Now that a Pittsburgh-Detroit rematch in the Stanley Cup Finals seems is certain, the early buzz appears to have the Penguins as underdogs against the Red Wings. In the interest of healthy debate, below are just a few reasons why Detroit could soon become the most depressing town in America. I mean, even more so.
1. Repeating is much more difficult than winning the first title. The greatest athletes and teams can only stay at the top for so long. Partly it's the pressure; partly it's that you can only go so long with a bullseye on your back. Just ask Roger Federer or the 2007 New England Patriots.
2. The secret continues to be well-kept, but it isn't the mid-1990s anymore. Grunge is dead, no one watches "Saturday Night Live", and the Penguins are no longer a flashy team that plays no defense. They get no credit for this, but it's true.
3. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, and all the other walking wounded. The frequency and vagueness of the injury reports surrounding these Red Wings can only be described as Kevin-Garnett-like lately. While Detroit fans have been fairly blase about this, in spite of the fact that no one misses playoff games unless they're legitimately hurt, ever, the absence or ineffectiveness of Lidstrom would create a serious matchup problem for the Wings. The key to defending the Penguins is having enough strong defensive pairs to put out against the Crosby and Malkin lines; the lack of this was what doomed the Hurricanes.
4. Wings fans might have been too busy setting fire to buildings in their neighborhood or voting for Kwame Kilpatrick (or, in the case of bandwagon Wings fans, too busy cheering for the Yankees, Patriots, Cavaliers, Florida Gators football team, and UNC basketball team) to notice, but your team can be beaten. We saw it in 2004 with the Flames, we saw it in 2006 with the Oilers, we saw it in 2007 with the Ducks, and we almost saw it in 2009, when the Wings needed a fluky, should-have-been-waved-off goal in the dying seconds to win game 7 at home against a #8 seed playing a rookie goaltender. The key to beating the Red Wings is fairly simple: play Anaheim hockey. The mistake the Pens made in last year's Finals, and which the Blackhawks are making this year, lies in trying to match the Wings at the soft, Euro, finesse game. No one does soft and Euro like the Red Wings, and when you try to match their skill you play into their hands. The way to beat them is to play an uglier, nastier game while taking care of your own end. Detroit isn't as soft as they used to be, but they've never been comfortable playing this kind of game. If the Pens can be the meaner, more physical team (and they have the bodies to do so), history suggests they can win this series.
So there you go. Just a few reasons why Detroit fans could soon have a reason to wear bags on their heads. I mean, another reason.
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