Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Q: Detroit is just schooling the Pens. The Pens look like a bunch of school kids and the Red Wings are playing like they have a sixth man on the ice. I went from hoping for a good series and possible upset to now hoping they won't get swept. Taking this series to six games would be a huge win for the Pens and should help them next year. However, at this point, do you see any way the Pens can compete with the Red Wings?
Rich, Stephens City, Va.
MOLINARI: Yes, but it will involve a lot of things that haven't happened to this point in the series.
Scoring a goal, for starters. Even if the Penguins were neutralizing Detroit's offense as efficiently as the Red Wings have theirs, the Penguins couldn't hope to win until they figure out how to get a puck or two past Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. Indeed, if they were playing as well defensively as the Wings, Game 1 would be entering its 85th overtime right about now.
Obviously, the Penguins' chances of making this a series will be greatly enhanced if their power play can contribute something. If they can avoid the kind of needless, momentum-killing penalties they took several times during the second half of Game 2. If Marc-Andre Fleury doesn't wait until the Penguins are down a goal or two to start making the kind of big-time saves he produced at critical times during the first three rounds.
The good news for the Penguins is, they haven't played anything resembling their best game yet. The bad news, though, comes in two parts: Detroit has a lot to do with the problems the Penguins are experiencing, and there's no guarantee the Penguins ever will find a way to produce that "best game" at any point in this series.
Q: It's easy to play defensive hockey if you are allowed to obstruct players on the dump-in. I couldn't believe the number of times the Detroit players got horizontal sticks on Pens without the puck or skated through the forechecking Pens.
Ian DeArdo, New York City
MOLINARI: The prevailing belief in the post-lockout NHL is that if a player gets his stick on an opponent while it is parallel (or close to it) to the ice, he can expect to be penalized. That is supposed to be a core component of the league's crackdown on obstruction and related infractions.
Your observation dovetails with complaints Coach Michel Therrien and a few other members of the organization voiced after Game 2, when they suggested that Detroit's exceptional defense performance is the by-product of more than just excellent strategy and good execution.
Whether the referees will see things Therrien's way remains to be seen -- influencing them clearly was his intent when he went public with his criticism Monday night -- but the Penguins probably shouldn't count on it. And if the officials do start to penalize the Wings for obstruction and interference and similar offenses, it won't matter much unless the Penguins find a way to capitalize on those opportunities with the extra man.
Q: Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall clearly is a key member of a deep and talented set of blueliners, but he seems to leave his feet quite often when he dishes out hits, at least from what I've seen in two games. Shouldn't he be called for charging?
Doug McKinney, Bethel Park
MOLINARI: Only if the officials opt to enforce Rule 43.1, which reads in part, "A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who skates or jumps into or charges an opponent in any manner."
Kronwall is, as you noted, capable of delivering impressive checks -- he's thrown at least a half-dozen during the first two games of the final -- but he does leave his feet every now and then when throwing them.
Obviously, he should be penalized for that. Then again, the same is true of Penguins winger Gary Roberts, who landed a pretty blatant punch to the face of Detroit's Johan Franzen late in Game 2 and got away with it.
Q: Has a team ever forfeited the final two games of the Stanley Cup Final?
MOLINARI: No, and it isn't likely to happen now. But considering how everything else the Penguins have tried against Detroit so far has worked out, that's an option they might not want to take off the table just yet.
First Published May 28, 2008 12:00 am