Sunday, May 31, 2009

Again

After Saturday nights disappointing 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Penguins faithful may be quick to recall the many instances in which the team has rebounded from dire straits. It was only a few months ago that the Penguins disappointing regular season performance had them outside the playoff race looking in. They proceeded to go 21-5-4 to finish off the season and hosted their first round match-up against inner-state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. They can do it again. Only a couple weeks ago they rallied from a two games to none deficit to eliminating Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals. They can comeback again. The Penguins are nothing if they are not resilient. But one thing the Penguins faithful cannot help but remember that is this time last year when they did not show up for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals against the same Red Wings, and how big of a role it played in the Wings eventually dispatching Pittsburgh in six games and claiming the Cup.

Many might put the game on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, whose gaffes dealing with the active bounces off the Detroit boards directly lend to two of the Wings goals. And surely Fleury's otherwise dominant young career has its share of blemishes from big game blunders, including last nights performance. But by the time the scoreboard had reached 00:00 the Penguins allowed only three goals to a talented roster, albeit absent from the lineup was their top scorer Pavel Datsyuk. But it was all Detroit needed. In a post season where both Fleury and the Red Wing's Chris Osgood have played such an large role in taking their teams to the cusp of claiming, or reclaiming, supremacy, it was the other guys on the ice who decided the first game of the championship series. Across the ice surface Osgood had his own share of errors, allowing rebounds all night long. Including the rebound on a first period Evgeni Malkin shot that Ruslan Fedetenko deposited in the net, tying the game. But the Wings skaters where there to pick up Osgood, shutting down the Penguins dynamic offense, closing down the blue line and forcing the play to the boards. Despite resorting to teaming the top two playoff scorers, Malkin and Sidney Crosby, on a single line, the Penguins were unable to work their cycle in the offensive zone. The Wings stifling defensive effort eliminated dissecting passes and play inside the circles, rendering even the dangerous Penguins power-play ineffective.

Count the Penguins game one loss as an opportunity wasted, particularly with Datsyuk and his 97 regular season points not in the Detroit lineup. But do not count the Penguins out of series, from the moment they landed the first overall pick in the 2005 lottery and drafted then seventeen year old Crosby the Penguins have made beating the odds their calling card. However with the puck dropping on game two tonight, less than 24 hours after the completion of the series opener, the Penguins have to rebound sooner rather than later as to not repeat their costly errors of last seasons Cup finals.

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