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Starkey: Pens need unsung scorers

| Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Everybody's saying the Penguins can't win unless their big guns start firing.

Is that like saying the Detroit Red Wings can't win unless Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk score a lot?


Then how come the Red Wings are leading this Stanley Cup final, 2-0, without a goal from any of those guys?

Here's how: Besides rock-solid goaltending, they are getting contributions from the unlikeliest of sources.


Justin Abdelkader: A rookie left winger who is only in the lineup because of injuries to the likes of Datsyuk and Kris Draper, Abdelkader has scored his first two NHL goals in this series.

Marc-Andre Fleury: Yeah, he's the Penguins' goalie, but he has three of Detroit's last seven goals in Stanley Cup final competition, dating to Zetterberg's Cup winner in Game 6 last season, which Fleury inadvertently knocked into his net. Look, Fleury is a great goalie and still only 24 — the Penguins would not be here without him — but he needs to be one of their best players, not one who is prone to calamitous lapses. Some of the fluky goals can be attributed to bad luck. All of them can't be.

Valtteri Filppula: He had 12 goals in 80 regular-season games and just one in the playoffs but scored on a beautiful backhander in Game 2 (after Fleury was plowed over in the goal crease by Tomas Holmstrom, who'd been plowed into by Evgeni Malkin).

Jonathan Ericsson: How is this man playing hockey• His appendix was removed from the lineup on Wednesday, yet he suited up for Game 1 on Saturday and scored in Game 2 on Sunday, ripping a slap shot past a screened Fleury. Ericsson had one goal in 19 regular-season games.

And there you have it.

As Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski put it after Game 2: "It's crucial at this time of year to have a lot of young players who are enthusiastic and full of energy go out there and make things happen."

Of course, any of us could go out there full of energy. The key part of that statement is "make things happen."

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said that if someone had told him at the beginning of the year that he would be depending on the likes of Abdelkader (we're now officially able to spell that name without checking), Ericsson, Darren Helm and Ville Leino, "I wouldn't think we'd be in the Stanley Cup Final."

The Penguins need an answer. Something from third-liners Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy or Matt Cooke would be nice. Taking this year's final and last year's into consideration, Staal and Kennedy have combined for zero points, 17 shots and a minus-13 rating in eight games.

Chris Kunitz has one goal and a boatload of missed opportunities in these playoffs.

Meanwhile, anyone criticizing Sidney Crosby for a pointless first two games is way off base. Crosby, playing against a couple of defensive demons in Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom, generated several golden chances that were not converted.

Crosby also did his usual dirty work around the goal line and simply was unlucky, whether it was Zetterberg covering pucks in the crease (wait, isn't that a penalty shot?) or seeing a puck land flat on goalie Chris Osgood's back. Malkin had a point in each game, though he also missed on great chances to give the Penguins two-goal leads.

Those two will continue to play at a high level, but they will need some help.

If somebody doesn't step up soon, it'll be see ya' later, Abdelkader, for the Penguins.

Earlier than most of us figured.

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