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Part 4: Coaching, Special Teams, Intangibles

So this is the 4th and final part of the Stanley Cup Finals Preview. This one is the most unpredictable and hard to analyze set so I saved it for last.

First up the Penalty Kill and Powerplay for each team. Here are the stats for the playoff average and the (rank).

Pittsburgh Powerplay 19.3% (7th)
Detroit Penalty Kill 73.7 % (14th...yikes)
Detroit Powerplay 25.7% (3rd)
Pittsburgh Penalty Kill 83.6% (5th)

So you can see that the Penguins have a clear cut advantage in the ability to kill penalties but the Wings have the advantage in the ability to score on powerplays. This part of the series can go either way, you never know what you're going to get from a PK or PP unit until it happens.

Next is penalties, this one is unpredictable as far as who will take more because you never know when a ref will give you a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for a clean hit do you?

Pittsburgh PIM/game 11.1 (1st)
Detroit PIM/game 11.2 (2nd)
Pittsburgh PP opportunities/game 4.88 (1st)
Detroit PP opportunities/game 4.63 (2nd)

This is a really close category and both teams are well disciplined and stay out of the box to keep it at full strength. Both teams also draw a lot of penalties--probably because they're so good at stickhandling--and can create opportunities. Once again, this is a tough one to predict who will have the edge because of the ridiculous inconistency of officiating that all NHL fans will agree upon.

This next chunk is just some more of the things you cannot really predict or analyze but I'll just put them in a list for added ease of read:

  • Lively boards at the Joe-Wings are used to them, Pens are not.
  • Injuries-No telling who all will be available for the Wings and Pens or who will be lost during the series
  • Ice Conditions-both arenas have experienced some bad ice at times during the playoffs. Makes for funny bounces and players losing their edge
  • Tempers- You never know who will blow a lid but I'd expect at least 1 or 2 during the series.

Finally, the coaches. Detroit Coach Mike Babcock is known league wide for the way he is able to get the most out of his players while Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma is just now becoming known league wide period. I have to give this one to Coach Babcock. He has a great playoff and regular season record, which is not surprising with the team around him. But the best part about Babcock is that he knows how to get his team to respond and how to get things going on track. He also doesn't lose his temper which keeps the guys on the bench focused on what they have to do. Bylsma is either a pure genius or is very lucky--or a combination of both--after turning around a Penguins team that halfway through the year looked destined for an early trip to the golf course. GM Ray Shero has given him some extra firepower in Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz and Byslma has made the most of them. The Finals will be a true test of Byslma's coaching abilities. This one should be advantage Wings, but Byslma could surprise us all yet again.