It appears my dream will come true and my two favorite teams will be playing each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. Pittsburgh easily handled the Flyers for a third straight game, and the Red Wings are easily beating the Stars.
Since I have long been a Penguins fan through the thin years as well as the good ones, I must root for them. But the question is, who will actually win the Stanley Cup?
I want the Penguins to win, but can they actually beat the Red Wings? I will match the two teams, starting from the net and work my way out.
First, in goal: Chris Osgood has been good in the playoffs since taking over the starting position from Dominik Hasek, but I do not think he has been properly tested. Marc-Andre Fleury has played better, and at times has had to keep the Penguins in the game—something that Osgood has not been required to do at least as much. Goaltending advantage: Pittsburgh.
Next, the defensive corps: It would be easy just to immediately give the advantage to the Red Wings with two future Hall of Famers on their blue line. But, I will break it down a bit further.
The top defensemen on each team are Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Gonchar. I love Lidstrom, and without a doubt he is the best defenseman in the world—but I think Gonchar was unfairly left out of the Norris finalist ranks. He should have come in second to Lidstrom. He earned it.
The other five defenseman on both teams are a little bit more of a shake-up. The Penguins do not have an identical match the caliber of Bryan Rafalski, but the argument can be made that as a whole five, Pittsburgh's defensemen are better than Detroit's five.
Offensively, Kris Letang and Ryan Whitney are just as good as Rafalski and Kronwall but are not as good all around, especially Whitney. I do not think that Red Wings have as strong of a defensive pairing as Gill and Scuderi, other than Lidstrom and Rafalski, who have been near perfect. However, just because of Lidstrom the advantage: slightly Detroit.
Immediately, it must be said that the forwards for both teams have been outstanding. The Zetterberg-Datsyuk show has put on a show at a level that the NHL hasn't seen probably since the Lemieux-Jagr or Gretzky-Kurri duos of years past.
That being said, I am giving the advantage to the Penguins. They do not have a clear-cut first line—which is not the case with the Red Wings. The supporting casts on both teams have done exactly what is necessary to be Stanley Cup champions. They have scored goals and made limited mistakes which means both coaches can trust to put out all four lines in any situation.
That puts the score at 2-1 in favor of the Penguins. The Red Wings do have the actual experience but the Penguins have done a really good job of faking experience and are playing with a chip on their shoulder.
I think both teams have been continually underrated throughout the course of the season no matter what their accomplishments have been. Both these teams deserve to be in the Stanley Cup finals, and it will be entertaining no matter what the outcome.
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