The Penguins are on their way to the Stanley Cup final. The 3 to 5 year building plan has suddenly become a 2 year plan. The Kid Crew was bounced in the first round last year by Ottawa and obviously learned some valuable lessons. The next year they skip the normal 3 or 4 years of almost getting there, with now, a legitimate shot at the cup.
Based on their age, experience and Detroit’s age and experience the Wings have to be considered the favorites, when they finally get around to finishing off the Stars and officially advance to meet the Penguins. Pittsburgh may be the underdog but you just don’t know until you play the games.
Both these teams will want to play a puck possession game, but Detroit is the better team in that regard. Detroit has the edge in both performance and experience in goal. We can run down all the columns and compare them all. That will happen over and over again until the series begins, but the one factor I am looking at the most is the “free pass” factor.
One of the things I was told about and realized last year in the final is the fact that there are certain players because of their age or reputation or star status who are allowed to do things which other players are not, they often get a “free pass”. Last year in the final Scott Neidermayer and Chris Pronger were allowed to do things which no Ottawa player could get away with on a regular basis. If you go through the Stanley Cup winning teams of years past the winning team usually has 1 or 2 of those kinds of players. Tampa had Vince Lecavalier and Dave Andreychuck and try to remember back to some of the things Messier, Stevens, Brind’Amour and others were allowed to do. It’s one of the reasons those players are so valuable. They are not only great players, but in the biggest games, they get a wider berth than most others.
In this all important area the Wings are the heavy favorites. Pittsburgh has Crosby and after that nobody who fits into the “free pass” category. Detroit has a list of guys who will get more leeway. Nick Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Chris Draper, Thomas Holmstrom, along with Zetterberg and Datsyuk.
There are always complaints about officiating in the final. My prediction is the heaviest complaints will come from Pittsburgh and they may well have a case. They won’t be the first or last to discover reputation, vintage and star status do play a big part in the final like it or not.
See you at the rink.