PITTSBURGH – Right about now, what must bother the Pittsburgh Penguins more than their inability to switch off the power of Pavel or the disappearance of their stars during a meltdown in Motown is that Marian Hossa could be right.
The Red Wings truly might be the NHL’s best team, and Hossa’s better chance of winning the Stanley Cup was in Detroit, not in Pittsburgh.
The Red Wings not only lead the Stanley Cup final 3-2 heading in a potential Cup-clinching Game 6 on Tuesday night, they’ve got a not-healthy but a productive Pavel Datsyuk back in their lineup. They’ve also exposed Pittsburgh’s supposed edges in speed and star-class players as fraudulent, the evidence being a 5-0 rout in Detroit on Saturday night in which they looked to be anything but weary or finished.
During a final in which momentum means nothing and playing at home means everything, the Penguins have the home-ice advantage in the next game, and not much else. And Hossa certainly isn’t having any second thoughts.
Hossa doesn’t have a goal, hasn’t made a signature play and has been less effective for Detroit than he was for Pittsburgh in the final a year ago. Still, with one more victory, the man who has spent 11 months rationalizing why he left a championship-caliber team in Pittsburgh and the big money it offered to sign a one-year deal with Detroit won’t have to explain any longer.
“I think he’s really pleased with his decision,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Sunday, a day off the ice for both teams during the first two-day break of the final.
Much like Datsyuk must be pleased with his decision to ignore the excruciating pain in his apparently broken right foot to set up two goals and help take away Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in Game 5. The two leading scorers in the playoffs spent more time getting into scrums and sitting in the penalty box than they did creating any scoring.
“We’ve come back, we’ve bounced back,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “We’ve battled in the face of adversity. We’ve come back and won a Game 7 at Washington. This is a group of guys I believe in and am confident in. It’s a tough situation.”
Malkin and Crosby must take a more offensive stance, unless the Penguins want to see the Red Wings skating around Mellon Arena with Stanley Cup in tow, just as they did after Game 6 last year. Even worse for them, Hossa would likely be among the first to get his hands on it.
“Coming back home for Game 6, we just have to focus on one game,” Penguins forward Bill Guerin said. “We can’t think about a Game 7. We can’t think about what happened in Game 5.”
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