From just watching the first three games of this series we can all tell that things are far different from the 2008 Stanley Cup Final.
Last year, the Penguins were clearly the lesser of two teams. In Games 1 & 2, they were struggling to keep up with the pace and game control of the Red Wings. Opening on the road in front of 20,000+ at Joe Louis Arena didn’t help the young group of players, most of which had never had a Finals appearance.
Fast forward exactly one year, which is today (Yep. Tonight was the night Nicklas Lidstrom and the Detroit Red Wings raised the Stanley Cup over their heads on our ice), and it’s clear that the Pens are a different team. The games have had an equal ebb and flow that you’d expect from the last two surviving teams in the NHL.
Now, regardless of these facts, the Pens are still trailing 2-games-to-1 — just like last year. Tonight is as much of a must-win situation as last night — just like last year.
But to put some perspective on how our boys have improved, I’ve mapped out what I believe to be the three biggest stat categories — penalty minutes, shots, and goals — and how they differ from this year to last.
We’ll start with penalty time, which has been THE topic of conversation for most people so far this series. And let me tell you, the referees were calling games much differently exactly one year ago.
Game 1: Pittsburgh 10 — Detroit 6
Game 2: Pittsburgh 46 — Detroit 16
Game 3: Pittsburgh 12 — Detroit 10
Game 1: Pittsburgh 2 — Detroit 4
Game 2: Pittsburgh 21 — Detroit 7
Game 3: Pittsburgh 4 — Detroit 6
2008 Total: Pittsburgh 68 — Detroit 32
2009 Total: Pittsburgh 27 — Detroit 17
In both years the Pens have been penalized more. However, it’s astounding to see the disparity in calls between the years. The Red Wings, for the most part, are playing the same style of hockey they did last season. However, the penalty minutes they are getting have nearly been cut in half.
If your break it down to calls on each team, the Pens were penalized 10 more times, 26, than Detroit, 16, in 2008. That’s 42 calls! A whopping 27 more than the 15 they have made this year.
Something doesn’t seem right. Pens and Wings fans can all agree that both teams should be called for more.
As a Pens fan, I’d take the calls both ways. With the way our PP has been clicking and the terrible penalty killing from Detroit, the extra whistles can only help.
On the power play is where the Pens normally get their best scoring chances. They have a much easier time getting the puck to the net with one less Red Wing clogging up the neutral zone.
Thus, they generate more shots, which is the next step in determining that this series is a hell of a lot different than last year.
Game 1: Pittsburgh 19 — Detroit 36
Game 2: Pittsburgh 22 — Detroit 34
Game 3: Pittsburgh 24 — Detroit 34
Game 1: Pittsburgh 32 — Detroit 30
Game 2: Pittsburgh 32 — Detroit 26
Game 3: Pittsburgh 21 — Detroit 29
2008 Total: Pittsburgh 65 — Detroit 104
2009 Total: Pittsburgh 85 — Detroit 85
There were a total of 169 shots on net last year. Pittsburgh managed to record just 65, which is 38%.
Oddly enough, there’s been nearly the same amount of shots this year — 170. And wouldn’t you know it, the Pens have half.
That, I think, speaks for itself.
Moving on to goals — the most meaningful of all …
Game 1: Pittsburgh 0 — Detroit 4
Game 2: Pittsburgh 0 — Detroit 3
Game 3: Pittsburgh 3 — Detroit 2
Game 1: Pittsburgh 1 — Detroit 3
Game 2: Pittsburgh 1 — Detroit 3
Game 3: Pittsburgh 4 — Detroit 2
2008 Total: Pittsburgh 3 — Detroit 9
2009 Total: Pittsburgh 6 — Detroit 8
If you’re a Pens fan, you’ve got to love that they’ve doubled their goal total from last year. You’ve also got to like that the Wings have scored basically the same amount.
What it tells you is that the Pens really have improved. However, that improvement means nothing if the Pens fail to tie the series up tonight.
A win and this series is a best-of-three situation and the Pens have all the momentum. A loss and it’s all but over, forced to win the final three games, two at the Joe.
Chris | PPT