Nashville Predators broadcasters Tom Callahan, Terry Crisp, and Pete Weber continue to break down the 2009 NHL playoffs with their predictions for the Stanley Cup Finals match-up between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Round 1 Results:West:
#8 Anaheim d. #1 San Jose, 4-2; #2 Detroit d. #7 Columbus, 4-0; #3 Vancouver d. #6 St. Louis, 4-0; #4 Chicago d. #5 Calgary, 4-2East:
#1 Boston d. #8 Montreal, 4-0; #2 Washington d. #7 NY Rangers, 4-3; #6 Carolina d. #3 New Jersey, 4-3; #4 Pittsburgh d. #5 Philadelphia 4-2Round 2 Results:West:
#2 Detroit d. #8 Anaheim, 4-3; #4 Chicago d. #3 Vancouver, 4-2East:
#6 Carolina d. #1 Boston, 4-3; #4 Pittsburgh d. #2 Washington, 4-3
Conference Finals Results:West:
#2 Detroit d. #4 Chicago, 4-1East:
#4 Pittsburgh d. #6 Carolina, 4-0
#2 Detroit vs. #6 Pittsburgh NHL.com Series Main Page
Rating the Experts
Terry Crisp - 10 of 14 (6 of 7 in Western Conference)
Pete Weber - 10 of 14 (5 of 7 in Western Conference)
Tom Callahan - 9 of 14 (3 of 7 in Western Conference)
NashvillePredators.com - 8 of 14 (6 of 7 in Western Conference)
| NHL.com Series Preview 2008-09 Series Results:
split 1-1 (Detroit 1-0-1, 3 pts; Pittsburgh 1-1-0, 2 pts)
Predictions: (Detroit)Pete Weber's Take:
Tom Callahan - Detroit in 5
Terry Crisp - Detroit in 6
Pete Weber - Detroit in 7
NashvillePredators.com - Detroit in 7
Taking a bottom-line approach, we just went through 80 playoff games to set up the first repeat Stanley Cup Final match-up since 1984.
For hockey fans, we have already enjoyed the exhilaration of five series that went the distance, including three Game Sevens in two nights. We have marveled at the incredible performances of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin. We may also have seen the emergence of hockey’s next dominant line: Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan – Ryan Getzlaf -- Corey Perry.
What have we learned? That we have been laboring under an illusion, that being this bromide: “Defense wins championships!” Since the NHL doubled in size, from the so-called “Original Six” in 1967 to today, all General Managers and Coaches have echoed that statement as they either took over a new club or prepared to rebuild. Observers continuously cite the success of the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers of the 1970’s to prove that point. For seven straight seasons (1973-79), they were correct. In each of those seasons, the Cup winner was first in goals-against.
Guess what? It really hasn’t been true since the dawn of the 1980s. Only four times since the Islanders began their run of four consecutive Cup wins (that’s 28 seasons), has the Cup champion been best defensively in the regular season. Ten of those champs have finished in the top 3 defensively.
The other side of this argument – yes, only five of the past 28 winners have also been first offensively, but 16 of them have ranked in the top three at putting the puck in the net.
This trend has been more pronounced recently. Since New Jersey won the Cup in 2003, defense has not made as much of a difference. The last four playoff years, the NHL champion has been tied for 9th, tied for 13th and 7th defensively, before the Red Wings broke the mold in 2008 with the league’s best goals-against. However, Tampa Bay began a string whereby the champs have been 3rd, 3rd (Carolina), tied for 7th (Anaheim) and 3rd (Detroit) offensively.
All of that goes into my pick for the series. One thing is certain, defensive hockey devotees will not be happy no matter which team wins the Cup. The Red Wings finished 20th in goals-against (equaling the rank of the 1992 Penguins, the worst all-time for a champion), while the Penguins finished 17th. Don't forget, the Red Wings still finished third overall in the NHL while defending their title, but did have a little bit of a Stanley Cup hangover, which, I think, was responsible for their defensive numbers.
Now to the post-season, where it appears that hangover has been cured. The Red Wings through three rounds are second in both goals for and goals against. The Penguins are first in scoring and seventh on defense.
Who has the most prime weapons at their disposal? Pittsburgh has Crosby, Malkin and Bill Guerin performing at a high level. Detroit has Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Dan Cleary and Marian Hossa playing in that stratosphere, and have been getting outstanding play from part-timer Darren Helm, who spent most of the season with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
Pittsburgh is an emerging team and clearly deserves to be there. They will be compared to the Edmonton Oilers who lost to the Islanders in 1983, then came back and beat them the following season. That was the last time the NHL had the same two teams in consecutive finals prior to this go-round.
To beat the Red Wings, as Predators fans learned this year, you have to pressure them in their zone then convert your opportunities. The Penguins showed that capability against Washington and especially Carolina. If they can spend consistent time in the Detroit zone, they should draw penalties -- and the Wings have allowed 15 power-play goals in the playoffs. The counter-balance to that – if the Penguins are trapped in their zone and get penalized, the Wings have scored 19 times with the man advantage this post-season.
With the Wings’ injuries and illness on defense (the Wings claim that Nicklas Lidstrom will be back in the line-up for Game One; and that Jonathan Ericsson may be back from Wednesday’s appendectomy), they could be more vulnerable to the Penguins’ attack.
Other considerations: the Penguins have become essentially a three-line team, playing seven defensemen since Sergei Gonchar took a knee-on-knee hit from Alex Ovechkin in the Eastern semi-final. That actually provides more shifts to Crosby, Malkin and Jordan Staal which can be a good thing. Rob Scuderi has been the Penguins’ best defender of the seven they play.
All those things considered, I’m picking the playoff edition of the Red Wings to beat the Penguins in seven high-octane games.