DETROIT -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma did not hesitate yesterday when asked about the perils associated with giving an opponent -- even one as accomplished and impressive as Detroit -- too much respect.
"When you stand around in awe of them," he said, "you play into their hands."
There didn't seem to be too much danger of the Penguins doing that in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena last night.
But that does not mean Bylsma's players do not appreciate the qualities that got the Red Wings into position to contend for their second consecutive Cup.
"They have skilled forwards," defenseman Kris Letang said.
"They have a lot of power up front. They have a big presence in front of the net. They have a great team. They're really good at keeping control of the puck, managing the puck."
Indeed, Detroit's ability to maintain possession of the puck -- a key to the Penguins' game, too -- might be its most impressive trait. Not that there's anything new about that.
• Matchup: Penguins vs. Detroit Red Wings, 8:08 p.m. tonight, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.
• TV, radio: WPXI, WXDX-FM (105.9).
• Series: Detroit leads, 1-0.
• Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Chris Osgood for Red Wings.
• Penguins: Are 2-1 in Game 2s. ... Were 6-3 when opponents scored first after last night. ... C Jordan Staal had 4 points vs. Detroit in regular season, most from either team in two games.
• Red Wings: Are 2-1 with an OT win in Game 2s. ... Are 9-1 when scoring first after last night. ... RW Johan Franzen was plus-22 over past 32 playoff games before last night.
• Hidden stat: Detroit had not been involved in a two-goal game going into last night.
"They've been the same team for a long time, it seems," forward Craig Adams said. "Just the names and the faces change. They're so consistent, so professional.
"They don't ever seem to get rattled. Everybody over there buys into that. They can all handle the puck and make plays, and that's what makes them so tough to play against."
The Penguins entered the Cup final having lost just two man-games because of injuries in these playoffs.
Those were the two defenseman Sergei Gonchar sat out after his right knee was hurt by a knee-on-knee hit from Washington left winger Alex Ovechkin in Game 4 of the second round.
Detroit, conversely, lost 46 during the first three rounds.
Good luck almost certainly has played a part in that, but left winger Matt Cooke believes another factor might be overlooked.
"Obviously, playoffs are a grueling time, and, usually, teams that can be the healthiest have the best opportunity [to advance]," he said.
"A lot of our [good health] has to do with the system we play, and the lack of stress we put on our key players.
"We don't have guys who are playing 35 minutes a game, whereas other teams do have a defense pairing that's playing 28 or 30 minutes a game. We're strong enough that we don't have to do that. We roll four lines, and you stay fresher."
Neither team will have much time to dwell on Game 1, because Game 2 will be at 8:08 tonight, the first time teams have played on consecutive days in a Cup final since 1955.
The Penguins, though, don't seem terribly troubled by the idea.
"It's odd to see it in the playoffs, especially in the final, but it's the same for both teams," defenseman Mark Eaton said. "It's really nothing to complain about. As long as it's even for both teams, what are you going to say?"
The back-to-back games lead to another rare wrinkle. With Game 3 set Tuesday night at Mellon Arena, the teams will play three times in four days.
"That's a lot of hockey in a short period of time," said Bylsma, who allowed that the compressed schedule of games early in the series might influence personnel decisions, like whether to dress seven defensemen, and that additional adjustments could be required if games stretch into overtime.
Detroit winger Tomas Holmstrom did not have a goal in 12 games going into the opener last night, but he can be an obstacle without equal in front of the net.
Holmstrom's ability to screen goalies and create rebounds is a factor in Detroit's 25.7 percent success rate on the power play.
Not surprisingly, preventing Holmstrom and teammate Johan Franzen from causing too many problems for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will be a priority for the Penguins in this series.
"You try to prevent them from getting there," Eaton said. "That's probably an easier way to deal with it, because once they're there, they're pretty much impossible to move, with the rule changes."
Former NHL goalie Hank Bassen, a member of the Penguins' original team in 1967-68, died Friday of a heart attack. Bassen, 76, also played parts of four seasons with the Pittsburgh Hornets when they were Detroit's American Hockey League affiliate.
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .