Thursday, May 28, 2009

Deja Vu In Motown

Henrik Zetterberg, who won Conn Smythe Trophy during Red Wings' march to Stanley Cup championship last year, must help his team overcome adversity and injuries as they meet Pittsburgh for second straight year in Cup Finals. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Alexander Ovechkin doesn't play in the Western Conference yet, so NHL commissioner Gary Bettman must feel as if he has the next best thing in the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals; with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins advancing to face the reigning champion Detroit Red Wings in a reprisal of last year's Cup final, where the Wings got the better of Pittsburgh in six games; the final seconds of the last game ranking among the most dramatic since the NHL's return from the 2004 lockout.

Game 1 is at the Joe Louis Arena with an 8 p.m. Eastern time face-off, with the second game taking place one night later. The reason for games on consecutive nights is due to NBC, which owns the TV broadcast rights to the Stanley Cup Finals, not wanting to pre-empt the "Tonight Show" Monday night, when Conan O'Brien takes over the hosting duties of the popular late-night program from outgoing host Jay Leno.

Crosby and Malkin have combined to score 26 goals during the postseason, (Crosby has 14; Malkin 12) matching the total Detroit put up with its two top scorers last year. (Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, who each tallied 13) For Detroit, Chris Osgood has been lights-out behind the net, posting a minuscule 2.06 goals against average for the Red Wings, the first defending champion to advance to the Cup Finals since New Jersey in 2001, when the Devils took the Colorado Avalanche to seven games one year after hoisting the Cup against Dallas. The Penguins are still looking for their first Cup win since 1992, when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr lifted the Pens to a championship.

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