and loyal fan bases -- deserve praise for their demeanor in the days leading up to Game 1, at least when it comes to submissions to this forum. There was no chest-thumping by people in either camp, no belittling of opposing players' abilities or casting aspersions on their character. Wings and Penguins fans alike were respectful of what the other club had accomplished, and appreciated the challenge it posed to their team of choice. It was a refreshing injection of civility into the kind of discussion that all too often lapses into irrational and mean-spirited exchanges, and the class with which those fans conducted themselves reflects well on all concerned.
Again, it's not realistic to expect tempers and emotions to remain in check as the series heats up -- several Wings backers reinforced that belief with rather inflammatory submissions after Detroit's 4-0 victory in the opener Saturday -- but it's great that it began with people on both sides cognizant of just what a classic this final has the potential to be if both teams perform to their potential. Which, obviously, the Penguins did not during Game 1.
Q: After watching the playoff games and now the first game of the Stanley Cup final, why are we not protecting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin more? Why don't we go after some of their top players? I think the Penquins need to be a lot more physical.
Tony Vcelka, St.Clairsville, Ohio
MOLINARI: This is playoff hockey at the highest level, and players -- especially the ones who are key to their team's chances of winning -- should expect to get hit. Often. And hard.
The Penguins should take the body against guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk at every opportunity not to retaliate for the Wings hitting Crosby or Malkin or whoever, but simply because it's smart hockey.
Zetterberg and the Wings' other skilled forwards aren't going to be intimidated by being hit any more than Crosby will be, but taking a pounding can have a cumulative effect over the course of a long series, and some players might lose the edge on their game if they get worn down from absorbing a lot of checks.
Q: Do you think the Pens were simply overmatched (in Game 1), did they come out flat or was it a combination?
Roy, White Plains, N.Y.
MOLINARI: Actually, the Penguins started out well enough, thanks in part to some unnecessary penalties the Red Wings took during the first period, but certainly did not play to their potential during most of the final 40 minutes. (It didn't help that the Penguins' power play betrayed them when it had those early-game opportunities to seize a lead.)
It would be foolish to downplay the role the Red Wings played in the Penguins' showing -- those first-period blunders aside, Detroit looked every bit as good as expected in all phases of the game -- but the Penguins did not skate the way they can, they did not consistently shoot the puck into the Detroit zone and go after it the way they'll have to generate scoring chances against the Wings and were guilty of an inordinate number of unforced errors, like when Malkin failed to handle a Marc-Andre Fleury clearing attempt early in the third period, triggering the sequence that led to Mikael Samuelsson's second goal.
It's no secret that Detroit is efficient and opportunistic. The Red Wings have the skill and speed to create, and capitalize on, scoring opportunities. The Penguins can't afford to contribute to the total Detroit will generate on its own.