RCS welcomes back John DiDomenicis to give us a preview of the Stanley Cup Finals.
#2 Pittsburgh Penguins VS. #1 Detroit Red Wings
After three intense rounds of playoff hockey, we have finally reached the pinnacle of the hockey world, the Stanley Cup Finals. The sales department could not have picked a better match-up to appeal to the casual fan in the United States. On one side you have the upstart Penguins who have gone from last in the league to the Stanley Cup finals in just 3 years. They also have the biggest and brightest name in hockey as the face of their franchise in Sidney Crosby. On the other side, the Detroit Red Wings are trying to win their fourth Stanley Cup since 1997. They have history (Original Six Franchise), a good fan base (labeled Hockeytown), and two of the more exciting players in the league (Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk). If the NHL wants ratings, then these teams certainly can deliver for Bettman and Company.
When all is said and done, this series could look like the “New NHL” that the league had envisioned when they implemented the rule changes at the beginning of the 2005-2006 season. Two words: Speed and Scoring. This series will showcase two of the faster and more skilled teams in the league. The offensive talent that these two teams can showcase on the ice is truly astounding. There is no surprise that they went a combined 24-6 through the first 3 rounds of the playoffs. For the first time in years, the Stanley Cup Finals will feature the two best teams in the league.
The first couple of periods of Game 1 will determine how and where this series will be played. Since these two teams have not played against each other in the regular season, the first couple shifts will be a feeling out period for players and coaches. Detroit would like to control the puck at both ends with their passing and not allow the Penguins to get chances off the rush. Pittsburgh is an excellent transition team and scores a lot of goals off saves and turnovers. So if Detroit can own the puck, like they usually do, the Penguins will have trouble creating chances if they have to play the dump and chase game. This will be the best defensive unit that Crosby and Malkin have had to play against in over a month. It will be interesting to see how well Lidstrom will keep these two superstars in check.
Although my Flyers got knocked out last round, I am still very excited for this series. The product has never been the problem for the NHL as playoff hockey provides some of the best drama in all of sports. Since it is not the product, I feel as if the marketing department in other sports is just one step ahead of the NHL which has really hurt them in the past 8-10 years. I can’t believe they scheduled Red Wings’ and Pistons’ games at the same time. It is no secret who is going to win that ratings battle. So if this series turns out to be legendary, a lot of people will be missing out on the action. On paper this really looks to be a winner, let’s just hope people tune in to check it out.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7