Stanley Cup Finals, Game 1 (5/30/09)

The grand finale of this season starts tonight as the Red Wings take on the Penguins in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals. The dream rematch of last year’s finals has come to pass. Sidney Crosby wants a Stanley Cup but he’s going to have to get past the best team in the league first.

The Red Wings are a little bit banged up heading into this game. Datsyuk is still not able to play after injuring his foot blocking a shot. Draper is also still out with a groin injury. Lidstrom and Ericsson will be able to go tonight so that’s great news. Lidstrom is coming off of a groin injury and Ericsson had his appendix removed just a few days ago.

The biggest and most obvious story of these finals is Marian Hossa and whether or not he made the right choice by switching teams from Pittsburgh to Detroit. Another big story will be Chris Osgood. Before the playoffs started he was universally identified by the media as the Red Wings one weak point. In actuality he’s been brilliant throughout the playoffs.

The game started out with an awesome pace. The action was incredible; it was really entertaining to watch. There were lots of hits both ways but Detroit seemed to be getting blindsided in the neutral zone uncomfortably often. There were good scoring chances at both ends but Detroit’s seemed to be more potent in my opinion. It seemed fairly easy for the Wings to nullify Pittsburgh’s attempts.

With a little under seven minutes left in the first, Detroit started rallying in Pittsburgh’s end. The Penguins turned the puck over twice in their own zone and Brad Stuart did a great job to keep the puck in at the blue line. He shot one towards Hossa who was along the boards behind the net. The puck hit the back boards and bounced to the net where hit Fleury in the back side and went in. Hossa didn’t touch the puck so it was Stuart’s goal. The Wings were up one to nothing.

Nearing the end of the first period Stuart turned it over in his own end to Malkin who took the shot. Osgood stopped it but it bounced away from his pads. He was pretty far out in front of the crease so that little bit of separation left a gaping hole between the puck and the net. It was only about a foot away from him and he dove for it with his glove but it was too late. Fedotenko seized the opportunity and put the puck in the net tying the game at one with a minute and twenty three seconds left in the period.

The Penguins came out in the second period with a lot of jump. Osgood made some great saves but also gave up some big rebounds. Fortunately, his teammates were always in the right place at the right time to clear it away. Detroit was putting the pressure on in Pittsburgh’s end and Kronwall was tripped up by Malkin. There was no penalty called and Malkin ended up all alone on a breakaway. Osgood stood his ground and stopped him cold to keep the game tied.

A few minutes later Lebda was called for slashing and the penalty killing unit went to work. The Wings killed it off but there were some scary moments. One big scrum in front of Osgood was particularly dangerous but they were able to keep it out. As usually, Helm was great on the penalty kill. With such speed and tenacity he’s just a joy to watch.

Very shortly after that kill Samuelsson was called for holding so they were right back at it on the PK. The Wings killed it off again.

Later in the second period the Red Wings got caught in a bit of a squirrely change and the Penguins ended up with another scoring chance that looked for sure like it was an easy goal. Somehow Osgood kept it out. Then Crosby had a breakaway and made spin move. Rafalski was having none of that and stayed right with him. He still got the shot away though and Osgood stopped it.

Then Hossa drew a penalty with his strength and speed and the Wings went on their first power play. They had some chances but didn’t score. Holmstrom took an elbow to the face at least a full second after the play was blown dead and there was no call. The referees weren’t calling anything except the most blatant penalties and apparently nothing after the whistles. It made for an exciting game but it also allowed some liberties to be taken in front of the net.

Nearing the end of the second period the Wings were pressuring hard and the Penguins finally iced it. They had already been on the ice for a long shift so Bylsma called their timeout to rest them. After the timeout the Wings kept up the pressure. Franzen shot it but it was blocked and came back to Rafalski. He shot it off the back boards again and it bounced back next to the net. Fleury was watching it the whole way. Fleury dove for it but Franzen was there to chip it towards the net. It hit Fleury’s skate and bounced into the net. That made it two to one Detroit. Both of Detroit’s goals had been banked in off of Fleury after hitting the back boards.

The second period ended with Detroit up two to one. The Penguins won most of the small battles in the second period just as Detroit did in the first. They were quicker to the puck and just seemed outplay the Wings in that period. Luckily the score didn’t reflect it as the Wings scored the only goal in the period. After two periods Detroit was slightly ahead in shots on goal and hits but they were way ahead on faceoffs. However, they had 15 giveaways to Pittsburgh’s 10.

In the third period Detroit was looking pretty good. Hossa made a beautiful outlet pass right on the tape for Helm who was on a breakaway against Gill. He beat Gill easily but Gill slashed him on the hands just enough to distract him and he flubbed the shot.

A few seconds later Leino was working the puck behind Pittsburgh’s net. He passed it to Abdelkader and he one-timed it. It hit the side of the net and popped straight up in the air back towards Abdelkader. Nobody seemed to know where it was except for Abdelkader who was following it the whole way. He gloved it to the ice and shot it into the net giving the Red Wings a three to one lead. That was Abdelkader’s first playoff goal and Leino’s first playoff point on the assist.

The Penguins pulled their goalie with about two minutes left in the game. They didn’t score and Detroit didn’t get an empty netter so the scored held until the end.

The Red Wings were great tonight, especially in the first and third periods. In the second period Pittsburgh was a little bit better but for most of the game it was advantage Detroit. Osgood was amazing and the fourth line guys were just incredible. Also, Helm was a maniac out there. He had a ton of ice time and he deserves it. I wish he could play the entire game. He brings so much energy to every shift and the rest of the team really seems to feed off of it.

The Wings did an excellent job of shutting down Malkin and Crosby. Zetterberg especially did very well against Crosby. If they can keep this up we’ll be in good shape the rest of the way.

Game two is tomorrow at 8:00 PM; less than a day away. With as much ice time as the fourth line had the Wings should be more ready to play tomorrow than the Penguins will be. They really spread the ice time around.

This 1-3 win brings this Stanley Cup final series to 1-0 Detroit.

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