So here we are again at the end of another May awaiting a Pittsburgh Penguins-Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup final. Much has changed since Marian Hossa's(notes) last-ditch opportunity fluttered across the Detroit goal line as time expired in Game Six. For starter's, Hossa's now wearing opposite colors, but you all knew that already.
There've been other changes since the Stanley Cup was handed out last June 4th; changes that will make this year's version look different than what we watched a year ago.
Here are five differences between the 2008 match-up and what gets underway tomorrow night.
Evgeni Malkin(notes): The current Hart Trophy nominee and Art Ross Trophy winner did a disappearing act after he took a devastating hit from Philadelphia's Mike Richards(notes) in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals (Malkin would score moments after the hit). In the 10 games afterwards, Malkin managed just two goals and five points; not exactly what then-head coach Michel Therrien was hoping out of one-third of his three-headed monster with Sidney Crosby(notes) and Hossa.
Dan Bylsma: Penguins fans endured the reign of Michel Therrien, which consisted of calling players "soff" and changing lines as often as the NHL changes its playoff schedule. Imagine if Therrien had been in charge during the series with Washington. How overhauled would the Pittsburgh lines have been in Game 3 after losing the open two? Malkin and Crosby would have been together, double-shifting all game long and Therrien would have somehow find a way to get Mario Lemieux and Rob Brown on a line together again.
'Disco' Dan also instilled an aggressive forecheck that suits the Penguins speed. His idea of dressing seven defensemen and one less forward has also improved the play of Craig Adams(notes) and the once left-for-dead Miroslav Satan(notes), who are now centered by either Crosby or Malkin.
Dave Bing: The former Detroit Piston is the new mayor of Detroit, taking over for Kwame Kilpatrick who resigned back in September and later went to jail for he lying during a civil trial to cover up an affair with his chief of staff. (You stay classy!) No word on what the mayoral bet will consist of this year, but Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl likely won't be receiving that suitcase filled with unmarked $100 bills again.
Injuries: Detroit heads into Game 1 battered and beat up. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) (who announced he will play in Game 1) and Pavel Datsyuk(notes) are limping into Game 1. Kris Draper(notes), one of four Red Wings who've been on all four Cup winning teams since 1997, missed Games Four and Five of the Western Conference Finals. The Penguins enter the Finals relatively healthy, which will be a huge advantage if Detroit's injury woes should linger.
Standing pat at the deadline: While Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero made moves at the trade deadline to replace what he lost over the summer, Ken Holland, the architect of the current Detroit juggernaut, had his hands tied by the salary cap. Holland made an under-the-radar move last season by adding defenseman Brad Stuart(notes) at the deadline and it paid off. This year, he and Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock liked their team so much, they didn't feel the need to tinker with their roster, even with cap restraints.
It might be the same two teams out on the ice, but it'll be a drastically different-looking series compared to a year ago.