Saturday, May 24, 2008

And So It Begins...

Tonight, the Stanley Cup Finals begin in Detroit. If you aren't excited for it already, then I most likely hate you and you probably aren't reading this anyway. Yes, I am a huge Penguins fan. Yes, this is my half-assed attempt at writing a non-biased preview for the series. If you want numbers and other nerdery, I highly recommend this breakdown.

A lot has been said about the Penguins offensive firepower and rightfully so. This team is an offensive powerhouse, there is no way around that. To say the Red Wings are weak offensively would be downright retarded. Both teams are very, very skilled up front. Hockey fans will get to see a series for hockey's ultimate prize featuring Datsyuk and Zetterberg versus Crosby and Malkin. The advantage in terms of offense in this series will be swung by depth, which I don't think anyone would argue, goes the Penguins way. Anytime a team can throw out Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa, Petr Sykora and Ryan Malone as the featured components as their top two lines, you have a fairly deep team. Not to mention Jordan Staal, a second overall pick and Calder Trophy finalist last year, waiting in the wings on the third line.
Detroit's top line is obviously among the NHL elite. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom make one hell of a line. Even if one were to say that line washes out the top line of the Penguins, Sykora-Malkin-Malone is far and away better than the Red Wings second unit of Hudler-Filppula-Cleary (insert Johan Franzen when he returns). Compare Ruutu-Staal-Kennedy with Drake-Draper-Samuelsson as third units and it isn't even close. Jordan Staal has played like a man possessed the last 4 games or so and Tyler Kennedy deserves a goal more than anyone in the NHL right now with the way he is playing every shift. Kris Draper and Dallas Drake are old enough to be their parents. To compare the fourth lines would be stupid, not only because the Red Wings fourth line is garbage, but they don't really see enough ice time to swing the series entirely. However, in Gary Roberts (out for Game One) and Maxime Talbot, the Penguins have players that can step up. The Red Wings have Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty on their fourth line. I would be scared if it was 1997.

Advantage: Penguins

Niklas Lidstrom is the best defenseman in the NHL. I'm just going to come right out and say that so there is no confusion. He would probably work his way into my Top 5 D-Men of all time and he should win the Norris Trophy every year until he finally decides to hang up his skates. Pair him with Brian Rafalski and you have a great top defensive pairing. Throw in guys like Kronwall, Stuart, Lebda and Lilja to round out your back line and you are by no means weak. It appears as though Chris Chelios will be a healthy scratch for Game One, which Red Wings fans should see as a good sign. Yeah, he's Chris Chelios, I fully understand that and I like him as much as the next guy, but at this point in his career he fucking sucks. Plain and simple. Chris, if you are reading this: A. What the fuck are you doing with your life reading this? B. Retire. You are slow and a fraction of the player you once were.
The Penguins have a very solid and underrated defense to compliment their offensive stars. Sergei Gonchar should have been a Norris finalist this year, but it's not like he was going to win it so who cares. Hal Gill has been the most underrated trade deadline pickup in the league, Brooks Orpik has developed into a highly capable NHL defenseman in a matter of months, Rob Scuderi has been a beast, Ryan Whitney is very talented and Kris Letang is going to develop into a very good puck moving defenseman. Still, as good as the Penguins defensive corps is, it isn't up to the level of Detroit's. The main reason for that is Niklas Lidstrom. He is that good.

Advantage: Red Wings

Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury have been far and away the two best goalies in the NHL Playoffs. Their stats are basically identical. You can break down this matchup as much as you want, but it will basically boil down to which goalie can stay hot the longest. Fleury has the age advantage there, Osgood being 64 years old has to catch up with him sooner or later. Right?

Advantage: Push

This is the ultimate matchup of youth facing experience. But when does being experienced turn into just being old? How long does this gray area last? Many of these Red Wings players have been here before and won. They clearly have the experience advantage. The Penguins have their share of guys who have been here before (Roberts, Gonchar, Sykora) but nothing like the Finals experience on the other side. But the youth of this Penguins team could be a real advantage. They don't know they are supposed to lose. This is not the Red Army Red Wings team of the mid 90s. This team is beatable and they are about to play a very good team that is on a roll. The Red Wings had the best record in the NHL this year, mainly because of their great start out of the gate. The Penguins finished second in the East but the team they put on the ice at the end of the season was far different than the one at the beginning, mainly because of Malkin exploding and the addition of Marian Hossa.
Home ice could also play a factor. The Red Wings can't sell out their games and the Penguins haven't lost at home since February. Both home arenas are pieces of shit too by the way. But at least Penguins fans fill up both the inside and outside of their piece of shit.
Basically, these predictions mean nothing and the fact that this one is written by a Penguins fan may contribute a little more to that. But with the way this Penguins team has been playing I am not scared of any team no matter how "unbeatable" they may be. My only hope is that Red Wing fans, being much classier and smarter than Ranger and Flyer fans, don't use all the built in excuses available to them when they don't win it all.

Prediction: Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley, give me the brandy. Penguins in 6


The Ambassador: Detroit Browne said...

what a piece of shit this article is......wings in 5..... At least my dad isn't in jail.

Coach Pops Chambers said...

Doesn't Trottier's face look like its photoshopped?