Posted on May 24, 2008 04:12 PM | Permalink
The opening faceoff to the Stanley Cup final is still a few hours away, but Michel Therien and Mike Babcock already are coming under a little second-guessing from press row.
Pittsburgh coach Therien was asked this morning about his somewhat surprising decision to bench veteran Gary Roberts for Game 1.
"Obviously it's not an easy decision, no doubt about that," said Therien, coaching his first final game. "But in the meantime we're more than satisfied with Tyler Kennedy and what he brings to the lineup. And he's got speed. And he's playing with a lot of intensity. We've got Jarkko Ruutu, he's been really good for us.
"You got Adam Hall, he's got a role with our team, he's good to take faceoffs on the right-hand side. And you've got Georges Laraque, he's a physical presence that we like. So it's something to say yes, we're going to bring another player. But the toughest decision is not that, so who are you going to take out? And those guys did a great job, a great job so far.
"And that's the number one reason why that we're not changing the lineup. It's not that we don't want Gary Roberts in our lineup. Yes, we want them. That's been part of being a good team. We're a good team. We've got depth and we're going to start the series like this.
"I'm not saying that he's not going to play. Nobody told that. And that's the way we feel that we're going to go tonight because those guys did a great job, and we'll go from there."
Roberts, who has had a touch of pneumonia lately but said he's recovered, is one of only three Penguins players with a Stanley Cup ring (Calgary, 1989). But he is 42 years old, too.
Therien also was quizzed about his decision not to skate on Joe Louis Arena ice Friday. The ice at "The Joe" can be a little mushy this time of year, so one might presume a team playing in the Stanley Cup finals and one that didn't play the Red Wings at all this season might want to get a little better acquainted with the, you know, actual playing
"I'm not a big fan to change preparation, the way we do things. It's always been like this. We're not going to change because we're in the Stanley Cup playoffs," Therien said.
Red Wings coach Babcock, meanwhile, defended his decision to sit 46-year-young defenceman Chris Chelios tonight.
"All we're doing today is, we won last game and we're not changing," Babcock said. "The bottom line with Chelios is we've got a lot of respect for his ability and what he brings to the team. But this isn't about Chelios or about me, it's about the Detroit Red Wings and winning and that's it."
Chelios is trying to take the high road, but those who know him well know this will be a tremendous embarrassment to him tonight. A feel-good storyline through the season suddenly is a healthy scratch in the biggest game of the year, on the national stage.
But the fact is, Chelios played poorly in the second and third rounds. His turnover and bad line change led to Dallas' winning goal in Game 5 of the Western final, and his lack of footspeed is starting to become a bigger liability against the top teams.
Still, having a Chelios around as defensive insurance isn't such a bad thing. Obviously, I want to play, don't get me wrong," Chelios said. "But if we keep winning, it's not a problem at all."
Johan Franzen is officially out for Game 1, with post-concussion symptoms. Franzen, in fact, met with team doctors this morning and his situation is starting to become more shrouded in hockey-playoff-injury intrigue. How bad are the symptoms? Will he really be back early in the series, as the Wings let on Thursday and Friday? At this stage, the proof will be in the nightly scratch list, it looks like.
Here is Babcock's verbatim answer when quizzed about Franzen: "He's at the doctor's or whatever. If we keep sending him to doctors, pretty soon we'll find someone who will shut him down for his life, I'm pretty sure."