Thoughts on SCF Game 6
-- Fleury did look good on the Dan Cleary breakaway with 1:43 on the clock. Good move by Cleary under stress, being hacked. How Cleary felt that the slash was coming from his left and was heady enough to move the puck over to his right for a shot is beyond me.
-- Why is Pavel Datsyuk our best forward? OK, because he might be the best player in the world is a fine answer, but he's also a player who is slowed in his skating by an injury. That pass by Datsyuk to send Cleary in on a breakaway was unreal. So were his two back-door feeds to Henrik Zetterberg early in the game. But my point is this ... Datsyuk is playing above where he should be playing. But Zetterberg has slid backwards the past few games. Now, this is holding Zetterberg to his Conn Smythe level of play, but I hope he's on his game Friday and a dangerous offensive player. I don't know if Zetterberg's gassed or if the return of Datsyuk actually has him relaxing a bit more.
-- That ice must have been horrible last night. It was very warm in Pittsburgh and I haven't heard any player quotes about the ice, but you could see chances missed because of it. Those two back-door feeds from Datsyuk to Zetterberg looked like the puck hopped. There was another pass like that from the first line in the first period. With better ice, I think that Detroit would have scored in the first period. I know the Wings only got three shots on goal, but they had a handful of good opportunities where the puck bounced and no shot was taken.
-- Small point, but Jonathan Ericsson is mighty calm under pressure. Too calm. I'd like to see a little more urgency in getting the puck out of the defensive zone, a little more zip on the passes.
-- I really don't talk much about refereeing because it's such a blinders-on flashpoint with fans. But there were a few things in Game 6 I'd like to point out. Brian Rafalski was leveled behind the net by Chris Kunitz when the puck was closer to New Jersey than the Red Wings defenseman. I don't care if the whistle is being put away, you can't allow players to run players who aren't near the puck.
Nicklas Lidstrom was the victim of a can-opener on Pittsburgh's second goal. Ruslan Fedotenko put his stick between Lidstrom's legs from behind, so Lidstrom basically had to step over a three-foot fence to get to the puck. Fedotenko came from behind Lidstrom, passed him, picked up the puck and made a play. You have to call penalties that lead to clear puck possession changes. I'd understand it more if there was another Penguin along the boards who picked the puck up after Lidstrom was interfered with ... but it was Fedotenko himself who got the puck. It was way too obvious.
On the other side, I know that Jiri Hudler grabbed a stick on the Kris Draper goal. It was a stick hold, but the difference is this ... it didn't turn the puck over as the non-call on Lidstrom did and it came in a net-front battle and it was much more subtle. I bet you didn't see the Hudler stick hold until they showed the replay. You could see the Fedotenko can-opener as it happened. In a game in which penalties were being called at a moderate level, then I could see Hudler getting two for holding the stick. But there was a very high level for a penalty to be called last night and Hudler's play wasn't that obvious.
-- OK, one more point about the way the game was called. This series is totally getting away from the "New NHL's" stance on interference on dump-ins. And this goes for both teams. The league has been calling defensemen who hold up forwards after the puck is dumped in deep for a while. Defensemen would get clever and turn towards the end boards, but turn in a way that they impeded the oncoming forward. Fine.
Watch what's going on in this series. It's more like the line in football. Defensemen aren't even turning. The forward will go to step around the defenseman and the defenseman will step over in front of him like an offensive lineman. Why haven't those been called on both sides? Is this a change in philosophy for the NHL or just a situation happening in these playoffs?
-- All that said ... Game 7, so looking forward to it.