If you're reading this, you already know all about these teams. So here are some things you might not have thought about:
1) Detroit is the best faceoff team in the NHL, while Pittsburgh has been the worst for years (but has improved slightly of late). Normally, faceoff percentage is overrated—a faceoff is, on average, worth around 1/50 of a goal, so Pittsburgh's poor face-offs probably cost them only about three goals a season. And the teams' faceoff performance is already factored into their scoring records.
But with two strong puck-possession teams, the value of a faceoff might be magnified—let's say to as much as 1/30 goal. If so, the difference between Detroit really creaming Pittsburgh on face offs (say, 35-15) and Pittsburgh holding it close (say, 27-23) could be a swing of 15 face-offs per game, or three goals, if the series goes the distance. That's enough to swing a close series.
2) We can't take the regular season too seriously, since these Penguins are obviously a different animal from the regular season Penguins. But the West wasn't just a little better this year—the inter-league record was something like 83-67. If we take this as representative (of course the sample is pretty small), that means that an average West team is finishing with about 100 points in the East. Think about that.
3) Fleury's had a great run. But he hasn't had to contend with anything remotely resembling Holmstrom's butt. I really don't know how it is possible to tend goal with that thing in front of you. And the rebounds are a problem—for Fleury, not for Holmstrom's butt.
4) Pittsburgh and Detroit have different defensive approaches in their own ends—Pittsburgh packs it in, while Detroit denies time and space. Denial is usually more effective against puck-posession teams.
5) Detroit has the home-ice advantage. This advantage is usually magnified in situations where the teams have little experience playing in each other's buildings.
6) The NHL has decided to give a big schedule break before the series starts. This favors Detroit, with Franzen's "concussion-like symptoms" and older players.
6a) Okay, what are "concussion-like symptoms"? Does this mean that Franzen has all of the symptoms of a concussion, except they don't have evidence of a blow to the head—such as one might receive while playing ice hockey? Are bodies awaiting autopsies are diagnosed with "death-like symptoms"?
No, I'm not going to predict the series. Just sit back and enjoy it.
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