Busy day here on our happy blogging home. Welcome to our massively overwritten Stanley Cup Finals preview. Friday and Saturday, Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy and Greg Wyshynski are previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings - on the ice and off the ice. First up is an analysis of the teams' defensemen.
There's going to be a time down the road when we speak about Nicklas Lidstrom's run in the NHL like we talk about Steven Spielberg's run from "Jaws" through "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial." (Lidstrom's 2003-04 season was his "1941.") Perhaps I've got movies on the mind after reading this in Bob Duff's valentine to Lidstrom: "He is the Elizabeth Taylor of the Stanley Cup, frequently changing significant others while continuing to collect the baubles of success." Brian Rafalski was his new dance partner this season; different year, same Norris Trophy for Lidstrom. He wants to be the first European captain to win the Cup. That kind of motivation is a dangerous thing for the Penguins.
What makes Detroit even scarier on defense is that Lidstrom isn't even the best Nik in the postseason for the Wings: That would be Niklas Kronwall, who leads all defenders with 12 points, with six of them coming on the power play. Brad Stuart and Brett Lebda have been steady. And if Chris Chelios can drink enough virgin blood to keep his vampiric life-force from further diminishing, perhaps he can contribute, too.
Brian Campbell was the biggest impact defenseman acquired at the trade deadline, but how far behind him was Hal Gill with the Penguins? He was the veteran, physical defender this lineup was missing, and he's been a presence throughout the playoff run. Overall, the Penguins' best defense is a good offensive: The ability of players like Sergei Gonchar (11 points), Ryan Whitney (6 points) and the underrated Rob Scuderi to move the puck up ice, and out of trouble. The Penguins might have the quickness to keep up with some of the Detroit forwards; but can Gill and Brooks Orpik clear the crease in front of Fleury? Especially when faced with Holmstrom's illegal hinder?
ADVANTAGE: Detroit. It helps when some of your defensemen have more rings than a redwood stump.