Tonight in Detroit, Michigan the Pittsburgh Penguins will step back onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena.
And I'm sure there will be a lot of emotion in those players who were with the team last year, and experienced what the Stanley Cup Finals are all about.
There is no hiding how bad the loss in the finals was for those players. But you also have to realize how far the Pens had come, after five years of poor play, to reach that goal with a team consisting of "kids".
For the season to end on such a sour note, one should not take away anything that the Penguins accomplished last year.
Now onto this season.
The Penguins have had their ups and downs so far. They look great for a few games, and then they look flat for a few games.
Now the Penguins are on a three-game winning streak. This means that with the way they are playing so far this year, tonight should be one of their "off" games. However, given the magnitude of this game and the team they are playing, I do not see them playing flat at all.
The Penguins are at 8-4-2 and the Red Wings are at 9-2-2. This game should not be one to miss. Even though it is in the early part of the season, it will still have Stanley Cup buzz.
These two teams put on a great show last spring, and those who tune in tonight should not be disappointed.
The Penguins' success tonight relies on their ability to prevent last year's defeat from bogging them down as they step onto the ice. They cannot go out to the opening face-off with the memories of the Red Wings celebrating their Stanley Cup victory.
What they need to do is use that loss to help fuel them in the game, and use it to put some fire in their skates and come out hard from the start.
Another thing the Penguins need to do is let Marian Hossa know that he bailed on them—and let him know often. The thing with this though is that I do not want to see Godard, Cooke, or Talbot hit him. Instead, I want to see Sid or Geno send the message.
It is one thing to put pucks in the net, but if you are willing to go out there and throw your body around on an opposing team's star player, that says a lot to the rest of the guys on the bench.
One more key to a victory in Detroit is to light the lamp first. Nothing will take the wind out of Joe Louis Arena like a goal within the first five minutes of the game. Heck, why not throw two quick goals in there; that arena will be dead silent.
Fleury, Fleury, Fleury. I cannot put enough emphasis on Marc-Andre.
He has to come out tonight and play beyond his abilities. If the Penguins do not produce shots, which we all know they tend not to do, he is going to have to play one flawless game.
A couple of early, solid saves will help get him into the game quickly, and that is what a goalie needs to stay focused and be at peak performance.
One final point needs to be made. Tonight's game is going to be a great one, whether the Penguins win or lose. The one thing that I ask the Penguins, though, is that if you lose tonight, by any means necessary do not, and I repeat DO NOT, allow Marian Hossa to score a goal. That is all I ask of you.
So to the Penguins, do not let last year's loss in the finals hold you back tonight. Instead, use it to your advantage. Let it give you guys some motivation to let the Red Wings and the people watching know that you deserved to be in the finals, and that you will be back there again this year to prove that you can win the cup.
LET'S GO PENS!