Penguins and Red Wings: Pittsburgh Needs Cool-Heads to Prevail

xx yySenior Writer IJune 1, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 31:  Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins handles the puck against Tomas Holmstrom #96, Darren Helm #43 and Marian Hossa #81 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Two of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on May 31, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Two games in, and this year's Stanley Cup finals is certainly interesting.

Evgeni Malkin is "fighting," Pavel Datsyuk has yet to play a game, and the attention given to Sidney Crosby is abusive, bordering on assault.

That last one no one is surprised with, but that's been what has set the tone so far in the 2009 Stanley Cup finals: physical play and getting away with murder.

The examples against Detroit are, when people choose to look at them, exhaustive. The Johan Franzen slash on Sidney Crosby and Marian Hossa's man-handling of Pascal Dupuis are the two examples many point to for penalties falling by the wayside because "Detroit is favored by the NHL and it's officials."

The Penguins aren't as innocent as the Crosby-criers would lead you to believe though.

Evegni Malkin got away with a trip in game one on Jonathan Ericsson that allowed him to stream in on a breakaway, only to be thwarted by Chris Osgood. Sidney Crosby even tried to joust a little with Kirk Maltby after game one.

And do we really need to dissect the "brawl" between Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg at the end of game two? Neither player had a tie-down on (illegal) and Malkin received an instigator penalty for it (while Miroslav Satan seemed to be non-committal to being the third man in the fight). One game suspension right?

Well we forgot about the fact that the NHL "withholds the right to assess each case of late-game instigators and rescind the suspension if deemed necessary."

Apparently, because Malkin isn't a "goon" he's allowed to instigate fights in the last five minutes of a game. That's good news for guys like Marc Savard, Zach Parise and Daniel Sedin who can now play the "sure I instigated it, but I'm a scorer" card.

Just what the NHL needs, especially in the cup final.

Sidenote: I just wanted to clarify the "Crosby-crier" reference a few paragraphs ago. I'm honestly sick of the Sidney Crosby cry-baby talk. If he is, that's great. There's also people that think he isn't, which are those that think he gets rough treatment (which he does) and isn't officiated fairly.

I just wanted to make a town-crier reference, and to avoid hate mail. Hence why I'm posting this disclaimer five paragraphs too late.

Getting back to the physical play though, this is where Pittsburgh has fallen.

You can talk all day long about the fact that Pittsburgh has hit an endless amount of posts, but it doesn't change anything. Fact is, post are nondiscriminatory judges. You can be black, white, Christian, atheist, blind, deaf, gorgeous or grotesque, short or tall, or even Gary Bettman, and you'll still hit posts.

Detroit has nothing to do with it, it's just bad luck.

What the Pens need to do though, is prove that they're physically the hungrier team.

Coming in to the series, that seemed to be the knocks against Detroit: They were the older team, meaning their bodies can't withstand the grind like the younger bodies of the Penguins can. Detroit is the more experienced team and merely looking for a Stanley Cup repeat, so Pittsburgh has to be hungrier right?

Fact is, when the puck went into the Pittsburgh end, especially in game one, the Detroit forwards did more to try and get it back and control it.

Going forward in the series, Pittsburgh is going to have to figure out how to pressure the Detroit defense better. The Red Wings' defenders, both young (Ericsson, Brett Ledba, and Niklas Kronwall) and old (Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski) have intuitive hockey senses: They always seem to know the best route to take, where to play the puck, and the safe plays to make.

The Penguins need to start disrupting the methodology the Wings' defenders have in place: As the series goes on, they need to pressure them more and begin to anticipate what they're going to do with the puck.

Pittsburgh defenders though, need to keep doing what they're doing offensively. Kris Letang got his first point since game seven against Washington Sunday night, and the Pittsburgh defense fired eight shots at Chris Osgood.

What needs to change in that though, is where those shots are coming from on the back end. Sergei Gonchar has two shots in two games—meaning he's tied with Hal Gill for shots on goal, and trailing Brooks Orpik.

Yeah. Good company there.

The Penguins are far from out of it though. In the second round they were down 2-0 to the Washington Capitals, won both games three and four at home, and went on to win the series. The big problem with this though, is that Detroit is 4-1 after winning the first two games of a series in these playoffs.

Crosby, Malkin, and the Penguins also have to keep their cool—if the recklessness that dogged the last few minutes of game two shows it's ugly head early in game three, it could be insurmountable.

Now the Wings have to fly through a snowstorm—the sea of white—and hope they can come out with at least one more in the win column.

The Penguins just need to calm down and get one in the win column.

Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile, or email him at bryanthiel74@hotmail.com. You can also check out his previous work in his archives.


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