DETROIT – A report card look at the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, evaluating their performance in the Stanley Cup final:
Penguins, A: The prevailing thought was that Pittsburgh couldn’t match the Red Wings depth up front – WRONG. The Penguins won the two biggest games of the year without even receiving a goal from either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. And how about Max Talbot? His four goals in the series were two more than anyone else could muster. And how about managing to win Game 7 after losing Crosby to an injury? Impressive.
Red Wings, C-plus: This group was clearly hurt by the foot injury to Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk. Even though he was back in the lineup for the last three games, there’s no way he was at 100 per cent. Henrik Zetterberg, the best Wings player in the series, did all he could to pick up the slack but it wasn’t enough. It was a miserable final for Marian Hossa.
Penguins, B: A lunch bucket crew of blue-liners who found a way to get the job done. Rob Scuderi made a couple huge plays in the hectic final minutes of Game 6 while Brooks Orpik was a physical force throughout. Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang were the backbone of a power play that was strong early in the series.
Red Wings, C-minus: The bread and butter of this Wings dynasty looked surprisingly ordinary during the final. The pairing of Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall struggled during the deciding game while rookie Jonathan Ericsson was on the ice for both Pittsburgh goals in Game 6. Seemed to have trouble handling the Penguins speed on the forecheck.
Penguins, A: The Flower really bloomed in two must-win games. Things were looking bleak for Marc-Andre Fleury after he was pulled midway through Game 5, but he bounced back in a huge way – allowing just two goals from there under immense pressure. He’s way too classy to say “I told you so” to all the doubters so we’ll do it for him – clutch, clutch performance.
Red Wings, B: Only allowed one ugly goal in the entire series – a power-play marker by Letang in Game 3. Needed more offensive support in Games 6 and 7. Even after a solid playoffs and a good final, don’t be surprised if questions persist about his ability to be a top-flight No. 1 goaltender.
CP’s TOP THREE OF THE SERIES
1. Fleury. Steve Yzerman was watching closely throughout these playoffs. Could a spot on the Canadian Olympic team be in his future?
2. Talbot. The most popular guy in the Penguins room steps up huge.
3. Zetterberg. Helped keep Crosby off the scoresheet in four of the first six games while contributing offensively. Nothing to hang his head over.