Detroit's domination has Penguins dazed, confused
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DETROIT -- Is it too late to pick the Detroit Red Wings in three games?
Hey, I asked that same question about the Penguins after Game 1 of their series against the Philadelphia Flyers because they clearly looked to be the superior team.
Well, guess what?
The Red Wings have exactly the same look against your Penguins.
It's not just that Detroit won Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final at Joe Louis Arena last night, 3-0. It's the way it dominated the Penguins for the second time in three nights to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
At this point, I'm not going to be greedy and ask for a Penguins goal. Not after watching the Red Wings play stifling defense for 120 minutes of one-sided hockey. I'd settle for a mere good scoring chance. Or even a good shot on net.
"We just have to be patient about it," Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu insisted late last night. "It's no secret. We have to put more pucks on net and then crash the net."
Easier said than done against this Detroit gang.
It's hard to believe how well and easily the Red Wings have shut the Penguins down. A fabulous offensive team led by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marian Hossa has been rendered practically impotent.
OK, totally impotent.
After having four power plays in the first period of Game 1 and getting 12 shots, the Penguins did next to nothing. Their shot totals in the next five periods: 4, 3, 6, 6 and 10.
Last night, the Penguins didn't get an even-strength shot until more than five minutes were gone in the second period. In the two games, the Red Wings had a 41-23 edge in shots 5-on-5. Malkin had no shots last night after getting one in Game 1. Hossa had one last night.
That's really weak.
How can you win when you can't score?
"We just need to get one -- one goal," Penguins defenseman Hal Gill said. "Sometimes, that can get you going and get your swagger back."
It's easy to blame the Penguins' stars -- and Ryan Malone [four minor penalties last night], Petr Sykora and Jordan Staal, for that matter -- but the Red Wings deserve a ton of credit. Their defensemen have moved the puck out of their end superbly. They always seemed to have a third man back, preventing any and all odd-man rushes. They did a wonderful job keeping the Penguins out of the middle of the ice and to the outside where they are less dangerous. They didn't just have the puck most of the time. They had it in the Penguins' end.
After the game last night, Penguins coach Michel Therrien accused the Red Wings of being "good on obstruction" in one rant and accused Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood of diving in another. Those are the things a desperate man says as he's reaching for any kind of lifeline. It was a little sad to watch him stoop to that level.
The Penguins have been outplayed in every phase of the game.
Maybe that's why the television cameras caught Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik with a what-have-we-got-ourselves-into look after the second Detroit goal midway through the first period, a tap-in by Tomas Holmstrom after a shot by Henrik Zetterberg had trickled through the legs of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
At that point, the Red Wings had an 8-0 edge in shots.
It would continue to be all Detroit, all night.
Where were the Flyers when the Penguins needed them?
Of course, the Penguins didn't wave any white flags afterward. They talked bravely of executing better, getting an early lead and playing from in front in Game 3 tomorrow night at home, where they have won 16 games in a row. Fleury, who had another off night, figures to be bigger in goal; he has won 18 consecutive games at Mellon Arena. And Therrien will have the final line change, which should lead to better matchups.
"It's not like we lost the first two games at home and have to go on the road," winger Max Talbot said. "All our guys are pumped about going home."
It's also not like the Red Wings are unbeatable. They lost twice in their first-round series against Nashville and twice in the third round to Dallas.
But, after what happened in the two games here, it's difficult to like the Penguins' chances of coming back to make this a series. Therrien already tried reconfiguring his lines for Game 2. That really worked well, didn't it? The Malkin-Talbot-Sykora line produced no shots.
What's next? Luring Mario Lemieux out of retirement?
There also is this final, troubling stat:
In Stanley Cup final history, home teams that have swept the first two games have gone on to win the title 30 of 31 times.
That and the Red Wings seem like an awful lot to ask the Penguins to overcome.
First Published May 27, 2008 12:00 am