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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: Stanley Cup Notes: Running on Empty

By:
06/05/2008 10:36 AM -

By Chad Huebner

“Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I’m running behind”
-Jackson Browne


With a gallon of gas costing more than a Burger King Value Meal, people have become fuel-conscious to the point of near insanity. From buying questionable “fuel-saving gadgets” on the backs of car magazines to “hypermiling”, which is just another word for driving like an idiot, people are grasping at straws to save a few bucks. Other than buying a hybrid car, we’re all pretty much screwed, and have to make the most of it by driving smarter.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were definitely not fuel conscious in their triple-overtime win in Game 5. They burned up more energy than the entire state of California. But there isn’t much the Pens can do to recoup such losses, other than get some rest and suck it up. Shortening shifts is kind of like hypermiling: good for the short term, as players will get to conserve some energy; but in the long run, skating up and down the ice only once won’t generate too many offensive attacks. At least they had a day off to try recharging and enjoy an improbable win.

Pennsylvania is a buzz with hockey tonight. Not only do you have the Pens fighting for their lives in Pittsburgh, you have the other Pens, the AHL version, trying to come back from a 2-0 deficit to the Chicago Wolves in the Calder Cup Final in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Meanwhile, Philadelphia could care less and would wish nothing less than a nuclear strike on both cities.

Pregame

Back at the Igloo, aptly named for it’s white, curved interior. One of the most unique facilities in the NHL, but also the oldest, at 43 years. Crowd should be it’s loudest since Game 7 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final. Or Lemieux’s return to the game in December 2000. Or when Jean-Claude Van Damme took down Powers Boothe in “Sudden Death”.

They call AF “Andre the Giant.” Yeah, right, I see the resemblance. Sorry, there was only one Andre the Giant. AF is still AF in my book.

Pierre’s interviewing Ryan Malone, and for some reason, Malone sounds like Pens’ radio announcer Mike Lange. Sore throat? Malone should’ve thrown down a “we beat them like rented mules” when talking about Game 5, for good measure.

1st Period

This game is starting out like Game 3. Pens are more interested in mushing bodies against the boards and generally being a pest to any sort of Red Wing attack. Physically, this is great. Offensively, leads a lot to the imagination.

Of course, right after I wrote that, Peter Sykora gets a good close shot on Ozzie. Yep, that Sykora, the one who was very questionable for tonight. Playoffs are do or die for sure.

NBC flashed a stat about Detroit’s dominance in Game 6s when they’re up 3-2. I won’t repeat it here, but, umm, let’s just say they’re very, very, very, very, very good.

Yet another questionable interference call, this time Darryl Sydor on Kirk Maltby. Is this the official’s way of balancing things? I just hope the officiating can get better from here on out.

And while the two interference calls in Game 5 didn’t lead to goals (thankfully), this one did. Detroit up 1-0 on Brian Rafalski’s fourth of the playoffs. He’s certainly no stranger to the Pittsburgh organ-I-zation from his days as a New Jersey Devil.

Lots happening in a short amount of time-duh, that’s hockey: Pens get a 5-on-3, but a hit to Sergei Gonchar’s melon looks bad. Pens’ second 2-man advantage of the series, and they weren’t successful this time, either. Still, they generated some good shots, especially the close-shave redirect off of Crosby that went just wide right of the net.

Another “The Love Guru” ad pops up on the screen. Probably put there just to tick me off.

As about an even-strength period as you will get in this series. Ice conditions keep deteriorating (you notice it when the puck skips on even the shortest of passes). Too bad the first goal had to come on a very sketchy penalty.

1st Intermission

Well, the Weird Trio is back in the fake studio. Don’t know why they went from being at the rink to back in this set. Maybe NBC plunked down a good chunk of change to make the fake studio, so they need to get some value for it. Nothing doing so far.

Oh, and AF looks and sounds like Sacha Baron Cohen’s character in “Talladega Nights”, but with a beard.

2nd Period

Remember how this game started? Well, the Pens aren’t really hitting or disrupting at all. Could the fatigue left from Game 5 be taking its toll?

And now Crosby took a nasty hit from Brad Stuart. He came off the ice looking like a rented mule. Situation’s getting rougher for the Pens.

By the way, Gonchar’s playing again. Do or die or suffer a throbbing headache.

Pierre said Pittsburgh needs to get something going to get their fans back in the game. Ummm, a Valtteri Filppula goal to give the Red Wings a huge 2-0 lead isn’t it.

One would think that, with a team mostly populated by 30-somethings, Detroit would be the tired team right now. Then again, most of the Red Wings have been through similar situations in games after long OT affairs, so they probably know how to treat their bodies better than the more inexperienced Pens.

Zero shots for Crosby? Zero???? Probably more proof of the fatigue factor. Nah, it’s just Detroit enveloping Crosby with three or four men on him at a time, that’s all.

Fans shout “Let’s go Pens!”, but not as loud as Games 3 or 4. Confidence is definitely low.

Now, confidence is mostly restored, thanks to Malkin’s PP goal. That’s right, Malkin scored! You can take his picture off of the milk carton now.

LET’S GO PENS! LET’S GO PENS!”

Much louder this time, but then it’s quickly drowned in a chorus of boos on Gary Roberts’ high-sticking call.

Well, well, we had the makings of an honest-to-goodness fight. Franzen gets a couple of forearm shivers on Brooks Orpik; both get tangled and start throwing punches. Both get hit with roughing calls, even though Franzen was clearly the instigator. Still, whenever the crowd lags in a hockey game, a good ole-fashioned fight usually is enough to get them back in the action.

Now Malone and Holmstrom are mixing it up before a face-off. Pittsburgh’s showing some fight as the period ends, but their punches have to be stronger. I don’t mean literal punches as much as scoring punches (though a fist to pretty boy Zetterberg’s face wouldn’t be a bad thing. . . hey, I’m a ‘Hawks fan after all).

2nd Intermission

Vamp Detective is asking Poor Man’s Alec Baldwin and Pierre what they would say to the two teams if they were the coach. If Mike Milbury (aka a poor-looking Alec Baldwin) is coaching your team and you’re down 2-1 in a do-or-die Stanley Cup Final game, would you listen to what he has to say before the third period? Neither would I. This is the same guy that as a GM made the New York Islanders into what they are these days: not good.

3rd Period

Pittsburgh’s having a very hard time getting any sort of offense going. Every time they send the puck up the ice, they run into a wall of Red Wings at Detroit’s blue line. Meanwhile, if Detroit sees an opportunity to extend the lead, they’ll try to take it, but otherwise it’s all about keeping the Pens out of their third of the ice.

AF’s gonna feel really bad for a long time after this latest goal. Zetterberg’s shot went between AF’s legs. AF probably thought the puck was right under him, so he lands on his back to presumably smother it. But he only succeeds in pushing the disc over his own red line. I can hear the air leaving the Igloo: pfffffft!

Here we go again: NBC showing the Cup being taken out of its case. Last time the Pens won that game. This time, the Pens are like a tired fighter, with each punch and jab becoming weaker and weaker. Quick shot of the Pens bench shows a lot of heads hanging.

Less than five minutes the go, and the Pens are running lines with four forwards on it. It’s desperation time, but with less energy than in Game 5.
Total shots this period: Detroit 12, Pittsburgh 1. ‘Nuff said.


Three minutes to go. Pens get some shots on goal (what a concept), not much more.

Two minutes to go. When will AF go?

Well, hold on, as Jiri Hudler hooks Jordan Staal for probably the last penalty of the game (and series). AF on the bench, it’s 6-on-4. . .

And guess what? We have a game again! Gonchar’s shot gets redirected among a few players for the goal. Apparently the shot to the cabeza wasn’t that bad, or maybe it helped improve his shot, you never can tell. 1:27 to go.

AF back on the bench, one minute to go. Time out called, crowd on its feet, cheering and waving white towels. Just a mass of white trying to will its team to victory again.

Seconds left, Gonchar sends the puck in the Detroit zone. Some weird shot-passes (or pass-shots?) get the puck near Ozzie. One desperate backhand shot by Crosby, one desperate lunge by Hossa. . .

. . . But the clock reads zero anyway. It’s all over folks.

I saw a pretty good series and one team that gave its all, but it wasn’t enough. Still, you have to think of the Pens as a perennial contender once again, something Crosby and Malkin have carried over from Lemieux, Jagr, et al. 

As for Detroit: Lidstrom becomes first-ever European captain to win the Cup, Dan Cleary the first Newfoundlander, Zetterberg wins the Conn Smythe (Ozzie gets snubbed again), blah blah blah. Just turn off the frakking TV.

Just because the better team won it all, doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Next Time: Wrapping up the year while watching the NHL Awards Show. One last hurrah to one incredible season, even if it all had to end on such a crappy note.

Remember; e-mail me at chadhuebner1972@yahoo.com for anything on your mind, hopefully hockey related. Best responses and/or questions will be answered publicly.

 

 

 




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