May 27, 2008
It may appear that NHL linesman Pierre Racicot is merely trying to hold down Pittsburgh Penguins forward Gary Roberts, in order to keep him away from his opponent. Actually, he's attempting to place him in a modified sleeper hold, so Roberts can feel how the majority of non-Detroit Red Wings fans felt watching that NyQuil-on-ice last night.
Game 2 was boring. Really boring. Mark Messier reading his grocery list boring. And this was a game that featured Valtteri Filppula's remarkable goal, two goalie interference incidents with Chris Osgood, Pavel Datsyuk throwing punches and Roberts attempting to take out Johan Franzen in his first game back. Stuff happened, and yet none of it could escape the gravitational pull of the black hole that was Game 2. The ratings will hopefully remain strong, but how many casual fans are going to subject themselves to this series again on NBC?
As we've been saying since the Flyers' series: Take away the middle of the ice from the Penguins, and you neuter that offense. The Red Wings aren't just taking away the middle of their defensive zone; they own the neutral zone all the way to the Penguins' blue line. Pittsburgh isn't a bad hockey team -- it's just out of its element. Like when Lindros discovered he couldn't bull through NHL defensemen like he could the boys in juniors. Like when a high-school big shot realizes that the same voodoo that worked on the girls back home doesn't fly at college, because there's always going to be another dude with a better car and an off-campus apartment. The Penguins are stunned, none of it is working, and the Cup is slipping away.
As for Detroit, it's rather amazing how the mainstream hockey media is falling over themselves to praise the Red Wings' stifling, joy-destroying defense.
If this were Nashville or Washington, we'd be on the verge of rewriting the rulebook to ensure this sort of defense was banished from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, despite its utter legality. But certain teams are praised for great defense, and other franchises are demonized. Remember: The Rangers play quality positional defense, but the Devils trap. That's just the way it is.
If nothing else, this series reminds us that defense wins championships, and that goals mean zilch for entertainment value if they aren't accompanied by good offensive flow. That's why it's pure comedy that the NHL is going to once again shave down goalie equipment; how, exactly, will that get Evgeni Malkin more than one shot in the Stanley Cup finals? Because that's the real issue with this snorefest, not the other numbers on the scoreboard.
LCS Hockey believes this is still a long series, and the Penguins can get back into it with physical, smart hockey:
Detroit did its job. It protected home ice. Now it's Pittsburgh's turn. The Penguins haven't lost at the Civic Arena since the Ford administration, and I see no reason why that will change in Game Three.
The Pens did a lot of good things in Game Two. They finally came to terms with having to dump and chase. They started to physically punish the Wings, battering Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Franzen over the second half of the game. And they generated some quality scoring chances. It's not like Osgood is stoning them. The Pens are butchering their best opportunities. They'll eventually go in. And once they get one, they're probably going to get a bunch.
Detroit has had a 2-0 lead in all four series this postseason. They've also lost two straight games in two of the previous three rounds. It can happen again. Nothing to it but to do it.
Sounds fair. But at this point, we'll take any semblance of entertainment over what we've seen for the first two games of this series. We were promised a heavyweight fight, and all we've gotten is the most tedious punching-bag session in boxing history.