[By Jason Ioli]
Alright, so game one did not end the way I was hoping. Everyone just sit back, take a deep breath, and finish your beer. All is not lost.
All in all, the Pens played real well in game one. They were able to keep the Wings under control for the most part and limited their mistakes. What cost them the game was several lucky bounces that went in Detroit’s favor. The first goal was the result of a bad bounce off of the famous trampoline boards at the Joe. Fleury didn't look ready for the puck to bounce that far and then it came off his leg and into the net. The Wings second goal was pretty much the same. The puck took another crazy bounce off of the boards and is tossed back out in front. Another bad bounce off of Fleury’s leg and it’s in the net. I will admit that the third goal was the result of some decent hard work by Detroit’s fourth line. But a pop fly off of Fleury that no one but Justin Abdelkader seemed to follow, and all of a sudden the puck is laying right in front while the Pens are looking for the infield fly rule.
But a loss is still a loss and that can only mean the Pens did not play good enough to win. Yeah, the hockey gremlins helped Detroit out some, but the Pens had plenty of chances (Malkin's breakaway). In the end, though, I still liked how the Penguins played tonight. They were physical and the defense played well. They were in the game until the end and I think that is something to build on for game two. As long as they can win one game in Detroit, then they still get the advantage. I would have preferred it was game one, but game two will be just fine. I still trust in Dan Bylsma and I believe he can make the adjustments needed to bounce back. Dan, if you happen to be reading this, here are some suggestions.
1. Attack the Puck. All night long, the Wings were always right on top of the Penguins and never let them breath. The Penguins need to do the same. They are being allowed to exit their own zone too easily. Also, there needs to be someone in front that can try and put a rebound home. That was how Fedotenko got his goal. Malkin shot it at the net, and Feds went to the net and got a rebound. Unfortunately, that was one of the few times it happened all game. The Penguins are getting good shots on Osgood, but there is no one there to disrupt the play or knock in a rebound.
2. Finish. The Pens had several chances to bury the puck only to have the puck roll off their stick or the player just didn’t shoot. I can think of plays by Crosby and Satan off the top of my head. The wings are too fast and too talented so those chances need to be taken advantage of quickly. One goal is not going to win anything against this team, so when an opportunity presents itself…..TAKE IT.
3. Stick to the game plan. I loved all of the physical play in game one, but it seemed that everyone was so worried about hitting that they forgot about scoring. I have seen the Penguins balance that very well against the Flyers and Capitals, so I know they can do it. Also, I know that I suggested that the Pens need to shoot as much as possible, so let me qualify that by saying this. Shoot as much as possible, but take quality shots when they are there. Way too often in game one the Pens would throw the puck at the net, but there was no one anywhere close to the net to help out so the Wings would just scoop it up and counter attack. When the game was 2-1, Max Talbot had a glorious chance in the slot. The only thing was he shot the puck too soon. He had the entire right side of the ice open and could have created an even better opportunity. Instead, the puck ended up in Osgood’s bread basket.
It was not a big part of game one so I did not include this above, but I want to also mention the power play. I do not believe in making special teams a key to victory because you don’t know if the opportunity will ever arise. But when the Pens get a power play, they need to attack better. There were two chances in game one and I think the Wings had more scoring opportunities then the Pens. The PP should be an advantage for the Pens in this series and it will help them immensely, but they need to convert.
Okay everyone. Reload and get ready because it is on again tomorrow night.