Seven games, decided by one goal in double overtime. And even then, it could go either way.
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Yes, that is the prevailing thought for this year's Stanley Cup Finals between Detroit and Pittsburgh. Through three rounds, the Wings have lost just four games while the Penguins have just two defeats.
Two great teams that would be great teams at any point in the league's history. It is a dream Stanley Cup Finals for the league's marketing types, and a seven game series would only make it better.
Not so quick. History shows us young teams on a roll do not always fare well when playing for hockey's holy grail. Remember the 1983 Edmonton Oilers? They lost just once through the first three rounds, and they were a young team led by superstars such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Jari Kurri.
Then they ran into the league's reigning dynasty, the New York Islanders. The Isles may have been considered a bunch of graybeards, but those graybeards swept the youngsters in four games.
The parallels to this series are stunning. Sidney Crosby, annointed as the next Great One, has lived up to the hyperbole. His leadership on and off the ice is remarkable for a 20-year-old. At the media availability day Friday, he spoke like a 25-year veteran.
In other words, he sounded like Chris Chelios.
Just kidding -- but Crosby is a 30-year-old in a 20-year-old's body, and that could present some problems for Detroit. He is not easily rattled on or off the ice, he stays composed yet plays with passion, and he can elude even the best defensemen.
Well, we think the last part is the case. Crosby has not faced Nick Lidstrom, the NHL's best defenseman, for nearly two years. And there is a reason Lidstrom has won enough top defenseman awards to change his first name to Norris.
The "silent assassin" goes about his job more quietly than other high profile defensemen, but few question he is the best. Add Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Kronwall to the defensive corps, and the Wings have the personnel to shut down Pittsburgh.
It will be an interesting battle indeed, as the Penguins have three solid lines. Common sense dictates the Wings would like to get the Pavel Datsyuk-Henrik Zetterberg-Tomas Holmstrom line out against the third or fourth line, but that might not be the case.
For Detroit, their top scoring line is also their best checking line. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are Selke candidates, and it could be argued they are the two best defensive forwards in the league. Don't let their offensive prowess fool you -- these two come to play at both ends of the ice.
Look for Detroit coach Mike Babcock to send the trio out against the Evgeni Malkin line, as the Malkin line is more defensively deficient than the Crosby line or the Jordan Staal line. Puck possession is the name of the game for Zetterberg and Datsyuk, and that alone could neutralize one of Pittsburgh's top two lines.
From Pittsburgh's point of view, it would seem their best matchup is to keep the Crosby and Malkin lines away from Zetterberg and Datsyuk. The Penguins' top two lines also thrive on puck possession, and they would be best served to play against anyone other than the league's best puck possession unit.
On the blueline, the Wings have the edge. Sergei Gonchar, Ryan Whitney, and Hal Gill lead a very competent defensive corps, but the Wings might have the best blueliners in the league -- a point that would likely be argued by Anaheim fans.
In goal, Chris Osgood has been Sogood since taking the starting reins midway through the opening round against Nashville. Osgood has Stanley Cup experience and he never seems to try to do too much.
On the other side, Marc-Andre Fleury has been spectacular, showing why he has been touted as a top-notch prospect for the past several seasons. Maybe it is the new white pads, but Fleury has been a rock for the Penguins in the playoffs.
PREDICTION: It is too easy to say this could go either way (and it could), so there has to be a limb on which to step out. Detroit's experience is invaluable at this time of year, and if the Penguins falter early, this could be a short series. Yet that seems unlikely -- the young Pens simply seem too composed. Stanley Cups will find Pittsburgh in coming years, but this year, look for Detroit to win in six.
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