Wings and Penguins Face Off – Again – in Stanley Cup Playoffs
It’s déjà-vu for the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The teams faced each other last year in the Stanley Cup finals, and this year, they are doing it again. The series promises to be different from last year’s, though; the Penguins don’t look as if they’re going to accept any more schooling from the veteran Detroit team.
The Red Wings managed to grab an easy 2-0 lead in last year’s finals before the Penguins were able to regain their feet, leaving Pittsburgh scrambling to catch up. Their rematch this year harkens back to the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers-New York Islanders series in the Stanley Cup finals. In 1983, the youthful but talented Oilers, headed by Wayne Gretzky, were trumped by the experienced Islanders. The next year, however, the Oilers returned to the postseason – and to the final playoffs against their older rivals – a hardened and wizened team. They soundly defeated New York, and the next years would belong to Gretzky and his Edmonton team.
The parallels are obvious.
The Pittsburgh Penguins: a young team boasting incredible talent, coming back after last season’s loss. The Detroit Red Wings: veteran players, defending champions but playing a weakened team.
The series may be a long one, but if history proves any guide, the Penguins may be geared for a Stanley Cup win.
Both teams have had strong seasons. They have each swept one series – the Wings taking the Blue Jackets and the Penguins the Carolina Canes. Each has faced strong adversaries. Each has prevailed over both injuries and a 7-game series.
Each lays claim to solid netminding. The Wings’ Chris Osgood and the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury have earned their positions as last goalies standing. Osgood made 30 saves in Game 5, entering the game with a 2.14 goal saving average, second in the league, while Fleury has repeatedly proven himself able to recover from bad goals.
But Detroit is missing key players in its lineup while the Penguins are proving themselves this season’s offensive juggernauts.
The Wings players missing from Detroit’s pivotal Game 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks included Hart trophy nominee Pavel Datsyuk, six-time Norris trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Kopecky, and Kris Draper, while Jonathan Ericsson scratched after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
The players have only a few short days to heal for Game 1 of the series on Saturday.
The Penguins, on the other hand, are bringing the season’s top offensive players in the forms of Sidney Crosby and Evgenie Malkin. Both have matured since last year’s finals and, since Game 2 against the Washington Capitals, have been able to unite their attacks. These two have a combined point total of 56 – 28 each – with Crosby making 2 goals and 5 assists in the last series, and Malkin making 6 goals, 3 assists.
Nor is the rest of the Penguins lineup lacking. With strong, fast forwards like Tyler Kennedy, Chris Kunitz, Jordan Staal, and Maxime Talbot, Pittsburgh may very well wear out the Wings’ four remaining defensemen (Brett Lebda, Niklas Kronwall, Brian Rafalski, and Brad Stuart).
The Wings may have depth – players such as Johan Franzen (who is at the fore of the team with 10 goals), Daniel Cleary, Valtteri Filppula, and Darren Helm have made important contributions – but without Lidstrom, the Wings might find themselves overwhelmed.