Reputations falling as fast as Penguins

Roberts' punch to Franzen's head was team's low point

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DETROIT -- Sidney Crosby hasn't scored a goal since Mother's Day.

Evgeni Malkin skates in quicksand.

Ryan Malone can't function unless he's under the world's largest formerly retractable stainless steel roof.

And that Marian Hossa trade so widely hailed? Did it really happen? I mean, is he here?

Marc-Andre Fleury looks as though he could jump out of his skin, at least the portion of it he didn't leave on the ice with that memorable entrance in Game 1.

It's not just that the Penguins are losing badly in the Stanley Cup final, reputations are being lost as well. Unless they want to be remembered for nothing more accomplished than Gary Roberts' awful, chicken-scat cheap shot left hook to the temple of concussion-recovering Johan Franzen, some kind of magical adjustment that currently seems beyond their capability is needed before 8 p.m. tomorrow.

If all that weren't embarrassing enough, Penguins coach Michel Therrien was intent on blaming the officials, who are about the 82nd most impactful architects of this 2-0 well the Penguins find themselves in.

"They're good at obstruction," Therrien said of the impending Stanley Cup champions. "It's going to be tough to generate any offense if the rules [are going to be enforced] the same. It's the first time we've faced a team where the obstruction is there. We took two penalties against the goaltender. We never do that. He's a good actor. He's diving. He did the same thing against Dallas."

This is merely Therrien's way of trying to take some heat off his stars, ultra-profile forces suddenly reduced to non-entities by Detroit's near flawless backchecking. It can't be their fault. He can't lose them now, so it has got to be somebody else's fault. At least he didn't blame the octopi.

"I think our guys just realize it's the opportunity of a lifetime," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "You've got to be jacked up to play against these guys. Malkin is a candidate for the Hart Trophy. Malkin and Hossa and [Jordan] Staal, we've got to shut those people down if we're going to win."

Asked about how the Red Wings were neutralizing Crosby, Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom actually said, "Who?"

Didn't mean to be flip. He just didn't hear the question. When it was repeated, he explained the whole clinical process.

"I'm working my [butt] off out there trying to keep up with Crosby and Hossa," he said.

Pranksters might have awakened the Penguins by activating the fire alarm at their hotel at 1:30 a.m., but the fellas were fast asleep again by 8:15 p.m., which just happened to be game time.

Having slept fitfully through a miserable third period at Joe Louis Arena Saturday night, managing the somnambulant total of three shots on goal, the Penguins seemed determined to get through a period entirely shotless before the end of the Stanley Cup final, now approaching rapidly.

Nothing but nothing could awaken them, not even Niklas Kronwall's thunderous hit on Jarkko Ruutu along the boards three minutes after the opening faceoff.

In Game 2, the Red Wings had eight shots before the Penguins had even one, and two of those found the net behind Fleury. Sergei Gonchar's power-play chance nearly 12 minutes into the first period was the first time anyone noticed that goalie Chris Osgood had reported for work.

When the first period ended, the Penguins had gone 95 minutes, 57 seconds since they last scored a goal. Perhaps you recall it. Early in the third period against Philadelphia nine days ago?

Naw, me neither.

It's now 135 minutes and change, if you're still interested.

Unless the Red Wings fall on their faces, the degree of difficulty for the Penguins in this championship round has just tripled. It was only when Red Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja fell to all fours in his own zone that the Penguins got a first-rate scoring chance late in period two. Roberts collected the puck and fed it to Staal, who fired it at Osgood, collected the rebound, backhanded it again, and got nothing.

There's a lot of talk about goalie equipment surrounding the final, but no one has said out loud that Osgood seems to have a mattress and box spring in front of the Detroit goal. Of course he doesn't, otherwise the Penguins would be all over it, tucked in for the night.

Still, Staal's appearance in the slot ended a long stretch in which the Penguins appeared to abandon the center of the offensive end. Like real Penguins in those Discovery Channel shows, they're standing around on the edge of the ice flow, waiting for something I could identify if I'd just stay off the mute button.

We all might have a lot more time for that kind of programming by the weekend.


Gene Collier can be reached at gcollier@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1283.


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