Stanley Cup Finals Game Five Preview: Three's Company
With the series deadlocked at two games, whichever team can find a way to win two more times will ultimately hoist Lord Stanley's Chalice sometime next week.
The Detroit Red Wings have the luxury of not having to win a game on the road.
A Wings' win in Game Five and loss in Game Six would set the stage for the boys from Joketown to put the series away at the Joe in Game Seven.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, however, don't have that luxury.
If Crosby and Company are going to have their names etched on Lord Stanley's Cup, they are going to have to find a way to win on the road.
Now it's no secret that home ice has played a seemingly enormous role in this series thus far.
Both teams have played substantially better, and been substantially more lucky, in their own barn.
Both Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury have enjoyed playing in front of a home crowd perhaps more than any two other players in the series.
Mike Babcock has no idea he is in the Stanley Cup Finals and decided to bench Justin Abdelkader in favor of Kris Draper in Game Four.
Maybe Babcock had some sour coleslaw on his Primanti Brothers' sandwich before Game Four. Or maybe the Game Three loss went to his head a little more than he let on through the media.
Whatever the case, Penguin fans will graciously except the trade off of Abdelkader for the much older, farther past his prime Draper.
You don't need me to tell you that Game Five is a huge game.
If the Pens find a way to pull out a win at the Joke Louis Arena tomorrow night, you have got to believe that the chance to finally win a Cup in front of the fans in Pittsburgh would be more than enough motivation for the Flightless Birds to get it done in Game Six back in Pittsburgh.
However, a Wings' victory would once again deprive the Penguins' hometown fans of a chance to see the Cup being presented to someone other than the visiting team.
Evgeni Malkin has taken his game to a new level in the playoffs, and in particular, in the Finals.
Malkin has been the best player on the ice every time he jumps over the boards. You can try to argue that point, but it's a lost cause.
The apparent change in momentum that stemmed from Geno's fight with Zetterberg at the end of Game Two has swung the momentum in the Penguins' favor.
Yeah, we know, he should have been suspended. Take it up with Colin Campbell.
Since then, Geno has played with a fiery passion that makes the Russian Red Army look like toy soldiers.
Before the series started, people actually tried to argue that the Wings possessed a deeper bench than did the Penguins. C'mon, really?
Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Talbot. You don't get any better down the middle on any roster in the National Hockey League.
Say what you want about Max Talbot, but he is a proven big game performer. He also singlehandedly shushed the entire city of Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. That's Hall of Fame material in my book.
The Wings' fatigue factor has become increasingly more evident with each game in the series.
Chris Osgood has gotten worse. Marc-Andre Fleury has gotten better.
Henrik Zetterberg finally seems to have gotten tired of chasing Sidney Crosby around the ice for 25 minutes a night, as Sid tallied his first goal of the series in Game Four.
Marian Hossa has yet to show up for the Stanley Cup Finals.
Pavel Datsyuk is supposedly returning to the Wings' lineup for Game Five. Bring it.
Nicklas Lidstrom might be the most overrated player in the history of hockey. This ain't 1999, and Lidstrom simply ain't a young buck anymore.
He still logs massive amounts of ice time, but as far as being a potential scoring threat from the blue line, well, Brad Stuart has supplied the bulk of the offensive production from the Wings' back end during the series.
Maybe Babcock will bench Stuart in favor of 68 year old Chris Chelios in Game Five, you know, just to stick with his current trend of terrible coaching decisions.
I've said a lot in this article, but I haven't said anything you don't already know.
Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals will likely tell the tale of this year's World Champions.
I'd be hard pressed to say that either team wouldn't find a way to win once they had the chance to close out the series.
Heading into Saturday night, the Penguins have all the momentum.
The Red Wings have, well, a dead sea creature that will be hurled over the boards before the puck is dropped.
As a fan of either team, if you're thinking about calling off work to make it to your teams' Stanley Cup parade right now, think again.
This series is far from over.
Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'.
Let's Go Pens.
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