Friday, May 23, 2008
Mirtle has a nice post looking at the Finals and in it he documents this completely unbelievable statistic. When Nick Lidstrom is on the ice killing penalties the Wings have outscored their opposition.
A big part of me thinks this could be 1995 all over again. That year a young talented Wings' team finally got over the hump and made it to the Finals where they promptly got waxed by the Devils.
Nobody in New Jersey cared. They still don't.
Now the Penguins haven't taken a long hard road to get here. No angst in their journey, unless you count a bunch of seasons at the bottom of the league. No tortuous early round losses to veteran clubs who were weaker on paper, no learning to lose before they learned how to win. Last year they made the playoffs for the first time in years. This year they are in the final.
As for the Wings, well I've talked about them just recently. In their near two decade run at the top of the NHL they have had their fair share of angst, triumph and actual real tragedy, not the "tragedy" of a soft goal or close loss. They are a veteran club and they are favoured by most to win the Cup.
I'm going back and forth on this one. Head says Wings, heart and emotion say the Pens could do it. Considering the one time I went with my heart the Avs got swept, one would think I might learn. I'm thinking Wings in six (and yes we might see a sweep like 92 when every game was close but the series was not) but there are a couple things that might be worrying Mike Babcock a little. The Pens haven't been seriously challenged yet but the Wings are facing a team that matches up pretty well with them, I think. This isn't like last season when the Sens could not have drawn a worse team to play then the Ducks.
My biggest worry if I'm Babcock? What happens if the Pens somehow manage to find a way to match their big five. I don't think the Pens have any unit that can outscore Hank, Pavel and Lidstrom but Hossa is an allworld player at both ends of the rink, Dupuis is solid and Crosby is Crosby. Crosby.
I presume this is the matchup both coaches will go for, leaving Draper to face Malkin. Now I doubt Draper outscores Malkin but he may shut him down. The other option is to swap these matchups. I think Zetterberg eats Malkin alive and if Draper can stop Crosby then the series is won. Hard to say and it will be interesting to see who Babcock runs out there in game one.
Because if Crosby (lets say its Crosby) plays the big boys to a standstill then the Wings are going to need Cleary (one goal), Samuelsson (two goals) and Hudler (four goals) to outscore Malkin, Sykora, Malone and Staal. I don't think its reasonable to expect Franzen to come back and produce and the Pens have one of the few guys in the league who can probably handle him in front of the net in big Hal Gill.
So can the Pens stop or at least hold Zetterberg and Datsyuk - unlikely but if they do someone else will have to step up.
That's the key. I don't expect the Pens to run rampant, not with Lidstrom, Rafalski, Stuart and Kronwall, not to mention the fact that the Detroit forwards know their way around their own end. But they are a damn good team. They are bigger then the Wings and they are fast and they have enough individual talents to frighten any team. They have good goaltending (as do the Wings) and they're not going to be intimidated (note how they handled the Flyers whose play bordered on thuggish at times).
Having said all of that I think the Wings shut down the Pens PP, Datsyuk and Zetterberg slightly outplay Crosby and Hossa and the rest of the Wings do a job on Malkin and company. Lidstrom is the key. The Wings don't have anyone up front to match Hossa but the Pens have nobody like Lidstrom. He will be on the ice for thirty minutes a game and he will make the difference. At the end of the series people will wonder what happened to Malkin and Staal and Malone and Sykora.
Wings in six low scoring tight games.
Posted by Black Dog at 9:51 AM