Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stanley Cup Breakdown

It's not over, but if either the Stars or Flyers can mount a comeback from going down 3-0, I'll gladly retract this post and will root for whoever overcomes the deficit. Let's fact it though, it's been 33 years since the last team to comeback from 0-3 to win the series (Islanders over Pens, 1975) and it was 33 years before that when the first team to comeback from 0-3 (Leafs over Wings, 1942). Huh....wonder if these teams who were defeated before could have history repeat itself.

That notwithstanding, it looks like it'll be the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on the Detroit Red Wings for the Stanley Cup. The buzz will be Sidney Crosby and his Pens taking only three years to get to this point-- so let the slurping continue. Also, this could be the first time a European, in this case Nicklas Lidstrom, would captain his team to a Cup win. Both teams have a ton of firepower, good amount of defense, and surprising goaltending.

OFFENSE: Even with their top scoring performer, Johan Franzen, out with concussion-like symptoms; the Red Wings are still effective. The play of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have excelled even more, while fringe players like Darren Helm, have stepped up and played at an elite level. There's plenty of fire power from the first line to the fourth line on the Wings to be taken for granted.

The Penguins have the best young talent assembled with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Ryan Malone playing like their veterans, while Marian Hossa seems to have finally shaken his playoff slump of years past, putting up more than a point-per-game this playoffs.

DEFENSE: Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney have been playing very well, both defensively and offensively. Both have been the puck-moving defensemen that the Pens need in order to get out of the zone. In fact, all the defensemen on the Pens are plus players, with Hal Gill actually playing like the defenseman many envisioned him to be.

On Detroit's side, while Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski get all the ink in the news, the play of Niklas Kronwall has quietly gone under the radar. With 11 assist, all at even-strength, Kronwall has been the Wings top point getter from the blue line. Lidstrom and Rafalski will still be a force, but Kronwall's performance thus far will get him some looks in the Finals.

GOALTENDING: Both teams have had their surprises in net, but Chris Osgood could very well trump M-A Fleury in this category. Osgood came off the bench and has yet to lose in the playoffs this season. With Osgood's turnaround as a whole this season-- he could get a few Conn Smythe vote sway his way when and if the time comes.

Fleury has been stellar as well, but still some people say he hasn't been tested yet. Granted, with the team he has in front of him, Fleury can really be better off not being tested, but will make the saves he needs to make in order to keep his team in it. It's amazing we're talking about a kid who was pretty much left for dead with his injuries and the stellar play of the other goalies on the Penguins roster.

This series could go the full seven and even then, the Cup may be given out in May for once in a long while. It should be a match of wits and a match to see who flinches first. It should be up-tempo hockey from the puck drop of Game One to the end with end-to-end rushes, air-tight defense, and top-notch goaltending.

This is another series where I hate both the teams with a passion, but the edge will have to go with the Red Wings. I think the Wings will take it in six games, but only due to experience being on their side.

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