DETROIT – Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik probably didn’t have anything mean-spirited in mind when he said it after Game 4. He made an observation and he told people about it.
When he said that Henrik Zetterberg looked tired at the end of Game 4 from all that Sidney Crosby chasing, he set off a flurry of opinion that the Detroit Red Wings were perhaps too old and broken down to keep up with the fleet-footed and youthful Penguins in the Stanley Cup final.
Oops. There are 28 teams sitting at home right now only wishing they could be so old and broken down and another one that’s going into Game 6 trying to figure out how a team that’s supposed to be so old and broken down made them look so silly.
Did Orpik’s comments provide motivation for the Red Wings in their 5-0 dismantling of the Penguins in Game 5? Let’s get serious. These guys are playing for the most beautiful trophy in all of sports and the prospect of winning it is all the motivation they’ll ever need. But it did make the Penguins look rather bad, something the Red Wings do to their opponents with alarming regularity.
In the first two games, the Red Wings let the Penguins feel good about the way they played, despite the fact Pittsburgh lost both games. No such repeat in Game 5. And there’s little doubt the way the Red Wings were perceived certainly got their backs up.
“When we play well, do our guys talk about their team like that?” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “I keep hearing how old we are. But when I watch Fil (Valtteri Filppula) play, he doesn’t look like he’s that old. (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg are not that old and Mule (Johan Franzen) is not so old, so who is old? Cheli (Chris Chelios) is older than me, I give you that.”
Datsyuk’s return to the lineup was huge for the Red Wings. Not only did he contribute two assists, his puck possession and ability to move the puck out of danger was key for the Red Wings in the shutout.
Perhaps trying to do his best impersonation of Bobby Clark, Maxime Talbot earned a slashing penalty in the second period for slashing Datsyuk’s previously injured foot. When asked whether he had to have the foot frozen prior to the game, Datsyuk was his usual humorous self.
“I don’t know,” Datsyuk said. “I’m thinking it’s a secret.”
The Red Wing power play was devastating in scoring three goals, but perhaps the most pivotal point in the game came when the Wings took a penalty of their own early in the first period. So much had been made of the Red Wings inability to keep the Penguins off the scoreboard on the power play and there had been much lamenting over their inability to get the puck down the ice away from their net on the penalty kill.
The Red Wings iced the puck five times on the penalty kill and the Penguins didn’t get a sniff. Four minutes later, Dan Cleary scored a goal that had a distinct odor to it and the rout was on.
“That’s a good point, that was a huge play in the game,” Cleary said of the first penalty kill. “If they score there, who knows? We struggled on the penalty kills and we found a way to constantly get it 200 feet and those are momentum-shifting kills. It was a good kill and it was really big for us.”
Now the old and broken down Red Wings will have an extra day to rest before trying to close out the series in Game 6 in Pittsburgh Tuesday night. To be sure, the Penguins will not be as undisciplined and erratic as they were in Game 5 because they simply cannot afford to be at this stage of the series.
But you have to wonder if experience hasn’t trumped youth in this series. Having your 24-year-old star goalie chased from the net is never a good thing, but the Penguins have exhibited a remarkable ability to battle back from less than ideal circumstances in these playoffs.
They’ll need all of that they can muster if they want to have any hope of bringing this series back to Detroit for Game 7.
THN’S GAME 5 THREE STARS
1. Henrik Zetterberg
2. Chris Osgood
3. Pavel Datsyuk
After struggling on the penalty kill, the Red Wings didn’t allow a Pittsburgh shot on a Penguin power play early in the first period and that set the tone for the game.
NOTABLE NUMBER – 11
The number of wins the Red Wings have at home this season, against one overtime loss, one off the all-time NHL record.
Click HERE to see video of host Ken Campbell and Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland discuss… Proving the critics wrong… The improved penalty kill of the Red Wings… The skill and will to win… And what Detroit has to do to close the series out in Pittsburgh.
THN is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will file daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read other entries, click HERE. Also, check out THN.com’s regular video roundtable, the THN.com Shootout for updates from both Detroit and Pittsburgh.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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