I woke up this morning thinking of the 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers, who opened their season by losing at home, at Three Rivers, to the divisional rival Browns by a score of 51-0. That's not a typo, the Cleveland Browns had 51 points and the Pittsburgh Steelers had zero. It was a game in which the Steelers turned the ball over eight times (five fumbles and three interceptions.) Watching the game on a beat up Zenith television set in my first apartment, I remember thinking the Steelers were just snakebit that day. Nothing worked. Every phase of the game looked like the climax of a slasher flick. No matter what they tried, it blew up like one live hand-grenade after another. It was just one of those games where you knew that, not only would they not be able to right the ship, they wouldn't even be able to claim any moral victories. There would be no drives to build on, no defensive stands to feel good about. As good as the Browns were that day, the Steelers were equally putrid.
That's what the Penguins game felt like last night. Only turned up to eleven.
And like that Steelers game, through my own sheer stupid stubbornness, I watched until the bitter end. It was like a self-imposed 'Ludovico Technique,' with beer. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludovico_technique )
It was so promising for a few minutes. The Pens came out flying high, cycling the puck, finishing their checks, forcing the action in the Detroit defensive zone, and playing up to the occasion. Then Niklas Kronwall tripped Chris Kunitz, the Pens went on the power play, and it all turned to shit. Smelly, stinky, pungent penguin scat.
The Pens put not one single shot on Chris Osgood with the man advantage. The Red Wings special teams, which had heretofore been foul-smelling themselves, got a huge lift from the penalty kill and just four minutes after the neandertal Kronwall made his return from the penalty box, Daniel Cleary blasted a shot between Brooks Orpik's legs, which sailed right past Marc-Andre Fleury. I don't think Fleury was even aware of the shot, just felt the breeze in his hair as it whistled by. The 1-0 lead would have been good enough for the Red Wings on the night.
Things only deteriorated from there. The Red Wings played like champs so I don't mean to take anything away from Detroit when I say that the Pittsburgh Penguins played like a bunch of jackass penguins.
I don't think we need to revisit in detail the horrors of the Red Wings power play success (3 for 9) or Marc-Andre Fleury's turnstile impersonation in net. Meanwhile, the officials, the same crew which had worked Game 3 and had allowed a, shall we say, Anaheim Ducks style of play, decided to call this one closer to the vest. Much closer. The Red Wings adjusted. The Pens didn't, leading to 18 minutes worth of minor (2-minute variety) penalties served by Pittsburgh and the embarrassing 30 minutes of game misconduct penalties (three 10 minute misconducts handed out near the end of the game to Craig Adams, Matt Cooke and Max Talbot).
Though, if I'm being honest, it's hard to be genuinely pissed at Talbot, Cooke and Adams as I myself was calling for Bylsma to send out the Hanson Brothers by the beginning of third period.
The good news is that regardless of the final score, whether 1-0 or 51-0, it still only counts for one game. (That, and the fact that Benedict Arnold Hossa has zero goals in this series, and is showing his true stripes as a regular-season phenom and post-season weakling.)
The Pens can win Game 6 at home on Tuesday, provided, of course, that they don't play like a bunch of jack-asses again. But you have to wonder, even if they win Game 6, are they capable of taking a single game at the Joe in Detroit? If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear Morgan Freeman's voice-over narration, "Sadly, none of the Penguins would survive their journey to Motown ..."