The Penguins cruised to the Finals rematch on the backs of
A number of readers took exception when I labeled Crosby the game's most gifted grinder earlier in the playoffs, but it's hard to imagine anyone arguing with the description now. His playoffs have been defined by his level of determination. Sid's been unstoppable along the boards and on the cycle, and he's doing all his finishing within five feet of the net. They're rarely works of art, but his goals sure look pretty on the scoreboard.
Malkin, on the other hand, has become the human highlight reel, using size, speed and those incredible hands to light up the Hurricanes for nine points in four games. Both he and Crosby benefit from the physical presence of
The Wings may have struggled at times during the regular season, but they're built to crush all comers in the playoffs. Detroit has plenty of sizzle in MVP finalist
At this time of year, the outcome of a series often is determined by role players.
Detroit also has an edge on the blue line, but the significance of it relies on the health of
While the ability to make the big save at a key moment has defined his success to this point, it's hard to overlook that .906 save percentage. The Wings average nearly 40 shots per night. Do the math and it's clear Fleury will have to be considerably more effective than he's been thus far to keep this thing close.
The Spotlight Is On ... :
Of course, he's more than just the emotional fulcrum of the series. Hossa needs to be an impact performer. He put together a solid regular season but has been a figure of middling importance in the playoffs. He's firing a lot of pucks on net (77) but has just six goals to show for his effort. And while a trio of two-goal efforts hint at his potential to dominate, being blanked in 13 of 16 games leaves the Wings wanting more. His ability to light the lamp with consistency is critical to Detroit's chances.