Red Wings-Penguins: No Sign of Exhaustion as Detroit Takes Finals Lead

Christopher MohrContributor IJune 1, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 30:  Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings scores a goal in the third period against Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game 1 of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on May 30, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

If the Red Wings are supposed to be exhausted after playing two days in a row this past weekend, then maybe they should never get any rest.

Instead of settling for a split or being down 0-2, Detroit has a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals against Pittsburgh.

This idea that fatigue would be a factor had some merit. Detroit is an older team than Pittsburgh and had less time to rest after their conference finals. That the opening two games would be played on consecutive days was supposed to exacerbate the problem. 

The problem with that idea is that it doesn't take a lot of factors into consideration.

Detroit's roster has a lot of depth compared to Pittsburgh's. The Wings' fourth line would be a second or third line on many other teams, so they can produce when the first line is struggling.

As was sorely needed, the bottom of the Red Wings roster has stepped it up. Who would have thought that Justin Abdelkader would score a goal in each of the first two games? The Michigan State alum has yet to score in the regular season. Darren Helm has also been huge on defense with hustle and hits.

Chris Osgood is having an MVP performance with his goaltending. The Penguins had a lot of dangerous scoring chances that would have been goals on most days, but Osgood has made impressive saves.

Matching Henrik Zetterberg against Sidney Crosby has been as effective a strategy in these finals as it was last season. The leaders of the Pens' offense, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, each have yet to score a goal. 

At times, Pittsburgh has had surges where they become aggressive and put the Red Wings on their heels, but they have yet to sustain such surges for long periods of time. On many possessions, the Pens were limited to a single shot attempt before the Wings regained the puck. 

In defiance of conventional wisdom, Detroit has put Pittsburgh in situations where they get exhausted and can't make substitutions.

The first Red Wings' goal, scored by Jonathan Ericsson, came off a faceoff that a was the result of a tired Pens' defense that was forced to ice the puck. When Ericsson cut loose with the slap shot, Helm was untouched as he came over to screen Theo Fleury. 

Fleury continues to struggle in goal for Pittsburgh. So far he has had two goals off the back of his leg—and Abdelkader's goal tonight was preventable. 

So far, so good for the Red Wings. They will face a more difficult environment at the Igloo and won't have the springy end boards or the home team advantage when it comes to substituting players. On the other hand, it's nothing they haven't seen before.