The more things change, the more they stay the same.
This was the case in both Games 1 and 2 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final between the Red Wings and Penguins. The same can be said for the constant flashes of deja-vu had by the Pens.
Different scorers, same situations.
Detroit beat the Penguins 3-1 Sunday night, just as they did the previous night, after shutting them out by a combined score of 7-0 in the first two games of last year’s finals, ultimately taking a 2-0 lead in the series. Detroit is shooting for its fifth title in 12 seasons and the 12th Cup in franchise history.
Just like last year, my friends.
Valtteri Filpulla scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period, sandwiching his tally between goals from youngsters Jonathan Ericsson – who is just hours removed from an appendectomy – and Justin Abdelkader, who became the first rookie to score in consecutive games in the finals since Minnesota’s Dino Ciccarelli in 1981. Abdelkader slapped a bouncing puck on net that beat Marc-Andre Fleury for the insurance marker in Game 2, just as he batted a bouncing puck in Game 1 for the insurance marker.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, where the Eastern Conference champions will battle a modern-day dynasty and history.
32 teams have lost the first two Stanley Cup finals games on the road and only the 1971 Montreal Canadiens rallied to win it all.
Much of the credit thus far has been due to the stellar play of NHL playoff legend Chris Osgood, who was Detroit’s No. 1 goaltender on its 1998 championship team. Ozzie improved to 10-2 and dropped his GAA to a minuscule 1.47 in the Stanley Cup finals.
As Detroit hold every advantage over the Penguins, they still do so without Hart trophy candidate Pavel Datsyuk and one of the league’s best defensive-forwards in Kris Draper.
The Red Wings improved to 11-0 this postseason when leading after two periods, moving halfway toward putting another championship banner in the crowded rafters at Joe Louis Arena.
The team is going to be in tough for Game 3 when they head back to Mellon Arena. With Datsyuk and Draper’s availability in question once again, the Pens managed to scour some momentum with seconds left in the thirdMax Talbot stabbed Osgood, who had just frozen the puck on a shot from the point.
Evgeni Malkin then blindsided Henrik Zetterberg, and after numerous punches and slaps to the head with his stick, instigated a fight. Malkin received a five-minute major and a game misconduct, but the key here is that he also received the instigator penalty, meaning that a suspension is possible for Game 3. Colin Campbell, however, rescinded the call in typical post-NHL fashion.
How is it possible for the league to automatically rescind a call without looking at it first? It’s because the NHL only enforces rules that are convenient.
Because Malkin’s antics came with 19 seconds remaining in the Penguins’ 3-1 loss, it triggered Rule 47.22, which hands down the one-game suspension to players who instigate a fight in the game’s final five minutes. It is a rule to prevent the kind of thuggery and frustration spilling that Malkin displayed. The punishment fits.
Except in the NHL, which includes out clauses with its rules. This suspension can be reviewed by Campbell, the NHL’s executive VP and director of hockey operations, who certainly doesn’t have anything riding on Malkin, the potential MVP, no, sir, and wouldn’t at all let his decision be compromised by the quality of the player involved, no way, no how, because he is a fair and impartial jury of one, yes, indeed.
Campbell said, “Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight.”
For some reason, this was not the case on Sunday. The entire point of the fight was to send a message to Zetterberg and the defending Cup champs – that the Penguins were still around, and that they still had some fight in them, and that he was going to show it by beefing with a guy 4 inches shorter.
And he did this knowing that the league would never, ever suspend him. Players realize the NHL is weak in mind and spirit. It could, ironically, learn something about toughness from them. So they’re going to continue to flout the rule until Campbell or commissioner Gary Bettman or someone else steps in and abolishes it or enforces it.
The league must make up its mind. If it agrees with the principle of the rule, live with its consequences. Otherwise, get rid of it and mete out punishment in its usual manner: devoid of logic and consistency.
Next thing you know, the players will look at the book and wonder what other rules they can break. In fact, that happened Sunday. At the end of Campbell’s statement, the NHL made sure to include this chestnut:
“NHL Hockey Operations also determined that Malkin should have been assessed a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down.”
Well, that’s grand. An unnecessary elbow. A few good punches. And the NHL is worried about Evgeni Malkin’s clothing.
Like you’d expect anything different.