Zetterberg is meeting the Crosby challenge
Wings' forward says he's enjoying individual match-up
Zetterberg, a Selke Trophy finalist in 2008, has blanketed the Pens’ captain on every shift, holding him to a single point and a minus-2 rating through 71 shifts in three games. Still, Zetterberg’s minutes have increased in this series – he’s average more that 23-minutes against the Penguins – his workload has multiplied, especially since Pavel Datsyuk (foot) has been sidelined.
“It’s fun, it’s a challenge for me,” said Zetterberg of shadowing Crosby. “He’s a great player and something that you’ll always remember – that you had a few battles with him.”
While Zetterberg has always respected Crosby’s abilities as a player, he has learned a few things about his counterpart in the last four days.
“He never gives up,” Zetterberg said. “He always battles and when you think you have him, he does something and he’s gone again. You have to be real efficient and never stop playing.”
The feeling is quite mutual, as Crosby expects nothing less from Zetterberg in return.
“When I play against him I expect to be tightly checked,” Crosby said. “But I also realize when I go back to my own end, I have to make sure I'm responsible, too. So that’s not always the case with every guy you play in that type of role. But with him, you know, that’s the way it is. He’s got “D” also that are making sure there is not a lot of space.
“So it’s a challenge. It’s a match-up, but these are the battles that you have to find ways to win.”
Offensively, Zetterberg found a way to create space for himself, having scored his first goal of the series in Tuesday’s Game 3 at Mellon Arena. Moments after the Penguins grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first period, Zetterberg slapped home a shot that beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Zetterberg is fifth in playoff scoring with 10 goals and 11 assists in 19 games. While he’s doing an exceptional defensive number on Crosby, he still manages to get his scoring opportunities.
Crosby entered this series with 14 goals and 14 assists, good for second in league playoff scoring. But as far as the personal match-up, there hasn't been much emphasis on what’s occurred on the other end of the rink and the offensive prowess that Zetterberg brings to the Wings, and Crosby’s defensive role against him.
“The way he played didn't seem to hurt him last night, so he still found ways to create chances,” Crosby said. “But that's a challenge. That's a battle. That's what you expect this time of year. So there's no surprise there.”
The Red Wings are equally as confident on Zetterberg’s ability to maintain a high-level of production on both ends of the ice through these finals.
“Hank is doing a great job and he’s showing that he’s the best two-way player in the league,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “He’s proven himself time after time. Hopefully, he can continue doing that, because we need him to be playing this way.
“Hank is one of those guys that reads the game very well and he knows where Crosby is the whole time. He’s obviously making him not be able to work in space out there.”
From Nicklas Lidstrom’s viewpoint – he and defensive partner Brian Rafalski have typically been on the ice with Zetterberg when the Crosby line goes to work – the Wings’ forward has been stifling.
“I’m out there most of the time, so I see it up close,” Lidstrom said. “I think Hank’s been doing a great job of staying close to him when they have the puck and on the offensive end to make that line play defense, and Hank got a goal out it last night.”