Red Wings: Babcock promises a better performance at Mellon Arena despite two practically flawless games
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DETROIT -- Of all the things the Red Wings did last night in dominating the Penguins -- again -- perhaps the biggest shot came after the game.
Not from the players but from the guy behind the bench.
"We're going to play better," coach Mike Babcock promised after Detroit took a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup final with its second consecutive shutout, 3-0, with the series headed to Mellon Arena.
"We've been a good road team all year. We're going to have a real good game in Pittsburgh. And we're excited to get on the road. Sometimes at home, when you're matching [lines] all the time, it disrupts your flow a little bit. We can get to Pittsburgh and let the guys just go, let them go out the door and play hard."
Harder than in the first two games?
The Red Wings, playing with few evident flaws, supported each other and got to pucks time and time again to frustrate the Penguins.
Take away the lopsided nature of the first two games, and precedent stands firmly on Detroit's side. The all-time record of teams that have won the first two home games in the Stanley Cup final is 30-1. The lone exception came in 1971, when Montreal came back to win in seven games.
At 8-1, the Red Wings have the best road record in these playoffs.
Last night, they frustrated the Penguins at nearly every turn, holding them without a shot for more than half the first period, and without an even-strength shot until more than five minutes into the second period.
That inactivity didn't bother goaltender Chris Osgood, who is 2 for 2 in shutouts this series.
"I say it doesn't matter to me," Osgood said of lulls in shots. "I play the game as it comes. We have a very good team. I love playing behind these guys. I just play the games.
"I don't need 40 shots to play the game or to feel good. I feel good regardless. I'm confident regardless. I play the game as it comes. Just win games. I'm not really into stats too much, just into winning."
Which means he must be having a blast -- notwithstanding accusations after the game by Penguins coach Michel Therrien and Sidney Crosby that he dived or embellished on a play late in the game to draw a penalty.
"I've been called worse," Osgood said.
In front of Osgood, the Red Wings took away space from the Penguins' speedy forwards and limited their chances.
Not that it was easy.
"I worked my [behind] off," said top-line winger Tomas Holmstrom, who with linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk has been matched against the Penguins' top line centered by Crosby and who serve as checkers and scorers.
Crosby led the game with six shots, but Osgood picked it up from there.
The Red Wings got two goals -- one from a likely couple of sources, the other not so much -- before the Penguins got a shot.
Defenseman Brad Stuart, who had six goals in the regular season and none in 14 games in the playoffs, sailed a shot from above the right circle at 6:55 that Valtteri Filppula rushed to screen. The puck careened into the net off Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's leg pad.
Hard work and teamwork by Holmstrom and Zetterberg made it 4:23 after Stuart's goal.
Holmstrom, from behind the Penguins' net, set up Zetterberg out front. Zetterberg's shot trickled under Fleury, and Holmstrom zoomed forward to the side of the net to reach behind the goaltender and knock it in.
"It was big for us to get the first goal and the second goal, reduce their breathing space for sure," Holmstrom said.
Filppula made it 3-0 when he beat defenseman Kris Letang down the slot and beat Fleury on the stick side at 8:38 of the third period.
Perhaps the outcome of the first two games speaks to the experience factor that got a lot of attention going into the series.
Since 1991, Detroit has been in 217 playoff games, more than any other NHL team.
Eleven members of this team have won a total of 24 Stanley Cup titles; three Penguins have won a combined four Cup championships. Only six Penguins had been to the final.
Or maybe it's just that Detroit has been the far better team.
"We feel we have a pretty good plan, and our plan is simple," Babcock said. "We like to play on offense. So the faster and better you play defense, the more time you have the puck."
First Published May 27, 2008 12:44 am