Game 7 Detroit vs Pittsburgh (Friday 8:00 p.m. est)
The anticipation for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals is sky high as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings will meet one last time in Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena, Friday night.
There couldn’t be any better storylines as Sidney Crosby (the face of the league) looks for redemption and to claim his first Stanley Cup at the young age of 21.
In Crosby’s way are the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Detroit Red Wings who are looking to claim their 5th championship in 12 years.
The home team in the Finals are 6-0 and home team’s are 12-2 in the history of Game 7’s in the Cup Finals.
Detroit has showed its dominance at home in the playoffs posting a 11-1 record at home, including 3-0 at home in the Finals.
For the first time since the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, the home team has started the series 6-0. New Jersey pushed the home team record to 7-0 that year, defeating the Anaheim Ducks 3-0 in Game 7, to earn their second Stanley Cup of the decade.
The odds favor the Red Wings who are the more experienced team and the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
But, the series is even and it is now a one game series. Like Sidney Crosby said following Game 6, “now it is anyone’s game.”
Game 7 Preview
Top 5 (Goaltenders Not Included )
1. C Sidney Crosby – Insider Grade 94
– 31 points in the playoffs but has been held to three points in the Cup Finals and is pointless in three games in Detroit.
Crosby will get the Henrik Zetterberg matchup and he must find a way to get on the scoresheet in game 7 and outperform Zetterberg.
2. C Evgeni Malkin – Insider Grade 93
The playoff points leader (35) was the most dominant forward in the series through the first four games. The past two games he has been held pointless and has taking four minor penalties, most of them uncharacteristic penalties.
Like Crosby he needs to get on the scoresheet in game 7 and have a big game at both ends of the ice.
3. D Sergei Gonchar – Insider Grade 88
Sergei Gonchar has not been himself at times in the series. Gonchar did have a strong game in game 6, playing physical at times and will be one of the most important players on the ice Friday night.
4. RW Bill Guerin – Insider Grade 81
The Penguins third leading scorer in the playoffs (15 pts) has provided a much needed veteran presence in the locker room. On the ice it has been a different story as Guerin has hit a bit of a wall and is goalless in the series.
At Age 38, this could be Guerin’s last shot at winning a championship. In Game 6, Guerin had 5 shots on goal and had a bit more jump in his step than earlier in the series. Adrenaline rush should give Guerin a boost in game 7.
5. Jordan Staal – Insider Grade 80
Jordan Staal fueled the Penguins Game 6 win, scoring 51 seconds into the second period as the Penguins jumped out to a 1-0 lead. As good as Staal was in game 6, Pittsburgh can’t count on him in game 7.
Staal comes and goes during the course of a playoff series. If Pittsburgh gets a game 6 performance from Staal, Friday night, their chances of upsetting the Red Wings becomes much easier.
Pittsburgh – Offense
Pittsburgh relied on its role players in Game 6. Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke, Max Talbot and Jordan Staal each had superb games establishing a presence on the forecheck and Staal, Kennedy scored the Penguins lone goals.
It was a sign of a championship team as the spotlight wasn’t on Crosby and Malkin. In Game 7 the spotlight will be on Crosby and Malkin.
It will be all about them as Crosby has to get the better of Henrik Zetterberg and beat him on the scoresheet. If Crosby does, Pittsburgh will be successful in game 7.
Three keys for Pittsburgh will be establishing a net presence, playing all three zones and establishing a strong forecheck.
Player to Watch – Ruslan Fedotenko
Pittsburgh – Defense
Pittsburgh is at it’s best when their defensemen are aggressive in the neutral zone and at the blueline in the defensive zone.
At times in Detroit they have been too passive. Pittsburgh can’t be overly aggressive but they have to step up on the Red Wings skilled forwards and not give them space.
The ability to clear the front of the net will also be something to watch. Pittsburgh much find a way to neutralize Johan Franzen, Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom or it could be a long night.
Pittsburgh has 10+ goals from their backend in the playoffs. A goal from their backend Friday night could go a long way in winning their first Stanley Cup since 1992.
Pittsburgh – Goaltending
The Major question mark for Pittsburgh will be Marc Andre Fleury. Fleury has given up 11 goals in three games in Detroit this series and is not himself when playing on the road.
If Detroit gets an early goal, it could be the end to the Penguins hopes as Fleury has shown to get rattled.
Coming off of a 25 save performance in game 6, Fleury’s confidence is sky high. Pittsburgh will need a game 5 performance from the 2008 Finals not a game 5 performance from the 2009 Cup Finals.
1. D Nicklas Lidstrom – Insider Grade 93
After undergoing a procedure during the Chicago series, Lidstrom has lost 5-7 lbs. It has affected his play during the series but at age 39, Lidstrom is still the best defenseman in the game.
He has performed much better at home than he has on the road. Matching up against Sidney Crosby, it is a battle between two players who are the best at their positions. Lidstrom like Zetterberg is 3-for-3 at home.
2. C Henrik Zetterberg – Insider Grade 92
Zetterberg is showing why he is one of the most complete players in the National Hockey League. Zetterberg has shutdown the games top player limiting Crosby to three points in the series.
Zetterberg has also doubled Crosby in points for the series and is 3-for-3 in shadowing Crosby at home. If Zetterberg goes 4-for-4, Detroit will be repeating as Champions.
3. C/LW Pavel Datsyuk – Insider Grade 92
Playing at 85%, Pavel Datsyuk has had a significant impact in the two games he has suited up for the series. Indications are Datsyuk’s injured foot is improving every day and playing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg causes Pittsburgh matchup problems.
4. RW Johan Franzen – Insider Grade 87
Franzen (23pts) has caused Pittsbrugh major matchup problems down low in the offensive as Franzen has been a force in front of the net.
Franzen scores big goals in big games and will be a player to watch in game 7.
5. RW Marian Hossa – Insider Grade 87
Marian Hossa bolted Pittsburgh for a chance to win a championship. While he may get his wish, he hasn’t had much of a impact in this series. In fact he has been invisible for the most part.
Will Hossa break out in game 7?
Detroit – Offense
With Pavel Datsyuk not 100%, the Detroit Red Wings have used Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk together on their top line.
With Sidney Crosby not having a Marian Hossa on his wing this season, the Red Wings believe they have a major advantage in the head to head matchup, using Datsyuk and Zetterberg together.
Another area where the Red Wings have been able to exploit the Penguins at home is with their depth. They have got key goals from secondary players in all three games at home.
With Crosby and Zetterberg/Datsyuk cancelling each other out at times, Detroit feels they will beat Pittsburgh with their depth in game 7.
Forward Marian Hossa will be a key factor in game 7. He has been invisible in the series and has been a perimeter player. If the Red Wings can get anything from him, it will go a long way to repeating as champions.
Player to Watch – Johan Franzen
Detroit – Defense
Head coach Mike Babcock has done a phenomenal job at home matching up Nicklas Lidstrom – Brian Rafalski against Sidney Crosby.
At every opportunity he has got the matchup he has wanted against Crosby and also against Malkin using Nicklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart.
The pairing of Jonathan Ericsson – Brett Lebda are solid but they are overly aggressive at times and Jonathan Ericsson is slow footed.
Ericsson – Lebda will be matched up against Jordan Staal. The Penguins third line has been able to cause turnovers against this pairing by establishing a strong forecheck. They will need to do the same in game 7.
It’s going to be difficult but Bylsma needs to find ways to get Malkin or Crosby up against the Wings third pairing.
Detroit – Goaltending
Chris Osgood (15-7, 2.00 GAA, .927 sv%) is looking to claim his 4th Stanley Cup and push his Stanley Cup record to 12-5.
Pittsburgh has not been unable to solve Osgood on the road as Pittsburgh has only scored two goals in Detroit.
A key to beating Osgood is establishing a net presence and driviing to the net like the Penguins did in games 3 and 4.
With the experience that Osgood has and the dominant play on home ice, Detroit clearly has the goaltending advantage in game 7.
Pittsburgh comes into this game with the right mindset. They are putting the first three games in Detroit behind them and have the mindset that this “is now anyone’s game.”
That’s a common phrase we have heard around the locker room the past two days. The series is now even and like Sidney Crosby has said “anything can happen.”
Special teams will play a big factor. Pittsburgh is 4-for-13 on the power play and 17-for-21 on the penalty kill
They must take full advantage of their opportunities on the power play. Another key will be staying away from taking uncharacteristic penalties.
Bill Guerin and Evgeni Malkin each took bad penalties in game 6 that could have put the Red Wings right back into the game.
What to watch for will be whether the officials put the whistles away in Game 7. It would not surprise me at all if the officiating gets back to how it was in games 1 and 2.
Pittsburgh has to take advantage of the fact that the pressure is on Detroit. A lot of hockey pundits don’t expect the Penguins to win and if Pittsburgh carries the play during the course of the game, it could lead to the Red Wings playing a bit tight.
Another thing to watch will be whether Pittsburgh learns their lesson from game 5. Most likely they will.
As for the Red Wings, they will be playing at their best. They are dominant at home (11-1) and clearly have the upper hand on Pittsburgh, despite the fact that Pittsburgh has won three out of the last four games.
It is now a one game series and anything can happen. The task at hand for Pittsburgh is to find a way to solve the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena and show the Red Wings how it feels to see the opposition celebrating a championship on your home ice.