The most obvious thing about the Versus’ broadcasts of the 2009 NHL Finals is that the hockey establishment is rooting for the Pittsburgh Penguins. I suppose the merchandise sales would be better in Steel City than in Hockeytown seeing as how the Penguins last won a Stanley Cup 17 years ago.
There’s no doubt that the momentum has swung to Pittsburgh as they were able to tie the series at 2-2 after being down 2-0. But are the Penguins really a better team than the Red Wings? I’m not so sure about that.
If Sidney Crosby missed the first four games of the Finals and the series was tied 2-2, the Versus announcers would be speculating that Pittsburgh would have probably swept the Red Wings if only their best player wasn’t out of the line up. Yet the Red Wings have been forced to play throughout the series without Pavel Datsyuk — unquestionably one of the NHL’s best — but the same logic doesn’t seem to apply.
If Datsyuk is able to play at even 90% tonight, his presence on the ice will make a tremendous difference. He’ll help to throw Pittsburgh’s defense off balance — and force them to play a more conservative game. Datsyuk’s speed and agility should enable the Wings to be more aggressive around the goal — and should help spark their offense.
Home ice gives Detroit the edge tonight as well. The Joe will be shaking with enthusiastic Red Wings fans decked out in red and white and the team will enjoy the benefit of home ice line changes.
The momentum is Pittsburgh’s — at least for the moment. But a win for the Wings tonight will shift that momentum back to Detroit. The Red Wings aren’t too old to win the Cup in 2009. They’ve just been playing shorthanded.