I've got a lot of thoughts after game one's 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh, and all of them are just what I said above: encouraging. The speed, the toughness, the physicality. The Wings and Pens both brought it tonight, but the Wings came out on top in relatively convincing fashion.
I may have picked the Wings in five, but that doesn't mean I think it'll be a walk for Detroit. I thought all of those five games (including tonight) would be tough as nails and come down to the last minute. Tonight's game wasn't exactly like that, but it wasn't close to being out of hand either. The Penguins are a great team, but like I thought, Detroit is just that much better. I expect more of the same in the next week.
A few notes specific to tonight's victory:
- The Pittsburgh defensemen played slower than Kenny G at a senior center. I watched Helm, Hossa and Franzen (heck, even Maltby!) fly by the standing statues that were dressed in Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi jerseys. I nodded and agreed with Buccigross as I read his note about Hossa and Franzen creating horrendous match-up problems for Pittsburgh, but I never considered how right he was. Those defensemen need to start eating their Wheaties or something, because if they keep skating like they did tonight, they are going to be in huuge trouble.
- This entire season, I've wondered to myself: does Kirk Maltby have anything left in the tank? Is there any reason whatsoever to keep him on the team, other than the obvious experience and leadership role he plays? Tonight, I got my answer. A definitive yes. He was awesome tonight. I haven't seen him skating around like a madman since the late '90s. His line with Leino and Abdelkader (and sometimes the rotating Helm) was unbelievable. They got more minutes than anyone expected, but they completely earned it. The "Staalshank Redemption" line had no answer for the Wings fourth unit. Very pleased with that.
- Abbadabbadooooooooo! I love Helm so much more, but I've been waiting to see this kid perform and he came through tonight. Big game. Great for him. I look forward to seeing some more Abdelkader on the ice in this series.
- The Penguins can complain all they want about Detroit's first two "fluky" goals (and I'm sure they will), but they were both created by hard work and Pittsburgh turnovers. So, suck it Pens fans, those were legit. Get your goalie to start playing in position.
- Hossa was left off the scoresheet, but it's worth noting that he was showing all-out effort a lot tonight. Diving to get pucks, playing strong defensively and churning those legs past Penguins left and right. Hossa is a beast, and he'll show these Penguins why they should regret losing him.