For the first time in the entire Cup Finals, aside from some brief isolated stretches in Game Three, the Pens completely outworked Detroit for their 2-1 Game Six victory. They blocked shots, got to loose pucks, the Staal line dominated shift after shift (and produced both Penguin goals), and despite the slim lead, heart-attack worthy moments like the Zetterberg post, the Franzen 3rd-period rebound bonanza, and the inexplicable Dan Cleary breakaway, I didn’t get as nervous during this one as I usually am during games. I attribute this in part to the Pens’ distinguishing play in the first two periods, but I think more than anything, these Playoffs have already sucked the life out of me, restored it, and sucked it back out again so many times, I simply don’t have the energy to get nervous or swear at the screen like I was two Series ago, or even two games ago.
I have a feeling that won’t be a problem in Game Seven.
Onto the Game Six specifics:
— Nice bounceback game for Fleury, keeping in line with his extremely consistent “good when you lose faith in him, bad when you start to trust him” career theme. For that exact reason, I will be thoroughly not trusting him heading into Game Seven.
— The game was almost Washington series-esque in that the Pens totally dominated the majority of periods one and two and completely outshot the Red Wings, but Detroit still happened into a handful of totally random amazing scoring chances. Fortunately Viktor Kozlov never arrived to score on an unscreened wrist shot from the top of the circle. The score shouldn’t have been as close as it was heading into the home stretch of the third, and I especially couldn’t believe the Pens ended the first scoreless, but give Osgood credit — this wasn’t a typical “could’ve thrown a cone in net and won 4-2” Red Wings defensive performance by any means.
— Liiiittle bit of ref help for the Pens, but nothing that affected the outcome of the game and certainly nothing “NHL Wants A Game Seven At All Costs” conspiracy-theory worthy. The Zetterberg goalie interference penalty was an awful call, made by the trailing ref and not the ref standing literally right behind the net, and I thought Brooks Orpik should’ve been called for a slash on the Dan Cleary breakaway, but neither of those were game-breakers, just odd. Also, the ref threw his arm up unprofessionally late on the Malkin cross-check call; I’m surprised Bylsma kept his cool after that, it’s exactly the kind of thing coaches love to complain about (John Tortorella would’ve been punching nearby fans’ children). Bill Guerin’s high stick on Kris Draper was also the correct call, but man, Draper couldn’t have helped buy that call more if he literally assembled a briefcase of cash and purchased a plaque with the words “That Call” engraved onto it. Crosby is a diver.
— I won’t say a word about Marian Hossa’s impact on this series until after Game Seven.
— In a weird way, Malkin and Crosby haven’t played poorly at all this series, and Malkin’s actually been pretty dominant, even if their numbers don’t reflect it; Bylsma threw them together for a couple more shifts than usual in Game Six, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see some more of Malkin and Crosby jumping out together on the fly to try to screw with Babcock’s home ice defensive matchups.
— Rob Scuderi’s triple-shot-block at the end of the third period was absolutely mind-boggling. The play looked to be a random, bouncy scramble in regular motion, but replays showed Johan Franzen getting good wood on four distinct, deliberate shots, three of which were directly saved by Scuderi, and one of which mercifully hit Fleury and came to a stop. Good thing Scuderi didn’t cover the puck in the crease, or else nothing would have happened to him.
— Relatedly, Scuderi continues to have an impressive postseason, and while I really like the guy, I’m growing increasingly worried that the Pens’ run this season will result in some team offering him a ridiculous Jay McKee type contract and the Pens won’t be able to re-sign him. No point worrying about that now, but regardless of this offseason, it’s been a tremendous postseason for a previously much-overlooked part of the Pens’ resurgence.
Prediction for Game Seven? I still forsee visions of the Red Wings skating the Cup around, then breaking it into small indvidual cubes and consuming those cubes to provide necessary metallic nutrients to their ever-beating robot hearts. But I’ve been wrong before.
I will also take the Over on “Me having 75 heart attacks before the first commercial break.”