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Notes: Wings are young enough to be back

by Staff

Red Wings GM Ken Holland isn't predicting a repeat just yet, though he did note that his team is actually a lot younger than some might think.
Highlights from the Wings' Cup victory
PITTSBURGH -- Detroit GM Ken Holland wanted to take some time to savor the 2008 Stanley Cup his team had just won, but he did not back down when asked if his club was in a prime position to defend its title come next season.

"People talk about the age of our team, but drop off four or five players and the age of our team drops dramatically," he said. "We wanted those old players there, we thought they were good players, we thought they provided leadership, experience and they were a good mix with our young kids.

"Like I said, half our team is 27, 28 years of age or younger and we got some more kids on the way. Right now, we are going to enjoy this and we'll worry about winning the '08-09 Cup in September."

Plus, it is clear that the competitive fire still burns brightly in the GM's belly. No amount of champagne, it seems, will douse that flame.

"It never gets old," Holland said. "You never get tired of it. We were talking on the blue line over there. It's the fourth time for a lot of our staff. Every one is sweet, but this one is sweet because we're in a cap world and three years ago people thought we were going to go in a downturn and Mike Babcock and a few people have done a tremendous job to make this happen."

--Shawn P. Roarke

One last salute -- As the Red Wings were being handed the Stanley Cup by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the remaining fans inside Mellon Arena started one last "Let's Go Pens" chant to send their team off into summer.

Even in their solemn state, the Penguins certainly noticed the gesture.

"They've been great all year," Sidney Crosby said. "We appreciate their support. It doesn't make it any easier for sure, but they stuck through with us all season and a long time before that, so we appreciate it."

-- Dan Rosen

Well Said -- Kris Draper has had a memorable time of late. In addition to winning the Stanley Cup for the fourth time, he and his wife celebrated the birth of a new baby as the Final opened.

"This is about as good a month as I could imagine -- first a baby and now the Stanley Cup. It doesn't get any better than that," Draper said.

-- John Kreiser

Malkin was sick -- In the Penguins' solemn dressing room following their Game 6 loss to the Red Wings, star forward Evgeni Malkin admitted that he was battling the flu early in this series and his symptoms included a high fever.

"At the end of the Flyers series and the beginning of the Detroit series I was a little bit sick," Malkin said through interpreter George Birman, "but I don't think it was a major factor on my game."

Malkin went scoreless in the series until his slap shot zipped by Chris Osgood at the 15:26 mark of the second period. He also assisted on Petr Sykora's triple overtime-winner in Game 5.

But Malkin was a minus-3 with only four shots on goal in the first three games of this series. Now at least we know why.

"He was struggling through the Final but he never gave up," Sykora said. "He played hard. I was so proud of him the way he came and played. It's not easy. It's the first time he played into June. Us coming from Europe, we play until March. We never have a chance to play to June (in Europe). Without Geno in the playoffs, we never make it past the first round so I can't say enough about him. I'm so proud of him."

-- Dan Rosen

Road Warriors -- Amazingly, Detroit clinched each of its postseason series this year on the road, capped by Wednesday's Cup-clinching, Game 6 win at a frenzied Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.

For many of the players, the fact that they were able to rain on four separate parades in the past two months was a point of pride -- especially considering how hard it is to win on the road in the playoffs. Remember, the Penguins were 9-0 here before Detroit handed them back-to-back losses in Game 4 and Game 6.

"A lot of people were wondering how we would respond after that huge loss," said Draper. "I don't know what the stat is, but we won all four series on the road and that is a huge thing."

Kirk Maltby, Draper's linemate, also pointed to their road success when discussing Detroit's run to a fourth title in 11 years.

"We take pride in our road game," Maltby said. "We know to be successful in this League, you have to be able to win and play well on the road. This rink was as loud as any other rink and we knew they were going to build off that. It was about just coming out and playing and that is what we were able to do."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Swedish stars -- While Nicklas Lidstrom became the first Swede to captain a Stanley Cup winner, teammate Henrik Zetterberg is the second to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP.

Zetterberg, who shared the playoff scoring lead with Crosby (27 points) and the goal-scoring lead with teammate Johan Franzen (13), is the first Swede to win the Conn Smythe since Lidstrom did it in 2002.

"I didn't know Nick was the only European," Zetterberg said. "It will be special to have my name on it with so many players, and especially with Nick."

Every other Conn Smythe winner was born in Canada, with the exception of U.S.-born Brian Leetch, who led the New York Rangers to the 1994 Cup.

-- John Kreiser

Mario impressed -- Former Penguin great and current team owner Mario Lemieux said after Game 6 he is sure that when -- not if -- his team gets back to the Stanley Cup Final, "they'll know what to do."

"It takes a lot of character, a lot of sacrifices from the whole team to get to the Final, and this shows you how difficult it is to win it," Lemieux said. "This is the toughest trophy to win in all of sports. And just to make the strides that we have made over the last three years is pretty incredible.

"It's exciting for all of us, the players and the fans and Pittsburgh, the ownership," he added. "I was disappointed not to win once you see the Cup this close, but we played a great team, a very classy organization, and they deserve to win. Hopefully this will teach our young kids how to win. Hopefully next time we'll do much better."

Lemieux was asked about the future of the team and the challenge facing GM Ray Shero with 13 free agents to be on the roster, including the unrestricted guys like Ryan Malone, Brooks Orpik and Marian Hossa as well as the restricted free agent goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury.

"It's going to be a challenge for Ray this year to keep our team together," Lemieux said. "With the salary cap here now you have to make choices and make sure that you build your team according to the salary cap and make some tough decisions, which I assume we're going to face in the future with the young, talented players we have in Pittsburgh. It's going to be difficult to make it all work. I'm sure we'll make the right decisions at the right time, but now it's time to reflect on a great year."

-- Dan Rosen

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