Cleary gets high scores without scoring

Robin
Robin Short
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STANLEY CUP FINAL Goals hard to come by in playoffs, no matter who you are

The Stanley Cup final returns to the place they call the Igloo tonight, appropriate enough for Dan Cleary, whose offensive game has gone cold of late.

Not to worry, though. Cleary's still contributing in many other ways for the Red Wings, who lead the series with the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2.

Detroit Red Wings forward Dan Cleary has registered just one goal in the Stanley Cup Final, this one during Game 1 against Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins. However Clearys contributions on special teams and as a checker have been invaluable.

Pittsburgh - The Stanley Cup final returns to the place they call the Igloo tonight, appropriate enough for Dan Cleary, whose offensive game has gone cold of late.

Not to worry, though. Cleary's still contributing in many other ways for the Red Wings, who lead the series with the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2.

And besides, he's not the only one struggling to score in the final.

"It's hard to score at playoff time," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Tuesday. "When you're a good player, they're all over you, and you're all over them. There's no room.

"And when we go through the game (on tape, Monday's 4-3 triple overtime loss), it reminds me a lot of Game 5 against Dallas. We had 57 shots on net. We missed the net 41 other times. Do the math there, we had our fair share of opportunity. It didn't go in. And so you move on.

"But I think the good players, they have a resolve and understanding and stick with it. And they know they're going to score. It's just a matter of whether you give them the time or not."

Game 6 is set to go 9:30 p.m. (NST) tonight at Mellon Arena, where the Wings can clinch their 11th Stanley Cup.

Cleary has only two goals through 21 playoff games, the second a shorthanded effort in Game 1 of the final, a 4-0 Detroit win.

He scored 20 goals and 42 points during the regular season, but each of those came before he missed 19 games with a broken jaw suffered Feb. 9 in Toronto when he was struck by the puck.

Not that Cleary's alone. Pavel Datsyuk, the NHL's fourth-leading scorer this year with 97 points, has a goal and an assist through five games against Pittsburgh. Henrik Zetterberg, who was sixth overall in scoring, has only a goal, but has been in on three others. Tomas Holmstrom, a 20-goal scorer in only 59 games through the regular season, has been limited to one goal in the final, although he sat out a game with a sore hamstring.

Still, Cleary's value to the Red Wings cannot be underestimated. He started Monday's game on the first line with Dallas Drake and Kris Draper as Babcock continues to dabble with his line combinations, except for those wearing Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Holmstrom sweaters.

Cleary is frequently used on the first penalty killing unit and often takes his post on the first power play.

He's used late in the game, regardless if Detroit is winning or losing.

In fact, Cleary had a couple of good scoring chances in the dying seconds of Monday's 4-3 Pittsburgh win, after Maxime Talbot tied the game with 35 seconds left in the third period.

Controversial call

Cleary - who was unavailable Tuesday as the NHL trotted out only the coaches and a handful of players to meet with the media on the off-day - was making news not for his production, or lack of, but for a goaltender's interference penalty he picked up in the second overtime period in Game 5.

Cleary was storming down the off-wing and drove to the net where he collided with Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

To the sell-out crowd of 20,066 - 20,064 were clad in Red Wings jerseys, except for Kid Rock and his shapely companion - it was good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed hockey.

To referees Paul Devorski and Dan O'Halloran, it was two minutes in the box.

Detroit killed off the Pittsburgh power play, but Babcock was still a bit perturbed with the call a day later.

Not that he said much. The NHL doesn't take too kindly to coaches disputing calls in the media.

Babcock's reaction and his read-between-the-lines reply said it all.

"I don't have any idea," when asked his thoughts on the call.

"What do you say? If you were me sitting here, tell me, what would you say?"

The reporter who posed the question replied many hockey fans don't care for his thoughts.

"I think it's pretty evident they don't care what I think either. We talk about scoring goals. We talk about scoring more goals in the National Hockey League. We want more goals.

"No they don't," he said, alluding to NHL hierarchy. "Don't tell me that. I've never seen anything like that in my whole life. Guys driving the net. Come on."

Goalie to the defence of forward

Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood also came to Cleary's defence.

From his vantage point at the other end of the rink, Osgood said it was a case of a player driving hard to the net, gritty hockey that's expected this time of year.

"When you're taking a shot on the goalie," Osgood said, "you're pushed in, you have a lot of speed, and it's hard to stop. You can't stop on a dime.

"And when you're driving the net, you get a shot on the net and you brush the goalie. I don't think it's a penalty, especially at that particular time of the game.

"I don't think it was proper. We get hit all the time when guys drive the net in the regular season. And we don't have a problem with it. There's such a gray area for that rule right now that it needs to be addressed."

rshort@thetelegram.com




Stanley Cup quicknote

Crosby's longest game
Pittsburgh (Canwest News Service) - Monday's six-period game was the longest game of Sidney Crosby's young NHL career.
Afterwards, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain said it was an absolutely gruelling experience.
"My legs didn't feel too good, to be honest with you," Crosby said. "When you get to that point, I think you just worry about small steps, worry about getting out of your zone and then getting into the neutral zone.
"I mean, it's a track. It doesn't feel like 200 feet all the way down. I feels more like a football field.
"Mentally it's tough, but I think you remind yourself of other situations you've been in or how hard you've worked to get this opportunity. You just dig deep and hope it works out.
"Obviously, it's nice to be on the winning side of it."

Organizations: Red Wings, National Hockey League, Pittsburgh Penguins Canwest News Service

Geographic location: Pittsburgh, Detroit, Dallas Toronto

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Recent comments

  • Ed
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Dan is playing great hockey. Regular shift, power play, and penalty kill.
    I was surprised he didn't play goal in the overtime.
    There's 29 teams that would love to have a player with Cleary on the back of a sweater.
    Get the cup and I'll buy you a beer in Hr. Grace.

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Dan Cleary is playing the best hockey of his career. The Wings WILL WIN the cupand dan will have it in Hr. Grace.

  • Carter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Dan Cleary is playing the best hockey I have seen him play, he is playing like the player he should be and what he did in junior. Go Dan we are behind you all the way even in New Brunswick.

  • Ed
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Dan is playing great hockey. Regular shift, power play, and penalty kill.
    I was surprised he didn't play goal in the overtime.
    There's 29 teams that would love to have a player with Cleary on the back of a sweater.
    Get the cup and I'll buy you a beer in Hr. Grace.

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Dan Cleary is playing the best hockey of his career. The Wings WILL WIN the cupand dan will have it in Hr. Grace.

  • Carter
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Dan Cleary is playing the best hockey I have seen him play, he is playing like the player he should be and what he did in junior. Go Dan we are behind you all the way even in New Brunswick.