Saturday, 6 June 2009

Where The Series Rests

See this guy to the left? Major player in Games Three and Four. Knew the bounces. Reacted well. Played deflections and shots with sound fundamentals. However, do you remember his performances in Games One and Two? Not so good. Pucks off legs into the net. Pucks off him into the net. Tonight's Game Five could be decided by Marc-Andre Fleury. Sure, Pavel Datsyuk is returning, but there has been more indication that he isn't 100% than there has been talk of the Phoenix moving to Hamilton. And everyone loves the Balsillie saga. No, tonight's final could essentially determine the outcome of the series, and Marc-Andre Fleury will need to play as well or better than he did in Pittsburgh if the Penguins want to make Detroit sweat.

Make no mistake that getting Datsyuk back is big for Detroit. It's huge. If he is able to play down the middle, they have another effective shutdown guy to play against the two-headed monster known as Malkin-Crosby. However, if Datsyuk has a squeaky wheel, head coach Mike Babcock may be forced to move him to the wing where his foot won't take a beating. The reports out of Motown suggest that Datsyuk will be playing between Zetterberg and Franzen, but I can't see Babcock breaking up Franzen and Hossa. Four balanced lines is the way Detroit plays. Watch for Babcock to juggle lines tonight if Datsyuk can't log the ice-time necessary to shutdown the Penguins' juggernauts.

Osgood will be in familiar confines, so I expect him to bounce back and play strong. However, a chip in his confidence has been exposed by the Penguins who were relentless at home. Osgood will need to regain his form at home in order to give Detroit the advantage.

But, again, it will be the man guarding the blue ice opposite Osgood that will need a big game. If Fleury plays as well as he did in Games Three and Four, the Penguins have a very good shot at going up 3-2 in this best-of-seven. If he has another level he can take his game to, the Penguins will win. Mark it down. You heard it here first.

Game Five tonight at 8PM ET. Be ready. This may be the game that determines the winner. And rests on the two men wearing the cages. Can Osgood shake off two losses and move his team within one victory of the Stanley Cup? Can Marc-Andre Fleury go into Joe Louis Arena and out-battle the savvy Red Wings?

All will be revealed in a few hours.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

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