A new era for Danimal’s Den starts today. The changes may be slow at first, and I haven’t finalized exactly what they will include, but you can be sure this site won’t look or feel quite the same by the end of the summer.
More importantly, I’m confident that we’ll have better content than ever before, updated regularly throughout the week.
Apparently, however, there’s nothing new about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ performance in the first two games of their rematch with Detroit. 2-0 down, and while their effort was considerably better than in the first two games of last year’s series, when they lost both games by a combined 7-0 (which was basically the difference in the series as the remaining four games ended up being a virtual dead-heat), the result was the same. Down two games, and beaten by a sucker-punch goal in the third period both nights.
Ed Olczyk’s commentary is correct. It was terrible defending from the Penguins, giving Justin Abdelkader so much time and space. Still, as Pierre LeBrun recognized in his column last night, the biggest difference between the teams so far in this series is that Chris Osgood is getting it done and Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t. Johan Franzen’s game-winning goal in the opener was a bit of a fluke and unlucky for Fleury, as the puck hit his pads while he was down on the ice and went over the line. But Abdelkader’s goal simply can’t be conceded at this level. Period. If the Penguins don’t turn it around in Games 3 and 4 back at their often inhospitable Igloo, you can point to Osgood’s stop of Evgeni Malkin’s breakaway in Game 1 (for good measure, Osgood stopped a Malkin wrist-shot from the point last night while it was still 1-0 Penguins) and Abdelkader’s goal in Game 2 as the defining moments of this series. Joe Starkey also noticed this shocking difference in net. Luckily for Pittsburgh, Malkin escaped a possible one-match ban for a late fight with Henrik Zetterberg. Puck Daddy’s not so sure he should have gotten such a reprieve, and Puck Stops Here agrees. In fairness, Malkin is presumably on the ice to score goals, and the instigator rule is really intended to deal with teams who send out enforcers late in games.
Regardless of Pittsburgh’s foibles, gotta give the Wings some props (even if I didn’t mind seeing Pittsburgh lose because I’m not the biggest Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin fan out there). Where do they keep finding all these kids who come in and produce? Even Mike Babcock is shocked how almost everyone he plays turns golden once they put on the famous “Winged Wheel.” Okay, Abdelkader not only played for Michigan State’s 2007 NCAA Championship team, he scored the winning goal in the title game. And, he was a second-round pick back in 2005, so he hasn’t completely come out of nowhere. But Johan Franzen was the 97th pick overall in 2004. Zetterberg was the 210th pick in 1999. Jonathan Ericsson was the last pick in 2002, and he had his appendix removed last week, but came back to score the tying goal last night. I could go on for a while. Mitch Albom notices that not only are they racking up goals and assists, they’re also stopping Sidney Crosby cold.
Much has been written about how great Jim Nill, Ken Holland, Joe McDonnell, and Hakan Andersson are at scouting/drafting players for Detroit, and this weekend was just more evidence of it. The Wings don’t lack for money, but cash is worthless if used unwisely.
Stay tuned to this series, and to this blog. More later today or tonight.