by Tony on 05/28/09 at 01:29 PM ET
Well, here we go again.
It’s hockey’s version of the Big Red Machine. But instead of Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Davey Concepcion, it’s Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and yes, it’s now Marian Hossa.
The Penguins will surely utilize the experience gained in last year’s Finals loss to the Wings. In retrospect, early in the series the Penguins spent more time gawking at the vaunted Red Wings rather than trying to defeat them. Two straight shutouts to start the Finals, only generating 19 and 22 shots respectively. It put the Penguins in a hole from which they could never fully recover.
But it’s a new year, the Penguins are a new team, some say a better team. Question is, are they good enough to hoist the Cup ?? Let’s take a look.
My half-assed keys to the series:
-Minimize the amount of Wings in Marc-Andre Fleury’s grill
. Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen should set up cots in that damn crease, for as much their big asses are in there. But while those two are the biggest culprits, it’s not just them. Just look at the winning goal from Game Five vs. Chicago, scored by sparkplug Darren Helm. If the Penguins defense can continue to keep the opposition to the perimeter, rather than those behemoths breathing down his neck, it gives them a much better chance of winning this series.
. Marc-Andre Fleury cannot be merely an average goaltender in this series. While many people will remember his 55 saves in the triple overtime Game Five in last year’s Finals, to be fair you also have to remember the painfully soft backhander that he allowed to Jiri Hudler in the third period of Game Four that ended up being the game-winner in a 2-1 Wings win. That said, while Fleury certainly hasn’t been outstanding (12-5, 2.62 GAA, .906 save pct.), it’s difficult to rattle off hardly any goals in the first three rounds that can honestly be considered soft. So while he obviously has to keep the soft goals to an absolute minimum, he has to raise those GAA and save percentages as well.
On the other side of the ice, Chris Osgood sure gets a lot of heat when those around the NHL talk about him, but in the playoffs, he’s looks fine to me. All he’s done is go 12-4, with a 2.06 GAA and a .925 save pct. Perhaps you might want to compare those numbers to Fleury’s above. What’s to complain about ?? That said, Osgood has had his moments, especially during the regular season, when those numbers didn’t look so good. If you’re the Penguins, the objective needs to be to pepper Osgood with shots, rather than get cutesy with the puck looking for the perfect pass.
-Slow down the Detroit transition game
. This was the main facet of Detroit’s game that impressed me the most last year. As soon as one of the Wings got possession of the puck, it was out of the zone, and quick. It’s not easy to stop that, but you can slow it down by not having the defensemen constantly backing up on their heels. But it’s that excellent transition game that quite often results in odd-man rushes.
-Take advantage of the Wings’ penalty kill
. For all the assets the Wings possess, it’s rather surprising that the Wings have not had the greatest penalty killing units. Their PK only has a 73.7% success rate, near the bottom of all playoffs teams. Up until Game Five, in which the Wings killed all three Blackhawks’ powerplays, the Wings had given up a powerplay goal in 13 straight games. Conversely, the Penguins’ powerplay has been slowly but surely improving, currently successful at a 19.3% clip. I don’t know about you, but I’d take at least one powerplay goal per game in this series any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
. I’m not going to get into shutting down any particular scorer, obviously if someone on either team gets extremely hot, it’s going to be a big problem for their opposition. But it should also be noted that both team’s 3rd and 4th lines have been doing a good job at chipping in with the scoring. A couple other interesting items to me is whether the Penguins will target any particular Wings’ defenseman (i.e. Rafalski ??) and how the Pens will use Rob Scuderi, who has become without a doubt the Pens’ shutdown defenseman.
It should be a great series. I just do not see the Penguins wilting like they did last year early on. There’s no more “awe factor”. After the first two games, every game after that was close. They beat the Wings in Detroit earlier in the regular season as well. If the Penguins can split in Detroit, it can bode well for a possible Cup championship for the Penguins.
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Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.
I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes. I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.
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