McKenzie: Special teams the difference in Game 5 victory

Bob McKenzie
6/7/2009 12:35:40 AM
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The Detroit Red Wings' Game 5 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins was a special win. Special in terms of 'special teams' and that's been unusual for these playoffs, especially in the Stanley Cup Final.

Heading into Saturday's contest, the Penguins were winning the special teams battle in a big way; having five special teams goals compared to just one for the Red Wings. But Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena was a different story.

It started late in the first period when Penguins winger Chris Kunitz was handed an obvious goaltender interference penalty. Wings forward Valtteri Filppula responded by finding the back of the net and although it wasn't a power play goal, it came five seconds after Kunitz came out of the box and it would be the start of the steady parade to the penalty box for the Penguins.

Sergei Gonchar received a 2-minute slashing penalty early in the second period and Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall scored a goal. A stupid penalty by Evgeni Malkin, and the stupid ones are really hard to kill off, and Brian Rafalski scored from the point. And then Kunitz mixed it up, and again it was another dumb penalty. That's when the wheels were off for the Penguins as Henrik Zetterberg scored the third power play goal in less than 10 minutes.

Almost in one fell swoop, the Red Wings get the special teams edge back in their game against the Penguins and Saturday's contest was almost like a power play practice for the Red Wings. The last thing you want to do is get them to the point where they're starting to feel that comfortable with their power play.

Questionable Slash

The last time a Canadian player slashed a Russian player in an attempt to break an ankle was 1972. Everyone thought it was great then, but somehow I think the Red Wings are not going to think too highly of the Max Talbot slash on Pavel Datsyuk in Game 5.

Was it a ridiculously vicious chop? No. Was it a targeting of an injured player? Absolutely. And some people might suggest that's what the Stanley Cup playoffs are all about but I'm sure the Red Wings would say otherwise as they don't embrace that whole concept of vigilante justice very much. Their idea of getting back at the opposition is to do what they did in Game 5 – score lots of goals.

But had it been the Anaheim Ducks, for example, rather than the Red Wings and somebody slashed Ryan Getzlaf in the same manner, it could have been a completely different tone.

Frustration Setting In

The Pittsburgh Penguins got frustrated in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final but no one was more frustrated than Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin because they never had a chance to get on track when the game got away from Pittsburgh as early as it did.

Crosby has not played particularly well at Joe Louis Arena, last year or this year. He got a little fed up with Henrik Zetterberg on Saturday night and the two had exchanges throughout the game. But Crosby was the one who ended up in the penalty box. He was a minus- 1 with only one shot on goal in the game.

Pavel Datsyuk was giving Malkin the business in Game 5 while Malkin was giving Johan Franzen the business but it was Malkin who headed to the sin bin.

Any time you can get Malkin to go to the penalty box on three separate occasions, that's a good thing for the Red Wings. That's not where the Penguins want Malkin and Crosby showing up on the scoresheet, going to the penalty box.

Between Crosby and Malkin, they had two shots on goal in Game 5 but the wheels came off so early, people are going to say 'well, now the momentum is all back with Detroit.' But we saw what momentum meant after Game 4; nothing.

Detroit completely stemmed the tide the Penguins had going for them. I would suspect that Crosby and Malkin will look at Saturday's game and just push it aside. They realize they need to get refocused and they'll have every opportunity to stem the Detroit tide and come back with a better game in Game 6 as Detroit did coming back in Game 5.

Bob McKenzie


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