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Greg Wyshynski

Pittsburgh vs. Detroit: Who has the better forwards?

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy and Greg Wyshynski are previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings -- on the ice and off the ice. You can find all of our Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage here.

There are actually three teams you need to discuss when analyzing the forwards in this series: The Penguins, the Red Wings without Johan Franzen and the Red Wings with Johan Franzen.

Franzen's going to miss Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals and since he said he's out of shape, one wonders if he's going to miss Game 2 as well. Franzen had five power-play goals before concussion-like symptoms put him on the shelf; since he left the lineup, Detroit has gone 3-for-22 with the man advantage, including 1-for-7 and 0-for-6 efforts against Dallas. When (if?) he does return, the temperature of his hockey stick will be interesting: Torrid to the tune of 12 goals in 11 games, or chilly after the layoff?

All due respect to the playoff Sidney Crosby has had, but the best two-way forwards left in the postseason are Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. They're playing better hockey the deeper the Wings go in the postseason. Without Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom's been the team's main crease-crasher; as long as there aren't too many more preposterous calls involving his Jupiter-sized rump, he'll continue to be a factor. Jiri Hudler has more goals in the playoffs (4) than he's had in the rest of 2008 (3). Daniel Cleary may be the only Detroit scorer who hasn't answered the bell.

What makes the Penguins and Red Wings so interesting is that they're both balanced with stars offensive players and spectacular grunts. One of the great subplots of this series is whether the Red Wings' grizzled role players -- Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, Dallas Drake -- will be more of a factor than the Penguins' game-changing workers like Jarkko Ruutu, Adam Hall, Max Talbot and Georges Laraque. The Penguins have a slight advantage here.

The winner of this series could be determined by two players: Marian Hossa, who continues to defy expectations on both ends of the ice, and Evgeni Malkin, who has cooled off enough that whispers about injuries have grown louder. Crosby has been a startlingly consistent player late in the postseason; while Ryan Malone could be the most underrated forward on either team.

ADVANTAGE: Even. Yes, it's even with or without Franzen, because who knows what kind of player he's going to be upon his return. Both lineups are incredibly balanced. Detroit's stars are a little better defensively, Pittsburgh's grunts are a little better offensively. It's anyone's series from this aspect.

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