Saturday, June 6, 2009

SOMETIMES YOU'RE THE WINDSHIELD, SOMETIMES YOU'RE THE BUG


ABOVE: In a circumstance not unfamiliar to the Penguins, a bug is crushed against a windshield. While this bug is history, the Pens need to dust themselves off and get back on their horse.


Oh brother.
Give me water boarding. Pull out my fingernails. Gouge my eyes out. But please Lord, please never let me have to see a Penguins game as bad as that one again.

I think it's safe to say that I was among, oh, two million people who believed that the Penguins were going to win this game. On Fox Sports Pittsburgh meanwhile, the Pirates were playing the Houston Astros and had jumped out to a lead. During a commercial break, the next promotion was announced: Honus Wagner bobblehead night. A cold shiver swept through me. Thank God that the Penguins are a real team!

The game started off well enough as the Pens were playing with much confidence and intensity. To his credit, Chris Osgood kept them off the scoreboard. At the 12:45 mark, Detroit's Cromwell was called for tripping. The turkey was now on the table, but unfortunately, the Penguins could not so much as get a shot on goal, let alone a goal itself.

Detroit got a lift from this penalty kill, and after a few great Fleury saves, the Red Wings drew first blood at 6:28. Dan Cleary scored with assists from Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski. The period ended with no other scoring and the shots on goal were 10-8 in favor of Pittsburgh.

In reviewing my game notes, after the first period I wrote, "Pens had some great chances. Looked good. Keep it up, they'll wear the old men down."

Ah, no. It didn't quite work out that way.

After killing a carryover penalty to Chris Kunitz, a ticky-tacky goalie interference call, the Pens got caught with their pants down, so to speak, as a slow line change allowed Filpula to score the second goal at 18:20 of the second period. After this goal, the Pens went through a meltdown like I've never seen before in a big game.

ABOVE: After having the highest of highs winning game four in Pittsburgh, the team fell back to earth, sadly, without a parachute. It wasn't pretty.

Incredibly, the team went on a penalty spree the likes of which hasn't been seen...ever. Even worse, the Red Wings were taking advantage of them and the types of penalties just got stupider and stupider (new word).



ABOVE: The level of goonism (another new word) that the Penguins resorted to would have made Bobby Clarke proud.

Gonchar was called for slashing at 14:07 and 27 seconds later, Cromwell scored for Detroit.

Malkin, in a particularly dark mood, had a save shoulder/elbow into the neck area of Franzen at 13:10. Rafalski scored at 11:34

Chris Kunitz had one of the more shameful penalties I've seen, continuing to face was a Red Wing who was not even attempting to fight. Zetterberg then scored a few seconds later sending Marc-Andre Fleury to the bench.

Not to be out done during this ridiculous period of hockey, the face of the NHL himself lowered himself to slashing Zetterberg while Max Talbot, looking for a fight all night long, slashed the freshly-returned Datsyuk. Matt Garon, who hadn't seen game action in months had to hold off the Red Wings for a two minute five on three. When this period mercifully had come to an end, the Penguins were down 5-0 and the game, for all intents and purposes, was already over.


ABOVE: "Alice The Goon" of "Popeye" fame. In this photo she's calling on Popeye presumably to engage in some brutal fisticuffs. If women were allowed to play in the NHL, the Pens might trade, say, a Pascal Dupuis, to get her.

In the third period the Pens had a few chances as did the Red Wings, but everybody knew this game was over. There was no further scoring and Chris Osgood had his shutout. But there were more penalties. Marian Hossa took a particularly stupid goaltender interference call that did not lead to a score followed by...Malkin at 12:45 for elbowing, Dupuis at 4:10 for high sticking with the butt end of his stick, the face of Nick Kromwell.

In the resultant scrum, Craig Adams was ejected for being the third man in a fight. Seconds later, more ill will from Evgeni Malkin and Matt Cooke sent both players to the showers.

As the game wound down, NBC announced that the team that won game five would go on to win 14 of the next 19 cups. This brought to mind the memorable conversation in "Dumb and Dumber" where Lloyd Christmas, after being told by Mary Swanson that he has a one in a million chance to make it with her then says quietly, "So you're saying there's a chance. YESSS!!!"

Meanwhile, Mike Milbury called the Penguins play "juvenile" and I had to agree. On a national stage, no less, they looked like dirty players and sore losers who had totally lost their composure. I know how disappointed this team was over this horrible set of events. They wanted to win this game so they'd have a chance to win it at home. Sadly, that won't happen again this year. The Pens will have to win game six, just to get the privilege to return to Detroit's "Little Shop of Horrors."

The Stanley Cup Final is as much a test of wills as it is a measure of talent. In this one, the emotions of the moment clearly got in the way of any chance of winning.

GAME NOTES: Crosby and Malkin, amazingly, were held to one shot apiece...Detroit outshot the Pens 29-22...Detroit also outhit the Pens 42-35...The Wings tied a Stanley Cup record scoring three power play goals in the second period. Overall, Detroit was 3-9 on the power play, Pittsburgh 0-2...Pittsburgh led in blocks, 12-6 and won 24 faceoffs versus 21 for Detroit.