Recap of Western Conference game 6 along with a look at the defending Stanley Cup Champion and Western Conference Champion Detroit Red Wings.

Game 6
May 27, 2009

Chicago Blackhawks 1
Detroit Red Wings 2

Every season, it happens. Someone that is the least suspected player to make a huge impact by scoring a huge goal or making a huge play does so, much to the elation of his teammates that always knew he had it in him. This time around, it was 22-year-old center Darren Helm’s time to shine.

The Detroit Red Wings center scored at 3:58 of the first overtime, clinching a 2-1 victory for the defending champions over the Chicago Blackhawks and brought his fellow Red Wings back to within 4 games of hoisting the Stanley Cup once again.

“Being in Grand Rapids (the Wings’ AHL team) gave me a pretty big opportunity to go down there and develop,” Helm told post game reporters. Helm scored twice for the Wings last spring and had 13 goals and 24 assists, for a total of 37 points in the AHL this season. “Coming up here and getting a chance to play, it’s been a great experience for me. I try to pride myself on being a key player in playoffs. That’s what I tried to do throughout last year’s run and this year’s run, as well.”

The game was tightly contested throughout the first two periods, with both Chicago netminder Cristobal Huet and Detroit netminder Chris Osgood making spectacular saves throughout the game. Huet was beaten by Dan Cleary at 6:08 of the 3rd period to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. Patrick Kane tied the game at 12:53, which ended up sending the game to overtime.

The Detroit Red Wings retain their title as the Western Conference Champions and will face the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup.

Second verse, same as the first

A year has passed and once again we find ourselves as hockey fans asking the question: Who will win the Stanley Cup? Once again, the options to answer that question will either be the Detroit Red Wings or the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Red Wings have won 4 titles in the last 11 seasons and are lead by 38-year old defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Detroit boasts an incredibly deep roster which veterans Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper, and Kirk Maltby and Henrik Zetterberg help fill out. Dan Cleary, who has scored some huge goals this post season, and Darren Helm, who scored the series clinching overtime score to put to rest the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final have been providing secondary scoring. Helm’s game 5 overtime goal at 3:58 in the first overtime was the first for a Red Wings rookie since 1987.

Well travelled 2-way forward Marian Hossa, who left the Pittsburgh Penguins after they lost the Stanley Cup in 6 games last season to the Red Wings, joined Detroit in the off-season as a free agent. He put up 40-goals for the HockeyTown faithful in the regular season but has had a bit of a drop off in the post season compared to last season’s offensive outburst in a Penguins sweater.

Defensively, the Red Wings are slightly weaker than last season. Brad Stewart, Brian Rafalski, huge hitter Niklas Kronwall, 47-year old Chris Chelios (older than Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby combined), Brett Lebda, and Derek Meech will all have the unenviable tasks of having to handle Pittsburgh’s high power offense. Lidstrom has been “day-to-day” since game 3 of the Western Conference Final, but will be in the lineup on Saturday.

The Red Wings boast an incredible home record at Joe Louis Arena this post season, going 8-1 so far. The lone loss was in the Western Conference semifinals, where they fell 2-0 in game 2 of the series with the Anaheim Ducks. Also on Detroit’s side is their recent history in game 1: the Red Wings have not lost a series opener at home since a 2-0 loss at home against the San Jose Sharks in 2007.

Scheduling of the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final was partially dictated by NBC, which has the broadcasting rights for the weekend games of the Cup Final. Due to this, games 1 and 2 will be played within a 24-hour period, with game 1 on Saturday, May 30 at 8:00 PM ET and game 2 on Sunday, May 31 at 8:00 PM ET. This will be the first time Stanley Cup Final games have been played back-to-back since 1955.

In net will be the 3-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Osgood, backed up by former Penguin Ty Conklin. Osgood has been steady this post season between the pipes for Detroit with a record of 12-4 with a 2.06 GAA, .925 save percentage, and 1 shutout. Often times referred to as the “weakest link” in the scheme of things for Detroit, Osgood has a chip on his shoulder and a burning desire to prove that he is the best netminder in the league and a potential candidate for the National Hockey League Hall of Fame.

Special Teams
Detroit power play has been in the top 3 all season and has not shown signs of slowing down. The power play unit has scored 19 goals on 68 attempts, a 27.9% conversion rate this post season, placing them 3rd in the post season. The Detroit penalty kill, however, has been lacking. The PK unit allowed a goal in each of the first four games against the Chicago Blackhawks. This post season, the Red Wings PK has allowed 7 goals on 24 attempts, for a 70.8 kill percentage. Of the 16 teams in the post season, the Red Wings rank 14th in shorthanded situations.

Injuries mounting
No one makes it this deep into the playoffs without a few bumps and bruises. Some play through the pain, while others end up being sidelined. The aforementioned Lidstrom has had a “lower body injury”, but will be dressed for game 1 against the Penguins. Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk will not play in game 1 due to what was first called a “bruised thigh”, then a “bruised/sore foot”. Some believe Datsyuk may have broken a bone in his foot. Television analysts believe he will not dress for game 1 or game 2, but may be ready to go for game 3 in Pittsburgh. Also not dressing for Saturday’s game will be Kris Draper, who will be unable to go due to a strained groin. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson had an appendectomy, but was expected to be giving a roster spot for game 1 in Detroit.

Missing from the lineup for Detroit will be Tomas Kopecky, who had surgery on his face and has missed the entire playoffs, and Andreas Lilja, who had a concussion at the end of February and has recently had a bleed discovered in his skull. Best wishes for Lilja’s recovery.

Keys to victory
The Red Wings will come out victorious if they remain responsible and hard working in both ends of the ice, use their speed to their advantage, and stick to their dominant puck possession game. Speedy Detroit forwards will need to use their agility against the Penguins top “shutdown” defensive pair of blueliners Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill, who have plenty of reach due to long hockey sticks, but not much mobility.

The Red Wings will also need to continue to play disciplined hockey. Detroit’s penalty kill may give up at least one goal a game throughout the series, based on percentages. However, they are the defending champions for a reason.

“It’s fun when you look back at some of the pictures when we tried growing beards and still had a little of the baby fat going. Now the roles are reversed and we’re the older guys.

To be able to get here for a fifth time is something I never would’ve dreamed of.”

- Kirk Maltby

“We have two of the greatest teams in the world, star power-wise. I don’t think we need 14 days off, but there’s a reason the NFL who, in my opinion is the biggest promotional horse maybe besides NASCAR, takes two weeks off before the Super Bowl. It’s called to hype it up.

We had a ton of time. I mean, I could have went bear hunting every series in between games. The bottom line is we’re here, we’re ecstatic to be here, and we’re excited to be playing the games wherever they’re scheduled and whenever they’re scheduled.”

- Head Coach Mike Babcock

“Of course the winning situation was one thing, but another reason why I chose this team was because of the group, (Chris Chelios), and Nick, and Draper and Maltby. The experience can help me in the future. Learn something new from those guys, why they’re winning so well and why they’re going so well during the years.

So it was not about the best chance to win, because Pittsburgh had an unbelievable team. That’s why it was so difficult. It came down to two choices. I could be a good scout because I picked the two best teams right now.”

- Marian Hossa

“I think he has the complete package. He’s scoring goals and making plays. He’s working hard both on and off the ice. He’s their leader. One thing this year, you know, he’s scoring a lot more goals than last year.”

- Henrik Zetterberg on Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby