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2009 Stanley Cup Finals ... Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins II: The Wrath of Hossa

Wingspens Lets just get this out in the open: I'm picking the Penguins to win this year's Stanley Cup Finals. As much as I enjoy the Red Wings and have been impressed by their run to the Finals again this season, I've been even more impressed by what the Penguins have done.

And I think they are going to be helped along by NBC's back-to-back-so-we-don't-mess-up-Conan-O'Brien schedule. Not only are these two teams playing on consecutive nights (the first time this has been done in the Finals in 50-plus years to Placate the Peacock) but are playing three in four nights. I think that will suit the younger Penguins. Detroit? Maybe not so much.

But we'll see. Would be neat to see a repeat champ, and honestly, Pittsburgh fans are becoming as bad as Boston fans these days. Almost insufferable. No such problem with the Motowners.

Ran a preview box in today's Herald, but I wrote long as usual and we didn't have the room. Here's the full box. And a Frozen Poll after that. Come on in and take a vote. Don't cost nuthin.

2009 STANLEY CUP FINALS

-- Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

-- Season series: Split two-game series.

-- How they got here: Detroit swept Columbus in the opening round, beat eighth-seeded Anaheim in the semifinals and Chicago in five games in the Western Conference finals. Pittsburgh opened by beating Philadelphia in the opening round, then defeated Washington in the semifinals and swept Carolina in the Eastern Conference finals.

-- Recent postseason history: The Red Wings are trying to become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since Detroit did it in 1998. Pittsburgh, which lost to the Wings in 6 last year, is trying to win its first Cup since 1992 – when the Penguins were repeat champions.

-- About the Finals: This is the first time in 25 years that the Stanley Cup Finals is a rematch from the year before. In 1983, the Islanders won their fourth consecutive Cup by beating Edmonton; in 1984, the Oilers returned the favor and beat New York in five. This is only the third Finals rematch since 1978. Detroit and Pittsburgh are the first teams to make consecutive trips to the Finals since New Jersey (2000-01). Eighteen of the 20 Red Wings who dressed against Pittsburgh are back this time around, with the Wings adding Marian Hossa (who had three goals and four assists against Detroit in last year's Finals) as well.

-- The Red Wings: The quick turnaround to get these Finals started could really effect a Red Wings team that is really banged up and could have used some rest. Detroit, which dispatched Chicago in five games on Wednesday, could be without Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Kris Draper (all three practiced on Friday). Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson had an appendectomy on Wednesday but could play Saturday. Playing on back-to-back nights and three games in four nights could seriously put the Red Wings at a disadvantage. Goalie Chris Osgood took over in net during Detroit's opening round win against Nashville in 2008 and has gone 26-8 since with a 1.79 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Osgood, who has led the Wings to a pair of Cups in his career, now has 71 playoff wins.

-- The Penguins: Pittsburgh becomes the first club since the 1983-84 Oilers to return to the Cup Finals after losing there the season before. The Penguins have been on fire the past couple of months, with the team in real danger of missing the playoffs. On Feb. 15, the team fired coach Michel Therrien and replaced him with minor league bench boss Dan Bylsma. The Pens went on a tear after that, finishing the regular season 18-3-4 and earning the fourth seed in the east. Nine Penguins who were part of the 2008 Finals squad are no longer around, most notably Hossa – who left Pittsburgh in the offseason for a one-year deal in Detroit, saying he felt he had a better chance to win a Cup with the Wings. The Pens have gotten plenty of scoring from captain Sidney Crosby (who has 23 goals in 42 career playoff games) and MVP candidate Evgeni Malkin (22 in 42). Both have 28 points in 17 playoff games this season. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots in Pittsburgh's Game 4 win over Carolina, and has stopped 91 percent of his shots in these playoffs.


-- Prediction: Penguins in 6



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