This weekend was a quiet mess here in the Roost. I wasn’t around very much, and the posts I tried to schedule didn’t see the light of day. Good times. That means we have two hockey games to talk about. Let’s go with some bullet points and try making some coherent points all at once:
- Don Cherry made this point and I agreed with him: the officiating has been great the first two games. Anyone who has watched the NBA Playoffs this year knows what over-anxious officiating can do to a game. So far the refs have let the players dictate the pace of the games, and it has made for better hockey. Overall I think it hurts the Penguins, who were certainly hoping for power play chances to offset Detroit’s excellent 5 on 5 play.
- Television timeouts are something very, very underrated by most hockey fans. The stoppages after the 14, 10, and 6 minute mark of every regulation period (barring icing and penalties, mind you) become part of the rhythm of a game.
What happened during Sunday’s third period was really interesting: there were no commercial breaks for over ten minutes. Shift after shift, minute after minute, there was no time for the Penguins to really organize much of anything.
You would think that constant hockey would benefit them, but think about the difference in play when there are no stoppages. There are no offensive zone faceoffs, no chance to catch Detroit or execute a set play. Most importantly, the players you are double-shifting (Crosby, Malkin) aren’t getting any extra rest, making them even less effective. For such an extended period of hockey, not much was actually happening. If I’m a Red Wings fan, that’s exactly what I’m hoping for with a two-goal lead.
- I think the first two games have shown a few chinks in the Dan Bylsma armor. It’s tough to criticize his timeout usage in both games, but the final minutes of each were a mess for Pittsburgh. Obviously they needed two goals, which was unlikely to begin with, but they certainly didn’t generate much of anything.
Going back to the double-shifting of Malkin and Crosby, I think it’s a huge mistake. I think if there is anything the post season has taught us recently it is that a successful team absolutely needs a traditional fourth line. Detroit certianly has one, and in my opinion they’ve absolutely crushed the Penguins with it over the weekend.
This isn’t just about scoring goals, this is outworking, out hustling, and out smarting the Penguins. Even off the scoresheet the fourth line has been the difference in this series: the Penguins just can’t match them. Crosby and Malkin have been there and played well, but pure star power doesn’t win championships.
Think about what putting a superstar on a fourth line does. What does that line’s philosophy become? Do they continue to play their game, hit, and grind? Can 2/3 of a line do that while Sidney Crosby plays his game, or does he grind with you?
Simply put, it’s a conflict of styles. Suddenly guys like Adams and Cooke are supposed to be making passes to spring Crosby? And what happens when that line is stuck in their own end? If there’s one thing the Penguins don’t want it’s Malkin playing defense a large portion of his 20+ minutes on ice, but there he was caught out on an icing for Ericsson’s goal, and looking silly in front for Filppula’s.
The strategy was used much less in Game Two than it was on Saturday, but it’s still something that is confusing at best. I’m really not sure what Bylsma is trying to do in this series, but I know it’s not working. The Penguins have looked distracted for a large part of both games, and I think a lot of that is on the coaching staff.
- How bad has Hal Gil looked in this series? Gil has been old, slow, and downright tired so far. I thought that was what Detroit was supposed to look like after back to back games?
- Personally I love the back to back concept for playoff games, but both teams looked exhausted during the third period. I think what determines if this happens again will be ratings.
- Speaking of ratings, how much of a buzzkill is the fact that Games 3 & 4 are on Versus? This series may not make it back to NBC the way things are going.
- If you need a username for anything sometime soon, I’d recommend The Abdelkader to just about anyone. In fact, don’t use it. I saw it first.
- Plenty of people are giving the league a hard time for cutting Malkin some slack, but I’d consider it a lesson learned. I’m kidding, of course, but I find it difficult to blame the league for not enforcing a rule most hockey fans hate in the first place.
- Despite my reversal of rooting interests, it’s nice to know that Osgood is still a hell of a diver.