Joe Louis Arena, often dubbed "The Joe," is one of the toughest and most brutal places to play in. The crowd, even though it looked just 3/4 full at puck drop, was seemingly deafening to the ear. Gary Roberts couldn't partake in it on the ice, because he was up in the press box. It was just one of many faults made by Penguins' Coach Michel Therrien and his Pittsburgh Hockey Club.
The Penguins' had momentum coming into the Series. They had rested up after beating down a Flyers team that had no gas left in the tank. After the 6-0 victory, it was settled. Detroit and Pittsburgh would partake in their first major Playoff series since the early 1900's, when the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers squared off.
But the Penguins squandered four power play chances in the opening frame, and the team just seemed to cave in after relentless pressure from the Red Wings upstart fore checking and relentless pressure whenever Pittsburgh controlled the puck, especially over the neutral zone. Therrien, like a stubborn little old man, however, persisted through 60 minutes of hockey with the same game plan. His team was outplayed, outmuscled, out chanced, and outcoached by Mike Babcock.
But let's look farther into it.
The Penguins: What worked?
- Energy in the first few shifts, including a glorious scoring chance by Jarkko Ruutu in the first 3 minutes, looked to set the tone in the Pens' favour.
- Forechecking from the checking lines and the energy resulted into early trips to the box from the Wings.
- Speed and aggression by Malkin resulted into a pair of penalties by Darren Helm and Nicklas Lidstrom, in hooking and tripping, respectively.
- 12 Shots peppered Osgood early on, but he was rock solid.
- Fleury really didn't look out of place, he played just as well as Osgood in the opening frame, stopping 11 shots and controlling every rebound that came off his padding. He neutralized the dump-and-chase the Wings tried to implement early on and gave the Pens' D, as a whole, a boost.
What didn't work.
- 7 shots combined in the final two periods just isn't good enough in the Stanley Cup. Marian Hossa, Sidney Crosby and Ryan Whitney made up for 11 of the 19 shots.
- Evgeni Malkin and the checking lines seemed to fade into the sunset in the final 40 minutes. The energy from the opening five minutes just seemed to be sucked right out of the team.
- The crowd wasn't contained after Mikael Samuelsson goal, and it just got louder, and louder and louder in The Joe.
- The special teams units were horrid. The Pens had a real good chance to open up the scoring and run the table, but four missed opportunities with the man in the box were the story of the night.
- No traffic in front of Osgood. Guys like Whitney, Malkin, Laraque, Ruutu and Staal were expected to run Osgood to make him feel uncomfortable. Osgood, however, saw all four shots he stopped in the third Period, where it mattered the most.
- Defensive help down low. The Datsyuk line cleanly cycled the puck around the boards and up near the point where Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Co., were able to put the lumber into it. Most were screened by Thomas Holmstrom, who continues to impress playing on the top line.
- No adjustments. Michel Therrien looked like a poor man's Mike D'Antoni in Game 1 of the Suns and Spurs series. Everything was going right, then the Spurs were able to make adjustments the Suns couldn't. Same case here, Babcock really just has more guns at the ready it seemed like.
To list what the Wings did right in this game would almost seem unfair. They controlled the tempo and eventually started to put the Pens away in the latter part of the first period. Missed chances, low amounts of energy and just a piss-poor executed game hurt the Penguins and Michel Therrien. It's going to be interesting to see what the Pens come out with in Game 2. If they can sustain what they had going in the first five minutes or so, and play 60 minutes of Stanley-Cup-caliber hockey, I see this going back to the 'Burgh 1-1.