Monday, June 1, 2009


What a difference 72 hours can make! Just 72 hours ago the train carrying the Penguins' many supporters was so full that it forced many new riders to cling to the outside of the locomotive!

Now, a mere 72 hours later, the people of Pittsburgh are collectively hitting the "panic button" fearing a second year of losing in the Stanley Cup Finals.

ABOVE: This button has practically been worn out after a pair of 3-1 losses to Detroit.

True, this is the Stanley Cup Finals that we're talking about, not something that you want to trail in ever if it can be avoided. But realistically, what was the best that you thought we would do in the first two games, a split? If so, and I'm sure that most people weren't expecting to come home up 2-0, we really weren't that far off from accomplishing just that!

ABOVE: A great sign used in Los Angeles. I particularly like the part that says, "Don't Think".

The Penguins were blown out in the first two games last year. In fact, they were so overwhelmed that they looked like they didn't even belong there. They came home down 2-0, just like this year, only to turn it into a six game series.

In contrast, this year the Penguins have been tremendously competitive. In all of the categories that matter, except for two,they are either leading or tied with Detroit. Those two they are currently trailing in are goals scored and goals allowed. Let's address those two obvious topics.

While the Penguins have out shot Detroit so far, they've also managed to hit more posts and be denied on a breakaway too. Chris Osgood is obviously in their heads as they feel a subconscious need to put their shots as close to the uprights as possible. How quickly people forget that another recent opponent, the Washington Capitals, also had the Pens down 2-0 in that series. We know how it ended up too: Evgeni Malkin running wild, Sidney Crosby chopping at pucks like a lumberjack at the side of the net and the goaltender even being pulled. The relentless pressure won out.

Of course the Red Wings are not the Capitals, not by a long shot. While the Red Wings are much more talented and disciplined, they also can get away with a lot more than the Caps could. Their continuing ability to get away with holding, interference, butt ending and slashing has certainly been something to marvel at. However, since the refs have shown that they're going to swallow their whistles for the Finals, the team needs to let the penalty distractions go and focus on peppering Osgood with repeated shots. He's not the greatest goaltender ever. He can be beaten, but you won't do it by hitting posts, crossbars or the glass. The shots have to all be on goal. It's amazing how sometimes the craziest shots can go in...just because they're headed in the direction of the net. Just ask Marc-Andre Fleury about that or Max Talbot too!

ABOVE: While the "panic button" is bad, the "auto destruct" button is far worse. This button would be pressed if the Pens lose another game before winning at least three in a row.

Speaking of Marc-Andre Fleury, the young man needs to batten down the hatches and start putting some doubt into Detroit's players' heads. He's allowed a grand total of just six goals in two games, but if you were to ask him, I'm sure that he'd say that three of those goals were garbage or lucky goals. That has to stop. If the Pens can ever get to a two goal lead in a game, again, much like the Washington series, they will show how capable they are of completely dominating Detroit. When you think about it, they've already been doing this. They had a stretch last game where they held mighty Detroit without so much as a shot for over eight minutes! But while they were doing that, they weren't taking advantage of their own scoring chances.

The Pens have had parts of both games where they played both very well and very poorly. At the very least they've shown that they're no longer "The deer in the headlights" that they were last year. But unfortunately, because of some bad shooting and bad bounces it's quickly become "put up or shut up" time.

This team is far too talented to let this become a short series. Expect a breakout win tonight, because this series is a long way from being over.

ABOVE: The phenomenon known as "mass hysteria". The "eye" forms first followed by the full cyclonic effect: BELOW

ABOVE: This angry mob emerged from the South Side after Pascal Dupuis was slashed and the Red Wings subsequently scored in game two. They're shown here entering the Armstrong Tunnels en route to the Igloo to complain to Mario.

ABOVE: After having a fight with Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, Evgeni Malkin, still wearing his black undershirt after his game jersey was ripped off, comes home, lying in wait for the Detroit star. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Evgeni knows!