Penguins Notebook: Stanley Cup final's early start good thing

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Detroit was understandably happy to close out the Western Conference final against Chicago Wednesday night.

The Penguins might have been almost as pleased to see the Red Wings do it.

Not because there is any great appeal to facing a team as accomplished as Detroit in the Stanley Cup final, which will begin at 8:08 p.m. tomorrow at Joe Louis Arena, but because a Blackhawks victory in that game would have delayed Game 1 of the Cup final until next Friday.

As it is, the Penguins will have three days between their 4-1 victory against Carolina in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final Tuesday and the start of the Cup final, which they believe is the ideal amount of time to replenish their energy reserves without disrupting the rhythm they have developed.

"Three days is great," right winger Tyler Kennedy said yesterday. "You get a little rest, but you're still into the playoff [routine]."

Another, perhaps less obvious, benefit to starting the final tomorrow is that the Penguins are exceptionally healthy for a team that has played three rounds -- Sergei Gonchar's damaged right knee is their only known significant medical issue -- while the Wings' medical room has been crowded lately.

All-world defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom missed the final two games of the West final because of an unspecified injury, and center Pavel Datsyuk, a finalist for the league's regular-season MVP award, has missed the past three because of a foot problem.

Whether either, or both, will be available for Game 1 is not known. Neither is the impact their absence would have, given that missing them did not prevent the Red Wings from ending Chicago's season Wednesday night.

"If Lidstrom and Datsyuk aren't in the lineup, that's two guys we don't have to worry about," Penguins left winger Matt Cooke said.

"But they've replaced them with players you have to be aware of. It doesn't make the task any easier, because [the Wings] are so strong."

Hossa's snub not motivation

The Penguins have a lot of reasons for wanting to win this series, including the most important and obvious one -- getting their names on the Stanley Cup.

Showing up former teammate Marian Hossa does not appear to be anywhere on the list.

Hossa enraged a segment of the Penguins' fan base in July when he signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings as a free agent, citing a desire to maximize his chances of winning a championship.

Penguins players were disappointed that he left, but none seemed to take it personally. And, contrary to suggestions made in some circles, they don't seem likely to revisit Hossa's departure in coming days, let alone draw motivation from it.

"It was made to be a big deal, but there was never an issue in [the locker room]," center Sidney Crosby said.

"He made his choice, and that was it."

By joining Detroit, Hossa set himself up to become just the second player to change teams for a Stanley Cup rematch. The first was John MacMillan, who played for Toronto in the 1963 Cup final and Detroit the next year.

MacMillan was a role player, while Hossa is an elite talent. And though the Penguins dare not ignore him at any point in this series, they might want to pay particular attention to Hossa in Game 4.

All six of his goals in these playoffs have come in the fourth game of a series, with two in each of the three to date.

Watch those boards

Exceptionally lively boards at Joe Louis Arena are a significant part of Detroit's home-ice advantage there.

Shots that go wide often end up back in front of the net a split-second later, which sometimes leads to the Red Wings capitalizing on a scoring chance before the opposing goalie even realizes there is one.

"If a shot misses the net, it's going to come back in front pretty quick," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "If it's dumped into the corner, it comes back in front.

"That's stuff I learned last year, maybe in a tough way, but now I know a little more about what to expect."



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