I feel like last night was some of the first really entertaining playoff hockey games I've seen since the first round. Even though I'm loathe to really root for the Penguins, I gotta tell you, it's nice to see a series not go 3-0 right off the bat. Also, I can't help but root for old friend Hal Gill, even though he was certainly a bit of a mixed bag in Boston. Still, despite how well the Penguins played with the lead (something they have done in almost every one of their victories through what has been a relatively easy path to the Final)I can't really say I like their chances.
Despite what the scoreboard said at the end of the game, the Penguins started this game very, very weak, virtually daring Detroit to beat them by not putting a 5 on 5 shot on the net until halfway through the first period. For a team that seemingly needs to get a lead to win games, this does not bode well.
And yeah, I know, they rallied back against the Rangers in game one of that series, but c'mon, that was the Rangers, who simply tried to sit on a lead and blew it. If the Penguins are going to win this series (or at least make it competitive,) they need to take it to Detroit early and often, and that means Malkin needs to start shooting. I know, on paper, the Penguins are one of the best defensive teams in the playoffs. But if I'm getting into a defensive battle, I'd rather not do it in a zero-zero contest against a team that has Nic Lidstrom playing 25 minutes a game.
Also, a special shout out should go to the officials in this game, who allowed a simply splendid stretch of something like 6 furious minutes of play in the third period without a single whistle. It stood in stark contrast to the last moments of the Celtics/Pistons game I watched after the hockey ended, a game that took half an hour to run the last 45 seconds off the clock in a series of timeouts, fouls and free throws that practically put me to sleep.
Now, I know, debating that hockey is better than basketball (or any sport) is kind of ridiculous, especially since a die hard fan of either sport isn't going to have his mind changed, but I will say this- the tension and excitement of the last part of a hockey game is (with the rare exception of a penalty shot) played out while the game is going on, actively, rather than passively. In the waining moments of a basketball game the drama is played out and heightened during stoppages, while players stand around waiting to watch somebody sink or miss a free throw.
in my mind, it is those passive moments of the game, (something also ever present in baseball and to a lesser extent, football) which I find inferior to the active costant motion of hockey, and for that matter, the field Lacrosse game, which I also think is just great- the NCAA championships and semis were the best thing I've seen on ESPN since they cancelled NHL 2nite.
So we have a game four Friday, and it'd be nice to see the Penguins pull out a win and make a series out of it.