Red Wings-Penguins: Hard for Anyone to Unravel Unpredictable Series

Greg Eno@@GregEnoSenior Analyst IJune 10, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JUNE 09:  Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins defends the goal against Valtteri Filppula #51 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Six of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals at the Mellon Arena on June 9, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

OK, so who’s the knucklehead who slipped a note to the Red Wings saying last night’s game didn’t start until 10:20, instead of 8:20?

Nicely done, whoever you are.

In what should have been potentially the biggest night of their season, the Red Wings came out flat as a pancake for Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.

The 2-1 final score was about as representative of the entire game as the two digits after the decimal point are representative of Matthew Stafford’s signing bonus check.

This was Game Six in Anaheim, only worse.

How a team as experienced, skilled, and focused as the Red Wings usually are could come out and lay a big, fat egg onto the Mellon Arena ice surface for the first 40 minutes is beyond me.

Then again, this entire series has been beyond me.

A look back, shall we?

First, we had the back-to-back boogaloo to kick things off: Games One and Two played on Saturday and Sunday in Detroit. This was supposed to be damaging to the older Red Wings, who were only a couple days removed from removing the Chicago Blackhawks from the conference finals.

The Red Wings won both games.

Then we had Games Three and Four in Pittsburgh, and the Penguins were supposed to be deflated and discouraged by their oh-fer in Detroit, despite playing some pretty damn good hockey at times.

The Penguins won both games.

So, naturally, the old, tired Red Wings were in trouble heading into Game Five. They looked staggered; the champs were on the ropes.

Maybe one or two more punches could finish them off.

Of course, the Red Wings destroyed the Penguins, 5-0.


The stage was set for Game Six. Bottom-feeding, ink-stained wretches such as yours truly wrote that these stages were made for the Red Wings, or even vice versa.

With the Stanley Cup in the building, I wrote, there’s all the urgency in the world, right there. You didn’t even have to manufacture it.

Plus, there would be the extra benefit for the Red Wings of an additional day off after Game Five.

So, according to this zany script, the Penguins made the Red Wings look like that old, tired bunch from Games Three and Four.

Care to make a guess about Game Seven?

This series, so far, has been like six different plays of NHL '09 on your PlayStation 2.

None of the games have anything to do with the other.

It’s a Finals series that only a Las Vegas bookie can love.

There’s no smart money left. It’s all been frittered away.

There really are only two sure things: death and taxes.

Take Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, for example.

The kid looks like a bad seed after some weird goals in Games One and Two. Then he bounces back in Games Three and Four. Then he’s so awful in Game Five that he gets the hook.

So Fleury is the game’s No. 1 star in Game Six, even stopping Dan Cleary on a heart-thumping breakaway with about 90 seconds to play.

Fleury's play is a microcosm of this series.

Want another series myth to bust?

How about the one that says the Penguins can’t win if Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby aren’t playing in stellar form?

The Pens got goals from Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy, and Malkin and Crosby were borderline milk carton material for long stretches. There was a Malkin sighting in the third periodwhen he was whistled for a penalty.

The Red Wings, meanwhile, played the first two periods as if they expected the Stanley Cup to be awarded to them after the game no matter what.

The Red Wings should have had the sense of urgency of a toddler crossing his legs while his mother dragged him through J.C. Penney’s in search of the nearest bathroom.

Instead, the Red Wings played, maybe, their worst game of the entire playoffs.

And I’m talking anything you got, from Columbus to Anaheim to Chicago. I’ll even throw in Games Three and Four of the Finals, and I’ll still beat it with the Red Wings’ performance through the first 40 minutes of Game Six.

They were, simply, awful.

Thank goodness goalie Chris Osgood didn’t believe the prank note, for he was the only Red Wing (OK, Henrik Zetterberg too) who showed up on time.

If it wasn’t for Osgood, the Penguins would have matched the Red Wings’ five-goal win of Game Five, and maybe even have beaten it.

Detroit had three shots on goal in the first period. Three. About one every seven minutes.

Unless you plan on Fleury having a save percentage of about .566 for the game, that’s not going to cut it.

I’m done with trying to figure these Finals out.

I predicted Detroit in seven before this goofball of a series began. After all I’ve been wrong about since they dropped the puck to start Game Oneand I’m not the Lone Ranger in that regardI still have a chance to be right in the end.

So it’s winner-take-all. There’s no tomorrow. All the chips are on the table. One-and-done. Women and children first.

Buckle up—it’s gonna be a rough ride.

See, there is still something you can count on between now and Friday night: The cliché train never gets derailed.


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