1. Stanley Cup Final Rematch
I think that I can speak for most hockey fans when I say that the 2007-2008 final was the most entertaining final that I can remember (in my 14 years or so of being a hockey fan).
We saw some of the best hockey in years. The 2007-08 Stanley Cup Final was exactly what the new NHL was made to be—exciting, fast, and skillfully played hockey.
2. Improved Teams
No matter what anyone says, both of these teams are better. Both teams are (fairly) young, and a year of experience has been added to their resumes.
Pittsburgh has added Kunitz, Guerin, coach Dan Bylsma, while the Red Wings have added Marian Hossa, and an older, wiser Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson, etc. This year could be even better than the last one.
3. Marian Hossa
Last year, Hossa was on the Penguins. Pittsburgh lost. This year, he is on the Red Wings—making upwards of seven million throughout the season. Does that mean Detroit will lose? Not necessarily.
But still, it will be fun to see Mellon Arena boo him every time he touches the puck. And it will be even funnier to see him deke through three guys and score in Pittsburgh.
For those of you who don’t know, the last time the two final teams of the previous year met in the Finals the following year was in 1984, when the Islanders faced off against the promising young Oilers squad. What also happened was extraordinary—one dynasty ended, while another one started.
Last year, Detroit, arguably the modern-day dynasty, won. This year, perhaps Pittsburgh can win and start a winning streak that could envy that of Wayne Gretzky and Co.
5. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
Last season, Malkin did not play well at all until game six of the Stanley Cup Final. By that point, it was too late.
Crosby played well, but compared to this postseason, Crosby might as well not have played last year.
Both Sid and Geno are playing like they are from another planet. They both have 28 points in their first three rounds alone, just 17 games. They are showing what true leadership is in the playoffs. Will it continue?
6. The Swedish Surprise
I don’t know if this is really a surprise, because we all know how good the Swedes are on the Detroit roster, with Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Franzen, Ericsson, Holmstrom, to name a few. They are the bedrock of the Detroit organization, and they continue to draft the Europeans whom the other teams are nervous to take.
The way Detroit develops these young players is a work of art, as one can see with Jonathan Ericsson and Darren Helm (who is not Swedish, but you get the point). What will they show us this year in the Finals? Tune in.
7. The Best Hockey of the Year
Nine times out of ten, the Stanley Cup Final is the best round of the playoff. The round filled with exciting, fast, action, with unbelievable saves, bone crunching hits, and spectacular goals, suitable for millions of views on Youtube.
Think about it—once again, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, arguably the two best players in the world, against possibly the best defense in the NHL (the puck possession defense, is what I’m talking about). Hey, it’s worked so far, winning seven straight playoff series.
8. Depth of Detroit
Pittsburgh has two of the best players in the world. There is no argument there. But there is also no argument when you say that Detroit has more depth than Pittsburgh could ever hope. Detroit is one of the only teams that can play their fourth line regularly without fear of giving up a goal.
Pittsburgh has depth, but nothing close to Detroit. In order to win, the Pens have to be sure that their first and second lines can score enough to make up for their lack of scoring on the third and fourth lines.
9. Kill the Octopus?
For the past decade and a half, teams have tried to kill the octopus. Many have failed. Some have succeeded. Last year, Pittsburgh failed. Can they succeed against an even stronger and more determined Detroit squad?
10. The Stanley Cup…duh
Who doesn’t love seeing the Cup being awarded? It’s the best trophy in sports. No doubt. No argument. End of story. Go to the Hall of Fame and see people’s reactions when they see the Stanley Cup. People are brought to tears by the Cup. Does the Lombardi Trophy do that? I didn’t think so.
Prediction: Detroit in six.
Alan Bass is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report, the Community Leader for the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers’ section, and a writer for Prohockeynews.com, Insidehockey.com, and Hockeybarn.com. You can contact him at ALN424@aol.com.