Pittsburgh, PA—Much of the North American media is treating tonight's Game 6 at Mellon Arena as the last hockey game of the 2008-2009 season.
After a complete self-destruct in Game 5, most have written off the Penguins' chances of evening or even winning the series and are ready for summer to commence this evening with the Stanley Cup on board the Red Wings team bus.
Not so fast my friends.
It says here in the fine print that as bad as the Penguins were in Detroit, the Wings have been equally hopeless at Mellon Arena.
The Wings were a beaten, tired-looking team in a Game 4 loss and were saved further humiliation by shoddy officiating and the Pens' unwillingness to rub it in with a power play in the last minute of play. All of the momentum belonged to the Penguins headed into Game 5.
We saw how long that lasted—13:34 to be precise.
The Wings have a 3-2 lead going into Game 6, but little else is playing in their favor. They have the fewest road wins of any team that survived the first round, have been out-shot in both games in Pittsburgh, and the rock solid Chris Osgood is sporting a goals against average of 3.86.
Mix in the two leading scorers in the playoffs in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby and suddenly all is still possible.
Crosby was shut down for parts of the Philadephia and Washington series, and yet when his team had to have a goal or a great game, he exceeded their expectations.
And while Sid the Kid has been Sid the Clutch, Malkin is closing in on playoff scoring records held by guys named Lemieux and Gretzky.
Detroit has done a solid job of keeping these two from exploding all over score sheets, but the Wings wouldn't be the first playoff team to suddenly discover it had sprung a leak.
Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury flat stole a game from the Flyers and slammed the door on a superior Washington offense in Game 7 long enough for his teammates to start mopping the deck with the Capitals defense.
He has yet to play anywhere near that level yet in this series.
We can be sure that the oldest barn in the league will be louder the loud, the beer will be too expensive, and the officiating consistently awful. Past that, this is anyone's game.
My bags aren't packed yet, but I would not be surprised if there is more hockey to be had Friday night, about 4 1/2 hours west of here.