Red Wings-Penguins: Despite Crosby's Drought, Pens Too Good to be Swept

Greg Eno@@GregEnoSenior Analyst IJune 3, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JUNE 02:  Sergei Gonchar#55 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his third period goal with teammates Kris Letang #58, Evgeni Malkin #71 and Bill Guerin #13 during Game Three of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals on June 2, 2009 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)


For all you Red Wings fans who so much as looked at a broom on Monday and Tuesday, shame on you.

You really thought these Pittsburgh Penguins would be swept out of the Stanley Cup Finals?

Sidney Crosby still hasn’t scored a goal, but the Penguins are still waddling.

They’ve wobbled, but they haven’t fallen. Yet.

There’ll be a Game Five, after all. This really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

The Pens faced all the tired cliches and directives prior to last night’s 4-2 win in Game Three.

Backs against the wall. There’s no tomorrow. A must-win game.

All that rot.

But they actually subscribed to one of them: Bet on the home team in Game Three, when down 0-2.

It’s one of the surest bets in sports.

Game Three is oh, so hard for the team up two-love to get. It’s quite the phenomenon, actually.

Even a team as good and successful as the Red Wings have had a devil of a time winning in such scenarios, even against teams far inferior to Pittsburgh.

It’s almost a given.

Regardless, I picked the Red Wings in seven, so I certainly wasn’t getting my mental broom out, despite the Wings’ 2-0-lead-in-24-hours boogie over the weekend.

But it wasn’t as if it was fait accomplit, either.

The Red Wings, after 40 minutes, had outshot the Pens 26-11.

Yet the game was tied, 2-2.

The Red Wings have seen that before, and defenseman Brian Rafalski, interviewed by Versus TV during the second intermission, didn’t seem fazed.

“We like the amount of chances we’re getting. Just keep trying to get the puck in deep and create some offense,” he said.

But the penalty kill betrayed the Red Wings last night; they gave up two power-play goals, including the game-winner from defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who’s basically playing on one good leg and one that should be elevated in a bed somewhere.

Gonchar got hurt in the conference semi-finals against Washington, missed Games Six and Seven, and played hurt (and not all that well) in the conference finals sweep over Carolina.

But these are the Finals, and these are hockey players, and that recalls efforts like that of Toronto’s Bob Baun, who literally played Game Six against the Red Wings in 1964 on a broken leg.

Baun, by the way, scored the game-winning goal in overtime, forcing a Game Seven, which the Maple Leafs won.

OK, so where’s Pavel Datsyuk, if hockey players are so tough?

Good question.

The Red Wings’ MVP candidate didn’t play again, and I can tell you from having seen Datsyuk in the Red Wings’ training room after Game One that he was, at that point, still limping heavily on his bad foot.

In fact, I told folks on Twitter and elsewhere not to expect Datsyuk at all this series, unless it requires a seventh game.

Does that mean that Pavel is a wimp?

Not at all.

Baun, as game as he was, played a different kind of game than someone like Datsyuk. Baun was a stay-at-home defenseman who was better able to compensate for his injury.

Datsyuk, on the other hand, is nothing to the Red Wings if he can’t pirouette, spin, stop and start on a dime, and do those other fancy-shmancy things on skates that lesser humans can only dream of doing.

In this battle of goalies, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury got the better of Detroit’s Chris Osgood, and knowing Ozzie, he’d probably be the first to admit it.

It’s not that Osgood let in any soft goals, per se (although Kris Letang’s PP goal in the first period was unscreened and in the “five hole” between Ozzie’s pads).

He just didn’t make those “Oh my goodness” saves that he made in Games One and Two.

Fleury, on the other hand, was up to the task.

This was MAF’s best game in the Finals, by far. No goofy goals off his leg. No knucklers butterflying over his shoulder.

Just good, strong goalkeeping.

So it’s 2-1 Detroit, and the broom-thinkers ought to be paddled with a goal stick, square on the seat.

These Penguins aren’t as good, I don’t believe, as their opponents, but they’re not “get swept in the Finals” inferior, either.

Game Four, however, is another story. That’s the one that the favorite often gets on the road, to go up 3-1.

Stay tuned.

If you can find Versus on your cable or satellite dial, that is.

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