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THN at the Stanley Cup: Pittsburgh needs to change game plan

The Pens have managed just 41 shots through two games and haven't scored a goal. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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The Pens have managed just 41 shots through two games and haven't scored a goal. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

DETROIT - B-O-R-I-N-G!

Never thought I’d feel this way when two of the NHL’s elite offensive teams hooked up in the Stanley Cup final, but the first two games have been a major disappointment.

The Red Wings have simply overpowered the Penguins and unless Pittsburgh comes up with an alternative game plan, this thing ends in four. Pittsburgh’s play in Game 2 was even worse than it was in the opener when they lost 4-0.

The question now is not can Pittsburgh win a game, but rather will they ever score a goal?

The Penguins didn’t register a shot on goal until the 12-minute mark and didn’t get their first shot while playing 5-on-5 until 5:24 of the second period.

It’s not as though the Penguins didn’t generate scoring chances. In fact, if luck was on their side, they could have been up 2-0 early. Ryan Malone was set up in the slot, but fanned on his shot and shortly afterwards, Sidney Crosby missed on a wrap-around attempt.

But with precious few exceptions, the Penguins have been unable to maintain any sustained pressure in the Detroit zone. And until they do, the Red Wings will continue to own them. The Penguins even resorted to playing Evgeni Malkin on a line with Crosby and Marian Hossa with about five minutes remaining in the game, but even that talented trio could not generate a scoring chance.

Although he skated better than he did in Game 1, Malkin did not manage a shot on goal in Game 2. In fact, neither did his linemates Maxime Talbot and Petr Sykora. Crosby led the Penguins with six shots, but other than his early wrap-around attempt, didn’t generate a good scoring chance.

• The Red Wings are famous for their reclamation projects. Just look at what Dan Cleary and Darren McCarty have done for them this season. Now you can add Brad Stuart to the list.

He had become something of a journeyman, playing with Calgary last season and the Los Angeles Kings this year, before Detroit got him at the trade deadline. And truth be told, his play was in serious decline.

But Stuart scored the opening goal in Game 2 and did some heavy duty work to get the puck out of the defensive zone, which allowed Detroit to score its third goal.

“Sometimes we pay players a lot of money and then slot them into positions where they aren’t likely to have success,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “You might put a guy in as a No. 1 or 2 defenseman, when in actuality he’d be more likely to be successful as a No. 3 or 4.”

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• Is it impossible for a team to come back after being shut out in the first two games of the Stanley Cup final? The Anaheim Ducks were shutout 3-0 in Game 1 and 3-0 in Game 2 of the 2003 final against New Jersey, but still managed to push the series to seven games. Of course, the Devils wound up winning the Cup.

• The Red Wings announced Monday morning winger Johan Franzen would not play that evening, but shortly afterwards said he had been cleared to play and that is why he was in the lineup for Game 2. To make room for Franzen, the Red Wings scratched Darren McCarty.

Franzen played well, but was shaken up at 10:58 of the third period after he was hit by Gary Roberts. Asked about the play, Detroit coach Mike Babcock said, “I didn’t see it. I heard our guy didn’t have the puck and (Roberts) tried to sucker him in the head, but I didn’t see it.”

• Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien may want to reconsider his curious decision not to use Crosby as a penalty killer. With his speed and skill, you’d have to think he’d be a threat to score the occasional shorthanded goal. In 213 career regular season and now 21 playoff games, Crosby has never scored a shorthanded goal in the NHL.

• Therrien had some unflattering words for Detroit goalie Chris Osgood after the game, about his very transparent way to try to influence the referees for Game 3.

“He’s a good actor,” Therrien said. “He goes at our guys and he dives. He did the same thing in the Dallas series.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS GAME 2 THREE STARS
1. Brad Stuart, Detroit
2. Chris Osgood, Detroit
3. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit

THN senior writer Mike Brophy is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read his other entries, click HERE.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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