Youth and Size vs. Experience and Poise. [Also stats galore!]

Here we are at last. The Stanley Cup Finals. Analysts, fans and experts are going gaga over what they hope will be one of the best Finals ever.

Who will win and what factors will decide the Champion?

Both teams seem to boast enormous offensive talent, a resurgent goaltender, fantastic defensive play by their entire team, and an excellent PP and PK. The question to ask is what differentiates them from each other? A cursory glance concludes that the Penguins have the youth and size, whereas the Wings have the experience and poise. Which will prove to be more valuable?

The last 9 Stanley Cups have been won by the team with home ice, which Detroit holds. The Penguins haven’t lost at home in regulation since February 13th and Marc-Andre Fleury personally hasn’t lost in Pittsburgh since Thanksgiving 2007. The Penguins top the Red Wings on goals scored, goals against, goal differential, PP and are tied with them for PK. The Red Wings have players that have won a combined 23 Cups to the Penguins’ 4.


Some stats were taken from: http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=363992


On the one side you have the President’s Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings. They have 10 players on their team with a Cup Ring, 9 of which got theirs on Detroit (Rafalski is the lone wolf out, winning two in NJ), with 8 of them having won it on the 2002 squad (Osgood was on St. Louis) and 5 of them winning it 3 times, all on the Wings. In total, those 10 guys have won 23 Cups, 20 of them coming on Detroit. In comparison, the Penguins have only 3 players that have won Cups, and none of them did so as a Penguin. In total, those 3 guys have won 4 Cups. Darryl Sydor, the lone player to have won it twice on Pittsburgh, has been a healthy scratch these entire playoffs. Will he finally get to play if the Pens aren’t winning?

The Red Wings experience is undeniable. Since 1991, the Red Wings have played 215 playoff games, more than any other professional sports franchise.

Detroit

D Chris Chelios (Montreal 85-86, Detroit 01-02)
C
Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit 01-02)
C
Kris Draper (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02)
G
Dominik Hasek (Detroit 01-02)
LW
Tomas Holmstrom (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02)
D
Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02)
RW
Kirk Maltby (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02)
RW
Darren McCarty (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02)
G
Chris Osgood (Detroit 96-97, 97-98)
D
Brian Rafalski (New Jersey 99-00, 02-03)

Pittsburgh

LW Gary Roberts (Calgary 88-89)
D
Darryl Sydor (Dallas 98-99, Tampa Bay 03-04)
RW
Petr Sykora (New Jersey 99-00)

Forwards:

Crosby and Malkin combine for 40 points, while Zetterberg and Datsyuk combine for… 40 points. The Penguins, however, also have Hossa tied with Malkin and Datsyuk with 19 points, while the Wings 3rd leading scorer is Franzen with 15 points (the same as Ryan Malone, though in 3 less games). Johan Franzen, despite missing almost the entire 3rd round, is still leading the playoffs with 12 goals and is expected to return very soon, doubtful for Game 1, but not impossible. We should note that the Wings have played 2 extra games. Crosby leads the NHL with 1.50 PPG. Malkin and Hossa both top Zetterberg by .05 (1.36 to 1.31). Franzen was also at 1.36 before he went down with injury. He and Hank are 1-2 in the playoffs in goals scored, 12 and 11, respectively.

An important note, which I’ll develop further down, is that Zetterberg and Datsyuk easily lead the League in +/-. They are the only two +10 or better. Hank is +15 and Pavel is +12. The Penguins top players in this stat are defensemen Rob Scuderi and Ryan Whitney at +8. Lidstrom is the Wings’ top defenseman at +9. Hossa and Dupuis are the Pens’ top forwards at +7. Crosby is +6 and Malkin +5, nowhere near the Dynamic Duo of Zetterberg and Datsyuk. However, the Wings’ top players play more minutes a game, whereas the Pens usually roll 4 lines. A big question is whether or not the Red Wings can shut down both top lines of the Penguins, which all other teams have failed to do (managing to shut down, at best, one line), while the Penguins will have but one all-star line to shutdown.

Defensemen:

Kronwall is leading the League in points among defensemen with 12 (all assists). Gonchar is in 2nd with 11 points (in 2 less games), while Lidstrom and Rafalski trail Sergei by one point.

The Wings arguably hold a slight edge defensively, and certainly in experience. Will it be the crucial factor? Will defense win the Cup or can the Penguins’ offense overcome it?

Goalies:

The two best goalies statistically in these playoffs have been Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Osgood. It seems that neither goalie has really been tested so far. But that’s about to end! Both goalies are the only two in these playoffs to boast a GAA under 2.00. Osgood leads the League with 1.60, while Fleury boasts a 1.70. Fleury leads the League in all other stats. His 12-2 record is the best. His 12 wins top Osgood’s 10 wins. His 3 shutouts put him alone in 1st. His .938 SV% is better than Osgood’s .931 SV%. Fleury has seen exactly 100 more shots than Osgood. He has let in 24 goals on 388 shots, saving 364 of them. Osgood has let in 20 goals on 288 shots, saving 268 of them.

Fleury has won 18 straight games at home, allowing more than 2 just TWICE in that time! He hasn’t lost at home in 2008 and dating back pre-injury since Thanksgiving! Yikes! He is 22-4-1 since coming b
ack from injury, with 5 shutouts and 26-4-1 with 6 shutouts since he found his form just prior to injury. WOW! He has allowed 4 goals or more (well just 4 goals that one game vs. the Rangers, which the Pens won 5-4) just once in that time. He has allowed 3 goals or more in just 5 of those 31 games… Amazing!

Team:

The Penguins top the Red Wings on goals scored, goals against, goal differential, PP and are tied with them for PK.

The Pens are scoring 3.64 goals per game. They have scored 51 goals in 14 games.

The Wings are scoring 3.44 goals per game. They have scored 55 goals in 16 games.

The Pens are allowing 1.86 goals against per game. They have allowed 26 goals in 14 games.

The Wings are allowing 1.94 goals against per game. They have allowed 31 goals in 16 games.

The Pens goal differential is +1.79, while the Wings goal differential is +1.50.

The Pens have the best shooting percentage in these playoffs. Case in point: the Wings shoot more and allow less shots against, but are giving up more goals and scoring less than the Pens.

The Wings have registered 36.3 shots per goal, allowing just 23.6, good for a +12.7 shot differential.

The Pens have registered 32.3 shots per goal, allowing 27.9, good for a +4.4 shot differential.

Special Teams:

The Pens are 2nd in the NHL on the PP with a 25% success rate. [The Flames had 27.3% in 7 games.]

The Pens have had 64 PPO in 14 games, good for 4.57 PPs per game.

The Wings are 5th in the NHL on the PP with a 21.3% success rate.

The Wings have had 75PPO in 16 games, good for 4.69 PPs per game.

The Pens and Wings are tied on the PK with an 87.3% kill rate. The Wings are the most penalized team per game of the Final Four in these playoffs with 71 in 16 games, good for 4.44 TSH per game. The Pens speed and puck possession has largely kept them out of the box; they’ve been shorthanded 55 times in 14 games, good for 3.93 TSH per game. The Habs were 3.67. The Flyers 4.35. The Stars 4.17.

Detroit has an amazing 5 short-handed goals, to Pittsburgh’s lone goal, the memorable, hilarious Malkin slap shot. No other team even got 3 shorties; only 3 teams even have 2.

The Stanley Cup Finalists are an interesting contrast in size and age. Among players who have appeared in at least one playoff game in 2008, the Red Wings’ average age is 32.3, almost four and a half years older than the Penguins’ average of 27.9. The Penguins measure in at nearly 6’2″ (73.7 inches) and 208 pounds; the Red Wings average just under 6’0″ (71.96 inches) and 195 lbs. The Penguins have the bigger bodies, but aren’t slow as a result. Will the Penguins’ size be an advantage? Or will it lead to stupid penalties? Both teams are exceptionally fast, so it should be an even matchup.

The Penguins have 13 former first-round draft picks on their roster, including five players the club has selected in the top five: D Ryan Whitney (fifth overall in 2002), G Marc-Andre Fleury (first overall in 2003), C Evgeni Malkin (second overall in 2004), C Sidney Crosby (first overall in 2005) and C Jordan Staal (second overall in 2006). The others are LW Gary Roberts (12th overall by Calgary in 1984), D Darryl Sydor (seventh overall by Los Angeles in 1990), D Sergei Gonchar (14th overall by Washington in 1992), RW Petr Sykora (18th overall by New Jersey in 1995), RW Marian Hossa (12th overall by Ottawa in 1997), C Kris Beech (seventh overall by Washington in 1999), D Brooks Orpik (18th overall by Pittsburgh in 2000) and C Jeff Taffe (30th overall by St. Louis in 2000).

The Red Wings have three former first-round picks, one of which the club selected (D Niklas Kronwall, 29th overall in 2000). The others are RW Daniel Cleary (13th overall by Chicago in 1997) and D Brad Stuart (third overall by San Jose in 1998).

Maybe one of the best arguments for why the Red Wings will win is due to the phenomenal two-way game of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. True, Sidney Crosby and Marian Hossa are superb defensively as well, but no one can compare to what Datsyuk has done this year as he handily led the League in takeaways. Five members of the Red Wings are 2007-08 NHL trophy finalists. Nicklas Lidstrom joins Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf in contention for the Norris Trophy as top defenseman; LW Henrik Zetterberg and C Pavel Datsyuk join New Jersey’s John Madden as finalists for the Selke Trophy as top defensive forward; Datsyuk is competing with Buffalo’s Jason Pominville > and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis for the Lady Byng Trophy; D Chris Chelios joins Toronto’s Jason Blake and Edmonton’s Fernando Pisani as finalists for the Masterton Trophy for sportsmanship and dedication; and Mike Babco.ck is vying for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year with Washington’s Bruce Boudreau and Montreal’s Guy Carbonneau . . . Penguins C Evgeni Malkin has been voted a finalist for the Hart Trophy as League MVP and also the Lester B. Pearson Award as League MVP as voted by the NHLPA, joining Calgary’s Jarome Iginla and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.

Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby has the chance to become the Youngest Captain to ever hoist the Stanley Cup, not to mention the 2nd youngest player to win the Conn Smythe (were he to win it he’d fall just a few months shy of Patrick Roy). Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom has the opportunity to be the first European captain to hoist the Stanley Cup. Steve Yzerman served as captain on Lidstrom’s three previous Stanley Cup-winning clubs with Detroit in 1997, 1998 and 2002. Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom is appearing in his 16th consecutive playoffs, setting a team record for consecutive appearances in the post-season. Lidstrom eclipsed the mark of Steve Yzerman, who played in 15 consecutive post-seasons with Detroit from 1991-2006. Lidstrom already became the first European to win a Conn Smythe Trophy during the 2002 finals. A Swedish-born captain has advanced to the Final for the second consecutive season, following Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson in 2006-07. Perhaps it is time to wipe the slate clean with regards to the Canadian myth of winning Cups… or perhaps not if the Penguins are victorious.

Some stats for the Red Wings:

NHL Playoff Appearance: 56th (17th consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 10 (last SC: 2002)
Last Stanley Cup Final Appearance: 2002
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 61-45
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 281-252-1
How They Got Here: Defeated the
Nashville Predators, 4-2, in the Conference Quarter-Finals; defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 4-0, in the Conference Semifinals; defeated the Dallas Stars, 4-2, in the Conference Finals.

The Red Wings are hot. They set a franchise record for most consecutive playoff victories in one postseason (nine) with a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, May 12. The previous record (eight) was established by the 1952 Red Wings team that swept best-of-seven series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens and the 1995 team that won eight straight against the Stars, San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks.

To read a much more detailed analysis, follow the link to NHL.com’s piece.

Some stats for the Penguins:

NHL Playoff Appearance: 22nd (2nd consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 2 (1991, 1992)
Last Stanley Cup Final Appearance: 1992
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 23-20
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 122-105
How They Got Here: Defeated
Ottawa Senators 4-0 in Conference Quarter-Final; defeated New York Rangers 4-1 in Conference Semifinal; defeated Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 in Conference Final.

The Penguins are 12-2 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, defeating Ottawa 4-0 in the Conference Quarter-Finals, New York Rangers 4-1 in the Conference Semifinals and Philadelphia 4-1 in the Conference Finals. The Penguins are the 11th club since 1980 to enter the Stanley Cup Final with two losses or fewer.

Fewest Losses Entering Stanley Cup Final Since 1980

1983 Edmonton Oilers, 11-1 (lost Final 4-0 to NY Islanders)
1980
Philadelphia Flyers, 11-2 (lost Final 4-2 to NY Islanders)
1981
New York Islanders, 11-2 (won Final 4-1 over Minnesota)
1982
Vancouver Canucks, 11-2 (lost Final 4-0 to NY Islanders)
1985
Edmonton Oilers, 11-2 (won Final 4-1 over Philadelphia)
1987
Edmonton Oilers, 12-2 (won Final 4-3 over Philadelphia)
1988
Edmonton Oilers, 12-2 (won Final 4-0 over Boston)
1992
Chicago Blackhawks, 12-2 (lost Final 4-0 to Pittsburgh)
1995
Detroit Red Wings, 12-2 (lost Final 4-0 to New Jersey)
2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, 12-2 (lost Final 4-3 to New Jersey)

That’s just 4 wins and 6 losses for those counting, including 4 sweeps against and just one sweep for.

The Pens also have tons of offensive depth. Eight different Penguins have scored a game-winning goal in the playoffs. Evgeni Malkin leads with three, followed by Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone with two. Gary Roberts, Sidney Crosby, Jarkko Ruutu, Jordan Staal and Maxime Talbot have the others.

For the Red Wings, they have some excellent news as Johan Franzen is expected to return for Game 2 or 3 of the Finals.

The last 9 Stanley Cups have been won by the team with home ice. Home ice may be crucial for the Red Wings. They’ve lost only once at home. The Pens have yet to lose at home. I know everyone wants to know the legendary Bru Magnus’s prediction, well here it is, slightly qualified:

If the Pens can win Game 1 or 2 in Detroit, they will win the Cup at home in Game 6.

If they can’t break home ice in Detroit, the Wings will win in Game 7 at home, or Game 5 at home if they can steal one in Pittsburgh.

But officially, I’m saying:

Pittsburgh Penguins in 6!!! At home!!!

I’ve been 13 for 14 in my predictions this season, with Dallas over the Ducks as my only slight. Here’s hoping these Finals are a classic to be remembered for everyone.


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