Penguins Win Game 3
The Pittsburgh Penguins are now 11-0 in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs when they score first and on Wednesday night they rode Sydney Crosby’s two goals to a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Igloo in Pittsburgh. Detroit now leads the seven game series two games to one.
Penguins’ goalie Marc Andre-Fleury withstood an early and late Red Wing barrage and made 32 saves in the game. It was by far his best game of the series as was the case for many other Penguins. Forward Evgeni Malkin didn’t register a point but he was much more involved in the action and just missed the net on a few chances. Coach Michel Therien removed defenseman Kris Letang from the lineup and inserted two time Stanley Cup winner Darry Sydor (Stars and Lightning) on the back line. The steady Sydor hadn’t played since March but logged 13 solid minutes of ice time. Pittsburgh had its best face-off percentage in the series losing only 28 of 55 draws. If they can keep that stat close to even then they have a chance of staying in the series.
For Detroit, Brad Stuart had a horrible game and it was his pass into Henrik Zetterberg’s skates in the Red Wing zone that turned the puck over and allowed Marian Hossa to feed Crosby for the first goal. Stuart was also on the ice for Crosby’s second goal (on the power play). Those two Penguin goals were part of a 25 minute stretch when the Red Wings looked more like the playoff missing Toronto Maple Leafs than the team that won the President’s Trophy for the best overall record in the NHL this year. Star forward Pavel Datsyuk is now pointless in the three games but he had some good hits and just misfired on some chances. Detroit’s power play went 0 for 5 in game three and must improve. By the way, Johan Franzen’s 13th goal of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs that cut the Penguin lead to 2-1 was an absolute thing of beauty.
Game 4 is Saturday night on NBC in HD at 8pm. Look for the Red Wings to come out strong on Saturday night in the early going. If the Penguins find a way to win on Saturday then this is anyone’s series. A Detroit win means Motown can start planning the parade.
Caps and NHL News
The Caps signed forward Matt Bradley to a three year $3M contract this week. This isn’t a big headline as Bradley is a third line player but what is news was his appearance on Hockey Night in Canada radio today on Sirius 122 with host Jeff Marek and former Rangers GM Neil Smith. Here are some interesting things that Bradley mentioned in today’s interview:
o On the Caps getting Sergei Fedorov at the trade deadline: Ovie (Alexander Ovechkin), (Alex) Semin, and (Viktor) Kozlov all were very excited and couldn’t believe that GM George McPhee was able to land the Russian star. The team thought that Fedorov’s primary contribution would be in the leadership department but the team got so much more out of him from a production standpoint and he hopes that #91 will be back next season.
o On Ovechkin and what impresses Bradley most: He said the ability is the obvious thing with Ovie but the biggest thing that he sees is that the Great #8 puts the team first and he wants to win badly. He said if you watch Ovechkin on the bench or on the ice after a teammate scores a goal he is as excited as if Ovechkin scored it himself.
Very sad news out of Vancouver today as Luc Bourdon, a promising rookie defenseman with the Canucks, was killed Thursday when his motorcycle struck a tractor-trailer in a crash near his hometown. He was 21. Bourdon was the 10th overall choice in the 2006 NHL Entry draft and played 27 games for the Canucks since he was drafted.
Playing TV Repairman
In honor of the great Phil Jackman, I am going to play TV repairman tonight in true “Jackman” fashion:
Watching last night’s NHL Stanley Cup Finals Game 3 on NBC I couldn’t help but wonder how in the heck former Islanders GM Mike Milbury is allowed on the air talking about hockey during such a critical juncture for the sport? Milbury, who flat out ruined the Islanders with his crazy trades, called the Caps “the Crapitals” on the air back in April before the playoffs began. One NHL scout I spoke with said to do such a thing is an absolute disgrace to the team and the league. Then last night, he told Ovechkin that he played like “a dog” in the first 4 games of the playoffs showing Milbury’s hockey ignorance. The video of Alex’s game winner in game 1 of the Philly series is a YouTube classic. Ovechkin, in his true first class form, shrugged it all off Wednesday night but the conversation was a major insult to the Great #8, who is arguably the league’s most marketable player along with Crosby. Milbury is bad for the NHL on TV and if I were Gary Bettman I would talk with NBC about having him yanked off the broadcasts permanently. Too bad John Davidson is now the Team President of the St. Louis Blues because he was the best television hockey analyst ever and would be great to have on during the finals.
My other big beef with NBC last night was that they missed several face-offs because the showing of replays took too long. In a game in which face-offs and puck possession is such a critical factor, especially where the Red Wings are concerned, NBC needs to make sure it doesn’t miss them. I counted at least five face-offs that were missed due to replays. Last time I checked the game doesn’t start with someone skating behind their own net with the puck.
Despite the missed face-offs and the annoying Milbury, the ratings for the Stanley Cup Finals are up so far this year. Pittsburgh’s 3-2 win on Wednesday night earned a 2.8 national rating and an 18.2 rating in Detroit, beating out the 15.9 rating for the Pistons’ match-up with the Boston Celtics. Game 5 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals drew a 5.3 national rating. The combination of Games 1, 2, and 3 have made this the highest-rated and most-watched opening games of the Stanley Cup finals since Detroit faced Carolina in 2002. The rating for Wednesday night’s game represented an 87-percent increase over last year’s Game 3 between Anaheim and Ottawa.