By Craig Filazzola, WSOE Sports Director
The Pittsburgh Penguins will seek payback in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings after losing to them a year ago. Last year’s finals saw the young Penguins be downed by the potent and experienced Red Wings 4-2. We remember watching the NHL’s young sensation Sidney Crosby compete for its ultimate prize, but we forget how close the series actually was.
Trailing 2-0 in the series, the Penguins came back to win game three, 3-2. Game four was 2-1 in favor of the Red Wings. Facing elimination in Detroit, Pittsburgh scored with 35 seconds left in the third period of game five on a Max Talbot goal to tie the contest at three. Petr Sykora scored the game-winning goal in the third overtime, forcing a game six. Detroit won that game 3-2 in Pittsburgh and recorded its 11th Stanley Cup.
We don’t know if this series will bring four consecutive games decided by one goal, including a three-overtime game, like last year’s did, but we know this series presents a better matchup. Pittsburgh has more playoff experience, knows how to close games and swept the fiery Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals 4-0. Detroit’s foundation is aging with 39-year-old captain Nicklas Lidstrom, 38-year-old assistant captain Kris Draper and 36-year-old goalie Chris Osgood. Oh by the way, defenseman Chris Chelios is 47.
Detroit is still the best team in hockey, but Pittsburgh is not that far behind. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are better, their supporting cast has stepped up, veteran Bill Guerin is a difference maker and Marc-Andre Fleury has improved as their number one goalie.
The biggest matchup is between the two goaltenders. Osgood has the edge with a 2.06 goals against average in the playoffs, while Fluery possesses a 2.62 GAA. However, in the regular season, Fluery had a 2.67 GAA compared to Osgood’s 3.09 GAA. These are two very good goaltenders, not necessarily the best in the NHL, but each is more than capable of bringing home the Stanley Cup for his team.
Red Wings’ right wing Marian Hossa and backup goaltender Ty Conklin signed with the team in the offseason after being defeated by them with the Penguins last year. Both players thought they would have a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup by playing for Detroit. Will they find themselves hoisting the Cup this time around?
Pittsburgh in seven games
The finals will begin at 8 p.m. this Saturday in Detroit. All games can be seen on NBC, except for games three and four, which will be on Versus.
WSOE Sports Director