I’m sure many will think my picking the Penguins to beat the Red Wings in 6 indicates that I’m biased by the fact that I’ve been a Penguins fan as long as I’ve been a fan of hockey (probably even longer, initially I was just a Penguins fan and I grew to love the game because of them). I maintain that I would pick the team that lost in this situation all the time (regardless of the team) even if they hadn’t been playing very well in the previous rounds of the playoffs. I think the team that lost the year before has a lot more motivation to win the Cup this year. The only member of the Red Wings who wants the Cup as badly as most of the Penguins do right now is Marian Hossa. Hossa and his comments might actually be extra motivation to the Penguins, but I won’t get into that whole mess.
When examining how the Penguins and Red Wings have played in the playoffs this year, I think it’s clear that the Penguins are more driven. They want the Cup and they’re determined to get there. They have the top two scorers in the playoffs (Crosby & Malkin are tied with 28 points, 1.65 per game). Their defense has been far from perfect, but the same can be said of the Penguins in the 90s when they won their last two Cups. They’re more likely to win 7-5 than they are 1-0, but as long as they win does it really matter?
Watching the Pens play the Hurricanes, it was clear that they are focused on their goal of winning the Stanley Cup. Losing it last year hurt and they don’t want to go through that again. They’re determined to win this year. The Penguins know what it takes. They’re not the same kids who lost to Detroit in the finals last year. They’re not going to be stunned when they go into Detroit and see the sea of red in the stands and the amazing fan support the Red Wings have. This year, the Pens started two of their first three rounds of the playoffs on the road, so they’re used to starting in enemy territory and they know they can win in spite of not starting in front of their home crowd.
I really would pick any team who fought back to make it to the finals after losing the finals the year before. I think that team has to be more excited about winning the Cup than any team they would face. Historically, the team that makes it back to the finals is more likely to lose than win. However, as with all things, history doesn’t change the odds. It’s just like playing roulette. The odds of hitting any number are always exactly the same. They don’t change based on the pattern preceding it. The Penguins have the same odds of winning the finals this year as they would if they hadn’t been in the finals last year; though, I think they are more driven because of losing, which gives them a bit more of an edge. I don’t think it will be an easy battle, but I definitely think the Pens will persevere and beat the Red Wings this year to become the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions.