Sunday, June 01, 2008

Detroit takes stranglehold

Stanley Cup final
(1) Detroit v. (2) Pittsburgh
Red Wings lead series 3-1
But sure, you’re excited about being in a position like this. This is what you play for all year long. When training camp starts, you’re preparing to be in a situation like this. So this is where you want to be, have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
— Nick Lidstrom
This could very well be old hat come Sunday morning, but here are the numbers nonetheless: When a team is up 3-1 in the Stanley Cup finals, its record historically has been 28-1 in the series, with only the 1942 Maple Leafs coming back against the Red Wings.

And when the team with home-ice advantage goes up 3-1, the historical record is a perfect 20-0, with the trailing team extending the series beyond five games just 35 per cent of the time.

It looks grim, Pittsburgh.

Evgeni Malkin was terrible in this game, especially during crunch time in the third period, when he played more than half the frame (10:03) or 43 per cent of his ice time. Bad decisions with the puck, even worse ones without it, he's gone from being the game's best player in the second half of the regular season and early in the postseason to being a major liability, but if you're Michel Therrien, what choice do you have but to play him?

Malkin was on the ice seven minutes of the game's final 10:43 — even when it was clear early on that he had no business being out there.

On the flipside, Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg were the game's best players. It's been really satisfying in these playoffs to finally see Zetterberg get his due as an elite offensive and defensive forward, something that would be capped off by his winning the Conn Smythe and Selke trophies in the span of just more than a week.

His stick check late in the 5-on-3 penalty kill on Sidney Crosby was a game-saver, and the hustle and tenacity shown by all of the Red Wings really came through there. (Zetterberg played about a minute and a half less than in Game 3, when Mike Babcock indicated he'd received too much ice time.)

Lidstrom, meanwhile, played nearly half the game (again), scored the tying goal early in the first period and helped buck one of the trends of these playoffs: The team that scored first didn't win for the first time in the finals, and for only the 25th time in 84 games in the 2008 postseason.

And Chris Osgood was — ho hum — solid when he had to be.

A final note that I'll be on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh Sunday morning between 11 and noon for a bit of a postmortem on this one and a look ahead to Monday's Game 5 in Detroit.

And I'll be hosting a live chat at FanHouse on Monday afternoon, with special guests TBA.


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At 9:57 a.m., June 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malkin is a pussy, if i was Pittsburgh I would trade him and get a lot in return, instead of ending up like Tampa.

At 12:07 p.m., June 01, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Extrapolating from the undeniable fact that Evgeni Malkin has had a bad series and a half, to the idea that he is soft and weak mystifies me. People have decided that the last eight games of his career mean a lot more than the other 175 games he's played in the NHL. It's stupid.

Even if we set aside the sample size issue, there's another problem. Does anyone else remember when it was Zetterberg and Datsyuk that were too soft to be effective in the playoffs? How does that assessment look now? Either people were drawing stupid conclusions based upon a small number of games, or they both learned how to be effective in the playoffs. If it's the latter, it's an indication that learning how to be tough and smart enough for playoff hockey is a lot easier to learn than are speed, good hands, and a great sense of where everyone is on the ice.

Given time, I'm almost certain that Malkin will be fine. That isn't to say that the Penguins shouldn't trade him. With the salary cap, it may make sense to do exactly that. Don't trade him because you think he's useless, though.

At 12:51 p.m., June 01, 2008, Blogger Hooks Orpik said...

Malkin's 21 years old and in the past 18 months, he's played in over 180 NHL pre-season/regular season/playoff games.

That's a lot of hockey. A lot of people think Malkin's playing through injury too right now. I'm not trying to make excuses for him, he's been a goat this series. It looks like he's hit the wall a little bit, but to dismiss him as a player is ridiculous.

Plus no one really mentions that for their ownership sale, Tampa's maintained a payroll well under the cap. The Pens can and will find the room to keep their core (Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury) and still surround them with good talent.

At 1:07 p.m., June 01, 2008, Blogger Hallock said...

Malkin shouldn't be the scapegoat for an entire team who's depth has suddenly disappeared from them. I'd echo the comments about Zetterberg and Datsyuk, it took them a few years to fully develop.

I recall in Detroit during 2003 and then in 2004 about how neither were producing consistently, or at all.

Malkin will be fine, Pittsburgh shouldn't pitch away a valuable piece of their future for short-term gain.

At 1:58 p.m., June 01, 2008, Anonymous Ned Braden said...

Malkin is young and has been not very good, however its Therien that keeps putting him on the point on the powerplay, where Malkin is clearly uncomfortable. Obviously Pittsburgh lack of offensive defenseman options is being exposed. By comparison, Lidstrom, Kronwall and Stuart have been excellent, while Rafalski has not had to shine.

Meanwhile, it was Roberts who gave away the puck when he had clear possesion that led to the eventaul game winner is what was a one goal differential. All of Roberts flailing around may be applauded by Don Cherry and Hockey Players Born in Canada, but what is playing out is that Crosby, Gonchar and Fleury our outnumbered by a very good Detroit team, and in case you hadn't picked up on it Dan Cleary is from Newfoundland.

At 3:53 p.m., June 01, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

Pittsburgh should definitely trade Malkin. To a Canadian team that I'm more likely to cheer for. Unless there's a Forsberg-like prospect coming in return, you'll never, ever, get what he's worth. How many points did Messier get in his first Stanley Cup finals?

Also, I agree with Ned. If I have to hear one more time how great Gary Roberts is (as opposed to was), I think I may throw up a little.


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