It’s a rematch of last year’s finals as Pittsburgh and Detroit battle for the Stanley Cup starting on May 30th. This is the first Finals rematch since the 83-84 season. Last season, the Red Wings used timely goals and stout defense to defeat the Penguins 4-2 in the best of seven series. This year, they’ll give it another go.
Apparently, the real conference finals should have actually been the conference semifinals. Both Pittsburgh and Detroit needed seven games to defeat Washington and Anaheim respectively. The actual conference finals were a different story altogether. The Penguins, led by the dynamic and youthful combination of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby (28 points each in the playoffs) easily dispatched the far overmatched Carolina Hurricanes 4-0. The Chicago Blackhawks made the Western finals slightly more interesting by only losing 4-1 to Detroit.
Game 1 @ DET
Sat, May 30 8:00pm EDT
Game 2 @ DET
Sun, May 31, TBD
Game 3 @ PIT
Tue, Jun 2 8:00pm EDT
Game 4 @ PIT
Thu, Jun 4 8:00pm EDT
Game 5* @ DET
Sat, Jun 6 8:00pm EDT
Game 6* @ PIT
Tue, Jun 9 8:00pm EDT
Game 7* @ DET
Fri, Jun 12 8:00pm EDT
How they got here: Pittsburgh (45-28-9): In the regular season, the Penguins finished in a tie with Philadelphia for second place in the Atlantic Division, seven points behind New Jersey. They started off rather slow and didn’t even have the look of a playoff team around mid January. That is until they shifted into third gear in February and March, only losing five times in regulation during those months. The Pens dispatched the Flyers 4-2 in the first round, were pushed to brink by the Caps in seven games in the second round and then swept the Hurricanes to enter to Stanley Cup Finals on a nine game regulation winning streak.
Detroit (51-21-10): Detroit followed up last season’s Cup win by claiming the Central Division by eight points over second place Chicago. The Red Wings were in control of the division for most of the season and there was never a doubt as to whether or not they were playoff bound. The only question was: who was going to take home the President’s Cup for best record in the NHL? Would it be Detroit, Boston or San Jose? The Sharks took it, by one point over Boston and five points over the Wings, but only Detroit remains. The Red Wings swept Columbus in the first round, beat Anaheim in seven in the second round and manhandled division rival Chicago in the Western Finals 4-1. They carry a six game regulation win streak into the Stanley Cup Finals.
How they match up: Both teams are in the upper echelon of offensive teams. Detroit finished the regular season with the most goals in the NHL with 295. Pittsburgh was in a three-team tie for fourth with 264. The Penguins have a fairly one (er…two) dimensional offense. Malkin and Crosby accounted for 216 if the team’s points. The third best scorer, Jordan Staal only had 49 points. Detroit is much more well rounded offensively. They had three players with 70 or more points, including Pavel Datsyuk’s 97. Detroit also had a total of eight players score 50 or more points. Both teams have solid defense and all-star caliber goalies, but the biggest difference between the teams is defensive scoring. The Red Wings defenders have shown a natural scoring ability rarely seen. Three defenseman, Brian Rafalski, Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall, all finished with over 50 points. Kris Letang (33) was the only Penguins defender with a respectable point total. I believe that Detroit’s defenseman are the series’ wildcards and will play a major role in the scoring.
The most important battle(s): There are two extremely important battles. The first is Detroit’s aging defense against the young guns from Pittsburgh. It’s hard to shut down one superstar, let alone two. The other important battle will be the combination of Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg against Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has been erratic at times in his young career. He seems to be settling in as an all-star caliber stopper, but in last year’s finals he gave up seven goals in the first two games to put the Penguins into a deep 0-2 hole. That can’t happen again if the Pens have a shot at winning the cup.
Season Series: Tied 1-1. On November 11th, Pittsburgh won 7-6 in overtime. On February 8th, Detroit won 3-0.
Prediction: This series is really a toss up. Both teams are extremely dominant right now. The biggest difference might be experience. Even though these teams faced off in the finals last season, Detroit is a much more experienced squad. Pittsburgh is led by Sid the Kid (21), Malkin 22) and Fleury (24). All of which are younger than Lidstrom’s jockstrap. In fact, none of he Penguin’s centers are over the age of 25. Detroit is much older and more experienced. Lidstrom (39), Kris Draper (38), Chris Chelios (47) and Chris Osgood (36) have been in this same situation countless times before. I think that will put the Wings over the top as they retain Lord Stanley’s Cup with a 4-3 series win.
Who do you think will win? Comment below.
30 year old freelance writer and The Father Life‘s resident beer columnist and sports editor. He also writes about fine beverages for drinkingmadeeasy.com and Chilled Magazine. On top of that, he writes about college and professional lacrosse for insidelacrosse.com. He’s also written for Genesee Valley Parenting Magazine, the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper and ESPN.com. “Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, throw him an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on twitter http://www.twitter.com/chrisosburn