The NHL playoffs are finally down to two teams. If this situation seems familiar it’s because the Red Wings and Penguins faced each other in last year’s Stanley Cup finals.
Our hockey experts, Ari Baum-Cohen and Dustin Nielson, go toe-to-toe in this rematch and give reasons why their pick will hoist one of sports’ most fabled trophies when it’s all said and done.
(Baum-Cohen) - Three reasons why the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup:
Two teams, one season
On February 16, the Pens were 27-25-5 and had just gotten blown out by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Farewell Michel Therrien, hello Dan Bylsma. Under Bylsma, the former coach of Pittsburgh’s AHL team, the Pens finished the season on an 18-3-4 run. The return of Sergei Gonchar around this time can also not be underestimated. The Pens improved their play in each playoff series and looked unstoppable in their sweep of the Canes.
The brightest stars
Detroit has plenty of stars and on well-balanced team, but it can’t top the combination of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The two have combined for 56 points and are tied atop the playoff scoring leaderboard (28 apiece). After disappearing at times during last year’s postseason run and briefly during the Washington series, Malkin is back. His backhand goal late in Game 2 vs. Carolina was probably the best of the playoffs. Together, the formidable duo averaged two points a game each during the East finals.
Health and experience
As crazy as it sounds, the Red Wings might have been better off losing Game 5 to the Hawks. Because both conference finals finished so quickly, the NHL bumped the Cup finals from June 5 (next Friday) to May 30. Now Detroit has to play back-to-back games this weekend. Will Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom be ready for Saturday and if so, how will they perform on consecutive days?
There is no discounting the Red Wings’ experience, but the Penguins have last season loss in the Cup finals to draw upon. Pittsburgh is playoff tested and the addition of Bill Guerin has given the club an additional veteran presence. The Pens have been in this situation before and they have learned from their mistakes.
(Nielson) - Three reasons why the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup:
The crease crashers
Marc-Andre Fleury is going to have a hard time seeing the puck with the likes of Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen parked in his crease unless he has X-ray vision. Fleury is still a relatively young goaltender and at times tends to have trouble dealing with traffic at the top of his crease. Holmstrom , Franzen and Dan Cleary, do a great job of screening the net while the Wings’ pepper shots from the point.