The 2009 Stanley Cup final between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins should be a simple series to figure out. The best-of-seven series, which begins tonight in Detroit, sees the same two teams that battled for NHL supremacy last season. Twelve months ago the Wings emerged triumphant four games to two. But this time, the player who led the Penguins in play-off goals is wearing Detroit red.
The winger Marian Hossa was a revelation playing alongside Sidney Crosby a year ago. Hossa saw close-up what the Wings did in the final - especially in the first two games, when Detroit steamrolled an intimidated Penguins squad. He passed up a long-term contract offer from Pittsburgh to accept a one-year deal from Detroit because he felt they once again had the best shot at winning the Cup. Now, we get to see if Hossa made the right choice.
The Penguins' chances are based around Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, their two brilliant centres. More than goals and assists, though, Crosby, 21, and Malkin, 22, are impressing with their poise and patience. The are playing like men, focused and motivated, and any nerves that appeared in last year's Cup final are unlikely to be evident this time around. Detroit, meanwhile, have injury worries. The centre Pavel Datsyuk and star defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom both missed the last two games against Chicago in the last round.
Fortunately for Detroit, they are one of the deepest teams in the league, and have several forwards who can play interchangeable roles. Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Hossa and Dan Cleary will have to step up if Datsyuk is unable to play tonight. If Lidstrom is limited, Detroit will look to their defencemen Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall to play major minutes. Like last season, both teams have received stellar netminding in the play-offs after getting inconsistent play during the regular season.
The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury has series-stealing ability while Detroit veteran Chris Osgood is a slow-and-steady type. Detroit have won four Cups in 11 years. Are the young Penguins ready to grab the torch from them? Perhaps, if they can take the series to seven games. Anything shorter and the Wings will prevail. @Email:email@example.com