Here we go, the last "Outsiders Looking In" Edition of the summer, and with only two teams remaining there should be plenty of us, so let's start talking some Stanley Cup hockey.
The Pittsburgh Penguins vs. The Detroit Red Wings
A battle of talent that at times is so good it's obscene. Strong, impressive goaltending on both ends, young and rising stars that have lit up the score sheets throughout the post season, and a shared determined will to capture Lord Stanley's Cup. Whichever team has the bigger heart should be the one to take it all home.
Let's talk goaltending: Both Osgood and Fleury have been phenomenal in this year's playoffs. Although Ozzie got the early advantage with a 4-0 win last night, I will be very surprised to see Fleury allow a repeat in Game 2, but that doesn't mean Ozzie won't continue his strong play. It will be interesting to me because I remember the kind of goaltender Ozzie can be in clutch situations. Sure, he only played 1 1/2 years for the Islanders, but in the 2001-2002 season there were times where he would stand on his head and save a game for us in the most important situations, but then he would let in that weak wrap around goal by Shayne Corson with only a few minutes to go in the 3rd period to make it a tied Game 4 vs. the Maple Leafs. Goaltending very well can be the difference maker in this series with the vet staring eye to eye with the kid. I honestly am unsure if I can pick a favorite.
Crosby needs to have the best series of his young career in order to help the Pens win the series, as does Malkin. If these two do not rebound after last night's shutout loss they will be in some serious trouble. I expect them both to light the lamp or at least set up some plays to spark the momentum the team has carried for the past 3 rounds, but it will remain to be seen if they can do it in Hockey Town. Keep in mind that Johan Franzen will very likely be making his way back into the lineup with his playoff leading 12 goals (which is also tied with the always dynamic Henrik Zetterberg). Although it may be hard for Coach Mike Babcock to find a roster spot for him considering the team's production in his absence, I'm sure they will find a way to inject him into the lineup.
Basically we have the battle of two powerhouses taking center stage. It's really hard to say who I think will win. Both are the products of home grown talent built from the draft over years, so I should like both teams shouldn't I?
I will always be a Chris Osgood fan, and of course like everyone else it is hard to not like players like Datsyuk or Zetterberg, but I am rooting for the Pens. They have a younger nucleus and their fans have been waiting for this for over a decade, and I can relate. I am not rooting for them because they knocked out the Rangers, nor is it because of Sidney Crosby. Personally, although the kid is right up there with Ovechkin as one of, if not the most talented player in the league, I am not much of a fan. I feel he still has a lot of growing up to do and the league needs to encourage that by not calling a penalty on every shove or poke he receives.
However, from a hockey fan standpoint who simply just loves the game, I know how important it is for the NHL to have their most popular and talented forward to not only be a scoring leader and trophy winner since the age of 18, but to also be a Stanley Cup Champion.
But Sid, I got one bit of advice for you. Shave that awful looking mustache. If that's your attempt at a playoff beard then just don't try at all.
With that being said, let's go Pens!