The pens offense is firing on all cylinders for sure! Pens are my second favorite team, the wings will always be number one. It's great to have so much local talent though. At the arena last night, we have a jumbo-tron outside that is free to come sit on the lawn / block bigelow blvd (:lol:) and watch the game on. Last night Pgh cops said there were between 7k and 10k fans OUTSIDE trying to watch the game. The thunderous roar of this old building is AMAZING. You can seriously hear it downtown away from the arena!
Pgh *could* sweep but for them to have an offensive explosion every night like last night probably won't happen. Still, I think Pgh is a little weak defensively but they have managed to keep e. staal off the scoreboard so far. that said, they've been average at best in their own zone often failing to make simple clears in favor of dangling when a wall job would have been fine. The result is production from the other team. You saw this last night in a game that was back and forth until the 3rd period when it just seems like Carolina said "enough". Pgh has also given up WAY too many clear shots from the slot. From the point I can understand, Pgh has some decent shot blockers, but there's no excuse for 3rd line defenseman to be racking up the SOG from the slot against a team that has defensive talent and a strong 2-way game. Luckily, they've gotten more than solid Goaltending from the flower!
Anyhow, I still feel like detroit is the favorite, they have the star power to match, and dare I say OUTMATCH the Crosby / Malkin duels, and while the pens CAN roll 4 lines, they don't have the depth on any of them to match up. Defensively, the pens will need to play better if they want to beat the wings. Carolina is not even close to the puck posession team that Detroit is, and that run and gun **** isn't going to happen against Lidstrom and Rafalski. Lidstrom in my mind is the TOP, A-1 shutdown defenseman in the league. Rafalski I would compare to a Gonchar. As much as i like Chelly as a person, he needs to retire. He's in great physical condition but he doesn't have any mobility any longer. He gets a few minutes at best a night, and Detroit could use the cap room elsewhere. If Osgood retires after this year, I'd like to see Detroit bring someone else up from Grand rapids, they have some much freakin talent. Darren Helm, are you kidding me? Let the kid STAY HERE. His speed is AMAZING, he might be the fastest guy in the NHL and no one (except maybe Jonas Hiller and Nokolai) know it. He just torches folks, and he's got great vision to boot. They are wise to develop him in the minors, but this is the second year they've called him up, most likely for cap space reason, but depending on who stays (I think Lidstrom might want to go out on top) I think he should be a second liner next year.
I don't want to look past Chicago because I don't think anyone is giving them enough credit, to me they are the Pens of 2-3 years ago. A strong core of young, VERY talented players (Toews [pronounced 'taves', the next bandwagoner I hear call him 'toes'.....] and Kane should stay together, these two have amazing chemistry, they are their teams Crosby / Malkin) but I don't think Chicago will beat Detroit. They are a fast up and coming team, they have a solid defensive core but I don't think all of them will stick around. I think Anaheim was this years test, and it's Detroit's cup to lose. Supposing Chicago keeps these kids (more than 50% of their team is under 25
) around, and I think they will, Chicago will probably see cup success within 5 years when their kids put a little more bulk on and have a little more experience under their belt.
If you're going to beat Detroit you need to attack them from all angles because they have a counter punch for just about everything. They are not flawless but IMO, and it's a biased one, they are as close to a perfect team as you can have. They have skill, grit, experience, youth, speed, defense, puck movement, cycling, back-checking, fore-checking, 2 way forwards, penalty killing (how many 5 on 3s can these kill!!!???)... just everything. The only question mark in my mind for them has been goal tending which as soon as you question it, Osgood seems to stand on his head. In my mind, you can't beat detroit consistently, not this team. They can lose, but they shouldn't if they play their game. To beat Detroit, you need a 3-4 physical lines that are not only strong, but fast, and hard to knock off the puck and about as well rounded as they are deep. They thrive on controlling the game and Anaheim was as close to that as they've faced so far. Marchant was great, Hiller was amazing, and of course as much as I hate the guy, Pronger is always a factor in their game. They've been really strong defensively the last few years and I think there a top-5 forward away from a cup if they keep this core. When Anaheim is on, they are a nasty group to play against, I think they just need another spark offensively. Getzlaf can dominate when he wants, and he is a big MFer with soft hands, a brutal shot, and a will to win. He can shut down and demoralize an entire team. For Chicago to beat Detroit, they will need outstanding net minding the rest of the way from the wall, Toews and Kane will have to use their speed to beat detroits 'lesser' defenseman, and they will need to be perfect on defense against even Detroits 4th line which has been productive to say the least. I just don't think 'this' team has enough to go the distance. I see them taking a game at home, and giving one up, and then Detroit taking it in 5 from home.
I'm really excited for the Parity the league as a whole has, and that smaller market teams can compete and win despite salaries. Detroit has been a model franchise and exemplary of how to run a team in the salary cap era. The league has cracked down on goonage and really sped the game up. It's difficult to run a trap, no more red line, just all these tweaks that really help the skill of the league pull through. Can you imagine what Gretsky would have done in this day and age?
All the league needs to tweak in my mind is the diving, and making the calls against holding the stick. Too many skilled defenseman get called for hooking by virtue of them tagging up their man, and said man armpit chokes their stick for the call, it's one of the few calls I wish would get called more.
As much as most folks like to bash Bettman, there is no denying that there are some great folks in this league employed by him and as a whole when the decisions for x,y, and z are being made, the right calls are happening. I'm so freaking excited for hockey, now more than ever! This is the best sport in the world bar none! Offense, defense, superstars, fancy plays, fighting, brute force, speed, skill, contact, excitement, adrenaline, story lines, rivalries, drama, victory, defeat! Ah I could go on forever about this, It's only bittersweet to see it end in a month. I love hockey.
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