Saturday is get-away day for me. Vacation officially ends as I pack up the family into the suburban assault vehicle and make our way back home from Orlando. We first will make a stop in Jacksonville to visit the mother of the Divine Mrs. R…spending the night as so I can be able to catch game-one of the Stanley Cup Finals.
And speaking of the finals…looks like we all spent the last twelve months going through the draft, free-agent signing season, training camp, pre-season, a regular season in which 30 teams played 82 games apiece, then into the playoffs where 16 teams went to 8 teams which then whittled down to 4 teams and now to only a pair…the same two teams that squared off against each other last June.
Here is a quick run-down on their playoff stats that they have compiled in the past seven week.
Record: Detroit = 12-4… Pittsburgh = 12-5
Goal Per Game: Detroit 3.69… Pittsburgh 3.82
Goals Against Per Game: Detroit 2.12… Pittsburgh 2.76
Power Play: Detroit 25.7%… Pittburgh 19.3%
Penalty Kill: Detroit 73.7%… Pittsburgh 83.6%
Shots Per Game: Detroit 39.5… Pittsburgh 34.9
Shots Against Per Game: Detroit 28.8… Pittsburgh 28.9
Couple of things stick out to me there…first the Wings 25.7% effective PP is huge! However, the Penguins PK has held their opponents to only scoring 16.4% of the time when on the man advantage. Which one is going to succeed here…the Red Wing’s power play or the Pens penalty kill…could go a long way in determining things.
Also, their SA/G are almost dead-on equal…but look at the offensive attack coming from the Big Red Borg. Almost 40 shots on goal each game. Honestly, I don’t think they’ll do quite as well against Pittsburgh’s defense…but even if that’s 34 or 36 SOG in the series, that’d be impressive. Pittsburgh’s challenge is to at least match that which they have done so far. But that’ll be a tall order against Rafalski, Lidstrom & company.
Goalie matchups would give the edge to Chris Osgood…statistically speaking. He has a 2.06 GAA and .926 SV%… Marc-Andre Fleury’s numbers are 2.62 and .906. But those numbers could be a bit deceiving as Fleury sees more shots per game than does his counterpart. As for Ossgood, going into the playoffs the one area of concern for the Wings was between the pipes…there seems to be little concern today.
In the end I look for both these guys to come up strong as they have all post-season.
Up front, Pittsburgh’s big threats are Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of course. Each have 28 overall points in the playoffs…Crosby with 14 goals and assists, Malkin has 12 goals to go along with 16 helpers. After that, Bill Gueron has 14 points, Sergi Gonchar and Chris Kunitz each have 12 and Rusian Fedotenko has 11.
For the Big Red Borg, Johan Franzen leads the way with 10 goals and 9 assist followed by Henrik Zetterberg with 9 golas and 9 assists. Cleary and Filppula both have accounted for 14 points…Flipper doing so with 13 assists…and Marian Hossa has 12 overall points.
The two met twice during the regular season, splitting the games. On November 11 the Penguins managed a 7-6 overtime win in Motown. Detroit lead 5-2 with just under 15 minutes to play, but Jordan Staal scored three times in the third period…the last one with about 23 seconds left on the clock to force OT. He then set up Fedotenko for the game-winner with 1:11 remaining before the shootout. Then in Pittsburgh on February 8, the Wings exacted a measure of revenge by shutting out the Penguins 3-0. Ty Conklin was in goal that day for the Wings and he stopped all 25 shots he faced. Datsyuk scored twice and Hossa once.
As for the schedule…game one is slated to begin shortly after 8:00 Saturday night with game two to be played Sunday. It has yet to be determined what time the face off will take place. So, if it’s an afternoon afair, could that short turn-around time play into the favor of the younger legs of the Penguins…especially if they were able to steal away a victory in game-one? Hmmmmmmm??
So…all that leads to this. Who do you like in the series?
Me? Well, this one looks close with maybe a slight statistical edge going to the Borg. But that’s not why I’m gonna pick ‘em.
Nope…see, in all three rounds I predicted Detroit would win…first against Columbus, then the Ducks, then Chicago. And all three times, of course, they did. Conversely, in all three rounds I predicted the Penguins would not prevail. I thought Philly would take the Pens in 7, I thought Washington would do so too against Pittsburgh as well as Carolina. All three times, I was wrrrrrrrrr…I was wrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…I was less correct then I normally am.
So, why change up things now? I’ll side with the Wings and pick against the Pens, saying Detroit in…oh, let’s just say… six.
It’ll be just like deja vu all over again.