With the Penguins’ sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes and the Detroit Red Wings' dismissal of the Chicago Blackhawks in five games, the NHL moved its start period for the Stanley Cup Final to Saturday, May 30.
Originally, the NHL planned to kick off the Final June 5. That would have created a 10-day layoff between games for Pittsburgh and nine days for Detroit.
It turns out that the Penguins could benefit from the short layoff and back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday because of the injuries to Detroit’s lineup.
“It’s a huge advantage,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
explained. “You want to catch (Detroit) when they’re beat up. I’m sure they’ve got a lot of guys in the lineup that, if this was the regular season, they wouldn’t be playing.”
Six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom has missed the last two games for Detroit, while Hart Memorial nominee Pavel Datsyuk has been absent in the past three. The two have combined for 20 points this postseason and their status is unknown for this weekend.
“That (long break) would have benefited them,” Orpik said. “I think (Wednesday) night was the only night we were cheering for Detroit so we could get going right away instead of getting 10 days off. I think it’s good for the league too. I don’t think a 10-day layoff would have been good for anybody.”
More than anything, the Penguins are just ready to jump into Stanley Cup Action and keep their momentum going from their Eastern Conference Final sweep.
“We were hoping for this because we didn’t want the time off,” Bill Guerin said. “We want to play. We didn’t want to sit around for a week or 10 days without a game. It’s better for us just to get going and it’s better for our game.”
Even though Detroit is dealing with a few injuries and could have used the time off, the Red Wings still beat a strong Chicago team in five games. The Penguins know that the Red Wings are a tough opponent to face no matter who is in the lineup.
“They won (Wednesday) night,” Matt Cooke
said. “They are still playing well. They still managed to get the job done without some players in their lineup. It is a strength of their organization that they all play the same way, no matter who it is.”
The Penguins, though, are just eager to get this thing started.
“The sooner we can play the better it is for us,” Maxime Talbot said. “We are anxious. We are ready. They’re going to be ready too. It’s the Stanley Cup Final. They want to win. We want to win. You can expect a good battle.”
One of the tradeoffs for playing right away rather than waiting 10 days is the back-to-back games scheduled on Saturday and Sunday in Detroit. The Penguins, though, are not bothered by it.
“It’s fine," captain Sidney Crosby
said. “We had one in the Washington series with (Games 4 and 5). It’s something you have to go through. It’s the same for both teams.”
In fact, the Penguins are actually looking forward to playing Games 1 and 2 back-to-back, as Crosby explained:
“It’s not something that we’re too worried about. We look forward to that. You’re on the road and it takes away time you spend on the road. You get two games in and get them done. I think it’s good.”
“It’s odd to see it in the playoffs, especially in the Final” defenseman Rob Scuderi added. “But it’s the same for both teams. As far as I’m going to go, there’s really nothing to complain about. It’s the same for both teams so what are you going to say.”Road Success
Pittsburgh has been rather successful on the road this postseason with a record of 6-3, which should come in handy in Games 1 and 2 in Detroit this weekend.
Not only have the Penguins been successful on the road, but they have been successful on the road when it really mattered. Each of their three series closing games occurred away from Mellon Arena. The Penguins bested the Flyers in Game 6 in Philadelphia, topped off the Capitals in Game 7 in D.C., and also defeated the Carolina Hurricanes on the road in Games 3 and 4 to win the Conference Final and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
“If you’re going to make it far, chances are you play pretty well on the road,” Scuderi said. “We’re not fazed by it. It’s not easy playing in another team’s arena but I think we’ve handled it pretty well so far and hopefully we’ll continue to.”