Numbers Against Penguins in Game 7

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that after rebounding nicely with a 2-1 win at home in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins are still facing an uphill battle against history when it comes to winning the third Cup in franchise history when they take to the ice tomorrow night in Detroit. ↵

↵The only real constant in this series has been home ice advantage, with each team holding serve at home. Thanks to a superior regular season record -- and yes, sometimes that extended 82-game exhibition does mean something -- the Red Wings will get to play for their fifth Cup in 12 seasons on home ice. When it comes to Game 7 and the Stanley Cup Finals, the home team has won 12 of the last 14 times. ↵

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↵What's worse, in this playoff year, the Red Wings have feasted at home with an 11-1 record and haven't lost at Joe Louis Arena since their second round series against the Anaheim Ducks. ↵

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↵Pittsburgh has already won a Game 7 on the road this playoff year, albeit under slightly different circumstances when they took down the Washington Capitals 6-2 in the deciding game of their second round series. Then again, despite the fact that series went the distance, it was clear from the start that the Penguins were dictating the tempo and dominating the run of play. ↵

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↵By the time the two teams got to Game 7, no one should have been surprised that rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov finally cracked under the strain. Given Chris Osgood's track record, a repeat of that outcome seems highly unlikely. ↵

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↵So what can we expect tomorrow night? At the start of the Finals, I picked the Penguins to win this series in 7 games based on one premise -- that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the two best hockey players in the NHL, and no team, even the incredibly deep and disciplined Detroit Red Wings, could hope to hold down both of them for very long. But for this series at least, that hasn't exactly been the case. ↵

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↵While the Russian wunderkind is leading all skaters in the Finals with 7 points (2G, 5A), he's -1 and has shown more than a few flashes of frustration and undisciplined play. As for Crosby, he's been virtually invisible on the scoresheet, tallying just three points (1G, 2A) while having to play most nights with either Henrik Zetterberg or Nicklas Lidstrom draped over his back. ↵

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↵In short, if either or both of those players are able to contribute offensively the way that they're capable of, and Pittsburgh is able to keep the heat off of Marc-Andre Fleury, they have a better than even chance of coming out on top. If not, get ready for yet another Cup parade in Detroit. ↵

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↵And just in case you were wondering, all of the official gear will be ready and waiting -- no matter which team manages to win it all. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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