Game Misconduct: M.A. Fleury is a former first overall pick and has been playing like it these playoffs, after being almost run out of town by goalie Ty Conklin, aka Conkblock. His record in championship games in not great, take a look here (go to ). He’s no Marty Turco, I can tell you that much. Chris Osgood is older than dirt but not as old as Chelios or Hasek. He’s rejuvenated and has a few rings on his resume. On overall talent I’d give this to Fleury, but Ozzie’s ring is very shiny. Advantage: Push
NetCrasher: Remember how Gordon Bombay put in a cold goaltender to face the leader scoring in the Junior Goodwill Games. Well, this is nothing like that. Marc-Andre Fleury is a on a roll and when you have a hot goalie you gotta stick with him. Fleury’s looked better and better as the rounds have worn on and made some truly acrobatic saves against Philly. Fleury’s save percentage is the highest in the playoffs, and he has faced nearly one hundred more shots than Osgood. He is battle tested and will need to be as the Wings have the best offense he will face. Osgood has emerged from his back up roll to show some strong numbers, but I credit his success to the Wings’ blue line which may be the best in recent memory. Advantage: Penguins
Game Misconduct: This one doesn’t look close. You’ve got Nik Lidstrom who may be the best defenseman since Bobby Orr. He’s not a punisher like Scott Stevens was, nor as graceful as Scott Niedermayer, but the guy NEVER makes a mistake, ever. Kronwall is healthy and is looking like Lidstrom 2.0. That’s just not fair. Brad Stuart has figured out that he’s a defenseman and is playing well in the top 4. Chelios is old, but Hal Gill is slow. The Pens D is not as talented, but with Gonchar and Letang there is some offensive punch. A lot of this match up hinges on Ryan Whitney who hasn’t played up to his potential in these playoffs. Oh man, I almost forgot about Rafalski, this isn’t really fair. Advantage: Red Wings
NetCrasher: The Wings D really is nasty from top to bottom. Like I mentioned in our last preview, Lindstrom is just a thrill to watch: flawless play, athletic ability, and great vision. I agree with Misconduct -- Kronwell is very much shaping up to be a Lindstrom look a like. The Pens D has been often over looked. All have positive plus/minus ratings with the lowest being at +4. Hal Gill, much to the disappointment of the City of
Game Misconduct: This is where things get interesting. You’ve got Crosby and Malkin vs. Datsyuk and Zetterberg. I don’t even know what to say but the talent amongst these four is just scary, but the Wings’ players are more developed and have better two-way acumen (Selke finalists). Everyone talks about them and you know them by now so let’s move on.
Net Crasher: No one plays two ways better than the Wings. Misconduct says Zetterberg, I say Datsyuk for the Selke but either way, for the Wings to win, the forwards will need to get back. As Misconduct said,
Game Misconduct: The only thing Therrien has taught these young Pens is how to take a dive just like a good French Canadian would. I clearly don’t think much of him, and Mike Babcock has this veteran team running like a machine. They’re so disciplined and systematic that it reminds me of the Soviets before they ran into a bunch of college kids in 1980. Therrien is so outclassed here, its borderline hysterical. Advantage: Red Wings
NetCrasher: Therrien certainly has a lot to prove. This is far and away his most successful season as a coach. Babcock has been there and done that. Advantage: Red Wings
Game Misconduct: The Wings have home-ice advantage but haven’t sold out every playoff game at the Joe, which is a little pathetic, but this being the finals fans should show up. The Penguins youth has served them well, but the Wings are just too well coached and disciplined. They won’t give in to the BS with Ruutu or Sid the Whiner.
Verdict: This has the potential to be one for the ages, but the Wings will win out in 7
Other than the Stars’ attempt at a Kamikaze Comeback, the Conference Finals were pretty uneventful. This match-up, which the NHL had been praying for since January, promises to compensate us for that. In a close series, special teams could be the difference. All season, both teams have been nearly equal on both the power play and penalty kill. Still, with Lindstrom anchoring the Red Wings blue line, I think the key match-up will be the Wings tried-and-true power play vs. the Pens penalty kill. If the Pens can kill penalties and get a strong performance out of Fleury they will be in good shape.
Verdict: Look for the Conn Smythe to go to Fleury or Malkin and look for the Pens to win in 7.