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THN at the Stanley Cup: Finding offensive groove a must for Penguins

No Penguin, including Ryan Malone, has been able to find the back of the net in the Stanley Cup final so far. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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No Penguin, including Ryan Malone, has been able to find the back of the net in the Stanley Cup final so far. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ryan Malone is usually a man of many words; a chatterbox if you will.

But when asked specifically what he could change in his game to help make the Pittsburgh Penguins successful in tonight’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, he got straight to the point.

“Try to score,” he said with a laugh. “Obviously I was trying to score in Games 1 and 2, but I have to go out there and try to be more of a presence. When you have the puck you want to make sure you’re making great plays to make things happen. I think in the playoffs every time you go over the boards you want to make a difference.”

If Malone can’t make a difference, then somebody else had better step up to the plate. The Penguins have been absolutely befuddled by the Red Wings in the first two games of the final, unable to score and barely able to get any shots on goal.

After firing 12 shots at Detroit goalie Chris Osgood in the first period of Game 1, the Pens managed just four shots in the second period and three in the third. It was much the same in Game 2. The Pens didn’t get their first shot until 12 minutes in and didn’t register a shot while playing 5-on-5 until 5:24 of the second period.

Of course, a lot of attention will be on Sidney Crosby and Hart Trophy candidate Evgeni Malkin to see if they can kick it into gear. Malkin has been particularly disappointing and failed to register a shot on goal in Game 2 after sleepwalking through the opener. For his part, Crosby said things will be pretty much status quo in Game 3.

“I wouldn’t change a whole lot, to be honest,” Crosby said. “I feel like I’m moving my feet. It is tight checking, so I want to make sure that when I do get opportunities, I capitalize on my chances and execute well. They pressure a lot and I think sometimes you get caught thinking you have less time than you really do. When you do have those opportunities you have to focus on reading the play and reacting right.”

One big difference is the fact the Penguins, being at home, have the last change, which means Crosby might not have to go up against soon-to-be-named Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom and Selke Trophy candidates Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as often as he did in Detroit.

“It will be nice, but if it happens, it happens,” Crosby said. “I don’t think we’re too worried about matchups. We expect a lot of each other no matter what the matchups are. It’s not something I’m personally thinking about. If it works out that way I’m not going to complain.”

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Of course, it will take a total team effort to get back into this thing. Getting back to playing the way they play best will help.

“The reason why teams take penalties against us is because of our speed down low," said sophomore center Jordan Staal. "If we can get some speed going down low and create some chances off the cycle, I think we have a good shot at winning.”

Added defense-minded winger Adam Hall: “We need good puck management. Last game we started off OK, getting the puck deep, but we got it in too deep and it was easy for Osgood to move it. If we can get it in and make their defense have to turn to get it, we’ll be able to get in on them with more speed and we’ll have more offensive opportunities.”

There were numerous times in Game 2 when it looked like the Penguins were going to blow their lids, particularly late in the game when they attempted to physically intimidate the Red Wings. If the Pens think that is the road to victory, they’d better think again. The Wings are too smart and too mentally tough to be sucked into that kind of a game, even if Datsyuk did get a little testy when the Penguins took a shot at Osgood. 

“I think we’re learning quite a bit from them,” Malone said. “We’re yapping at them and running them and they remain very calm and poised over there. You can see they’ve been through the ringer before, so you tip your hat to them, but you don’t want to respect them too much. I think you always try to take a little something away from your opponents in each round of the playoffs and the more we play Detroit, the more comfortable we’ll be.”

Malone said scoring first would be a big boost.

“All year it has been that way; once we get the first goal we really turn it on,” Malone said. “Scoring gives us confidence and that’s what we need right now. Once we see that red light come on you’re going to see a different team.”

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.

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