Friday, May 23, 2008

Pens-Red Wings

First of all, a little bit about Philly:
  1. Game 4 was, hands down, the bests possible game they could play and they won by one goal. By the time it got to Game 5, they were totally worn out and didn't have anything left, so they got their asses handed to them 6-0. I will say, though, that we got some lucky goals in that game with timely bounces and re-directs. There are those that would say we made our own luck... but I'm not one of those people.
  2. Did anyone else want to see 7-0 final? I sent out a text message when it got to 6-0 that said, "All the Flyers need is a touchdown and an extra point and they win this thing."
  3. The fact that the Pens finally beat the Flyers in a playoff series and that it was the Eastern Conference finals, and that they completely destroyed the Flyers in the elimination game... well, that's just a big pile of awesome.
  4. I watched Game 5 at a bar. Towards the end of the game I said, "Now we probably have to play Detroit. Detroit's tough." A lady at the bar said, "So are we." Touche.
As I've said ad nausea, I don't really know too much about hockey. I have, however, done a good deal of research in the last few weeks and I've watched Detroit play a few times.

I can say that their reputation is deserved. They're one hell of a good team. But, just like the the lady at the bar said, so are the Pens.

Allow me to de-bunk the most popular reasons that people use to guarantee a Red Wings victory:

They had the best record in the NHL this year:

This is true. But, at this point, all that really means is that they get home ice advantage. While home ice advantage is nothing to sneeze at, the Pens are still 4-2 on the road and won at Philly and at MSG, two places where they had not had much success historically.

Everyone started the playoffs at 0-0 and, since then, the Pens have gone 12-2 and the Red Wings have gone 12-4. Not a huge difference, but a difference. I'd also like to mention that Detroit lost two games to Nashville and they're pretty lousy.

And, really, Detroit won the President's Trophy with 115 points and the Pens had 102 points. Over the course of an 82 game season, that's six wins, which is about one win for a football team (so, 13-3 vs. 12-4) and about 11 wins for a baseball team (95-67 vs. 84-78). Okay. Maybe the baseball one is a little more intense, but you see my point.

Detroit has lots of players with lots of experience in the Cup Finals:

Meh. I understand that you can't underestimate playoff experience, but I also think you can't overvalue it.

For the most part, match-ups and talent dictate who wins a game. Spread out over the course of seven games, that becomes even truer. In a single-elimination scenario like the NFL playoffs, it matters more. In a seven game series? I'd say it matters for the first couple of periods of the first game.

After that, the players adjust. After the first game, everyone on the ice has Cup Finals experience, so it's no longer an advantage for anyone.

Additionally, here's another point to prove the "talent and match-ups trump experience" argument. How many World Series did the Yankees lose this century? They were the experienced, veteran team. They should've won those games because they had guys that had been there before. Well, they didn't because of talent and match-ups.

The Red Wings have a lot of talent and depth:

I know they have three great lines, but the Penguins have four great lines. As far as talent is concerned, their two best guys, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are on their first line. Our two best guys are on two different lines. So, there's a limit to the amount of total ice time that their two guys see. Plus which, if a great player makes the guys around him better, that spreads out the positive mojo to ten players on two lines as opposed to five players on one line.

I simply can't believe that there's a center on a third line that's better than Jordan Staal, so get out my face with that.

The fourth line is actually very solid. Michel Therrian trusted them enough to have them out on the ice in the third period of a tie game with less than six minutes left... and they delivered. No one on the fourth line is a world-beater, but what team in the league has a fourth line stocked with shockin' bad-ass dudes? (The answer is none of them.)

Detroit has a really great defense and a bunch of exceptional two-way players:

So do the Penguins. As a matter of fact, if the Red Wings somehow have more great two-way players and defensemen, I'd be shocked. Not saying they have fewer, just saying I'd be shocked if they have more.

Hossa, Staal, Malkin, Malone, and Crosby are all fantastic two-way guys. They all take playing defense seriously. Therrian told all his players that they didn't stand a chance in hell if they didn't play defense and the players listened. The Penguins have the best Goals Against Average in the playoffs.


  1. They've allowed fewer goals than the Rangers. Yeah. The Rangers team that they played against and scored 16 goals against. The Rangers team that only played two series and ten games.
  2. They've allowed less than half as many goals as the Flyers (54) and 15 fewer than the Stars (41), who were the only teams other than Detroit to play three series.
  3. They've allowed the 9th fewest goals in the playoffs. Of the eight teams in front of them, none of them have played more than seven games (or half as many as the Pens have played).
Detroit is second to the Pens in all of those categories, but it's still impressive.

Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood has won a Cup before:

Okay. Two things on this one:

1. That was a long time ago.
2. He started the playoffs as the back-up to Dominik Hasek.

Everyone keeps waiting for The Flower to wilt, but it hasn't happened. He's been up for every challenge that has been presented to him.

I know I said he was the weakest link going into the Flyers series. Honestly, I believe he's the weakest link going into the Finals. The important thing to remember is that he's the weakest link because everything else is so strong.

Osgood's the weakest link on his team, too. The book on him is that he's been a good goalie on a great team, not the other way around. Both men have made some amazing saves in the 2008 playoffs, but both have let some dumb goals through. How their respective teams react to great saves and dumb goals will determine how this series ends up.

So... what's my point?:

The match-ups look really even. As I said before, in a series this long, experience kinda goes out the window as an advantage and it comes down to match-ups and talent.

Match-ups are even, so it comes down to talent.

With the two most talented players on the planet, plus Staal and Hossa, the talent advantage goes to the Penguins.

I know they're young, I know they weren't supposed to be in this position yet and so, therefore, they shouldn't be ready for it. The thing with this team is that I keep waiting for them to wither, but they keep stepping up. Until they let me down, until they get off the insane hot streak that they're on, I can't pick against them.

After a while, it gets to a point where you're coming up with lame excuses just because you don't want to back the underdog. Well, I want to back the underdog.


Penguins in six.

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