Set play pays for Wings
|Detroit Red Wings fans are used to seeing goals like the short handed third-period tally Daniel Cleary put past Penguins goaltender Marc Andre Fleury which came from a set play the Wings' run regularly.
WATCH Cleary's short-handed score
Cleary raced onto a long feed from defenseman Brad Stuart, beating the Pittsburgh ‘D’ to the pass and catching Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury flat-footed before sliding a backhander past the Penguins goalie to make the score 3-0.
The reason it looked familiar is because it is a set play that the Red Wings often run when taking a defensive-zone draw. At least, that is, when Kris Draper is in the faceoff circle.
“It’s really Draper that created the whole thing,” Cleary said. “He wins the draw 60 percent of the time and I knew he was going to win it and I got a jump. It’s kind of our play, really.
“I try to get up the ice quickly and I think I caught Fleury off-guard because he came out to play it a little. ‘Stewie’ made a nice play, playing it cross-ice. That’s pretty much it.”
While it may be sometimes routine, the play is beautiful to watch when it works.
Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who knows a little something about sweet plays, loves watching his forwards attempt that one, even if it means one forward is leaving the defensive zone early.
“They have the speed to jump the ‘D’ or go hard after the puck if it comes out like that,” Lidstrom said. “They are good at reading it, too. If the puck is coming, they are willing to jump quickly. And, once they get going, they are tough to stop. They are used to relying on the ‘D’ to get the puck out and that way we are able to create a lot of chances, too.”
-- Shawn P. Roarke
Fleury’s flop -- Whether it was nerves or excitement, you can bet Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury doesn’t want to see the clip of his grand entrance to his first Stanley Cup Final.
Fleury, who led his team onto the ice, tripped over the step and fell flat on his face. He popped back up, looked behind him as if to blame the step, and went forward again with the rest of his team following him onto the ice.
Yes, but at least Fleury handled it with a sense of humor following the 4-0 loss.
“I was trying to loosen it up a little bit,” Fleury joked. “Guys were a little tense.”
And what about his entrance to the second period, which was a perfect 10?
“I was trying to be a little bit more careful,” the goalie said.
-- Dan Rosen
Sammy surprise – If the Penguins could have picked some Red Wings they figured would give them the most fits, there’s no way Mikael Samuelsson would have been even a finalist.
But nobody in Pittsburgh’s dressing room was surprised that the somewhat anonymous Swede scored twice and was the game’s first star.
“That’s playoff hockey. It’s not always going to be the top guns who score,” Penguins center Maxime Talbot said. “Sometimes it is role players. They proved they’re not just these two forwards (Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg). They have some depth.”
-- Dan Rosen
Home, Sweet Home – Joe Louis Arena continues to be a tough place for visiting teams in this year's Playoffs. The Red Wings' 4-0 victory improved their home record to 8-1, with the only loss coming to Dallas in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have never fared well in Detroit. They are now 13-41-12-1 all-time in Detroit and haven't won in Joe Louis Arena since beating the Wings 4-3 on Dec. 10, 2000.
-- John Kreiser
No nerves – All week the Penguins said they were excited, not nervous entering Game 1, and defenseman Brooks Orpik felt it showed in the first period when they out-shot the Red Wings, 12-11, and had seven shots over 6:11 of power play time.
“I thought the first period we came out great. That was a good sign,” Orpik said. “I know a lot of people were worried about us being nervous and I thought it was the exact opposite.”
But the Penguins didn’t score on any of those power plays – they peppered Detroit goalie Chris Osgood with five shots on their third advantage – and that proved to be their downfall because when Samuelsson gave the Red Wings the lead 13:01 into the second period the Penguins had no answer.
“We drew those penalties and if we score on one of those it’s a completely different game,” Orpik said. “This time of the year you have to capitalize on one of those.”
-- Dan Rosen
A tad early – Fleury admitted that he went down in his butterfly a bit too early on the play that resulted in Samuelsson’s first goal.
Samuelsson beat Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi through the left circle and Fleury went down. However, Samuelsson held the puck, went around the net, and was able to tuck the puck inside the right post as Fleury was a tad late getting across his crease because he had to first get himself up and then slide across.
The puck actually banked in off of Fleury’s left skate.
“I thought he was going to shoot when he was by the post and I didn’t want to give him anything,” Fleury said. “I went down early. I was right on the post and it’s tougher when you’re standing there.”
-- Dan Rosen
|Nicklas Lidstrom was pleased to see that his team did not seem discouraged and instead remained focused and composed after the Red Wings' captain had his first period-goal disallowed after it was ruled Tomas Holmstrom had interfered with goaltender Marc Andre Fleury.
Staying Composed – Lidstrom was pleased to see his team remain composed after his goal in the first period was disallowed. Referees determined that Tomas Holmstrom had interfered with Fleury, which negated the tally.
“It didn’t discourage us,” Lidstrom said. “We had to continue to go hard to the net and keep shooting the puck. Holmstrom is one of the best in the League at what he does. He’s got to continue to do that.”
-- Brian Compton
Kid stuff -- Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal, 19, became the first teenager to skate in a Stanley Cup Final in more than a decade. The last player under 20 years old to play in the Final was Philadelphia's Dainius Zubrus, also against Detroit.
The two oldest players in the series didn't dress for the opener. Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios, age 46, also sat out Game 6 in the Western Conference Finals against Dallas with a leg injury. Pittsburgh forward Gary Roberts, who's 42, battled a mild case of pneumonia during the Eastern Conference Finals and didn't dress for Game 1 against Detroit.
-- John Kreiser
Major player – Ty Conklin won’t see the ice in the Stanley Cup Final unless there is a catastrophe, meaning an injury to Fleury.
But Conklin is comforted these days knowing he played a huge factor in the Penguins getting to the postseason, and many of his teammates and his coach have gone out of their way throughout these playoffs to mention his contribution.
“Oh, we would have made the playoffs, but it’s nice to hear that and nice to feel that you contributed,” Conklin told NHL.com. “We played good hockey as a team and one guy is not going to change everything, but I feel like I played a part.”
Conklin, an unrestricted free agent following the season, stepped in while Fleury was out rehabbing his high ankle sprain, an injury he suffered on Dec. 6. He went 18-4-5 from Dec. 11-Feb. 28, including a nine-game winning streak.
“I knew where I was going to be starting the year and I was fine with that,” Conklin said. “My goal was to make sure if something did happen and the opportunity presented itself that I was ready. I needed to be playing well and positive with where I was at. I was doing that and I got an opportunity when the team started to play well.”
Conklin is modest about his accomplishment, claiming he was just following the team’s lead and building off the confidence the Penguins were gaining. However, if a catastrophe does occur in the Final he’s ready to play because of the confidence he gained from his dominant regular season.
“I feel good about myself because I had a decent year,” Conklin said. “That helps, and it certainly helps for next season.”
Author: NHL.com Staff