DEARBORN, Mich. – This is where the Pittsburgh Penguins have come to change their luck.
Victories at Joe Louis Arena have been elusive for the Penguins during the past two Stanley Cup finals, so why not alter the routine? After all, they need at least one win here if they’re going to win this series. That prompted them to choose a hotel in this suburb about 25 minutes from downtown Detroit – the third different place they’ve stayed in Michigan over the past two years.
It’s all about finding a winning routine.
“That would be one reason,” coach Dan Bylsma said Friday of the move. “That could be a reason. We’re not that superstitious.”
He answered the question with a straight face but it couldn’t be much further from the truth.
Luck has not really been on the Penguins side at the Joe, where they’ve lost four of five Stanley Cup games they’ve played here. That includes both in this series – although Pittsburgh feels it played well enough to win both of them.
“I think any team has a little bit of an advantage just because of the crowd, and obviously we fed off our crowd last night,” said Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik. “But I think we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we’ve been playing the whole series. …
“We knew going into the series we had to win at least one game here, so that’s the position we’ve put ourselves in. We’re still pretty confident we can do that.”
There was plenty of things to like about their wins at Mellon Arena to even the series 2-2 ahead of Saturday’s Game 5.
Evgeni Malkin has been the standout performer in this series and leads all scorers with seven points while Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal both stepped up in Game 4. They’re riding pretty high right now and hope to make it last.
“Momentum is a funny thing I think,” said Penguins defenceman Hal Gill. “During a game it changes a lot. Right now I think we do have the momentum. We went home and now we’re coming back here and we’re going to have to pick it up again. It’s not something that you just keep. You have to work for it.
“Especially in a series like this against a good team. You have to work every shift to try to keep that momentum.”
The Red Wings are hoping that Pavel Datsyuk’s first appearance in the series will help them grab it back. He’s expected to return from a foot injury in Game 5.
It’s not something that seems to be much of a concern for the Penguins.
“We’ve heard all the chatter about him coming back,” said Orpik. “It doesn’t change anything for us to be honest. Even if he does come back, we all have a lot of respect for the player he is. But that being said, I don’t know how effective he’s going to be if he comes back and he’s playing at whatever level he’s playing at.”
The Penguins have a chance to become the first team since Montreal in 1971 to lose the first two games of a Stanley Cup on the road and come back to win the series.
Fortunately, they have some recent experience to draw on. They erased a 2-0 deficit against the Washington Capitals in the second round.
“Yeah, we know that the experience is there having gone through it,” said Crosby. “And we knew the preparation and mentality it took. But, yeah, having it fresh in our minds is certainly going to help us.
“Going in there we knew it was going to be difficult. But we’ve been in these tough situations before and found a way to get a good result, so there’s a confidence builder.”
It’s down to a best of three now.
Even though there’s a lot of optimism around the Penguins, they know it’s going to be a tough hill to climb.
“We’re no closer to the end than they are,” said Bylsma. “We have two more wins to get, and we have a tall task going into a tough building against a very good team who is playing well.”