Pens Need to Remain Undefeated at Home to have a Chance

Someone once told me, “You’re never in trouble in a playoff series, until you lose at home.” The Pittsburgh Penguins better hope that’s true as they take the ice tonight at Mellon Arena, down 2-0 to a Detroit team that has looked like a hockey machine in the first two games. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has looked like a group of overmatched pee-wees.

The Pens racked up a grand total of 41 shots over the holiday weekend, all of which were saved by Chris Osgood. The Red Wings had 4 goals on 36 shots in Game 1 and 3 goals on 34 shots in Game 2. The Red Wings lockdown defense and airtight puck possession has brought the high-flying Pens back to earth.

Evgeny Malkin has been invisible thus far, putting one shot on net over both matches. Hossa, Sykora, Malone and Dupuis have all had their own disappearing acts behind this new Red curtain. Crosby has had 9 shots, but obviously no goals.

The young captain did maintain his composure during a post-game interview on Monday. Instead of blaming the refs for bad calls and criticizing Osgood for diving as most Pens supporters have resorted to, Crosby pointed to missed opportunities and all around under-achieving as a team unit as the reason for the Pens’ current plight. Crosby’s words have to be a good sign for his team. He didn’t sound as if he considered the Red Wings to be truly a better team, or as if there was anyone to be blamed for the Penguins’ first deficit in a series this postseason, other than themselves. If the rest of the Penguins share this attitude, they still have a chance, especially playing in the Igloo, where they are undefeated in the playoffs and hold a 16-game winning streak dating back to February 24.

They need to get a jump early in Game 3, though. In Game 2, they were already down 2-0 before even registering a shot, and didn’t record an even-strength shot until the 2nd period. They need to come out flying, banging Detroit’s defensemen on the forecheck and forcing turnovers. Osgood has been good, but there have not been too many high-quality shots on him so far. When three of the top five playoff scorers are on one bench, it is unacceptable to be shutout in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals. Pittsburgh needs to take it one game, one period and one shift at a time if they hope to climb back in this series. If they can remain undefeated at home and head back to Detroit with the series tied, they’ll be in good shape. If not, they’ll have all summer to think about what they should have done better.

Len robinson
Sports Pundit member

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