Taking a break from the Player Report Cards, the Stanley Cup Finals were determined last night as the Detroit Red Wings took out the Chicago Blackhawks in five games. That means that the NHL has a rematch of last year's Finals with the Red Wings and Penguins.
Now its time to break down the matchups:
The Penguins still have the amazing one-two punch in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. These two are tied for the league lead in points, each with 28. Crosby leads the league with 14 goals in the postseason while Malkin leads the league with 16 assists. These two always have a presence on the ice due to the fact that they are too good to ignore. What makes them dangerous is that they have a year of Finals experience under their belt. Last year's experience in the Finals should have groomed them to be able to handle the pressures of the Finals and everything that comes with it.
The Red Wings are always going to be an efficient machine that always seems to be able to score that timely goal and be able to control the pace of a game. Leading scorer Johan Franzen is fourth in the league with 19 points and winger Henrik Zetterberg is right behind him with 18 points. This offense has enough dynamic pieces to it that fifteen players have scored at least one goal and only two players who have played more than ten games in the postseason have not found the back of the net. The wild card of this offense is going to be Marian Hossa. Hossa lost to the Red Wings in the Finals with the Penguins and then he signed with the Red Wings. Will his decision to switch teams pay off. Maybe, but I really do think that Crosby and Malkin are going to be scarier this year as compared to last year.
The Penguins defense is not their strong suit. They have given up the most goals in the playoffs to this point and have been able to counter it with their offense. Behind Gonchar and Letang, the defenders on this team just do not scare anyone.
I said that in the Penguins/Hurricanes preview and I still stand behind that somewhat. The Penguins have given up the third most goals at this point in the season, behind only the departed Blackhawks and Hurricanes. Both Gonchar and Letang are great defensemen, but can they carry the Penguins over a fairly proficient Red Wings offense.
One of the Red Wings strong suits has been their defense. Led by Nicolas Lidstrom, the Wings have been able to shut down all three teams they have faced in the postseason. In fact, they have allowed the second fewest goals per game in the postseason, 2.12. The only issue that faces this defense is if they can stay healthy. Lidstrom has missed the last two games but is expected to play on Saturday, Jonathan Ericsson's status won't be known until Saturday and he may miss the first two games of the series.
Advantage: Red Wings
Marc Andre Fleury was a number one pick back in 2003. He has led this team to the Stanley Cup Finals in the past two seasons. Of goalies that have played at least five games in the postseason, his goals against average ranks seventh. Out of nine. He has been known to give up his fair share of goals in this postseason but has had an offense that could bail him out of a high scoring affair.
Chris Osgood has won three Stanley Cups in his career. He has played in numerous playoff series and Conference Finals games. Osgood has the experience and the knowhow in winning these games. The only issue is that he has lost a step in the last few years and probably could be a liability at certain points
Chris Osgood has been a goalie that has just wondered me this postseason. One would think that he wouldn't be as good as he has been in the past and he would be a liability for the Red Wings. His stats though tell a different story. Osgood is second in goals against average and fourth in save percentage. He has been a great player for the WIngs and have bailed them out when needed.
Advantage: Red Wings
This year's finals has that extra sparkle because of how last year's finals went down. The Penguins are avenging last year's defeat and look like they have the experience and knowhow to do so. The Red Wings may run into a little bad luck heading down the stretch with injuries to the wrong players at the wrong time. The Penguins have played that much better in the postseason that they should be able to overcome the Red Wings defense and Chris Osgood. Penguins in six.