Thoughts and observations from an off-day before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final (plus some way late post-Game 3 commentary):
Top stars from the Penguins’ 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday:
1. C Evgeni Malkin, Penguins: With three assists, his eyes are fully focused on two terrific trophies.
2. G Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins: With 27 saves, the “Flower” of the East Final finally showed up.
3. C Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings: A goal, and assist, and a continued skin-rubbing presence.
I can only speak for myself and several friends that attended Game 3 at Mellon Arena, but the video-board montage that preceded Penguins players stepping on the ice was the best since the season-opening video – by a long shot. The whiteout crowd was digging it throughout, and I especially liked the wording to capture the collective thoughts of fans and Penguins players. “We’ve been here before …” wonderfully summarized the emotion inside the arena.
Also, leaving the screen black during the “Renegade” song as it blasted late in the third period was a nice touch. That Styx song belongs to the Steelers, who put together a wonderful video montage to it for home games. I love that the Penguins tied into that feel without completely ripping it off – though I wish the Penguins had a song that was as identifiable with their organization.
UP NEXT, YAKOV SMIRNOFF
Penguins C Evgeni Malkin and Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk (likely to make his Final debut in Game 4) owned the microphones Wednesday, killing with humor.
Malkin on teammate Max Talbot’s offensive skill: “Little bit bad hands. He has lot of scoring chance, not score. Just empty net. It’s OK, he learns over the summer. No, I like playing with him. It’s lots of emotion skate. And he plays the whole game nonstop.”
Datsyuk on watching Games 1-3, which he missed because of a foot injury: “Oh, I tell you, just this is not fun to watch. I take in lots of beer.”
STATISTIC THAT MIGHT INTEREST EVERYBODY
A playoff recap: Penguins RW Bill Guerin has scored seven goals and totaled 15 points. The Red Wings’ Marian Hossa has scored six goals and recorded 14 points. Hossa, by the way, has scored all his goals in Games 4s of series.
I HAVE A THEORY
Since Game 1 and 2 losses by the Penguins, I’ve had this sneaking suspicion – based off conversations – that they’ve always hoped for a long Final. My thinking is they believe it favors them to stretch this out, not because they have younger legs, but because the Red Wings have not really been challenged on this stage with a series in doubt.
Now comes word that Datsyuk and veteran C Kris Draper are likely to play for the Red Wings in Game 4, despite a foot injury for Datsyuk that allegedly has healed even though it forced him to miss the first three games and he could barely walk on it two days ago.
The Red Wings are smart. They know their best chance to win this series will come in Game 4. A 3-1 series lead is commanding, but a 2-2 series shifts the pressure to them and gives the Penguins 1-2 star punch, Malkin and C Sidney Crosby, a chance to win the Cup by each taking over a game.
An appreciation of that prospect is why Datsyuk might play in Game 4 and not Game 5 Saturday at Detroit. The Red Wings don’t want a tied series heading into Game 5. Don’t believe me? Well…
“We’ve played five games in eight days without Pav, and to me, that’s long enough,” Red Wings G Chris Osgood said. “We’ve made it this far, but we don’t want to take anymore chances.”