Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dissecting the most interesting/obnoxious Cup Finals storylines

Update: Check out this very interesting (and odd) SCF preview from Alexander Dubcek.

Let's take a look at the big storylines of this Finals re-match.

Somehow this was the only Pensblog Hossa Photoshop I could find. Arrrrrgh.

Anyone who discounts this as "just a media creation" is totally nuts. When a free agent signing causes people to create Two-Face Photoshops, there is obviously plenty of relevance to the situation.

However, I'm one of those Penguins fans who was happy to see him leave (although strictly from a salary cap stand point). Simply put, Hoser is a great player who is not worth $7 million. We can gnash our teeth debating that point, but there are only a few players who can justify a cap-busting contract. Can you say that Crosby-Malkin-Hossa would be worth having awful depth for the next five years?

Surely, the guy's face kind of pisses me off. Will I scream to the heavens if Brooks Orpik knocks the shit out of him in the slot? Absolutely.

But Hossa didn't come to Pittsburgh by choice, he was traded there. People act like Hossa was a long time teammate but he came to the team toward the end of the season, barely played any regular season games and then had a fantastic run in the post-season. It was great to see Sidney Crosby have a great winger for once, but let's face it: losing Ryan Malone was more of an "emotional" blow than Hossa ever was.

The Penguins: favorites???

Going in to the series, it seemed obvious to me that the Red Wings should be the favorite.

1. They have home ice

2. Let's face it, they fucking creamed the Penguins last year.

3. Don't forget, Johan Franzen wasn't healthy for much of the SCF. So the Red Wings basically are going into this series with the team that beat Pittsburgh plus Marian Hossa AND Johan Franzen.

Yet, a surprising amount of people are predicting the Penguins. I will root relentlessly for Pittsburgh and be depressed if they lose, but if I had to put my (future, imaginary, candy-based) house on the line my pick would be the Red Wings. (Sigh)

Chris Osgood

Penguins fans really don't like Osgood. I'm on record for calling him a queef.

That being said, watching NHL on the Fly's press conference coverage Friday night made me realize that Osgood probably has to answer the same goddamn tired questions over and over and over again. Seriously, if you were him, wouldn't you start douching every one just out of the monotony of the "are you the weak link?" line of questioning?

Jesus I better stop or I'll start empathizing with the Keebler Elf/non-Blue Smurf looking motherfucker.

(Oh, and PLEASE stop calling him a Hall of Famer. If you barely hold onto a starting goaltending job against Ty fucking Conklin, you're not worthy of being in the HoF. Sorry, brah.)

The Health Factor

One of the bullet points MSM members have been using is the relative "health advantage" the Penguins have going into this series. I find this to be a heavily overrated idea.

Nicklas Lidstrom isn't 100 percent but Sergei Gonchar is pretty banged up too. The Hurricanes weren't able to take advantage of Gonchar's bum knee, but it was obvious that the Russian veteran couldn't skate quite as swiftly in a few odd man rush/broken play situations.

Obviously, the Red Wings have some depth guys who are banged up, but teams that make it this deep into the playoffs are almost inevitably beat up. Considering the fact that the Penguin vigorously block shots, we can assume they have some guys playing hurt too.

Don't get me wrong, the Penguins might be a bit healthier but it's a tremendously exaggerated advantage.

Star Power

After watching almost every second of the Penguins' playoff run, I can say that the Penguins have some nice support players who show the ability to maintain a high level of play throughout a game. That being said, when it comes to scoring goals, the team is highly dependent on their two super-duper-stars.

In the salary cap era, that is far from shocking. But the Red Wings can go into this series thinking "if we can hold Malkin-Crosby to a draw, we have a bunch of depth players who can steal a game."

Hopefully, Sid and Geno have shown skeptical hockey fans that they are worthy of the immense hype they've received. Annoying message board people will never go away unless they win a Cup, but the Penguins showed me plenty. Even if they have to settle for the Prince of Wales trophy for a second straight year.

Sadly, Red Wings have defense and team play like no team the Penguins have seen in the playoffs.



Joe said...

I'm glad you agree that ht ehealth advantage is pretty much a wash. As I just posted over at Mirtle's:

I honestly think that if it had come to a G7 in CHI, Lidstrom and Datsyuk would’ve played. No matter how you look at it, CHI was just plain overmatched through that entire series. It’s not like either guy mysteriously disappeared from a game never to be seen or heard from again. They just all of a sudden started getting sat for games. I’m guessing this means they’re hurt, and with a commanding series lead against a team that wasn’t putting up much of a fight, the Wings decided better safe than sorry and sat them, since the Cup Finals were a foregone conclusion at that point. I’m sure they’re back for this series.
I really think that Chicago wasn't worth the time of day, much less worth risking two of our best players against, especially after their display in G4(?) when they were getting misconducts left and right. Chicago didn't have a snowball's chance in hell in that series, and they played like it until Game 5. Given the big lead the Wings took in that series, and the relative ease with which they were winning games, I wouldn't blame Babcock for sitting a couple stars, with an eye toward the future. Those last two games against the Blackhawks were more like the last games of the regular season, where you're just trying to make it through in one piece, because the bigger goal is right around the corner.

Crosby and Malkin will get their moments. It's impossible to shut them down forever. But they won't be allowed to run loose like every awful Eastern team they've faced has done. They'll win a couple games. But Miro Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko will not be making things happen on their own. Not even Matt Cooke, and I love Matt Cooke. With Crosby and/or Malkin being shut down by 5 defensemen on the ice at once, those kind of bit players are not leading the Pens to a Cup.

I'm extremely interested in how MAF performs this series. I keep waiting for him to turn back into a pumpkin. Everyone forgets that before last playoffs, it was questionable if he should even continue to be the starter in Pittsburgh, because he was so inconsistent. He had a good playoff, and then this past regular season, he was right back to normal. He is now in the middle of a decent playoff, but I can't seriously be impressed by someone's ability to be good enough against Philadelphia, Washington, and Carolina. I don't trust MAF any further than I can throw him, and when you consider how much all that money in his pocket weighs....

jamestobrien said...

Maybe I've been unfair to MAF, but I honestly don't think he's been that great. OK, he was good against Carolina for sure, but things got ugly against Washington.

The Penguins need MAF to stand head and shoulders above Osgood and I honestly don't know if that can happen.

Joe said...

I feel exactly the same. He's been ok, and that's against a lot of sub-par teams and sub-par competition. The Flyers aren't nothing. The Hurricanes were scared. The Capitals have Ovie, but not much else in terms of legitimate scoring threats. MAF had it easy so far, and that's not going to really continue. If the Pens are to win, he's going to have to step up big, and I don't see it happening.

MAF is exhibit A for why I don't think Ray Shero is that good of a GM. That was a terrible contract to sign a goalie to, solely on the basis of two months of good play. If you stuck Luongo behind Crosby and Malkin, I bet they'd win a couple Cups, because Lou can make up for a lot of other shortcomings. MAF? Not so much.

jamestobrien said...

I think that Shero signed MAF to that contract because the Penguins don't have clear answers goaltending wise in their system. For better or worse, Pittsburgh is married to the man who resembles Gary Busey.

The length of MAF's contract is the most troubling, I'd say. I can live with $5 million a year (it's not great, but I can live with it) but if he continues to struggle with injury problems than the Pens will be behind the regular season 8-ball every year.

Not sure who wrote it in the comments (it might have been you, it might have been a different blog) but someone said that Fleury was "just a starting NHL goaltender." Right now, that's correct: he's up and down.

He is undoubtedly a fantastic athlete for a goaltender, though.

Hopefully tonight won't be a disaster.