Posted on May 29, 2008 02:17 AM | Permalink
PITTSBURGH – You only have to do one thing to get the proper flavour of Wednesday's Game 3: cue up the tape of Brooks Orpik's third-period shift in the third period. You know the one.
That's the one where Orpik was like the 400-pound man after a two-day fast, when the doors first open to all-you-can-eat Chinese lunch buffet. Orpik hit four Detroit Red Wings players hard, like that first course of Szechuan dumplings from the hungry 400-pounder.
In about 30 seconds, the previously pedestrian Orpik transformed into the deranged looking Bill Bixby, then into the final, finished Ferrigno's Hulk. Daniel Cleary and Johan Franzen and anybody else who came into Orpik's path were sent into orbit.
This was a great game tonight. Orpik's one-man tornado impression in the third was one of countless great plays. The game had a high skill level, quality goaltending, a proper level of hatred and a back-and-forth rhythm that not even the TV timeouts could slow down.
But Orpik's third-period shift should immediately be YouTubed and saved for any team that wants to do a search for "Player sequences that can fire up a team in a huge playoff game."
Because that's what Orpik's shift did, with fans chanting his name after the next timeout.
"It gives you a lift, something like that," Penguins uber-star Sidney Crosby said.
Crosby's performance should be saved somewhere too. You're the captain of a team down two games, getting beat up in the press, some using the word 'broom' in their columns.
You show up for Game 3 and score the first two goals, the first coming with 2:35 left in the first period what was dangerously close to the seventh straight goose egg of the series. Then, you get another goal on the power play, and watch as your team holds on at the end, thanks to the Hulk impressions of young Orpik.
"It's one I'm sure fans wanted to watch. That was definitely a back-and-forth game, fun to watch," Crosby said. "It's great to come out of this on the other side with a win. But we realize it's only one."
Yes, this is what Gary Bettman had in mind when this series started. He got a leading-man performance from his matinee idol, Crosby, and a game that just about had it all. NHL officials couldn't wait for the overnight ratings to come in from Nielsen, because they – for the first time maybe EVER – gave NBC a quality
night of primetime programming.
Yes, there will always be stiff competition from the dumbed-out masses who can't miss a minute of American Idol or some other nitwit reality show, but at least for one night, Bettman could look at himself in the mirror and know he delivered a quality product to the masses.
A post-game parlour game among the media tonight was wondering if Chris Chelios would be back in the Detroit lineup for Game 4. Brett Lebda and Andreas Lilja had some shaky moments, none more so than Lilja's giveaway after Gary Roberts rubbed him out behind his net, leading to Matt Hall's bank shot off Chris Osgood for the game winner.
Chelios struggled in the Western finals against Dallas, but he could get the nod for Game 4 now. Stay tuned.
You can bet the absolute first word out of Scott Bowman's mouth was "10" after he dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game. The public address announced said Bowman had nine Stanley Cup titles, but they forgot the 10th he had with Pittsburgh as an upper management member with the '91 champs. That wasn't his 10th Cup, but it's no doubt the PA man forgot when going over his career. If Detroit wins this Cup, Bowman will get his name on it a record 11th time.
Pittsburgh did a nice job of physicality on Tomas Holmstrom tonight.
Granted, it cost the Penguins a couple of penalties, but Holmstrom had a tougher time getting to the net and making the kinds of tip plays he wants… Gary Roberts' rubout of Lilja to lead to the winning goal was vintage Roberts. Hard to believe Michel Therrien didn't want him in for Game 1… Babcock basically said his team was good tonight, but not good enough to win. He said Zetterberg and Datsyuk tried to do too much, and he even blamed himself for keeping them on the ice too long at times.