The Deadspin Stanley Cup Finals Preview is brought to you by the five former Mouseketeers at Melt Your Face Off. And no, neither Britney nor Lindsay would give them the time of day.
Everyone knows that Jerome Bettis, fondly remembered as "The Bus," enjoyed a highly productive NFL career in Pittsburgh, which is also home to the Penguins. We were somewhat surprised to learn, however, that The Bus is originally from Detroit. Talk about your divided loyalties for the Stanley Cup Finals! While we can't help the Bus with this seemingly intractable problem, we can tell you who we think you should root for.
As always, the following in-depth breakdown should be used for entertainment purposes only. You should not, under any circumstances, use this preview as the basis for any wager. Because we used the same system to give Charles Barkley blackjack tips.
Goaltending: The guys between the pipes for the Red Wings and Penguins, Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury, respectively, have both been spectacular in net throughout the playoffs. In fact, Osgood (10-2, 1.60 GAA, .931 SV %) and Marc-Andre Fleury (12-2, 1.70 GAA, .938 SV %) have been statistically dead-even. Since a traditional analysis would prove to be moot given the numbers, I have devised a new formula to predict how each goaltender will fare in the Stanley Cup Finals. I took the number of shots each goalie has faced in the playoffs, divided that by the number each goalie wears and multiplied that by the reciprocal of the total minutes each goalie has played in the playoffs. The product derived from each equation was then put in fraction form, with Fleury's result as the numerator and Osgood's as the denominator, since Detroit has home-ice advantage in the series. The resulting fraction in decimal form was 1.197176727, which revealed to me…abso-freaking nothing. Consarnit!
Since stupid math has failed me once again, I then turned to humanity's silly word puzzle: the anagram! Inserting each name into an Anagram Creator made it abundantly clear who will have the edge in the Finals. You heard it here first: Marc-Andre Fleury (Ardency Farm Rule/Adrenal Cum Fryer/Creamery Lard Fun) will without a doubt outplay Chris Osgood (Goods Rich, So/Gross Ohio CD) in the Stanley Cup Finals. And you can take that to the bank, Mr. Mister. —Weed Against Speed
Defense: There are only two words you need to know about these teams' defenses: Niklas and Lidstrom. In addition to being a fine Scandinavian accounting firm, together these two words form the name of the best defenseman in the NHL, and the only blueliner on either team who could conceivably win the Conn Smythe trophy. Everywhere else you look, you could theoretically match the Penguins D up with Detroit's (and by "theoretically" I mean "artificially, so I can bolster my conclusion"). Sergei Gonchar has a similar skill set as Brian Rafalski. Hal Gill and Chris Chelios represent the same "old and immobile" demographic; Kris Letang and Daryl Sydor can be compared to Andreas Lilja and Brett Lebda. Ryan Whitney's puck-moving skills match up decently with Nik Kronwall's. However, that leaves Brooks Orpik to be the counterweight to Lidstrom. Uh-oh.
While Brooks is certainly without peers in some sense, it's not the same kind of peerlessness that gets one a brand new Norris Trophy every summer. Collectively, both the Penguins and Red Wings were the best defensive teams in their respective conferences. Individually…well, it's not even funny, so I won't try to be. —LeNoceur
Forwards: As I have previously stated, the most potent line in this postseason was, is, and will always be Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and any other player. Everyone knows the authority that they command in the offensive zone, but their defensive prowess makes them the two most complete players in the game. They backcheck, block shots, play the PK, and generally dominate the puck. However, unlike the previous series, Pittsburgh will send out a future star. Jordan Staal, reduced to a third line role because of Malkin and Crosby, will face Detroit's top line and should be able to produce a few goals. I do not believe that he will be able to offset Z and D's output, though.
On the other side, Pittsburgh splits up their two superstars. Crosby centers the top line with two-way player Malone and offensive-minded Hossa, and Malkin heads 1A with Petr Sykora and Pascal Dupuis. Malkin's line is more complete due to the center's complete game on both sides of the ice, but Crosby's line creates greater pressure on whoever Detroit decides to send out to the ice. Thankfully for Detroit, they can send out whatever line they wish. Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson will always situate themselves in the defensive zone first. If the opportunity presents itself, they will push forward for attack. The series hinges upon Detroit's third and fourth lines. Raskolnikov
Coaching: Of course, standing behind the bench of the two most talented teams in the NHL makes the jobs of Pittsburgh's head coach Michel Therrien and Detroit's head coach Mike Babcock that much easier. Nevertheless, both coaches have done an amazing job coordinating all the firepower at their fingertips. Mike Babcock has been a model of consistency since taking over head coaching duties in Detroit (a Jack Adams finalist this season, led the Red Wings to two of the past three President's Trophies, never less than 113 points in three seasons). Michel Therrien, on the other hand, has done a phenomenal job of restoring the Penguins brand, including a miraculous turnaround in the 2006-07 season (good enough to be a Jack Adams finalist), as he coached Pittsburgh to a 105 point season, an astounding improvement of 47 points over the previous year. In the end, it is all about adjustments in a seven game series, so it will come down to which coach is best equipped to make changes on the fly.
I did some in-depth research earlier in the season regarding NHL coaches, for both the Eastern and Western Conference. Here is a snippet of what I learned about these two: Mike Babcock's favorite song is Reminiscing by the Little River Band, he always parks his car so it takes up two parking spaces and he doesn't trust Mexicans; Michel Therrien always wanted to learn how to play the banjo but never found the time, his favorite song is the '70's classic Sad Eyes by Robert John and he loves having a few Cosmos at the end of a long day. Take from that information and how it pertains to the Stanley Cup Finals what you wish. —Weed Against Speed
Intangibles: If Versus has taught me anything during these Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's that Offense wins Games, but Intangibles win Championships. For example, a common adage references the team that shall hoist the Stanley Cup is always the team that "wants it more." This often has a direct correlation to the last time a town was able to throw a parade in honor of holding the world's most famous punchbowl. When Pittsburgh last won in the Finals, Sidney Crosby was 4 years old. For Detroit, Chris Chelios was only 73.
Hockey arenas in recent years have become beacons of modern sports broadcasting technology. The Detroit and Pittsburgh hockey organizations would like you all to know that you can leave all this futuregadgets at the door. (Dorks.) Joe Louis Arena is now an ancient 28 years old. The concourse is lined with giant fucking columns right in the middle of the walkways (to keep the building from collapsing and to make you wear your beer), and the merch areas are no more advanced than the ones they throw up at outdoor concerts in 5 minutes flat. And yet somehow, the Joe is the NEWER of our two Stanley Cup venues. The smaller Mellon Arena seats a cozy 17k, not including Ruutu's bench in the box or Van Damme's perch atop the Igloo. —Hextall454