NHL Stanley Cup Finals preview

vs.

#2 Detroit Red Wings Vs. #4 Pittsburgh Penguins
Winging it in MotownPensburgh

Brandon: Penguins in seven (going with my heart)
Gravypan: Red Wings in six (blech)
Derek: Penguins in seven

  Pittsburgh Detroit
 Record 12 - 5 2nd 12 - 4 1st
 Goals For/Game 3.82 1st 3.69 2nd
 Goals Against/Game 2.76 8th 2.12 2nd
 5-on-5 GF/GA 1.24 3rd 1.84 1st
 PP% 19.3 7th 25.7 3rd
 PK% 83.6 5th 73.7 14th
 Shots/Game 34.9 3rd 39.5 1st
 Shots Against/Game 28.9 3rd 28.8 2nd
 FO % 50 8th 52.8 2nd

I'm expecting this to be a much better, much more exciting Finals than last year when these two met. The Penguins are playing better as a team and more importantly, Sidney Crosby is having a much better postseason. Both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin already have more points in 17 playoff games this season then they did in the entire Stanley Cup Finals last year. And while the Penguins lost Marian Hossa to the Red Wings last summer, Bill Guerin (acquired via trade in the middle of the season) has stepped up and provided an important, big game veteran presence on the team, already netting two game-winning goals.

Yet the Penguins offense, averaging 3.82 goals per game, now faces it's toughest test of the postseason. The Detroit defense and goaltending that was much maligned for most of the regular season, allowed just 2.12 goals per game, tops among all playoff teams. Chris Osgood has been incredible in net for the Red Wings with a 12-4 record, 2.06 GAA and a .925 SV%. Yet the Red Wings have yet to face an offense of the caliber of the Penguins so this should be the most intriguing part of the series to watch.

You know that Detroit is going to get their goals (3.62 per game). The key is for the Penguins to stay out of the penalty box, or else take their chances against a Red Wings power play that is clipping along at a 25.7% success rate so far in the playoffs.There is still a big question out there about how effective Pavel Datsyuk will be, yet the Red Wings have seen other players step up in his place. Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen have two game-winning goals each, and Valtteri Filppula is having a great postseason as well.

Yet all the talk about the Red Wings and Penguins offense is moot compared to who I believe to be the key player in the entire series. Marc-Andre Fleury needs to be the best player on the ice for the Penguins to win, hands down. I know it's almost cliche to say that the goaltender has to lead his team in the Stanley Cup Finals, but in this case it's never been more true. While the Penguins certainly have the firepower to keep up with the Red Wings offense, Detroit has a much deeper, much more experienced defense that has been lights out for most of the season. Fleury will need to have the best series of his career to give Pittsburgh a chance. And while he has the ability to make stops no other goaltender in the NHL can make, Fleury still has a penchant for allowing some head-scratching soft goals. That can't happen against Detroit.

So why would I pick the Penguins to win the series if there is such a big question mark still hanging up in the air? For one I can never, ever root for the Red Wings to win another Stanley Cup. I am just too much of a Dallas Stars fan to do that. But besides having to follow my fandom heart, I legitimately think that Pittsburgh has a great chance to make this a long series. And if they can take the Red Wings to seven games, anything can happen at that point. The team that lost in the Finals last season is one year older, more experienced and has gone through a much more challenging season than last year.

I just feel that it's about time for someone else to win one.

Full SC Finals schedule after the jump.

Saturday, May 30 at Detroit, 8:00 pm NBC, CBC, RDS
Sunday, May 31 at Detroit, TBD-Night NBC, CBC, RDS
Tuesday, June 2 at Pittsburgh, 8:00 pm VERSUS, CBC, RDS
Thursday, June 4 at Pittsburgh, 8:00 pm VERSUS, CBC, RDS
* Saturday, June 6 at Detroit, 8:00 pm NBC, CBC, RDS
* Tuesday, June 9 at Pittsburgh, 8:00 pm NBC, CBC, RDS
* Friday, June 12 at Detroit, 8:00 pm NBC, CBC, RDS
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