Penguins need to put scare into Red Wings
The question was posed to Gary Roberts as a pre-series hypothetical:
Were he a member of the Red Wings rather than the Penguins, would he -- as a veteran of championship stock and surrounded by more of the same -- enter the Stanley Cup final believing that there was no way the Penguins' 19-, 20- and 21-year old kids could beat the Red Wings' been-there, done-that-repeatedly savvy?
Roberts paused to ponder the query, because Gary Roberts doesn't answer frivolously; Gary Roberts decides and then issues declarations.
Finally, a response was forthcoming.
"Maybe," he said.
Roberts, of course, entered the series with something of a different mindset, one that had been forged from his up-close-and-personal experience with the Penguins' exuberant youth.
"Knowing those 19-, 20- and 21-year olds like I do, you realize the commitment they make, the time they put in, their discipline," Roberts said.
Roberts was asked next if he thought the Red Wings had any idea about any of that.
"How could they?" he said.
Truth be told, they don't.
And their mindset heading into Game 2 tonight at Joe Louis Arena is undoubtedly what it was entering Game 1 -- that the Penguins, while talented and clearly a team on the rise, are at this point merely the last team in the Red Wings' way en route to their latest championship.
The Red Wings' players and coaches have been nothing if not respectful and complimentary when discussing the Penguins.
Still, one gets the vibe that deep down inside these Red Wings aren't threatened, that they're convinced it's still their time and not yet the Penguins' time.
What transpired in the Red Wings' 4-0 victory in Game 1 doesn't figure to have changed any of that.
Job 1 for the Penguins tonight in Game 2 will be earning some of that respect that's been bestowed upon them.
What they need to do more than anything is jolt the Red Wings out of their well-earned and well-deserved comfort zone.
If they can make them a little uneasy, apply a little pressure and establish themselves as something more than merely the extras in the "Wings Win Again" reality-TV experience Game 1 became, they'll be onto something.
Until then, the commitment and discipline won't matter, and all the time the Penguins' youngsters are putting in will just be wasted time.
Mike Therrien responded Sunday with lineup and line changes, but what he really needs from his players is what Herb Brooks would be encouraging them to do right about now: Play your game.
When the Penguins do that, they're good enough to put a little uncertainty into the Red Wings' hearts and minds, and dangerous enough to take advantage of the indecision that might create.
The Penguins can do that whether Ryan Malone is playing with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. But until they do it, the Red Wings are going to justifiably feel superior and in control.
"We're a different team than what they played before," Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood said after Game 1.
The Penguins, likewise, are like no team the Red Wings have seen.
If they can make the Red Wings truly appreciate that tonight, this series will just be getting started.