Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More than Adequate

Pittsburgh 2, Montreal 0

I will start this post by admitting that I didn't see the whole game, just the third period where all the scoring occurred. Admitedly, it was nice to catch that third period, as it appears that the first two were grinding hard fought battles with a few real time shmozzles full of trash talking and face washing. But we all knew that going into Montreal, that it was going to be a fight with emotions running high.

What I really loved about watching the highlights were the mini-conferences held by the Pens Captain and other members of the team. I don't think that I've seen Sidney talk that much ever. Being a Captain means more than watching everyone, scoring goals and directing traffic. It also calls for a lot of communication and this appeared to be the healthy kind, the constructive communication that helps keeps relationships alive. If only men talked that much to their wives in such detail and with such emotion. It would be the end of divorce. Of course, that would only work if the issues were all hockey-related.

The true player of the game, though, was Marc-Andre Fleury with a shut out win. Up until this point in the playoffs, he's only had to be an adequate goalie. He hasn't faced the kind of firepower that other goalies have had to contend with during the playoffs (hats off to Nabokov for facing missiles from ALL of Detroit and Lou with the Blackhawks charging), nor has he had to make spectacular plays (the most spectacular save in the Ottawa series was actually Crosby's, not Fleury's.) His defense has also been tight in front of him, blocking a lot of shots along the way, reducing him more or less to a post-like function. You know your defense is good when you're not getting a lot of action in your zone and you have plenty of time to consider what you want for dinner that night.

The commentators have warned us all not to underestimate Fleury and assured us that he would eventually steal a game. And who would have thought that the game he would steal would be the first faceoff in Habs territory for a crucial 2-1 lead in the series? He admits, like everyone, that Montreal is a hard city to win in and he went above and beyond for this. The Stanley Cup ring is rarely placed on an undeserving hand and Fleury definitely showed how he earned his.

All of the goalie talk before in this series was centered squarely on Halak and the Halak/Price debate that never should have taken place. I still believe that Halak is Montreal's best shot in this series and there really wasn't much that he could do about this loss. The offense didn't show up to support him and the bad calls were what led to the man advantage that allowed the Malkin goal.

It seems that the Habs fought hard in this game, but it also seems that they fought hard not to lose rather than fighting hard to win. They should have concentrated on scoring early in the game and lighting up the crowd for momentum. They also should have played a more disciplined game.

High emotions and lackadaisal play was the downfall of Pittsburgh in their Sunday game loss and the same story goes for the Habs loss last night. The Pens kept their emotions in check for this one and that's how they won. You can't win games without controlling the play and you can't control the play without controlling yourself.

Self-control should be the name of the game for both benches as the series continues. And keep your smelly gloves on.

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