Stanley Cup Finals PreviewOne of the most anticipated Stanley Cup Finals in recent years begins Saturday, when the Pittsburgh Penguins travel to Detroit to begin the final leg in the quest for Lord Stanley's Cup against the Red Wings. The National Hockey League is probably still smiling about having Sidney Crosby and Evengi Malkin square off against Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Red Wings are -155 favorites to win the best-of-7 game series, meaning bettors will risk $155 to win $100 on Detroit, while the Penguins are +135, so that bettors will risk $100 to win $135 on Pittsburgh.
The Penguins are the sexy pick to win the series by wise guys and the public alike, who feel that Pittsburgh has too much firepower for the Red Wings, and there's some merit to that line of thinking, especially when you throw a Marian Hossa and a Jordan Staal, who is playing like he did during his rookie season.
The Red Wings have plenty of offensive firepower of their own, in Datsyuk and Zetterberg, along with a second and third line more than capable of getting some goals. Johan Franzen is expected to miss at least the first game of the series, and while it's predicted he will return, there are some rumors floating about that says his injury is more serious than Detroit is letting on.
Defense Wins ChampionshipsIf you've followed sports for any length of time, the saying "Defense Wins Championships" is probably one you're familiar with and no team in the NHL has a better defense than the Red Wings. With Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski the Wings have the best defensive pairing in the league, and players like Datsyuk and Zetterberg are so underrated defensively it's almost criminal.
The Red Wings are solid on the penalty kill, while the Penguins have scored 16 of their 51 playoff goals with the man advantage. Detroit also has five short-handed goals in the playoffs, as the team likes to forecheck and pressure the opposition even when killing penalties, so the Wings get the nod in special teams, as just the threat of being able to score short-handed may keep Pittsburgh from an all-out attack.
Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Osgood have both been brilliant during the playoffs and both are about to face their most difficult task of the postseason. While Fleury enjoyed a solid second half of the season, Osgood was steady all season long and more importantly, has the big game experience that Fleury lacks. Look for the Red Wings to crash the net hard and make life miserable for the Pittsburgh netminder.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to be hoisting the Stanley Cup in the near future, but I don't believe it's going to be this year. The Red Wings have too much depth and experience not to get the job done if they come to play and can avoid further injuries.
I always hate to lay odds of -155, but in this case, I'll make an exception, as I expect Detroit to win in six games.