The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins will play just the 15th Game 7 in Stanley Cup final history on Friday night. The Canadian Press reporters covering the series are at odds over which team will lift the championship trophy:
Why Detroit Will Win
By Bill Beacon
Repeating as Stanley Cup champion has become extremely difficult in the new NHL and the only team to do it since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992 are the Detroit Red Wings of 1997 and 1998.
But if there is a team that can do it, it’s this year’s Red Wings, whose depth and experience have allowed them to overcome injuries and reach Game 7.
Only a stunning reversal can keep them from winning a second in a row.
Firstly, they are playing at home, where they are 11-1 in the post-season this year, including three victories over the Penguins.
Most telling was the last time the teams met at Joe Louis Arena in Game 5, when the Red Wings won 5-0 and thoroughly dominated the young Penguins.
At home, coach Mike Babcock gets his matchups, and Sidney Crosby has been owned by the Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg for most of the series, especially in Detroit.
Goalie Chris Osgood has had his best games in front of his home fans as well.
But mostly it is the Detroit team’s ability to impose its tight-checking, disciplined game on visiting clubs that has held the Penguins, despite their scoring stars, to only two goals in three games at The Joe thus far.
Right-winger Marian Hossa bolted the Penguins as a free agent last summer after losing to Detroit in the final because he wanted to learn from the Red Wings’s multiple-Cup winners how to win.
While Hossa’s been a non-entity for most of the final, he has had an inside look at how pros like Zetterberg, Nik Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper and Tomas Holmstrom get it done.
There may indeed be a changing of the guard happening in the NHL led by young stars like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but faced with the machine-like efficiency of the Red Wings, it doesn’t look like it will happen this year.
Next year, perhaps.
Why Pittsburgh Will Win
By Chris Johnston
For starters, full disclosure: I realize that to pick the Penguins you have to discard history (recent and past), trends and perhaps even reason.
In other words, you have to do the exact same things the team has already accomplished this season.
Consider the obstacles the Penguins have overcome – they were outside of a playoff spot in February; they fell behind Washington 2-0 in the second round; they got behind Detroit 2-0 in this series; they trailed in Games 3 and 4, but managed to win both; and they staved off elimination with a gutsy effort in Game 6.
It’s impossible to deny that this group has already beaten the odds to even get the chance to play an all-or-nothing game for the NHL championship. Do you think they’re going to wilt now?
For all the playoff experience that lies in the Red Wings dressing room, this is a situation unlike any they’ve faced during a decade of dominance. The franchise hasn’t appeared in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final since 1964.
There will be nerves and a touch of added pressure in front of their home fans, especially if they get off to another slow start. That’s been a troubling tendency this season.
The young Penguins, meanwhile, should be plenty hungry now that they’re as close to achieving their dream as ever. They also seemed to have learned some valuable lessons from losing to Detroit in last year’s final – something the Edmonton Oilers needed to do before their fantastic run through the 1980s.
Finally, big games are for the big guns.
With all due respect to Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, the biggest guns in this series are Malkin and Crosby. Expect them to step up and help deliver a victory that not even the most loyal of Penguins fans could have seen coming just a few short months ago.