Friday, May 29, 2009

Ultimate Glory--Stanley Cup Preview

Detroit vs. Pittsburgh. Playoffs Finals...but 2008


The stage is set. The ice is solid. The players are ready to fight for Lord Stanley. For the second straight year, the Detroit Red Wings will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. My two favourite teams. Never would I have thought I would get to see my two favourite teams square off two years in a row…in fact, if you asked me this back in November, i would have laughed and said the Pens will be lucky if they even make the playoffs. Both teams are ready to go and no one wants to go home a loser.

Stanley Cup Finals

Detroit Red Wings versus Pittsburgh Penguins— Reigning Champs versus Reigning Runner-ups. At this point last year, the Wings held a 2 game lead over the “Final Freshmen” Penguins. The Penguins are determined to not let that happen again. Both teams have improved considerably since the last time they fought for Lord Stanley’s glory. Most notably, the Wings acquired Marian Hossa from..the Penguins. Hossa infamously said “I want to go on a team that has a chance of winning the Cup.” The Penguins were struck by his relatively harsh words and are determined to make him realize that the Penguins can win a Cup…without his help. Ty Conklin is also playing for the Wings this year..although, unless Osgood is injured, it is doubtful he will see any action versus his former team. Assuming Datsyk and Lidsrom are healthy, the Wings will be hard to beat. Every single line can score…even the defense. Also, it is very tough to get the puck to the net, if all deffensemen are healthy.

The Penguins have improved as well. With the acquistion of Kunitz and Guerin, the Pens now have a seasoned verteran who knows how to win the Cup..and a tough and gritty player who is not afraid to hit anyone..who also has a Stanley Cup to his name. Crosby is playing the best hockey he has ever played. He already has scored more goals than he did in last years playoffs…and there is still one round left. Malkin has also been on a tear, since being criticized for his lack of production in the first round. Staal has also improved his game since last year. This yound 20 year old is very tough to get by…he isn’t afraid to hit, has a plus rating, and when needed, he can score. He is blossoming into the ultimate defensive forward.

The Wings desperatly want to win back to back Stanley Cups. Another Cup win would be perfect for the struggling city of Detroit. On the other side, Crosby is so determined to win a Cup after suffering defeat last is scary. You can bet, that if the game (or series) is on the line..Crosby will make magic happen.

This series is going to come down to defense and goaltending. Both teams can score. The Wings have strong defence but will it be strong enough to shut down the Crosby-Malkin duo (and with the help of Guerin it is that much tougher to shut out Sid)…something no team has been able to do successfully this playoffs? Penguins don’t have as good defense as the Wings…but there defensive pairings are still solid. If Datsyuk is healthy (and hey, even if he isn’t), the Wings can score from every angle and maintain puck control throughout the game.

Goaltending will be the critical factor in this series. Fleury saved the Pens quite a few times in last years Finals. So far this playoffs, he has been very good, with a few soft moments. Osgood has been the same way for the Wings. Fleury is the better goalie in the long run but Osgood has a mission to prove to his critics that he is not the Wing’s weakest link. Fleury doesn’t tend to crack under pressure or after letting in a weak goal. If Fleury stands on his head this round, the Pens are going to be damn near impossible to beat. However, Osgood is a playoff goalie. Put him in a Cup sitation, and he morphs into something incredible. If he stays healthy (along with the Wings D)…look out.

If the Pens can win at least one of the first two games then they will be very hard to beat. If the Wings take a two game lead and then win one in Pittsburgh like they did last year, then the Cup is as good as theirs.

Prediction—6 doesn’t matter to me who wins! I cannot believe I am watching my two favourite teams battle for the Stanley Cup for the second straight year! It was a great birthday present last year to cheer them on in game 3…and it was a great birthday present to wake up this morning knowing one of my teams will be hoisting Lord Stanley this year. Here’s to the 2008-2009 Finals. Here’s to the Ultimate Prize. Here’s to…THE STANLEY CUP.

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