Thursday, May 29, 2008

We May Have A Series

After two games where the Detroit Red Wings dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins and did not allow the Penguins any goals (and few legitimate scoring opportunities), the Penguins have come back and won game three of the Stanley Cup finals 3-2. This win may put Pittsburgh back into the series (it is also possible that the Penguins roll over and die in games four and five).

It was a Pittsburgh win, but not a dominant Pittsburgh win. Pittsburgh was outshot 34-23 in their win. This was the kind of game that Chris Osgood would have won for the Red Wings if he truly was Conn Smythe calibre. However, Osgood does not seem capable of stealing a game for the Red Wings. Sure Osgood has played well (even with the loss he has a playoff leading 1.48 GAA and a .935 saves percentage, but given how few quality scoring chances Detroit allows I think there are at least twenty other goalies in the NHL who could be in the same position as Osgood if they were the Red Wing goaltender.

Sidney Crosby had a good game scoring twice and moving back into a tie for the playoff scoring lead (with Henrik Zetterberg). Nevertheless, the seed has been planted for some people to determine that Crosby is a big game choker. Largely, this is an unfair idea that is based on the NHL's promotion of the finals. Crosby was pushed above all other players in this series in the pre-finals hype and given that Detroit is a superior team to his Penguins, he was likely to lose. That doesn't matter to many fans. Crosby was hyped to be the star of the finals and so far, he hasn't been. Crosby can join such historic playoff chokers as Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman (all players who got off that list after they won their first Stanley Cup). If Crosby is a bug game choker, then Evgeni Malkin is definitely a big game choker. Malkin has not been a dominant player since early in the Philadelphia series and is likely playing hurt. Nevertheless, that will be forgotten. His final series stats of three games played, zero points and -3 will speak for themselves.

It is easy for the myth of a playoff choker to be started. Most fans do not pay close enough attention to the circumstances when a famous player does not win the cup and does not singlehandedly turn the fortunes of his team. It is especially true in future seasons. Few fans will remember the circumstances of the 2008 finals, but will see the statistics produced and in a year or two when Malkin or Crosby seem to be on a playoff run, the myth of their choke will be brought up and will be taken by many fans as fact.

Pittsburgh's win may put them back into the series. It may also be the last hurrah for the Penguins as Detroit marches onto their 2008 Stanley cup victory.

1)Amen about Osgood. Some were anointing him MVP based upon his stats, not about his worth. Sure he did his part to win games 1-2, but he was hardly the primary reason.
2) Last night illustrated this clearly. In our opinion through 3 games: Osgood was better in game 1. Fleury was better last night. It was a toss up in game 2.
3) Confirming our opinion that if you exchanged each goalie onto the other team it wouldn't effect the end result of this series.
Agreed about Crosby. Damien Cox wrote a huge (and muddled) article about how it wasn't fair to Sid Crosby to be expected to raise the league's profile in the Finals - even though he's been living up to the hype ever since he came into the league.

I think that he's done just fine, even in the losses. (How did Ryan Malone miss that pass in game two?)

Ozzie, I tend to have a soft spot for. He's a good keeper who's had a solid career. It's tough to be regarded as an afterthought to hugely successful teams. Of course it's not his fault the Wings are such a strong club; as long as he plays competently they should succeed; he's only noticed during times that he looks shaky because his team is rarely outplayed.

He simply has far fewer opportunities to be the "big game goalie" because of that. In fairness, he has not often been good enough on those rare occasions. He's had notable playoff failures but no equally impressive wins. Still, one could do worse than Chris Osgood. I rather wish the Isles had kept him around. (Well, actually I wish the Isles had kept Roberto Luongo around, but that's a different sob story.)
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