Congratulations to referees Mark Joannette and Brad Watson. It was apparent from the opening faceoff that if Joannette and Watson could get the Pittsburgh Penguins enough power play opportunities, the Pens could win Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final and send the series back to Detroit all even at 2-2.
So Joannette and Watson did their jobs. Dallas Drake, Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper, Brett Lebda and Johan Franzen were all sent to the penalty box in the first period. Sure, their infractions were penalties — well, sort of — but the fact that most of the stuff was going both ways didn’t have any effect on the officials’ inexorable march toward complete homerism.
Sadly — what happens in these situations as often as as not — the Pens didn’t co-operate. Even though only three Penguins were penalized (gotta make it look good, right?), the game was still tied 1-1 after 20 minutes. Sure, Pittsburgh got that big power-play goal to open the scoring, but somehow, at even strength, Nicklas Lidstrom tied it. Damn that even strength.
Now, let’s be fair, the officials certainly couldn’t be criticized. After all, they bought into the media hype. They bought into the league’s apparent delight in having Pittsburgh tie up the series (a delight created by the mainstream media). They even bought into hockey’s latest myth — which is Gary Roberts according to Don Cherry. Heck, Joannette and Watson even gave the Penguins a two-man advantage for a minute and 26 seconds in the third period!. That’s unheard of in a Stanley Cup playoff game.
Didn’t matter. The Red Wings were just too good. Detroit won Game 4, 2-1 on Saturday night. Despite fewer power-plays and NO two-man advantages, the Wings outshot Pittsburgh 30-23 and even outhit the bigger, younger Pens 35-33.
Even though Detroit had eight minor penalties to Pittsburgh’s five in the first, even though the Pens had a long two-man advantage in the third, it didn’t matter. Even on the other guy’s ice, the Red Wings were just too good.
The Pens had everything going for them on Saturday: Home ice advantage, a place where they’d won nine straight in the playoffs; an international mainstream media that was virtually leading their cheers; a coach who had been given hours of meeting time with the NHL’s brass so he could whine about obstruction calls; more power play opportunities (6-3); and even Sidney Crosby (the NHL’s real “latest myth”).
And still they couldn’t outplay a President’s Trophy-winning Red Wings team that is destined to win the Cup.
Again, I couldn’t care less who wins this thing (Detroit? Pittsburgh? Doesn’t affect my life), but after awhile, this media cheerleading for the Penguins has become annoying. C’mon guys.
In Game 3, Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular and Crosby was out there almost by himself. No question, those were brilliant performances.
But in every other aspect of Game 3, Detroit was clearly the better team. There was really no reason to believe that Pittsburgh was suddenly going to get back in the series. Crosby got away from Draper et al and scored twice and Fleury stood on his head, but that was it. Evgeni Malkin was invisible (again). The Pittsburgh defence was confused. This “awesome” forecheck and “fearsome” hitting (the media’s words) got them a meagre 24 shots and they were barely in the game in the third period.
Saturday night, despite every reason to believe the Penguins had been handed a playoff game on a platter by two officials who really got caught up in the hype, Pittsburgh fell at home. Now, in four playoff games, Detroit has outshot the Penguins 134-88 (36-19, 34-22, 34-24, 30-23).
Everybody likes a good story and the Pittsburgh Penguins are a good story. But if you like a good (great?) hockey team, the Detroit Red Wings proved how good they were despite all odds on Saturday night.