Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stanley Cup Finals Preview

So here it is. What we have been waiting for all season long. Not just a trip back to the Stanley Cup Finals, but a rematch with the Detroit Red Wings and Benedict Hossa. The Pens will be seeking revenge while Detroit will try to stamp their place in history among some of the great dynasty's in the history of the game. Here is my preview....shall we?

It would be really easy to look at last years series and say that the Pens didnt show up for game 1 or 2, which would be a true statement, but the fact of the matter is that regardless of whether or not the Penguins would have shown up for game 1 or 2 wouldn't have mattered. Detroit was the superior team. They would have won no matter what based on experience. Last season was an experienced, talented Detroit squad making it's fifth appearance in the finals in a 12 season span, which under todays standards is impressive, compared to a talented, inexperienced Penguins team making its first appearance. No matter how much you think that if the Pens showed up for game 1 or 2, they werent gonna beat the Red Wings. It has taken me one year to realize that, but fact is you can't beat experience. Now the Pens have experience and it will mean a huge difference. This time around things will be different.

You still have to give the Red Wings and advantage in the experience department, since they are the defending champions and they know what it takes. Like I said above, the Pens finally know what it takes and I think that they will be better prepared for the Finals this time around. Still I think Detroit has an edge having been through these battles before.

Offensively its a tough decision too, but the Penguins have the edge. It's hard to go against Crosby and Malkin. Detroit has Zetterberg, Hossa, Datsyuk and Franzen, but the way Geno and Sid have been playing lately, compared to a bruised up Detroit team, its an advantage for the Penguins. Nobody even knows if Datsuyk will play since he has missed the last few games. Somthing is obviously wrong with him and I doubt he plays if he doesnt think he can be a factor.

Defensively I give Detroit the edge. They have an experienced group compared to the Penguins. Lidstrom is the anchor and if the Pens can beat him down playing a physical game, they increase their chances. The entire unit however has to feel the pain in order for the Pens to win the series. This also applys to the forwards of the Red Wings. The more physical you play against them, the better off you are.

Goaltending is what wins you Stanley Cups. Detroit should have the edge with Osgood, but I really feel like he has shown some weaknesses this post season. The Pens have faced some tough goalies this season in Varlamov and Ward, but Osgood is a Stanley Cup winner. Until Fleury can defeat him, Osgood will be the top dog. I still feel like Fleury is the x-factor. Advantage goes to the Penguins since they have faced some tough goalies this post season. Fleury will still have to play out of his mind in the Finals though for the Pens to have a shot at winning.

Overall I feel like the Penguins have a little bit of an edge. The schedule favors them since they are healthy and Detroit is a little banged up. Starting the series with back to back games in Detroit is a huge plus and will allow the Pens to either rebound quickly if they lose game one or to take a somewhat commanding lead heading back to Pittsburgh for game three if they win the first two. But that theory works both ways too. Still, the Penguins know what to expect and are more focused coming into the Finals this year compared to last year.

My prediction: I really like the Penguins chances this season. Detroit is hurting, Pittsburgh is healthy and they have last years series loss on their minds. It will still be a very tough series, but in the end Penguins win. Penguins in 6.

Some quick trivia...

  • The St. Louis Blues are the only team to appear in three straight Stanley Cup Finals and lose each one, being swept in each series (Montreal in 1968 and 1969, Boston in 1970).

  • Since 1967, only three times have the same two teams met in the Stanley Cup Finals (1968 and 1969 Montreal over St. Louis, 1977 and 1978 Montreal over Boston and in 1983 NY Islanders over Edmonton and 1984 Edmonton over NY Islanders).

  • No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 (swept Flyers) and 1998 (swept Capitals).

  • No team has lost back to back Finals since the Boston Bruins in 1977 and 1978.

Also I wanted to do a quick comparison to the 1983 and 1984 Stanley Cup Finals between Edmonton and New York, since the comparisons between the Oilers and Penguins are constantly being made. In 1983, the Oilers were completely dominated in the series being shut out in game one and losing by three goals (6-3) in game two. They then lost game three (5-2) and game four (4-1) to be swept by the New York Islanders, which had just won their fourth straight Stanley Cup. In 1984 however, it was a different story. Edmonton squeezed out a win in game one (1-0) before being embarrassed by the Islanders in game two (6-1). At that point many thought the Islanders would go on to win the Stanley Cup, but Edmonton would win the remaining games by impressive scores of 7-2 in game three and four and eventually closing out the series in the fifth game (5-2). Although the Penguins won two games the basic point is that one year can make a huge difference, especially when it boils down to a young team that is learning what it takes to win. Hopefully the Penguins have learned what it takes and they can win it all this year.