Stanley Cup Finals: Five Things To Watch As Series Shifts To Pittsburgh

Mike FeldCorrespondent IJune 2, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 31:  Marian Hossa #81 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against Hal Gill #2 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Two of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on May 31, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Can anyone believe it?

It’s already Game Three of the Stanley Cup Finals. Through two games, fans have been treated to…well, not much.

Believe me, as a Red Wings fan, I’m ecstatic. My team is up 2-0 and only two victories away from its 12th Stanley Cup and fifth in 12 years (only 11 seasons when the lockout is considered).

However, as a hockey fan, I’m missing something. The games have been somewhat bland, most of the goals have been defined as fluky and up until the final 10 seconds, there was no bitterness to this budding rivalry.

Apparently fans agree; despite back-to-back games during prime time on network television, ratings are down.

With anywhere from two to five games left, here are five things that need to be done in order to salvage this series in order to appease the hockey gods.

5. Stop with excuses

The boards of Joe Louis Arena were the big discussion after Game One, and by Game Two it was obvious the subject was still lingering. Both teams played several pucks off the board, looking for an advantage.

Sure, the boards might be different at the Joe. But really? Baseball teams enter stadiums with wind conditions, dimension advantages/disadvantages and weather issues every single day. Do you ever hear a pitcher come out after a bad outing and blame it on the stadium? “Yeah, I had a bad outing. But left that pitch hanging because it’s a pitcher’s ballpark. It’s not my fault.”

This might sound like a shot at the Penguins, but it’s not. The Wings have been lucky, using players that spent two-thirds of the season in the AHL to score most of its goals. If a star doesn’t step up tonight, the Wings will be on that side of the mic, likely due to a loss. Speaking of which...

4.The stars need to shine

Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen. Four of the league’s top offensive forces have combined for two goals—one for Franzen, one for Malkin. Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk has yet to make an appearance in this series due to a foot injury.

I love the fact that a no-name like Justin Abdelkader has two goals for Detroit. But the rest of the hockey nation does not. If the NHL is to drum up attention and prove this is a quality product, the top players need to put the puck in the net.

3. Flap those gums

Fans may not admit it, and like to say the exact opposite on blogs and radio shows. But in reality, everyone loves a good jawing. Crosby enjoys to talk—especially on the ice. He hasn’t backed down in the past when it comes to criticism. Wouldn’t it be great if he said something inspiring now?

If he did, it might spark his team. It might spark the other team. Either way, it would cause a stir. Detroit has a lot of quiet guys who like to keep the battles out of the media, so why not have Crosby start it?

2. Talk about someone other than Sidney Crosby

Sid the Kid is the face of the league. We get it. But wouldn’t it be nice to hear about someone else between periods and on the World-Wide Leader?

As a Detroit fan, I can see where this looks like me complaining. It’s not. If NBC put a spotlight on aging Penguin Bull Guerin, I’d be happy. Marc-Andre Fleury? I’m watching. But I get the message. Crosby is the future. He’s the captain. Oh, and he has quite possibly the poorest excuse for a beard in North America.

Here’s a question to ponder: Is Crosby the best player in the league? The No. 1 guy in the playoffs? Even the best player on his team? I think I’d take Marian Hossa, Zetterberg, Franzen, Datsyuk, or Malkin over Crosby.

1. Let ‘em go

Yes, the officiating has allowed the teams to play. There’s been only a handful of penalties called through two games. But here’s my beef: If players want to scrap, let them do it.

At the end of Game Two, Maxime Talbot got his stick into the chest of Chris Osgood. Likely a combination of attempting to knock the puck loose and frustration, Talbot caused a scrum that included Osgood and ended with superstars Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg without their jerseys.

Malkin and Zetterberg got their shots in on each other. But this isn’t a bout between two boxers on skates. These are two finesse-style players and leaders of their teams. If they want to fight, that means it’s genuine hate. Let them go.


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