GAME ONE: Pens 3, Hurricanes 2 — Fleury And Cam Ward Pay Homage To “Trading Places”

Game One of the Eastern Finals wasn’t entirely unlike the majority of the Washington series: The Pens dominated the first and mostly controlled the third, sandwiched around a dangerously lackadaisical second and topped off with an apparent willingness to give away their two-goal lead as easily as possible. The Pens only allowed 25 shots, right around the total they gave up in many of the Capitals games, yet the Canes had about 23 heart-attackey scoring chances, for an out-of-whack “Scored/Almost Scored per Shot” ratio also right in line with the Capitals series.

The difference? Marc-Andre Fleury made all the saves he had to plus a number of spectacular ones, and Cam Ward allowed two semi-questionable goals certainly not befitting his reputation as a playoff game-stealer. Just as we predicted.  .  .  [Cough] .  .  . what?

The Game One win was exactly that, though: a Game One win. The Hurricanes played a couple sloppy periods, only had two power plays, and didn’t get their best game from Cam Ward, and they still almost tied this one up on the road in the third period. To think this series is anything but just beginning — even independently of the Canes’ comebacks in Rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs — would be foolish. Not to be Captain Pessimist McRepetitive, but when I remarked to my brother “Fleury straight-up outplayed Ward, how bout that?” he instantly, soberly replied, “Yep. And do you really expect that to happen throughout the entire series?” In case you were wondering, that loud bursting noise you just heard was my precious, precious bubble.

Random thoughts:

— I’m really glad we finally have a proven playoff performer who can go to the net and bury his chances like Miroslav Satan, cause Chris Kunitz just wasn’t getting it done. (This sentence would have been a wacky joke one month ago, and now it’s a funny/sad truth)

— Clearing the zone continues to be an adventure for the Pens’ defensemen and backchecking forwards, even when they’re six inches from their own blueline with the puck and no one pressuring them. They’re like an ongoing experiment in finding creative ways to not get the puck out of their zone against all odds and physics.

— Not Eric Staal’s loudest playoff game; I wouldn’t expect this to keep up for the majority of the series, especially if the Canes start earning more power plays. Did you know he is brothers with Jordan Staal of the Penguins?? In fact there is other Staal brothers wowww!

— The Scott Walker interference penalty and Satan holding penalty in the first were both BS; the refs appeared to get their antsyness out of the way early, then decided not to call anything the rest of the game (including Matt Cooke’s interference/leg thing on Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal shooting Fleury’s stick away from him right before the Canes’ second goal).

— I don’t want to see the Pens try to grind out the remainder of the playoffs with only eleven forwards, but can they really afford to bench Philippe Boucher for Pascal Dupuis after Boucher’s game-winning goal and really nice assist in Game One? I imagine he’s bought a starting spot for at least another game; you never know, too, as injuries are always possible at any time. I also miss Dupuis’ super-predictable slapshot from 50 feet away coming down the left wing that goes in once every fifty games.

— How much better did both Hurricanes power plays look than any of the Pens’ power plays? The Pens’ first two advantages were particularly embarrassing. I said in my prediction post that I don’t trust the Pens’ superior PP% numbers to the Canes’ for one second, and was justified by their man advantage misadventures once again this game.

— A friend of mine reminded me the oft-forgotten detail that Tyler Kennedy is still only 22. He’s been playing with unbelievable patience and confidence this entire postseason, and came close to two well-earned goals in Game One.

— Another friend of mine pointed out that Mellon Arena sounded strangely quiet for the majority of the game, which I couldn’t help but notice also, especially in the third (and was dead silent after the Corvo goal). If the Arena was actually loud and Versus merely did a poor job of capturing the sound, then I stand corrected, but it would also be the first time the Versus NHL coverage ever did anything that wasn’t completely perfect.

— Finally, for all the Pens fans who complain about how the team doesn’t shoot the puck enough and tries to make a nice play too often, which is often true, the Hurricanes last night passed up more no-brainer shooting chances than I recall the Pens ever passing up in a single game this year. Ray Whitney is essentially reverse-Ovechkin with his shooting decisions, and if the Pens had attempted that double-pass from point blank range that the Canes ended up shooting into Kris Letang’s ass, the cries of “JUST SHOOT IT!” from the Mellon Arena crowd would have struck a chord so loud as to shatter the scoreboard and short-out the lights in the building, Sudden Death style, resulting in a home team forfeit. Just remember that next time Crosby tries to set up Chris Kunitz and he whiffs on a one-timer instead of firing it three feet wide.

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