Update (2:56 PM): Kukla’s has Babcock’s game day comments here. - Matt
Update (2:04 PM): I’ve thought more on the question of getting Crosby away from Zetterberg and Datsyuk.
Basically, I now see Therrien as in a very tough position. He has to get Crosby away from those two somehow, but he risks opening up the floodgates of the Wings’ offense if he does so. While Crosby is matched up against the Eurotwins, their first priority is to shut him down. As soon as they go up against a lesser Pittsburgh line, they can move to the offensive. That explains Datsyuk’s road production.
If Therrien can get Jordan Staal out there against them, that would certainly help, but how much? - Matt
Update (1:28 PM): The CBC playoffs blog has a great quote from Mike Babcock in response to a question about the fact that Pavel Datsyuk has only scored on the road this post-season:
“Here’s my theory: we match ‘em up at home, and turn ‘em loose on the road.”
Update (12:51 PM): Ansar Khan has it from Mike Babcock in confirmation that the Wings will not make any lineup changes tonight.
He also has an interesting quote from Babcock on a meeting the teams had with team officials today:
“They told us how it (officiating) was going to be done. Most of the meeting had to do with blows to the head.”
So there’s the Pens’ slap on the wrist. - Matt
Update (12:38 PM): At the FanHouse, I’ve got a short post up on the Sydor-Letang switch with a little more detail. - Matt
Update (12:24 PM): A couple things from Bruce MacLeod:
First, Therrien is apparently still looking to put Crosby head-to-head with Zetterberg and Datsyuk despite the fact that he has the option not to now.
My take? The Kid can like challenges all he wants, but Therrien would be stupid not to take the opportunity to gain an actual favorable matchup tonight. If he hasn’t figured it out already, Hank and Pavel are two of the best players in the game as well.
As Tom Benjamin recently asked, “If Henrik Zetterberg plays head to head with Sidney Crosby and outplays him on virtually every shift, is Crosby really the better player?” Replace Hank’s name with Pavel Datsyuk’s and you could ask the very same question. No knock on Crosby, who really is one of the best, but this series should be opening a lot of eyes to just how good the Wings’ “Eurotwins” are.
Second, Crosby wisely gives credit to the Wings’ defense, but not so wisely refrains from giving Osgood his due. Sure Osgood had not had to steal a game in this series, but that’s doesn’t count against his performance. It takes a lot of concentration to remain as focused as he’s been in this series, as Greg Wyshynski pointed out today.
There’s also the fact that the Wings have complete confidence in Osgood and play like it. His contribution may be more intangible than tangible, but it’s no less important for that. I’m not fully sold on his Conn Smythe status because a couple of his teammates have had huge post-seasons, but I don’t think he can be eliminated from the discussion just because the Wings’ defense is so good. - Matt
Update (12:14 PM): Correction: James Mirtle’s FanHouse liveblog begins at 1:00 ET, not noon. - Matt
Update (11:42 AM): The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Darryl Sydor will replace Kris Letang tonight. - Matt
Tonight is the the third game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Detroit leads the series 2-0 with two wins at home (4-0, 3-0).
Pittsburgh is facing another of those must-win situations in which they can technically still afford to lose. If they fall to the Wings tonight, they won’t be done, but theyÂ might as well be. If they win, they are back in the series and have a chance to make it go the distance like the 2003 Ducks. So it is important that they put on a winning performance tonight.
Some keys to the game for Pittsburgh:
Score a goal. Obviously, they can’t win if they don’t score, but it isn’t just about that. They need to show that they can beat the Detroit defense and Chris Osgood. The earlier they score, the better.
Best players. Mike Babcock has gotten laughs for his statements about a team’s best players needing to be its best players, but he’s right. That’s exactly what the Pens need tonight. Sidney Crosby hasn’t been awful, but he hasn’t been that great either. Evgeni Malkin has been awful. For the Penguins to win tonight, both of those guys need to have a big game. If not both, at least one of them does.
Marc-Andre Fleury. Going into the series, I’d say a wide majority of pundits and bloggers gave Pittsburgh the edge in goaltending. The results have not been so convincing. While Chris Osood is not facing many shots, he’s making the saves he needs to make. At the other end, Fleury has not exactly been bad, but he has not been exceptional. His team needs him to be exceptional tonight.
Defenseman Darryl Sydor will make his first post-season appearance this season tonight. No word yet on who will sit in his place. Also, it is possible that Malkin and Crosby could play together tonight.
The Wings have had a great series thus far, but will be a big test for them. With the Penguins sure to be fired up to play in front of their home crowd, Detroit should be ready to play its best game. No letting up now.
Some keys to the game for the Wings:
Score first. The emotional impact of Detroit scoring the first goal will be smaller at the Igloo, but it will count for something, especially if it comes early. Take the crowd out of it, cause the Pens to further doubt themselves, and keep the foot on the gas.
Stay out of the box. This will no doubt be tough after Pittsburgh’s complaints about the officiating, but the Wings need to be careful about taking penalties tonight. If it means playing just a little less tight defensively, so be it. Chris Osgood is up to the challenge of facing more shots.
Depth. With the Pens having the last change, the Wings’ depth will become a major factor tonight. Guys at the bottom end of the roster such as Darren Helm, Kirk Maltby, and Jiri Hudler as well as Brett Lebda and Andreas Lilja will need to be at their best as they are made to go up against Pittsburgh’s stars.
No lineup changes for the Wings. However, if Babcock is unable to orchestrate the matchups he wants via quick line changes, we may see him mix things up a bit.
For Pittsburgh’s sake, I hope they drop their complaints about the officiating and get their act together by realizing their problems are of their own doing. As for the Wings, I hope they just keep doing what they’ve been doing.
Lastly, if you’re not doing anything at noon today, drop by the FanHouse for a livechat between James Mirtle and Seth Rorabaugh of Empty Netters.