Stanley Cup Finals Preview From WhatIfSports.com image

2009 Stanley Cup Finals Preview

Results of 10,000 simulations of the Red Wings and Penguins
By Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
May 27th, 2009

Detroit will be celebrating a Stanley Cup victory over Pittsburgh for the second straight season. In 10,000 simulations of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Red Wings and Penguins the defending champs come out on top 53.2% of the time, with the most common occurrence a seven game series. Though Hockeytown USA will cheer the loudest, all hockey fans will win with an entertaining, competitive and dramatic series.

This series is closer than last season when we predicted a Detroit win in five and the team won in six (in every instance but one, we were within one goal of each team's actual score for the first five games).

As is evident below, we had to make some assumptions regarding playoff rosters and the health of all players, particularly Detroit stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk. Both play in the simulated series. With the (recently announced) quick turnaround before the Stanley Cup starts Saturday, this may not be the case. If either player were to miss multiple games, this would be enough to swing the series in Pittsburgh's favor.

What follows is an example Stanley Cup Finals based on the most common result of those simulations. We have included boxscores, play-by-play and stats for each game in the series. Click on the links after each summary to see the entire breakdown of the game.

Stanley Cup Finals Game 1
Pittsburgh 4 @ Detroit 6 - A fast-paced, exciting game that includes ten total goals, opens the Stanley Cup Finals and puts the Red Wings on the board first at home. Detroit's Marian Hossa, who last year skated with Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Finals, leads the way as the only player to score more than once. Hossa, a healthy Pavel Datsyuk and young defenseman Jonathan Ericsson are the game's three stars.

Boxscore with play-by-play >>

Stanley Cup Finals Game 2
Pittsburgh 1 @ Detroit 5 - Detroit's offensive dominance in Joe Louis Arena continues with three new stars and its defense shining brightly. Goalie Chris Osgood, who has certainly been here before, and forwards Valterri Filppula and Jiri Hudler earn honors in Game 2. Filppula scores once and assists on goals by Hudler and Johan Franzen. The lone Penguins' goal is scored by Evgeni Malkin early in the third period. Down 5-0 at the time, it's already too late.

Boxscore with play-by-play >>

Stanley Cup Finals Game 3
Detroit 2 @ Pittsburgh 4 - The Penguins get a crucial win in Game 3 at home. This time, Pittsburgh puts together the scoring streak. After no scoring in the first period, the Penguins get goals from Sergei Gonchar, Ruslan Fedotenko, Rob Scuderi and Sidney Crosby - three of which are assisted by Evgeni Malkin - to go up 4-0 midway through the third period. Malkin, Crosby and Detroit's Jiri Hudler are the three stars for Game 3.

Boxscore with play-by-play >>

Stanley Cup Finals Game 4
Detroit 3 @ Pittsburgh 2 - A back-and-forth game results in a one-goal victory by the defending champion Red Wings, putting Detroit up 3-1 in the series with a pivitol win on the road. The Red Wings get an impressive 40 shots on goal to the Penguins' 24 shots. Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stops 37 of those Red Wings' shots, but it's not enough. Two late shots by Evgeni Malkin are stopped by Chris Osgood to seal the victory for the road team. Three new players, Detroit defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart and Fleury, despite his team's loss, earn the three stars of the game. Interestingly, through four games, 11 different players have been mentioned among the stars of the game; only Jiri Hudler has been included twice.

Boxscore with play-by-play >>

Stanley Cup Finals Game 5
Pittsburgh 5 @ Detroit 3 - In what has been a series of runs and momentum, Pittsburgh steals a road victory back from Detroit, with five goals in the first 16 minutes of Game 5. Sidney Crosby, who already has one hat trick in these playoffs, gets another before the second period even starts. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar actually opens the scoring for the game with a goal just 13 seconds after the initial faceoff, assisted by Crosby. Sid the Kid's breakout game - one that every hockey fan was waiting for - nets him the top star of the game honors. Gonchar and wing Chris Kunitz, who assists each of Crosby's goals, join him as stars. Joe Louis Arena has never been so quiet.

Boxscore with play-by-play >>

Stanley Cup Finals Game 6
Detroit 2 @ Pittsburgh 3 - Once again facing elimination, the Pengins manage to score early Pittsburgh wins back-to-back games to force a seventh game in the Stanley Cup Finals. Pittsburgh gets second period goals from role players Chris Kunitz, Ruslan Fedotenko and Max Talbot to go up 3-0 and never look back. Marc-Andre Fleury stops 26 of 28 Red Wings' shots in the win. And none of those players are in the top three stars. Game 6 honorees include Evgeni Malkin with two assists and five faceoff wins, Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski, also with two assists, and Valtteri Filppula, who scores one of Detroit's two goals. The series heads back to Detroit with everything on the line.

Boxscore with play-by-play >>

Stanley Cup Finals Game 7
Pittsburgh 3 @ Detroit 4 - The decisive game ends with the more well-rounded team skating with Stanley Cup Trophy on its home ice as Detroit's Marian Hossa's goal with 5:34 remaining provides the insurance that the Red Wings need to win the game and repeat as champs. Early game jitters keep the game scoreless until almost halfway through the second period, but then the pace and intensity pick up furiously. The Penguins lead 1-0 after a Chris Kunitz goal at the 10:47 mark in the second period. Detroit immediately answers with goals from Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg, who had been very quiet in the series up to this point. A powerplay due to a Johan Franzen cross check penalty gives the Penguins a chance to capitalize and Evengi Malkin does just that with an early third period goal that ties the game. With 8:08 remaining and the game tied, Valtteri Filppula takes a pass from Mikael Samuelsson and sneaks it by Marc-Andre Fleury for the Game 7 lead. Hossa adds the goal a couple minutes later and the team needs it when Malkin scores just a few seconds after that. Chris Osgood holds off Malkin, Crosby and the last minute flurry of shots to win the game and the cup. Hossa, Malkin and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk are the three stars for the deciding game.

Boxscore with play-by-play >>

Summary
The Detroit Red Wings win the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals in seven games. Marian Hossa, who skated on Pittsburgh's first scoring line in last season's Stanley Cup Finals against Detroit, now leads the Red Wings to victory and earns the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the NHL's Playoff MVP, for his efforts. In total, Hossa scores 11 goals, including two in the deciding game, and has nine assists with a +/- rating of +14 in Detroit's 23 games. Other Red Wing standouts from the seven-game series include Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall, each with seven points. Goalie Chris Osgood plays every minute and saves 87.8% of Pittsburgh's shots. The Penguins are led by their superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who both score ten points. Marc-Andre Fleur actually outperforms his counterpart with an 89.45% save percentage. Clearly, depth is the key to Detroit's victory. Few teams in NHL history can match Crosby and Malkin, but it's Detroit's third and fourth lines and defensemen who make the difference. The win marks the twelfth Stanley Cup for the Red Wings, their fifth since 1996.

Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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