It’s been over 25 years since we’ve had a rematch in the Stanley Cup Finals from the previous season. The last time it happened was 1984, when the Islanders and the Oilers met for the second-straight year. Edmonton got their revenge that season, stopping the New York dynasty that had won four consecutive Cups (and none since). Can the Penguins do the same against last year’s winner – the Detroit Red Wings?
Let’s dive into some facts, shall we?
Impressive stat entering the series: Pittsburgh Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have combined to score 56 points in the 2009 playoffs. Makin was rather invisible in last year’s final but he looks like a man on a mission this year. The two stars are playing the best of anyone in the playoffs, and at the right time.
The Red Wings’ depth has been a strength over the years and one that helped them win last year’s Cup. Does Detroit have some injury issues though? Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Jonathan Ericsson, Tomas Kopecky and Andreas Lilja all missed Detroit’s Game Five on Wednesday night. Lidstrom is expected back soon but we’ll see how the injury situation affects the Wings.
Then there’s the Penguins’ injury front – looking fairly decent entering the Finals, especially compared to the Wings. Sergei Gonchar is a key player who is not at 100 percent, but he continues to be effective.
Detroit’s Marian Hossa was on the other side of this match-up last year, and he turned the Pens’ multi-year offer away to sign a one-year deal with the Wings. Why? Because he believed it was his best chance at winning a Stanley Cup. Who will be proven correct? Hossa is not putting up the numbers he did in last year’s playoffs, but he has turned it on lately and looks to be rounding into form at the right time. Detroit needs it with so many injury questions.
Special teams will be big, as they are in every NHL game. This gets magnified in the playoffs. Penalty killing might be the make-or-break stat in this final. If it is, Pittsburgh has the advantage thus far. The Pens’ PK unit is hot, allowing just one power play goal during their sweep of the Hurricanes (and it took a 6-on-4 situation to score it in waning seconds of Game One). Detroit enters the final with a 73.7 percent ratio in killing penalties this post-season, allowing 15 goals in 16 games. Do you think the confident Pittsburgh power play will have some success in this series?
|(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn) |
I think it is huge that Pittsburgh was in this same spot last season and lost to these Red Wings. The situation is set up for them to take the Cup from Detroit, but they will have to earn it. Head Coach Dan Bylsma has proven he has what it takes to motivate this bunch and keep them loose. Plus former Star Bill Guerin has provided timely scoring and veteran leadership.
Detroit has been here before. If Henrik Zetterberg and Lidstrom step up and are able to play to their capabilities, they might have a repeat. But can they get past their injuries and a tough schedule (a quick turnaround and a back-to-back for Games One and Two).
I just think it sets up too well for the Penguins. Plus I think they want it more.
Pens in six.