Game 1: Wings 4, Penguins 0

The Detroit Red Wings took a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals with a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

Pittsburgh made things interesting in the first period by holding the edge in play while the Wings got into penalty trouble.  Then they just collapsed and Detroit picked up the pieces, starting with Chris Osgood’s stellar play.

12 shots for the Pens in the first. Just seven over the second and third. The much-vaunted Pittsburgh offense absolutely failed to show up tonight. Credit to the Detroit defense for bearing down and holding off what little attack the Pens did muster in the second and third. Granted, the Pens had some close calls and could have taken this game had they capitalized on some of their first period chances, but the fact is they didn’t capitalize and that’s what matters now.

I knew the Wings’ defense would present a challenge to the Pittsburgh offense, but I never dreamed they’d shut out guys like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marian Hossa. Those three had eight of the Pens’ 19 shots, but I didn’t think any of them were exceptionally “on” tonight. Henrik Zetterberg alone had eight shots. It all stemmed from the fact that the Penguins just didn’t have the puck much. The Wings were great at forcing turnovers and at holding on to the puck when they had it.

Crosby and Hossa stood out in some ways, but Malkin stood out in others. The big Russian was awful, having apparently hit one of his cold patches.

On the waived-off goal: it was the right call. If you don’t believe me, read the rule:

Rule 69.4 – Contact Outside the Goal Crease – If an attacking player initiates any contact with a goalkeeper, other than incidental contact, while the goalkeeper is outside his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. …

Tomas Holmstrom should know better than to get his stick on the goalie in that situation. He was not playing smart there. His high-sticking penalty earlier in the game was also not one of his better decisions. Fortunately, neither mistake cost the Wings the game.

I never would have picked Mikael Samuelsson as the hero of Game 1. He showed great opportunism on both of his goals, which came unassisted. Fleury should have had the first, but the blame rests on the shoulders of his teammates on Sammy’s second. That was some awful play there.

How often does Nick Lidstrom have two penalties in a game? The last time he even had four penalty minutes was January 19, 2007 against Columbus when he was assessed a double-minor for high sticking.

It was nice to see Dan Cleary finally get a goal. I think the absence of the chin shield will help his game a lot, if only because his mountain man beard will distract Fleury.

Niklas Kronwall continues to impress with his open-ice hitting ability. He’s having quite the post-season.

By sending out the top power play unit in the final minute, Babcock was sending a message to the Penguins, make no mistake about it. The fourth goal was a statement on two things: first, cheap shots like the Jarkko Ruutu slash/butt-end on Samuelsson will not be tolerated. Second, the Wings aren’t going to give the Pens breaks in this series.

Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk had strong defensive games, I thought, but their play in the other end was a tad lacking. Thankfully, the Wings’ secondary scoring came out to play tonight so it didn’t matter. Those two will probably have to be bigger offensive contributors in the next game, however. Granted, Hank’s eight shots were indicative of offensive involvement, but those two could have controlled play even more in the Pittsburgh end.

The third period was a strong defensive clinic by the Wings and not perhaps the most exciting hockey by some standards. To me, however, team skill and efficiency remains exciting because individualistic, pickup-style hockey is low-quality and undisciplined. I have no problem with quick and efficient puck movement replacing wide-open pond hockey of the sort we saw for various stretches of the first period.

It looks like Marc-Andre Fleury’s tumble coming out onto the ice before the game was not a good omen for the Penguins.

For Game 2, the Wings will need to be more careful about taking penalties. They really shot themselves in the foot there in the first period by taking four consecutive trips to the box. It threw off their game plan and much delayed their taking control of the game.

If they can stay out of the box, they’ll need to continue to carry the attack to the Penguins by picking up where they left off in the third period of Game 1 as far as puck possession is concerned. The Pens will be trying to find a way to rebound from their first real batch of adversity in this post-season and a fast start by Detroit in Game 2 coupled with smart puck possession will make that task very difficult.

Game 2 is going to be very interesting and decisive. If the Pens can come out and make it a game, we’ll have a series. If they can’t find a way to stop the unraveling that was made apparent by the Ruutu penalty, they’re in serious trouble. My guess is they’ll come out hard Monday night and the Wings will have to be ready to meet that charge with a hard one of their own.

Filed under: 2007-2008, Game Reports, Playoffs

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Comments

  1. Wings in '08 says:

    Homer had his stick on the ice, and Fleury skated into him. It was incidental and should have been a goal. Homer was trying to make a play and he should not have to get out of the way outside the crease because Fleury skates out.

  2. Baroque says:

    I suspect the penalties and lackluster offensive play from Datsyuk and Zetterberg were probably a product of nervousness and maybe also unfamiliarity with the Penguins, but consciousness that they had to be careful defensively. If opening-game jitters don't prevent a win, I see it as a good sign. They will both be better in the next game now that they have gotten the initial nerves out of the way.

    It will be interesting to see what the Penguins do next game. Crosby and Malkin weren't very good, and they should also get better now that they have their opening game out of the way, but they haven't seen as frustrating a defense as the Wings can throw at them, so I wonder what kind of adjustments they will make.

    Nice start to the Memorial Day weekend. 🙂

  3. Justin says:

    Fleury wasn't outside the crease. And Wings in '08 was right. Holmstrom was outside the crease and simply put his stick down. Fleury skated out to challenge the shot and happened to move right into Homer's stick. The call was complete BS.

  4. Ryan says:

    I don't know what angles Versus showed, but CBC only ever showed the overhead, which made it look like Holmstrom slapped Fleury across the midsection with his stick. If that's the only shot you've seen, try watching TSN's highlights, which make it painfully obvious that the call was very, very wrong.

  5. Justin says:

    I watched the game on CBC, and then watched the highlights on TSN and Sportsnet. All angles show that it was a bad call. The overhead cam actually helps to show that Fleury was inside the crease and Holmstrom was outside it.

  6. Brian says:

    You're right about Malkin having an awful game. He has the tendency to turn the puck over and be sloppy on defense and the 2nd Samuelsson goal showed that. He is my Anti-Selke nominee.

    I thought Crosby had a good game (not great) and had the Penguins executed on the chances he was in on it would've been closer (especially in the 1st). And at least he didn't cough the puck up like Geno.

    I didn't like that almost a third of the game was played on the PP (@ 18+ min). Instead of giving one team 3 PP's in a row and then giving the other team the same, let's just let the guys play unless it's a really bad interference/hook. I'd like to see these teams play 5-on-5 for longer stretches than what we saw last night.

    The Holmstrom call was bad, I must admit.

    The big surprise for me was faceoffs – Wings had the advantage 35-31, I believe it was, and I would've expected it to be much worse for the Pens.

    I've gotta believe Ozzie is the Conn Smythe leader at this point for the Wings, despite a garbage goal from Zetterberg at the end.

  7. Baroque says:

    Re: faceoffs:

    It might have been more skewed if Zetterberg wasn't continually kicked out of the circle, apparently for being Zetterberg. 🙂 It might also have been better if the official wasn't taking FOREVER to drop the puck and making both players twitch because he was taking so long.

  8. J.J. says:

    I do not think that what Homer did kept Fleury from making the save. I would like to have seen that call go the other way.

    With the speed at forward that the Penguins claim, I was very surprised to see their D-Men backing off so often and giving us entry into their zone. Expect them to try to force more blue-line turnovers in the next game, Wings may have to dump it more often.

    Not playoff related, but is Helm making Kopecky expendable? I think he may have enough upside to bring pretty fair trade bait.

  9. Matt Saler says:

    Sorry guys, but Fleury was outside the crease and Holmstrom did get his stick on him before the shot got there. It was not a matter of Fleury skating into Holmstrom's stick at all. Fleury came out to challenge, as he is entitled to do, and Holmstrom then brought his stick down into Fleury's pads.

    Obviously, the contact looks incidental was we watch the replays, but the official had to make a call in real time. If we're looking at the impact of that contact, it obviously wasn't much. But the fact is there was contact and in real time, it was open to interpretation.

    Was it unfortunate? Yes. But it wasn't a clear-cut awful call like what we saw in the Stars series.

  10. Megan says:

    Okay, Matt, this issue of the contact made on Fleury is debatable. You think it was a good call, and apparently believe that's the only conclusion to come to. I don't think it is so cut and dry. I was at the game, so I couldn't really see what happened. But from what I've read and the minimal replays I've seen, I think that it's questionable either way. It may have been, it may not have been. In this sort of situation, I think what is seen is in the eye of the beholder. So to just blatantly tell everyone who believes it was a bad call that they're wrong is a bit over the top. In the end, it doesn't matter, but it's still annoying to see yet another goal waived off because of Holmstrom's position.

  11. Sarah Baker says:

    Personally I think the Holmstrom thing was in the realm of incidental contact, and the goal should have been allowed to stand. That said, I can see how the official on the ice might make that call. Definitely not as bad as Dallas, but it just annoys me that Homer gets so much crap for interfering when he's not, but it's okay for everyone on the other team to molest him to their heart's content. Whatever, we can beat the Pens even if we have to score two goals for every one that shows up on the scoreboard. Go Wings!

  12. Matt Saler says:

    Megan,

    I was just trying to point out how the official saw it. It's an interpretation I happen to agree with, yes, but others are free to have their own interpretations.

    To me, it's just not black-and-white like the waived off goal in the Stars series. Unlike that time, there was contact. It's just a matter of how it was interpreted.

    Obviously, the interpretation the official made was based on Holmstrom's reputation more than anything else. That is a problem and one that bothers me a lot as a Wings fan. But this was one instance where there seemed to me to be at least a grain of truth in the standard accusation against Holmstrom.

    Again, others are free to have their own interpretations of the play. I for one happened to agree with the call on the ice.

    As you say, however, it didn't matter in the end and I am glad for that.

  13. drikfan says:

    What this whole "blown call" issue really brings to light is that we need to add this to the list of reviewable calls. The officials are simply making errors in too many of these situations.

    Looks like the Board of govs voted to NOT look at this issue this summer, but they are at least thinking about allowing a coaches challenge. Seems like a good middle ground to me.

  14. Justin says:

    Well Matt, you seem to be the only person in the world (other than the NHL) who thinks it was a right call.

    Here's one thing I look at to determine whether a goalie was really interfered with or not: the goalie's reaction after the goal is scored. Because every single time a goalie was TRULY interfered with, he will react angrily and start yelling and gesturing towards the referee.

    Cases in point:

    Game 1 of WCF vs. Dallas – Right after the Holmstrom goal that could've been legitimately waved off, Turco was angry and immediately turned towards the referee and complained.

    Game 4 of WCF – After Datsyuk scored WITHOUT Holmstrom interfering, Turco looked like a goalie who knew he had been beat. He was calm and made no actions towards the ref.

    Now look at Fleury after the Lidstrom shot went in. He simply reacts the same way he would to any other goal – he looks down in disappointment, composes himself, then gets up for a drink from his bottle. No anger, no frustration, no annoyance, and no immediate demands towards the official that the goal be waved off. Because he WASN'T interfered with at all, and had been beat cleanly.

  15. Matt Saler says:

    Justin,

    Obviously the level of interference was marginal at best. I was merely trying to point out how the official saw it.

    As for my agreeing with the call, I happen to think there's no excuse for Holmstrom to have his stick on Fleury at that point, but that's just me. I'm not going to pretend that he never does anything wrong and that I don't think he did something stupid there.

  16. Jason says:

    For me, what made the whole interference call a bit silly was that Fleury looked to be going down into a butterfly to make the save–but got beat high. So Holmstrom's contact really didn't seem to make much of a difference on Fleury's ability to make the save: Fleury just plain got beat. Fleury's reaction just after that play too was not one of a goaltender who thought he had just been interfered with. But I can't crucify the officiating for this one, because, unlike them, I got to see a million replays and didn't have to make a call in the moment. Nor was it obviously a "make up" fabrication, unlike the Dallas incident. It's also a lot easier to swallow for Wings' fans considering the final outcome of the game. And what's really good to see is that it didn't affect the Wings' confidence at all; I think it may in fact even have made them more determined to win game one.

    I will stand up for Tomas, though; penalty or not, he was doing his job–working hard around the net. He's tasked with playing a game of unique precision in the most chaotic area of the rink, and does it better than anyone. So it really wasn't stupid per se, in my eyes, Holmstrom's use of his stick on that play–rather just the result of a little overzealousness. And I'd much rather see him play with a little too much zeal there than not enough. He knows, and Babcock knows, that it's a risk assessment to do it, but more times than not it pays off for the Wings. His high-sticking penalty is another story–that was pretty stupid, but I digress.

    Ultimately, if this was the regular season, I'd have been fine either way with the call that was made; in the post-season, however, and in the Finals in particular, it'd be nice, like Matt suggested in his pre-game write up, to just let the guys play unless a play is truly deserving of a penalty. But if officials are going to make those borderline calls, then just do it consistently, at both ends of the rink. That's all we fans really want, because there just seems to be too much coin-flipping involved these days when it comes to the goalie interference rules.

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