Three Questions: Wings-Penguins
DRW.com analyzes Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals
It might not have been the game-winner, but Justin Abdelkader had the goal of the night for the Wings. The Muskegon native, playing in his eighth postseason game, had only three minutes worth of ice-time in the first two periods. But in the third, he found the back of the net for his first goal of the playoffs. Abdelkader took a pass from Ville Leino behind the Penguins’ goal, and fired a shot towards goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The puck hit the side of the net, and popped straight up in the air. Through a crowd, Abdelkader reached up and knocked the loose puck down with his hand. With a quick sidestep, Abdelkader fired the puck past Fleury, giving the Wings a 3-1 lead just 2:48 into the final period.
It was a huge goal for the Wings, and the kind of secondary scoring they will need to come out on top in this series. With Pavel Datsyuk out of the line-up, players like Abdelkader and Leino stepped up to provide much-needed offense.
Abdelkader only played for 5:09, but he made that time count. Along with the goal, he recorded two shots, two hits, one blocked shot, and he won four of five face-offs.
How did the Wings win this one?
The Wings shut down the duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Game 1, holding Crosby off the score sheet and Malkin to one assist. Doing that was a team effort, and it starts in goal. Chris Osgood played a terrific Game 1, turning aside 31 shots on the evening. He had huge saves in every period, but his biggest save came on Malkin in the second period. Roughly four minutes into the period, with the game tied, Malkin stole the puck at the Wings’ blue line, and was on a two-zone breakaway with Osgood. He made a quick move, tried to fire top-shelf glove-side, but Osgood got his glove hand up in time to knock the puck away from any trouble.
But Osgood should give credit to his defense, as always. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom returned from a lower-body injury for Game 1, and played like his usual self. Any questions about whether he was ready to play were answered by the end of the first period – Lidstrom led the team in ice-time with 8:09. Lidstrom and his troops on the blue line shut down Crosby, Malkin, and the rest of Penguins’ offense the whole night. Brad Stuart had five hits. Niklas Kronwall had a hit and two blocked shots. Jonathan Ericsson had three hits. Brian Rafalski blocked two shots. Brett Lebda finished plus-one. All six defensemen ate up at least 10 minutes worth of ice time, and being able to roll all six players helped coach Mike Babcock immensely.
What about the bounces?
It was a game full of strange bounces off the boards. Brad Stuart opened up the scoring when his shot hit the end boards, hit Fleury, and bounced into the Penguins’ goal. Johan Franzen scored the Wings’ second goal from behind the goal line, bouncing it in off Fleury yet again. Abdelkader scored after his initial shot hit the side of the net and went at least ten feet in the air. But it was the fact that the Wings generated the chances in the first place that counts. Pittsburgh veteran forward Bill Guerin said that the bounces off the boards weren’t the problem.
“It’s obviously a luxury for them, they know how the puck comes off [the boards], but hey, they make good plays before that happens. You cant just put that on the bounces.”
The bounce of them all, however, didn’t land in the net, and the Wings are glad it didn’t. Four minutes into the third period, Crosby’s shot hit the post, and then landed on Osgood’s back as he was sprawled trying to make the initial save. It was a fortunate bounce for the Wings, and it’s bounces like that you need to win championships.