Q: What can the Pens do to change this dominance that Detroit has at home? Seriously, is the last change that big of a deal?
Chris, New York City
MOLINARI: Having the last personnel change is significant, because it allows a coach to get favorable personnel matchups. Being the last one to get your skates and stick in position for faceoffs is a plus, too. So it the emotional lift a boisterous crowd can provide. And, as the Penguins were reminded early in the Cup final, familiarity with the quirks of one's home rink can translate directly into goals on occasion.
The biggest advantage Detroit has at Joe Louis Arena, though, is the same one it enjoys everywhere: The quality, depth and balance of its lineup. The Red Wings are in position to wrap up their second consecutive Cup tomorrow night because they have no significant flaws, from the goaltending of Chris Osgood on out. They don't beat themselves, and not many teams are capable of beating them with any sort of regularity.
The Penguins -- 3-0 on home ice themselves in this series -- have established themselves as one of the clubs that can compete evenly with the Red Wings. Partisans on both sides can portray the first six games of the series however they like, but the bottom line is that each team has won three of them, which is why the Cup final has been turned into a best-of-60-minutes tomorrow night.
So far, home teams are 6-0 in the Cup final, which is one of the reasons the Red Wings will be widely favored to win the game. If the Penguins are to have a realistic chance to overcome Detroit's edge from being at home, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will have to play at, or very close to, the level he reached during the Penguins' 2-1 victory in Game 6. They'll have to limit the number of odd-man breaks and power plays the Red Wings get, and be opportunistic when they get scoring chances of their own. Get the puck behind the Detroit defense and retrieve it before the Red Wings can, because possessing the puck is the best defense possible. Not allowing the Red Wings to play with a lead is imperative.
The thinking here is that going into Joe Louis Arena and beating a veteran, top-quality, well-coached opponent like the Red Wings with a Stanley Cup on the line would go down immediately -- and perhaps forever -- as the greatest feat in franchise history, surpassing even the Penguins' run of 11 consecutive victories during the 1992 playoffs.
It's understandable if people believe the challenge simply will be too great for the Penguins, that expecting them to win a Game 7 at Joe Louis is not realistic. Perfectly logical, actually.
Just as it was to think they couldn't go 18-3-4 during the final 25 games of the regular season, overcome a 3-0 deficit in Philadelphia during Game 6 of the opening round or completely overwhelm Washington at the Verizon Center in Game 7 of the second round.
There was no good reason to expect any of those things to happen. They just did, because the Penguins refused to have it any other way.
Q: If the Pens had scored during the time they spent with too many men on the ice during Game 3, is there any way it could have been waved off ?
Ian Krest, Lake Ridge, Va.
MOLINARI: Yes. If the officials actually had noticed that the Penguins were one above the legal limit, Rule 74.2 mandates that they disallow the goal and assess a minor penalty for too many men on the ice.