Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stanley Cup Rematch or Preview?

Oh we know this Opponent: The Detroit Red Wings
Record: 9-2-2 (20 points, first in the Central Division, 2nd in the Western Conference)

Notable wins: New Jersey, at Carolina, at Ottawa
Notable losses: at Toronto, at San Jose
Last game: 3-1 win Saturday night home versus the Devils

Statistical star: Marian Hossa [8 goals, 9 assists for 17 points, +9 in 13 games]
Disappointment so far: OK, so maybe to call them disappointments is a stretch, but the play of both goalies has seemed shaky. Chris Osgood has a 89.2% save percentange and a goals against average of 2.97, and our old buddy Ty Conklin is 89.7% and 3.20 and those respective categories. But those goalies are 6-1-2 (Osgood) and 3-1 (Conkblock) so their unimpressive individual starts hasn't hampered the team.

Notable Notes: The five other defensemen that the Red Wings have used not named Lidstrom or Rafalski have combined for 1 goal, 8 assists and a -6 +/- rating in 52 man-games...Detroit is 2nd in the league for team face-off percentage, winning draws at a 54.2% rate so far this season...

When the NHL schedule first comes out there are always a couple dates to circle and clearly tonight's SC Final rematch is one of those. Both teams have been winning again so far this year, both have battled through some tough injuries--Johan Franzen is expected to return tonight-- and both teams are looking to get back to where they got last season. Detroit is averaging more than 36 shots on net a night and their powerplay is clicking at a ridiculous 30.9%. This does not seem to bode to well for the Penguins who are allowing 31 shots a night and have shown lapses in discipline that have led to several minor penalties.

However there are cracks in Detroit's armor: the Wings are giving up 28.9 shots on their own goal so far this season--still good enough for 10th in the league--but well over the 23.5 shots they gave up last season (which was #1 for the NHL). As we mentioned, other than Lidstrom and Rafalski the rest of their defense has not been good and the goaltending play hasn't been impressive either. This incarnation of the Red Wings has been a little more wide-open, covering for these defensive deficiencies by scoring more at the other end, not the same old method of "out skate 'em, out shoot 'em, out control 'em" hockey they've played in years past.

Throw in the "you know who" factor of Detroit's #1 player so far and this game has everything. Don't expect the Penguins to take Hossa's decision too personally, we can guarantee you that you won't see Brooks Orpik go head hunting on Hoss. In fact remember it was Orpik who said booing Hossa would be dumb. These players know how hard a guy like Hossa has worked and toiled in a hockey hell like Atlanta for so long and he earned the right to choose where he wanted to play, for the first time in his career. We still believe the fans have every right to be pissed he chose Detroit over Pittsburgh, but that was the man's choice.


TST Opposing Player to Watch: Marian Hossa
--Still, wouldn't it be nice if Hossa got his head down and see Orpik floor him?

TST Homeboy of the Game: Sidney Crosby
--Crosby has the spotlight on him too, coming back to the city he got so close to the holy grail at, plus the whole attention from the Hossa fallout. The thing we've learned about Sid is he comes through and produces in the highest pressure games when the whole hockey world is looking at him. Let's see what happens tonight.

And, oh yeah, because we'll use any excuse to show this, here's what happened the last time the Penguins played in Detroit...

And don't forget about this either..

Enjoy the game everyone.

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