And so the Pittsburgh Penguins
sit and wait again, which is a pretty envious position to be in these days.
While the Detroit Red Wings
and Dallas Stars
square off again tonight in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, the Penguins can watch from the cozy confines of their living rooms, a place they've become quite familiar with during these playoffs.
The Penguins, who dispatched the Philadelphia Flyers
in five games to win the Eastern Conference championship, have had ample time off between each of their series this postseason. How long they have to wait to begin the Stanley Cup Final is still up in the air, but the Penguins plan to take advantage of the rest.
"We've had it every round so far and it's been nice," defenseman Ryan Whitney
said. "You get a couple of days away from the rink, then you have two or three real good practices and you're ready to go."
Sometimes rest can be a bad thing at this time of the year because it stops any momentum you've gained from the previous series dead in its tracks. But for the Penguins, the days off they've had between finishing one series and starting another haven't done anything to ruin their mojo.
The Penguins went eight days without playing a game after sweeping the Ottawa Senators
in the first round. They won the first three games against the New York Rangers
and finished them off in five games.
They went four days without a game before opening against the Flyers, but won the first three games of that series again before taking it in Game 5 Sunday with a dominating 6-0 victory.
"Any time you get rest at this time of the year, it's always a positive," defenseman Brooks Orpik
Orpik, though, said rest can't be construed with total relaxation.
"If you just go through the motions in practice it will carry over into the games," he said. "You have to keep the tempo of practices up as close as you can to games. It's hard to do, but I think we have done a pretty good job of it so far."
"It's not that we're taking lazy days," Whitney added. "We're having hard practices that are getting us prepared for the next round."
The good news for Pittsburgh is they don't really have any bumps and bruises to mend, save for an illness to veteran winger Gary Roberts
, who missed the last three games of the Conference Finals with pneumonia.
The bad news is no matter if its Dallas or Detroit, the Penguins knowledge doesn't stretch too far.
The Penguins have not beaten the Red Wings since a 4-3 decision on Oct. 18, 2003, but that night Marc-Andre Fleury
made 31 saves for his first NHL win in his third career start, and Ryan Malone
was the game's second star with two assists.
Still, eight Penguins expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final -- Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin
, Jordan Staal
, Maxime Talbot
, Tyler Kennedy
, Whitney, Kris Letang
and Rob Scuderi
-- have never beaten the Red Wings.
They even lost back-to-back preseason games to the Red Wings this past September.
They at least have somewhat of a history – and a good one – with Dallas. The Penguins won at the American Airlines Center last season, 4-3 in a shootout, and 4-1 at Mellon Arena this season. Crosby has two goals and two assists against the Stars.
"We're not too familiar with either team, so we just have to make sure we have our 'A' game going in there for Game 1 and coaches will make the adjustments as needed," Malone said. "It's pretty simple hockey come playoff time."
At least that's the way the Penguins have made it look, which is why tonight they can be couch potatoes.
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org