Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guest Blogging: "Wearing Black and Gold in Detroit on a Monday Night"

Below is a blog post provided by a virtuoso sports (and tertiary hockey) fan who visited lovely Detroit to take in Game 2 of the Finals betwixt the Red Wings and Penguins. Said fan / author is also the brains (if not the brawny) behind the website a very interesting account of his two month sojourn around the circumference of Australia with his 2 year old son.

Monday night actually started on Monday afternoon as a group of eight Penguins fans meandered around Detroit. We had a great meal in Greektown and checked out a microbrew pub near the baseball stadium. All in all, a good time. Then we took the cleverly named "People Mover" to the arena. The arena was packed with good natured fans of both teams. I do not believe it would be a stretch to say that 20% of the fans were in Pens gear. The arena may be older, but every seat had a good view if my seat is any indication. The photos give you a view of warm ups, as well as that damn octopus being raised back up.

As a Pens fan, I have been to a few venues for hockey: LA, San Jose, Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia, Columbus, and Nashville. Admittedly, those were not all Pens games so I have not experienced all of those venues as an "away" fan. With that caveat, let me say that Wings fans are the best fans in their treatment of "away" fans of any I have seen in the US side of the hockey world. Let me take that a step further and say that of the 41 Pro sports venues I have been to, none had a better combination of passion and civility. Given the excitement of the Stanley Cup and my relatively negative impression of Detroit from previous visits, I was expecting something resembling the away fan experience at a Raiders game or a Flyers game. To my amazement, we were not yelled at or taunted much at all. This was not just because there were eight of us - most of the time, I was working my way through the crowd with one friend wearing a very noticeable old school Ron Brown Pens sweater. In the interest of time and keeping this positive impression, we skipped the People Mover on the way back to the car. The only down note is that for "Hockeytown", it would be nice if one local news station led with the Stanley Cup Finals ahead of the NBA semi-finals.

Now, about the game. Dave has already reviewed it and he was spot on. As you know, being there you only get replays that serve the home team. Thus, I have no idea why when a Pens player is leveled and leaves lots of blood on the ice in the first period it was no big deal (and no power play). On the other hand, the fact that people in front of me stood up during the goals did not prevent me from seeing them a few times. While I did not appreciate any of the goals, I had to admire the balance and skill in Valtteri Filppula's goal. The fact of the matter is that Detroit simply has the better game plan and execution. Player for player, the Pens are as good as the Wings, but on the ice Monday night (and Saturday night) the Wings were just far and away the better team. The Wings knew how to take the puck down the ice, move it around, and score. Yes, the Penguins failed to capitalize on a few opportunities, but the blunt analysis is that the Wings had an answer for every Pens possession. Every time, the puck would be taken off someone's stick or the player would be directed away from the goal. Then the Wings would counterattack and hold the puck. Sure, Chris Osgood is playing well, but the story line is that the team in front of him is controlling the pace of the game to an astounding degree. The Pens came in with a hot offense and excellent play from their defense, but neither is performing well enough to win. The only statistic in which the Pens held an advantage Monday night was in hits (actually, they may have broken even in face-offs), but that is about like a football team leading in tackles - it was because the Wings were too busy handling the puck to hit the Pens. Some would say that the Wings were better at holding a lead. That may be true (we'll have to see if they are more submissive when down, if that happens), but the Wings were dominating this game from the word "go" and that did not change until the game was out of reach. Near the end of the game, the Pens chippy play seemed to either awaken their own animal spirits or throw the Wings off their game.

Pittsburghers may look at Games 1 & 2 and blame the stars like Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. They may be reminded of how poorly stars like Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla played in the National League Championship series of 1990, 1991, and 1992. They would be looking to the wrong problem. This is more fundamental than the Red Wings scoring on their chances and the Penguins not capitalizing on theirs. The fact is that the Wings are winning with their scheme and controlling the flow of the game. Erstwhile Pens coach Scotty Bowman scouted the Pens in their series vs. the Flyers and helped the Wings plan for this series. Unless the Pens can break that scheme, this will be over in four games and those watching this finals will not see a single close game.

Jim Key

And now... a few images from within the Joe, provided by the good Dr Key.
Sweet Stanley Cup projection

Note the Octopus hanging from the ceiling (along with the banners)

Ready for period one action (at least for the Red Wings)

1 comment:

Alan said...

Thanks Jim for the report from Detroit. Having gone to The Joe earlier this year to see a Columbus/Detroit game, I can attest to how hard it was to play the Redwings there. But it was cool to be in an "old" hockey stadium. Gordie Howe was there also signing his book ($70 for the book and the autograph).

I had predicted before the playoffs that Hasek was going to struggle. The move to Osgood was a smart one for Detroit.

Game 3 should be very interesting. Obviously a do-or-die game for the Pens.