With the Detroit Red Wings knocking off the Chicago Blackhawks, 2-1, in overtime on Wednesday night the NHL has shifted course and has decided to move up the start of the Stanley Cup Finals. The series, between the Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, was originally slated to begin on Friday, June 5th, but it will now commence this Saturday, May 30th at 8pm on NBC. Game Two will be the next night (Sunday) on NBC as well, so the almighty TV dollar is ruling the scheduling of the rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals (Detroit won 4-2). It is not very often that you see Stanley Cup Finals games played on consecutive nights. The series starts in Detroit for the first two games and then will shift to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, June 2nd and Thursday, June 4th (both games on Versus). Game 5 will be in Detroit on Saturday, June 6 on NBC, if necessary. Games 6 (Tuesday, June 9) and 7 (Friday, June 12) would also be televised on NBC, if necessary
The quicker start favors the Penguins because the Red Wings played games 4 and 5 of their series against Chicago without two very key players in defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom (the league’s best player at that position) and forward Pavel Datsyuk (2008-09 MVP finalist, up against Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin). Datsyuk reportedly has a bad foot and the Lidstrom injury is undisclosed. Sidney Crosby and Malkin have been fantastic for the Pens in these playoffs. However, the Penguins will be facing a very talented and experienced Detroit club that has players who go to the net consistently, something Pittsburgh has not had to really deal with in these playoffs (the Flyers were the only team they played that had multiple net crashers in their lineup). I’ll have my Stanley Cup Finals preview up on Thursday night.