Opened in 1979, Joe Louis Arena is not only one of the oldest arenas in the NHL, it’s also among the quirkiest.
Case in point: The end boards and their rubber band-like action that the Detroit Red Wings used to record a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday night. The win gave the Red Wings an early advantage in the best-of-seven series with Game 2 scheduled for tonight in Detroit.
The Red Wings twice used the bouncy boards surrounding their home ice to score and goaltender Chris Osgood made 31 saves to take the opener.
“If you can’t get a clean shot at the net, you can throw it wide and it’s going to bounce somewhere in front if you play it right,” said Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart, who opened the scoring when his shot from the blue line was wide of the net but bounded off the boards and hit Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the skate and trickled into the goal.
After the Penguins had tied it at 1-1 on a Ruslan Fedotenko goal late in the first, the Wings used more board work to take a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the second. Brian Rafalski’s shot hit behind the Penguins’ goal and came to Johan Franzenm, who sent a shot toward Fleury that glanced off the goalie’s left leg and trickled into the net.
“This is a situation in this building that you know that pucks are coming off the backboards quickly,” Pittsburgh Coach Dan Bylsma said. “We’re aware of it, we practiced it and they got some fortunate breaks off it. They were better at that than we were.”
Justin Abdelkader took advantage of another fortuitous bounce to make it 3-1 Wings early in the third. The rookie gloved an airborne puck in front of Fleury, dropped it to the ice and sent a shot over the goalie’s right shoulder for his first career goal.
Osgood was strong between the pipes to improve to 13-4 in the postseason as the Wings won for the ninth time in 10 home playoff games. The veteran goalie stopped the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin on a breakaway early in the second and shortly after Abdelkader’s goal, Penguins star Sidney Crosby hit the post with a shot and the rebound landed on Osgood’s back before a pileup of players froze the puck.
History is now on the side of Detroit as teams winning the initial game have gone on to win the NHL championship 54 times in 69 seasons since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939.