Detroit Red Wings-Pittsburgh Penguins: 2008 Stanley Cup Preview

Andrew PargoffCorrespondent IMay 20, 2008

Marc-Andre Fleury was born in 1984. Chris Osgood, 1972.

Sidney Crosby was born in 1987. Pavel Datsyuk, 1978.

Evgeni Malkin was born in 1986. Henrik Zetterberg, 1980.

There is really no secret that the Pittsburgh Penguins are the young, up-and-coming team in the NHL, while the Detroit Red Wings are the crafty veterans with a revamped playing style.

It also is no secret that either team is the best in their respective conference.

So many story lines play a part in this outstanding Stanley Cup Finals matchup.

It pits Detroit's Chris Osgood, who has played phenomenally since coming in to replace "Father Time" Dominik Hasek, against Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh's first round draft choice years back, who had not performed as expected until this season.

In Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the Detroit Red Wings have two of the 10-best forwards in the world. In Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Pittsburgh Penguins also have two of the best forwards in the world.

An interesting factor will be how the play of Johan Franzen counteracts that of the red hot Marian Hossa.

Malkin had an MVP season in Pittsburgh, stepping up while Crosby was injured, scoring almost two points a game in his absence. It just so happens that his countryman Alexander Ovechkin brought the lowly Washington Capitals back to the playoffs, and will win the NHL's Hart Trophy.

The knock on Detroit was that they are soft. Don't ask Barry Melrose or Don Cherry, who both seem to have a strong distaste for the Red Wings on most nights, but Detroit has had a physical presence in the playoffs.

Selke Trophy candidates also happen to be linemates in Detroit, and they have both had a physical presence in the playoffs. Nicklas Kronwall hits everything that moves, and Dallas Drake is being Dallas Drake and roughing up opponents.

Pittsburgh is more of the same, however. Malkin is a big boy, who knows how to hit and use his size to his advantage. Ryan Malone and Jarkko Ruutu are also components to Pittsburgh's physicality.

When it looked as though Philadelphia needed to come out in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals hitting hard and digging for the loose pucks, it turned out that Pittsburgh came out banging and wearing Philadelphia down.

These teams are scary good. Marc-Andre Fleury is finally realizing his potential, and he has looked very, very tough with a 1.70 GAA in these playoffs.

Chris Osgood may only see 20-25 shots a game on most nights, but when the Red Wings need him most, he makes the big save[s]. If you would like evidence of that, please watch the last 12 minutes of game six of the Western Conference Finals.

Both teams can be deadly on offense. Crosby knows just where to put the puck, and he has gotten several fortuitous bounces in the first three rounds. Malkin is almost always in the right place at the right time. Hossa was a huge pickup for Pittsburgh, and he is playing his best hockey at the best time.

Conversely, Pavel Datsyuk is amazing with the puck, and he always comes out of the corner with it. Zetterberg finds the back of the net often, and he and Datsyuk play off of each other so well.

With a long layoff, only time will tell how Johan Franzen's play affects the series.

Both teams have the ability to steal games on the road, and both teams have been seemingly unbeatable at home for the most part.

Thinking about this series makes me feel like a nine year-old boy on Christmas morning. This is going to be some excellent hockey. It is only good news for the NHL, who gets to see their golden boy in the Stanley Cup Finals.

This is going to be a long, hard-fought, physical series. With that being said, it is also going to be a series filled with skilled players, pretty goals, and a thick reel of highlight footage.

Game 1: Detroit 4, Pittsburgh 3

Game 2: Detroit 5, Pittsburgh 3

Game 3: Pittsburgh 5, Detroit 3

Game 4: Pittsburgh 4, Detroit 2

Game 5: Detroit 5, Pittsburgh 2

Game 6: Pittsburgh 2, Detroit 4

Detroit Red Wings in 6.

Call me crazy, because I probably am.

Yes, Pittsburgh is good. Pittsburgh is great, actually. Crosby and Malkin have played outstanding. So has Marian Hossa and Jordan Staal. Their goaltender has stood on his head for stretches.

But if there is a team who can bring down the high-flying Penguins [this pun actually was intended, because penguins are a flightless bird], it's Detroit.

They have Nicklas Lidstrom, who has more Norris Trophies than he knows what to do with. They have the best defensive forwards in hockey. They have a goalie who has silenced most every critic who said he was finished. They have two of the six leading scorers this season. They have a "Mule" who is scoring goals at a ridiculous pace.

The way the Red Wings dismantled the Avalanche in four was laughable. The way they handled the Stars in the first three games of that series was too. Then came a godsend. The Stars beat up on the Red Wings good in those next two games.

Like they asked Lidstrom after game six, "Was it better to have faced adversity now rather than in the Cup Finals?"

That answer would be a resounding yes.