As the Red Wings and Penguins meet for an encore of last year's Stanley Cup finals, story lines abound. Here's a grab bag of things to watch as the series unfolds.
It's always interesting to look at where two teams intersect. In this case, the most intriguing and ironic point is
Hossa is only the second player ever to switch sides in successive Stanley Cup finals.
Speaking of rarities, Pittsburgh's
According to Shero, "Dan and Fitz had developed a strong relationship at Wilkes-Barre. I think Dan had him on the bench on his own a few times, so this was a natural step for them both."
No doubt, Fitzgerald brings a valuable measure of experience, having been through this particular war last year.
Whereas there was no history between these two teams prior to last season's final -- they did not meet even once during the regular season -- this year the Penguins and Red Wings met twice, with each winning on the other's ice. A year ago, the unknown setting of their first trip to the final and the questions of measuring up to the vaunted Red Wings plagued the Penguins. They stood around and stared for two games before registering even a goal and yet still forced a six-game series. The familiarity factor with all aspects of the final and their opponent should help them from the outset this time around.
The Red Wings have shown organizational depth throughout this postseason, dipping into their AHL pool of resources and relying on defenseman
While the Wings have been getting the job done in the playoffs with their own farmhands, the Penguins arrive at the final with a collection of outsiders who came in to augment an impressive young core group. According to Shero, "We needed to add back some grit that we lost through free agency. It began with the trade for
Yes, it has.
Under Bylsma, the Penguins have reestablished their ability to pressure and pursue when they don't have the puck. With it, they are as deep down the middle as any team, with
Bylsma has taken to dressing seven defensemen during the postseason, giving him some flexibility and injury protection -- see:
The health of Lidstrom and Datsyuk obviously impacts the view of specific matchups. Whereas the Penguins have an edge down the middle even with a healthy Datsyuk and Draper, the Wings have an advantage on the blueline even if Lidstrom isn't completely healthy. With him in and paired with
While much of what goes on throughout the series will be fluid and changeable based on results, the scrutiny of goaltenders
If the Wings are to win, Osgood has to be the difference-maker on the penalty kill. The Wings have struggled all season and on into the playoffs with their penalty kill. They've given up 15 goals in only 57 man-down situations this spring.
If Osgood is at his best, the Penguins will come up short. However, the counterbalance here is Fleury's ability to keep the Red Wings off the scoresheet as long as possible, and allow his team to play with the lead.
The Wings have been perfect as pacesetters -- yet to lose when leading after the first or second periods. Conversely, they have yet to win when behind after either of those frames. If Fleury can force them to chase the game by keeping them scoreless and not yielding early tallies, the Penguins will hoist the silver chalice.
Finally, if you're looking for a couple of players out of the limelight who will thrust themselves into the glare with a special contribution, consider
This should be fun. Enjoy.