Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ted Mouths Off: Stanley Cup staying in Detroit

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Penguins are healthy and the Wings are battling some significant injuries to some of their top players. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (who struggled in last year's final) have been unstoppable so far in this postseason. The NHL, in all its misguided wisdom, has decided that the first two games must be played on consecutive nights, which is a decided advantage for a more well-rested and healthier Pittsburgh team. The series also features two teams from hard-working, blue collar cities that have been decimated by the country's financial crisis. A Cup win for either city would represent a much-needed shot in the arm from a morale standpoint.

How the Red Wings can win: By exploiting the depth advantage they have over the Penguins and by Chris Osgood outplaying Marc-Andre Fleury. No team in the NHL can match the Wings' dept up front and on the blueline, and Pittsburgh is certainly no exception. Sustaining the loss of Pavel Datsyuk, Nick Lidstrom and Jonathon Ericsson and still beating the Blackhawks twice in a row is a feat that few NHL teams could match.

If you took Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and Hal Gill out of Pittsburgh's lineup for two games, they would struggle to win. The Penguins just can't match the Wings' depth and that could be a major factor in a long series. Judging by the postseason so far, Osgood should be able to match Fleury save for save, and if he does that, the Wings should be OK. Also, let's face one important fact here: as impressive as the Penguins have been so far in the postseason, they have yet to face an opponent with the depth, grit and poise of the Red Wings.

How the Penguins can win: The Penguins can take the Cup by being hungrier than the Wings and by making Detroit pay for every penalty they take. The Wings have had trouble on the penalty kill, and they are sure to take some penalties as they try to corral the whirling dervishes that are Crosby and Malkin. Also, Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan will be new to the Wings, and their potentially depleted defense corps might have problems reining in the new-look Pittsburgh forwards. Pittsburgh could also exploit the wacky three-games-in-four-nights schedule the NHL has created in this series.

Series prediction: Detroit in seven games. This shapes up as the finest Stanley Cup final in recent memory.



Carolina Hurricanes: After an unexpected but successful run, the Hurricanes will need to get faster and bigger. They had no answer for the talented Pittsburgh forwards and at times in that series seemed baffled as to how to combat a faster, more talented opponent. They will address this in the offseason and will come back next year as a legitimate contender for the Eastern Conference crown.

Chicago Blackhawks: The 'Hawks can chalk up their playoff experience this year as a major part of their learning curve. They came into the Detroit series a little bit heady from their overwhelming success against Calgary and Vancouver, and their inexperience and lack of discipline betrayed them in a big way. They have two legitimate superstars, but must bolster the rest of team by bringing in seasoned veterans who know how to play in big games. They'll have goaltending questions to answer, and cap issues down the road. Also, Brian Campbell, while a power-play horse of the first degree, is terrible in his own zone. He cost the Hawks two games in the Detroit series. Joel Quenneville's decision to urge his team to play a rough-and–tumble style in Game 4 cost the 'Hawks the series and his intemperate demeanor throughout the series dragged his team down. He'll need to tone down his fiery demeanor for the 'Hawks to have any success in future postseasons.

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