Malkin Larkin PIT DET SYC TV bug

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings faced off in the Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive season 14 years ago. After the Red Wings got the best of Pittsburgh in the 2008 Final, the Penguins won the Cup the following year.

Much has changed since then. The Penguins went to the Stanley Cup Playoffs 16 consecutive seasons, winning the Cup in 2016 and 2017, before not qualifying last season. The Red Wings haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2015-16 after making it for 25 straight seasons.

Each team is looking to get back this season and will play at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; MAX, TNT, TVAS), but which is better positioned to make the playoffs this season?

That's the question before writers Tracey Myers and Amalie Benjamin in this installment of State Your Case.


Myers: I'm going Red Wings here. Yes, I know, they haven't made the playoffs for seven straight seasons, but all bad things must come to an end, right? After several seasons of rebuilding, Detroit has the group that will end the postseason drought. I love the additions of forwards Alex DeBrincat, who first showed his scoring prowess with the Chicago Blackhawks from 2017-22; and J.T. Compher, who won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2022. Dylan Larkin is looking to build off last season, when the Red Wings captain had an NHL career-high 79 points (32 goals, 47 assists) in 80 games. Goalie Ville Husso, who was 26-22-7 with a 3.11 goals-against average, .863 save percentage and four shutouts last season, will get into a rhythm soon enough. The hockey world is better with the Red Wings in the playoffs, and they'll get there this season.

Benjamin: There's no question that the Red Wings have made strides and things are looking up in Detroit, but my money is on the Penguins for multiple reasons. I'm going to start with their division. The Atlantic, where the Red Wings play, is a beast this season, with the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators looking to enter the conversation and, oh, the defending Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers in the mix along with traditional powers like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Metropolitan Division, while still no picnic, has a little more wiggle room for a Penguins team that beefed up its offense in the offseason by trading for defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Reilly Smith, and the latter already has three points (two goals, one assist) in three games. Add that to their stalwarts -- who I'll get to in a minute -- and I think something is brewing in Pittsburgh.

Myers: The Red Wings are going to have their work cut out for them in making the playoffs out of the Atlantic, but I still like their chances. This playoff drought has left them hungry. They have the talent to make a push this season, but it's also not always about what's on the roster. It's a little luck here and there. It's what happens with other teams. The Panthers are a great example: a very good team last season that took advantage of other teams' issues or losses down the stretch (Pittsburgh's 5-2 loss to Chicago on April 11 changed the trajectory of a few teams). The Panthers got in, reached the Cup Final, and, well, you see my point. I think Detroit learned a lot in the second half of last season of what it's going to take this time around, and it will qualify this season.

Benjamin: And here is where I'm going to get back to the players who have been the Penguins' bread and butter for the past 10-plus seasons. Let's start with Evgeni Malkin. The forward is coming off a season where he scored 83 points (27 goals, 56 points) in 82 games and he's started even better, with six points (two goals, four assists) in his first three games. Malkin, like Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang and the rest of the longtime Penguins, finished last season with a bitter taste, knowing they could have and should have made the postseason. So it seems that Malkin is coming into this season with a tremendous amount of motivation and his results are showing that. And if I trust anyone to lead the way back into the postseason it's players who have not only been there before, won the Cup before, but those who know that there's a ticking clock on their careers. Though the future might belong to the Red Wings, the time is now for the Penguins.

PIT@WSH: Malkin puts Penguins on the board