Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It Can't Really Be Avoided, So We Might as Well Talk About It

REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

I'm not sure if you've been paying a lot of attention to hockey lately. As you can see from the recent posts, I haven't exactly kept up with all the hoo-ha surrounding a certain matchup between two certain teams. (And yes, it is in fact a Hoo-ha Two Times Tuesday at Domino's, so make use of that while you can.) There's some major series going on or something, and I can't hide from it any longer.

So here goes.

Yes, Gary Roberts cheapshotted Johan Franzen.

Yes, Chris Osgood is the worst actor since Stephen Baldwin despite the fact that Biodome is sort of entertaining.

And no, the Penguins aren't dead yet. At least give 'em a chance to play a game at home before you write them off. Although, I can certainly see them setting fire to the Wings and winning Game Three before Detroit realizes what is going on and shuts them down in Game Four.

There. I addressed it. We can finally go about our lives without having that metaphorical elephant in the room.

Just kidding. I have more rational thought than that. I kind of owe it to you anyway.

So where do to start? Might as well start with Game One. What a swing of momentum we saw in that one. The Pens came out of the gates in the first period like they were, how do I say, a hockey team. They played great hockey and it looked as though we might be in for the kind of series that many had anticipated. But then, something happened during intermission. Either the Red Wings figured out the Pens or the young Penguins finally showed their youth and lack of experience. Somehow, I can't see it being the latter. After such a great playoff run and good start in a hostile environment, it's tough to say that they all of a sudden lost their nerves.

In the time it took the Zamboni to go over the ice, the Wings figured it out. During the next five periods of hockey, the Pens were powerless. They couldn't break the Detroit blueline and even when they did, they couldn't get a shot through to Osgood. Not to take anything away from Osgood, but I don't think anyone anticipated the Detroit D to play like this. We knew they were good. No, really good. What we didn't know is that they could absolutely suffocate arguably two of the greatest players in the game today. Kudos to them and Osgood because following the series' opening period, it wasn't until the third period of Game Two that the Penguins managed to put more than six shots in a single period.

Continuing with Game One, it showed us the right way to send a message to a team much like Game Two showed us the wrong way. The Wings poured it on in the third, keeping their top lines on the ice when the game was clearly in their hands and their favor. It might be seen as running up the score, which is understandable, but there was a clear message being sent. We're the Red Wings. We're not going to stop coming at you until you prove you can beat us. It worked. The Wings added two goals within the last three minutes of the game, as if to flex their muscles and intimidate the youngsters for Game Two.

Speaking of intimidation and Game Two, Gary Roberts showed us the wrong way to go about it. For a guy that is loved -- loved -- in Pittsburgh, it can't be justified. Blatantly going after the Wings' banged up star Johan Franzen in the third period of Game Two. I know it's hockey, he this stuff happens all the time. Yes, he's technically helping his team. That doesn't make it right. I would just figure that a guy like Roberts would be classier about it. I guess not.

There are different ways to send a message, some better than others. Maybe if the Pens had concentrated on putting at least one puck past Osgood, that would help them more than trying to take out an opposing player. Now they're in the situation where they have scored only one goal against Detroit since the lockout -- and that was in December of 2005. I know it sounds irrelevant, but there can be a huge mental block associated with this. They would have been able to say that they can beat Osgood. They would have cleared a mental hurdle. Now they're stuck with what they haven't done. What they haven't accomplished, even if it is small. Trust me, for some athletes (some) this can make a difference.

Let's see... What else?

I don't think it needs to be explained any further than this YouTube clip. Chris Osgood is a diver. It's nothing new. But I view this in a similar way as I view the Roberts/Franzen incident. It's hockey, it happens. Yes, technically he's helping the team. But does it make him classy? No. Does it make him cheap? I think so. But I'll certainly give him credit for being able to sell the entire crowd on his acting job.

Hey, it's all only my two cents. I'm not telling you what to think just giving you, hopefully, a different point of view on the subject. Let's enlighten each other, shall we?

Now if you've actually read this all the way through, read this... James Mirtle and Pensblog will be chatting tomorrow at 1PM over at FanHouse and, of course, a live blog will follow later that night during Game Three. See you there!

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