Penguins look for goals, answers
Iceburgh dances for the crowd as Penguins fans fill Mellon Arena to watch the first game of the Stanley Cup final Saturday.
Sidney Crosby tries to wrap the puck around Dany Sabourin at practice yesterday at Mellon Arena.
Share with others:
Michel Therrien can agonize over the Penguins' power play, how it failed to score on eight chances over the first two games of the Stanley Cup final. He could fret about how some of his most prominent players couldn't have been any less visible in Games 1 and 2 of the series if they'd sought refuge in the federal Witness Protection Program.
But as his team prepares for Game 3 against Detroit at 8:08 p.m. today at Mellon Arena, perhaps Therrien's biggest worry is a personnel matchup that just hasn't worked out very well so far: The one that's, uh, pitted his players against the guys wearing Red Wings sweaters. Yeah, that kind of thing will keep a coach up at night. Of course, so would watching tapes of Detroit's 4-0 and 3-0 victories in the first two games, when the Red Wings became the first team to score the first seven goals of a Cup final and the Penguins posed about as much of a threat to them as the Washington Generals do to the Harlem Globetrotters.
2. Generate some scoring chances And then capitalize on them. When a team has more losses than goals in a series, it's in trouble.
3. Lack of a killer instinct The Red Wings blew a 2-0 lead in the first round and nearly squandered a 3-0 edge in the third. Can Marian Hossa, left, and Co. capitalize?
Detroit has had an edge in every facet of play to this point in the series. The Red Wings' mistakes could be detailed in the margins of a matchbook; an abridged rundown of the ones the Penguins have committed, with or without prodding from Detroit, could be mistaken for a Tolstoy novel.
In part because the Penguins haven't been able to score, they have spent most of the series playing from behind.
The Red Wings' success after forcing the Penguins to do so reinforces the belief that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the most dangerous lead in hockey is not a two-goal advantage. Instead, it is any lead that the other team has.
Therrien has run through a predictable sequence of moves since the Red Wings opened the series with a 4-0 victory Saturday. He has shifted some personnel around, made a few tactical adjustments and let it be known that he feels the other team is operating outside the rule book on occasion.
Whether any of that will alter the course of the series remains to be seen, but the Penguins should have one other factor working in their favor tonight: playing at home.
- PG video: Penguins ... Back to practice
They are 8-0 in these playoffs at Mellon Arena and have won 16 consecutive games there overall. None of those victories came against the Red Wings -- or a team that is Detroit's equal, assuming there is such a thing -- but being back at Mellon Arena gives the Penguins a measure of comfort and confidence they lacked at Joe Louis Arena.
"Our crowds at home are awesome," right winger Tyler Kennedy said. "Our crowds are like our sixth player. You score a goal, it's like you've won the Stanley Cup. It's unbelievable."
So is the disparity in production at home and on the road for some of the Penguins. Consider that during these playoffs, at Mellon Arena:
• Evgeni Malkin has earned 14 of his 19 points.
• Ryan Malone has gotten 12 of his 15 points.
• Petr Sykora has scored all five of his goals.
• Ryan Whitney has picked up all five of his assists.
• Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has won eight consecutive starts, stretching his overall winning streak there to 18.
Of course, all the gaudy statistics the Penguins compiled during the first three rounds did nothing to help them manufacture a goal in the first 120 minutes of this final or to prevent them from losing as many games to Detroit in a span of about 50 hours as they had in the six-plus weeks that preceded this series.
At this point, the Penguins' best-case scenario -- to reduce this series to a best-of-three, with two of those games on the road -- isn't terribly attractive, but it's a whole lot better than the alternatives.
"We definitely want to make sure we don't give them the opportunity to go up 3-0," center Sidney Crosby said.
If the Penguins are to avoid that, they'll have to generate more scoring chances, and capitalize on at least a few, even if that means all but abandoning the skill-oriented game they prefer.
After all, that approach has worked out pretty well for Detroit, which doesn't suffer from a talent shortage.
"The key is to play the way they are," Sykora said. "Get that first goal, get a power-play goal, try to create an ugly goal and then shut it down defensively. That's exactly what they're doing."
And why Game 3 will be pretty much a 60-minute season for the Penguins.
First Published May 28, 2008 12:00 am