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Red Wings-Blackhawks: Detroit Earns Berth in Stanley Cup Final Rematch

Evan DrexlerContributor IMay 28, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 27:  Tomas Holmstrom #96 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates after teammate Darren Helm #43 scored the game-winning goal in overtime against goalie Cristobal Huet #38 of the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Five of the Western Conference Championship Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 27, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The Red Wings won 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

To almost no one's surprise, Detroit is back in the Stanley Cup Final.

After a thrilling scoreless first two periods Thursday night, the Red Wings and Blackhawks each put a goal in the net in the third period, sending Game Five to overtime.

That's when Darren Helm got a lucky bounce right in front of him, placed the puck behind goalie Cristobal Huet, and sent the Red Wings to the Final. Chris Osgood was excellent in net again, saving 30 of the 31 picks shot at him.

Detroit will get its chance to defend its title against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It's a rematch of last year's Final, a rematch that I'm very excited to see. I have no doubt the Penguins are a better team this season, even without Marian Hossa. They're a year older, a year more experienced, and their young captain is on a tear. Crosby and Malkin will be a force to deal with.

The Hossa switching teams storyline will be an interesting one for sure, and one can only imagine the taunts the Detroit forward will get during games three and four in Pittsburgh. If the Penguins win the Cup, he'll sure feel silly for switching sides.

“It's a unique situation right now, definitely this doesn't happen often,” Hossa told The Detroit Free Press.

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“I try to make the best of the situation for myself and try to help the team win a Cup. Last year I lost it, so this is another chance. It's going to be hard but it's a good chance. I have to make this not too big a distraction. I just have to use it as an advantage.”

And, of course, there's the revenge factor.

"Yeah, it would be a pretty sweet feeling to beat them," Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal told The Sporting News.

Besides all that, the Red Wings are hurting physically. Their Game Five win Thursday night again came without Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom. Kris Draper and Jonathan Ericsson were also missing.

But that's what makes Darren Helm's goal so awesome. The kid—he's three weeks younger than me—has never scored a regular-season goal, but he just scored the biggest goal of Detroit's season.

"I think he's the kind of player the people of Michigan here and Detroit can really relate to," Wings coach Mike Babcock told The Detroit News. "He works hard. He gives an honest day's work every time he's out there. He hits the ice, his feet are going full out."

Hard working doesn't begin to describe him. Helm held the puck for 24 seconds all on his own during a Chicago power play in the second period, skating around the ice, handling the puck at will, making the Chicago defenders look like minor leaguers skating in the NHL for the first time.

The way he dangled the puck on his stick, made bounces to himself off the boards, and cut back and forth was a true testament to skill with the puck.

Helm, and players like him (Brad Stuart, Brett Lebda, Dan Cleary, Niklas Kronwall), will be what makes or breaks the Final for Detroit. Datsyuk and Lidstrom, even if they do come back to play Saturday night in Game One, probably will not be at 100 percent. That means guys like Helm will still be seeing plenty of ice time.

That might turn into Detroit's greatest strength.

Why won't Datsyuk and Lidstrom be at 100 percent for the opener? Because it's on Saturday night at 8 PM in Detroit. The NHL, in all its wisdom, has given the Red Wings just two days off to prepare for a new opponent, and even worse, Game Two is going to be Sunday.

For the first time since 1954, Stanley Cup Final games will be on back-t0-back nights. NBC's ratings demand games on Saturday and Sunday, so the NHL has caved.

It's not exactly a popular move.

"You don't want my opinion on that,'' Chris Chelios told MLive.com.

So there's a bunch going against Detroit, but you'd be foolish to count them out. The defending champions are still the deepest team in  hockey, and it might be one more year before the torch is passed to the next team.

We'll find out Saturday night.

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