PENGUINS – RED WINGS: WHAT WE LEARNED
The Penguins earned a 4-3 shootout win Wednesday night over Detroit but the team that likely left last night’s game feeling better about a potential first round series than the other has to be the Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings badly outplayed the Penguins at even strength and the Red Wings puck possession game was so dominant through the first two periods that it looked like a re-run of the 2008 Cup Finals.
The Penguins were outshot 13-4 in the first period and Pittsburgh had just 8 even strength shots through 40 minutes. The Penguins got a glimpse of how well the Red Wings are coached and how a number of their young players are starting to fit into Mike Babcock’s system.
Personnel wise, the Red Wings don’t have a very good group of top-6 defensemen by any means, but the commitment to defense from their forwards makes up for some of those issues.
One thing the Penguins did not do well was getting pucks behind Detroit’s “D” and being physical on the forecheck. They started getting to that game more in the third period but the first period was played mostly in Pittsburgh’s end and more of the same in the second period.
The Penguins struggled to contain the Red Wings second line of Thomas Jurco – Darren Helm – Daniel Alfredsson. Jurco and Helm play a fast and gritty game and Jurco came off very impressive last night in how hard he plays in the offensive zone.
The X-factor in the game was special teams. Detroit took unnecessary penalties and James Neal would make them pay, scoring two power play goals in the second period.
Two things we learned in the game was this in regards to a potential playoff series:
Detroit made a statement with their dominant puck possession game at even strength and Pittsburgh made a statement with their power play, an area the Penguins feel they would strongly exploit Detroit in a playoff series.
“We wanted to do certain things in areas of the game and maybe have that be a statement. I think we did that with the power play for sure,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “It was our power play in the second period that got us back in the game.”
The Red Wings and Penguins look like a “pickem” series if these two teams meet and the two X-factors would be Evgeni Malkin and goaltender Jimmy Howard. Both did not play last night.
Howard is the X-factor for obvious reasons.
If the Penguins do not have Malkin at full strength, the trend of the Red Wings being the superior team at even strength and puck possession standpoint would likely continue in a seven game series.
The Malkin situation will be interesting. Once Bylsma finally went to Kunitz – Crosby – Neal in the third period, Detroit had no answers for them. Pittsburgh feels that a healthy Malkin will cause a Detroit team that doesn’t have great defensive depth fits over seven games. The Penguins, though, always feel that way and it doesn’t pan out that way.
Babcock last night on the Red Wings…… “we’re going to be a tough out”