Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2: Detroit 3, Pittsburgh 1

Second verse, same as the first: two games, two nights, two wins, and the more things change, the more things seem to stay the same. The Penguins did manage to get on the board in both games, even taking the lead in Game 2, but they just don't have the talent to play with Detroit, and that's clear when you look at the job that the Wings have done on Crosby and Malkin. They're both special players, and Malkin has done an excellent job, all things considered, but Crosby has disappeared again ... he just can figure out what to do against the Detroit defense, and really, the other two lines aren't exactly helping (although to be fair, I guess Pittsburgh usually rolls three lines, so you can't expect the fourth-line guys to contribute).

The officiating was bad again. I guess there's been a directive from Gary Butt-man to roll the clock back 15 years ... if I squint, I can almost see Rangers-Canucks or Devils-Wings, complete with holding, grabbing, and interfering. Until the game was clearly over, at least there wasn't any bad physical stuff, and even at that point McCreary had to give the Wings a power play after Malkin threw his cereal on the floor and screamed. I mean, the second Detroit goal came after Hossa committed a couple of uncalled penalties, players are getting pulled down right in front of a ref with no penalty ... who knows what the series would be like if Pittsburgh's power play was on the ice?

The outburst by the Pens at the end was expected, I guess. Olczyk (former Pens head coach) in particular seemed to like it and trotted out the old "sending a message" line. And I always respond that the message is on the scoreboard. In a sense, it was really stupid of Malkin ... if he jams a finger on Zetterberg's head and can't play in Game 3, you know? But he was frustrated, and he probably felt this was the best way to express himself.

And like Anaheim and Chicago before them, the Pens can take their Philadelphia ways home with them. (The Flyers have been playing like that for 35 years or so and the NHL has practically embraced it, which is a shame. It's much better to watch talented teams playing hockey than to watch semi-talented teams playing rugby on ice.)

The Pens just can't compete with Detroit's depth, and at some point, the talking heads are going to have to acknowledge the job the Wings' defense has done. We heard the same blah-blah-blah about Kane and Toews, the two youngsters unlike anyone the Wings had played so far, and five games later, the Hawks were done.

Come on, Datsyuk and Draper, two of the three best defensive forwards on the Wings, have missed the first two games, and Detroit's won two two-goal games. How much more do they need to show to prove they're the better team by far? If Pittsburgh were missing Malkin and, say, Staal had missed the first two games, and Detroit were perfectly healthy, it might have been 4-0 and 5-0 like last year.

Pittsburgh has three games left, max. I think they'll split at home and lose Game 5 on Saturday.

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