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Computer simulation picks Wings to repeat

by Rocky Bonanno / Detroit Red Wings
Hockeytown becomes Titletown for the fifth time in 12 seasons and Marian Hossa finally gets his Stanley Cup ring. In fact, he scores the Cup-winning goal and earns the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP!

According to WhatIf Sports, the  Red Wings will outlast the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games to repeat as Cup champs. That is what was determined in 10,000 Stanley Cup finals computer simulations conducted by WhatIf Sports, a fantasy sports Web site designed to simulate game results using real historical statistics.

After the simulations were run using 2008-09 statistics and the current rosters and line combinations, Detroit came out on top 53.2 percent of the time, the most common occurrence being a seven-game series.

The WhatIf computer ran the simulations with the assumption that injured Red Wings stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk will return to the lineup for Game 1 on Saturday. However, if either player were to miss multiple games, it could be enough to push the probability in Pittsburgh's favor since Detroit was given only a small margin of victory in winning the series.

Hossa earned the Conn Smythe for scoring 11 goals and nine assists with a plus-14 rating in 23 postseason games. As of Thursday, he has 6 goals and 6 assists with a plus-5 through 16 contests. Last season, Hossa was Pittsburgh's leading scorer with 7 points in the six-game Final against Detroit.

WhatIf predicts Detroit teammates Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall will each score seven points against Pittsburgh, and goaltender Chris Osgood will post a .878 save percentage.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will score 10 points apiece for the Penguins in the seven-game Final, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury records a .894 save percentage.

At the start of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, WhatIf Sports predicted the Boston Bruins to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in the Final. Detroit was given a 1.3 percent chance of winning the Cup, and Pittsburgh only 0.7 percent.

In last season's Stanley Cup Final simulation, WhatIf Sports accurately predicted the Red Wings would win the Cup against the Penguins, but in five games, one less than Detroit actually needed.

The game-by-game summarizations below are based on the most common result of the 10,000 simulations.

Game 1
Pittsburgh 4 at Detroit 6
-- In the highest-scoring game of the series, the Penguins take an early 2-0 lead but the Red Wings storm back on the strength of Hossa's two-goal, two-assist performance which includes the game-winning goal. Both his scores came in the third period and padded Detroit's lead to 5-2. Datsyuk added three assists, and the Red Wings finished with a 42-29 advantage in shots.

Game 2
Pittsburgh 1 at Detroit 5
-- Continuing its offensive barrage from Game 1, the Red Wings take a 5-0 lead after two periods en route for the dominating win despite being outshot 34-33. Filppula scored a game-high 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists), and Kronwall (2 assists) and Hudler (goal, assist) chipped in 2 points each. Brian Rafalski, Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom added goals for the Red Wings, while Malkin provided Pittsburgh's only scoring.

Game 3
Detroit 2 at Pittsburgh 4
-- The Penguins race out to a 4-0 lead, breaking through for two each in the second and third periods, en route to the win. Sergei Gonchar, Ruslan Fedotenko, Rob Scuderi and Crosby provide the goals, and Malkin earns three assists. Fleury needed to make only 15 saves for the win.

Game 4
Detroit 3 at Pittsburgh 2
-- For the third time in four games, the Penguins score first, but Detroit comes out on top to take a 3-1 series lead. Hudler, who is credited with the game-winner in the third period, scores for the fourth straight game. Defensemen Kronwall (goal, assist) and Brad Stuart (three assists) provide scoring as well, and Osgood makes 20 saves. The Red Wings outshot the Penguins 40-24.

Detroit Red Wings Western Conference Champs GearGame 5
Pittsburgh 5 at Detroit 3
-- Facing elimination, captain Crosby comes up with a huge first-period hat trick and the Penguins take a 5-0 lead in the first 15:55. Crosby also recorded an assist and linemates Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin add three and two assists, respectively. Gonchar began the onslaught by scoring 13 seconds from the opening faceoff, and Fleury made 28 saves. Hossa, who has been held off the scoresheet since Game 1, scored his third goal of the series and Hudler keeps his goal-streak alive by scoring with 3:38 left in the third period.

Game 6
Detroit 2 at Pittsburgh 3
-- Back on home ice, the Penguins push the series to the limit with three second-period goals to take a 3-0 lead and hang on for the win. Kunitz, Fedotenko and Maxime Talbot provided the scoring and Fleury stopped 26 shots. Malkin and Rafalski each recorded two assists, and Hudler fails to score a point for the first time in the series.

Game 7
Pittsburgh 3 at Detroit 4
-- Hossa is the hero, as his goal with 5:34 remaining in the third period gives the Red Wings a 4-2 lead and proves to be the series-clincher. Malkin scores 42 seconds later, but the Penguins couldn't put another by Osgood. After a scoreless first period, Kunitz puts Pittsburgh ahead at 10:47 of the second, but Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg answer for a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. Malkin ties the score with a power-play goal at 4:56 of the third with Franzen in the penalty box for cross checking. Filppula restores Detroit's lead at 11:52. Despite the loss Fleury was outstanding in facing 41 shots while Pittsburgh could muster only 16 at Osgood.

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