Two games in to (and presumable halfway through) the Stanley Cup Final, it seems like a good time to take stock of the lessons we’ve learned from the matchup between the Red Wings and the Penguins.
Lesson The First: When all the experts say the matchup will be the greatest SCF ever, it’s probably not going to be that great. It’s the snakes in the grass — the Lightning and Flames, the Hurricanes and the Oilers — that make for a great series. The teams that are supposed to be the marquee matchup never live up to the expectations. Ever. Especially when the superstars on one team fail to show up. Did Malkin and Hossa not make the trip to Detroit?
Lesson The Second: If we were ever asked to contribute to the Official Rules Of Hockey-Pundit Prognosticating, we would offer this hard-and-fast rule — If you are confronted with a matchup in which you can see one team sweeping, but not the other, don’t pick the team you can’t imagine sweeping. What, exactly, is the logical thought process when you’re saying, “I can see this series being a sweep for Team X, which is why I’m picking Team Y in six”?
Lesson The Third: If you’re playing the Red Wings at their most juggernauty, don’t take penalties. And don’t think playing four-on-four will be an advantage to you.
Lesson The Fourth: There’s a big difference between pre-lockout-style trapping hockey and what the Red Wings are playing. Just because the Pens haven’t been able to figure out how to function at all in any zone doesn’t mean the Wings are playing boring, clutch-and-grab, static trapping hockey. The Pens had no problem beating a static-trapping team in the Rangers. They just have no idea yet how to beat a defensively swarming, offensively dynamic juggernaut. Sure, if you’re cheering for the Pens, it sucks to see your guys get shut down, but that doesn’t mean the Red Wings are playing boring hockey.
Lesson The Fifth: We fully believed the Pens were this year’s Sens, but we didn’t expect them to cross into “Alfredsson shooting a puck into Niedermayer’s chest” territory until later in the series. They really surprised us by bringing the “let’s take shots at Franzen’s head to show off how frustrated we are” douchebaggery as early as Game 2.
Lesson The Sixth: The Western Conference was way better than the Eastern Conference this year, as much as it pains us to admit that.