Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Five Men Unit

Six if you count Chris Osgood. The Detroit Red Wings are making a mockery of the the Pittsburgh Penguins. One way you can tell is the excuses the Pens are coming up with on why they can't play their game against the President Trophy winners.

"We fell behind early in the game yesterday," Michel Therrien addressed reporters on the off-day. "And this is a team that it's tough to generate offense with the obstruction that they're doing."

I purposefully watched the entire game again and tried to take the side of the Penguins. But it was hard to see what Therrien was trying to accomplish. When a coach often goes to the excuses for his team, he is doing one of two things, trying to get marginal penalty calls go their way or he has no idea how to combat what the opposition is doing; obviously they must be cheating.

Instead of obstruction, I see a five man unit playing well against a team the relies heavily on the one playmaker to create space. The Red Wings do not spread the floor, their wingers do not rush up right away when their defensemen maintain control of the puck. Compare that to the Penguins style where the wings immediately leave the zone once they have control, which is fine if you have good puck moving defensemen.

Therrien's talk has also changed when it's come to experience, a factor he did think was such a big deal a week ago. Now it seems to be another excuse to deflect what might be a coaching mismatch.

"This is a team that we don't have much experience," Therrien said. "But we're still young. We're talking about guys ‑ you make comparison about guys who are 20, 21 years old against other guys. So there's a process."

Now this might all change if the Penguins offense decides to show up at the igloo in Pittsburgh. But my feeling is that Therrien may have turned his team into a "defense first - score second" kind of a team. Stifling the Pens offense with defensive responsibility.

But mostly I just think Mike Babcock has the upper hand on coaching in big situations. Also an interesting stat for you, Sergei Gonchar is now 0-6 against the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals.

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