The Bear Cave

June 2, 2009 2:05 AM

Teams Regroup as Series Shifts to Steel City

After two exciting games at Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins got to enjoy a day off on Monday, as the series shifts to the home of the Eastern Conference Champions. In a way, each team can consider the day a moral victory. The Red Wings can take the extra time to heal a few injuries, while developing a plan to put Pittsburgh against the wall in game three. On the other side, the Penguins got to use Monday as a chance to fix what went wrong in Detroit, while figuring out a way to get back into the series on home ice.

Looking back at the first two tilts of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, the Red Wings might have a 2-0 series lead, but the games could certainly have gone either way. If Evgeni Malkin had finished off his second period breakaway in game one, the Penguins would have taken a 2-1 lead, meaning Johan Franzen's late tally would have made for a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes of play. In game two, the Penguins hit two posts. Give or take a few inches, and that also had the potential for overtime.

With all of that being said, Detroit does have to be feeling very good at the moment. First and foremost, Chris Osgood has been phenomenal. Although the 36-year old has only been forced to make a few saves of highlight reel quality, he has been there when his team has needed him the most. Furthermore, stealing a series is nice, but the real key is making sure you don't lose the series. In the first two contests, Osgood has made 63 saves on 65 shots, earning first star honors each night. Goaltending wins championships, and so far so good for the man who currently owns three rings.

The second aspect that the Red Wings have to be pleased about is their depth and balance. One of the biggest question marks surrounding Detroit entering the series was how they would deal with having some of their more talented players battling injuries. Well, for a simple answer, take a look at the scoresheet from game two. Jonathan Ericsson, Valtteri Filppula, and Justin Abdelkader scored the three goals to lead their team the victory. Throw in Abdelkader's tally from game one, as well as the first goal from Brad Stuart, and five of Detroit's six goals have come from players with less than 15 goals in the regular season. If scorers such as Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa, and Jiri Hudler can heat up, this could be a quick series.

For Pittsburgh, the key to turning the series around can be simple, but difficult at the same time. Granted, some will look at the first two games as the Red Wings just benefiting from a few lucky bounces. However, the concern is what created the bounces. Of the six goals that the Penguins have allowed, two have come shortly after icing the puck. Although icing is a part of the game, Pittsburgh was vulnerable on both occasions, and Detroit capitalized. The other goal that can be looked at as an issue for the Penguins was Abdelkader's in game two. No player should be able to score when he is faced with a 1-on-2 and a goaltender. These are mental mistakes that Pittsburgh has to fix, as they have been made costly in consecutive games.

The other area of concern for the Penguins is the lack of production from the line of Sidney Crosby, Bill Guerin, and Chris Kunitz. Pittsburgh is probably happy to see that Evgeni Malkin has showed up for the first two games with one goal, one assist, and plenty of intensity. However, this is a team that needs both superstars to produce in order to be successful. Although most of the blame will be put on Crosby, credit has to be given to Henrik Zetterberg for a stellar job of defending the former MVP. At the same time, Guerin and Kunitz were brought to the Penguins with the hope that their two rings would help lead to glory. In Detroit, they were silent, and that also needs to change.

Last season, Pittsburgh played down right awful in the first two games at Joe Louis Arena, but came back to win game three with a solid effort in Pennsylvania. Because the Penguins played better on the road this year, they should be able to use the motivation of their home crowd to produce a victory. However, they will need to get rid of the mental mistakes, while pinning Detroit early. If the Red Wings feel any sort of life in the latter portion of the game, they will look for the kill, knowing that only three teams in the history of professional sports have come back from an 0-3 deficit. Simply put, the Penguins need to win on Tuesday, or else an octopus might find the ice in the Igloo for the second year in a row.

Despite a change in venue, Tuesday night's face-off for game three is scheduled for 8:00 Eastern Time at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.

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