Sid's goals, Wings' hits, bad salads
With the Stanley Cup finals set to start Saturday, our experts ponder what lies ahead. ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun and ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek answer these burning questions:
1. Which captain makes the bigger contribution in this series? Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom or Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby?Burnside: Got to go with Crosby, who leads the NHL in points (tied with teammate Evgeni Malkin) and goals, especially given that Lidstrom is just now returning to the lineup for Game 1 after missing the past two games of the Western Conference finals with a lower-body injury.
Hradek: Being the offensive threat, Crosby's contributions likely will be more tangible. And, as usual, his every move will be under the microscope. He has taken his total game to another level during the first three rounds of the playoffs, but the challenge will be greater against the tenacious Wings. Lidstrom, meanwhile, will continue to do all the little things that have made him one of the great defensemen to ever lace up the skates. These two guys are always monster contributors. If the Penguins are going to win, Crosby's contributions will have to be bigger because I see the Wings as the deeper team.
LeBrun: Last season, it was Lidstrom, this time around, it will be Crosby. There has been no greater playoff performer than Sid The Kid this spring. He has brought his game to a whole new level and he's going to crank it up a notch against Detroit. If you thought his series against Washington was impressive, wait until you see what he's got in store for the finals.
2. Game 7, overtime ... who do you want to have the puck, Pavel Datsyuk or Evgeni Malkin?Burnside: Well, this one is easier than it might have otherwise been if Datsyuk wasn't on the limp, but even if he was healthy, I'd still have to go with the red-hot Malkin.
Hradek: Malkin. He's healthy and red-hot. Datsyuk is dealing with a foot injury that will keep him out of the start of the series. And in the first three rounds, Datsyuk has scored only one goal. Right now, I think you have to with Geno.
LeBrun: Datsyuk, no question. For starters, he rarely ever makes a mistake with the puck, so you know he's not going to cost you and that's what you're looking for in overtime. Plus, I believe once he's healthy, Datsyuk has some making up to do, and judging from what he told us Friday, he's eager to do so.
3. Which Penguins player is most likely to be flattened by Niklas Kronwall?Burnside: Chris Kunitz is pretty much a straight-line skater, so that might make him a target.
Hradek: I'm guessing the Kronwall-Brad Stuart defensive pair works against the Malkin line. So I think No. 71 could be the guy in the crosshairs. Evgeni, keep your head up!
LeBrun: Matt Cooke. The Penguins forward will waste no time in getting under the skin of the Red Wings, so I think Detroit's hit man will take care of business at some point in the series.
4. Which goaltender gets the Rodney Dangerfield Award for least respect?Burnside: This is the all-Rodney Dangerfield matchup, but I think after Chris Osgood's stellar work through the first three rounds, people are actually backing off on the skepticism, which is long overdue. That leaves Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury. Guess he'll have to win the Cup to get people off his back.
Hradek: That's easy. Chris Osgood. He could win five more Cups and there would be those who would still question his game. For the record, when he's done, he goes into the Hall of Fame.
LeBrun: That's an easy one. Osgood still doesn't get the respect he deserves from fans and certain media. I guess once he wins 400 games to add to his Stanley Cup rings, some people may get around to changing their tune. Oh, and by the way, he's been dynamite during this postseason run.
5. Who scores more points in this series, Miroslav Satan or Darren Helm?Burnside: Helm is just the latest unheralded Red Wing to answer the bell when called on. He was the best player on the ice in the Wings' series-clinching victory over Chicago in the West finals and the Wings will be counting on him to continue that production in this round. Satan, meanwhile, has been productive and (we never tire of mentioning this) old "Fists of Fury" did put the boots to Patrick Eaves in the Eastern Conference finals. Still, the nod goes to Helm.
Hradek: I'll take Helm. His skating ability and tenacity allow him to make things happen out of nothing. Satan does have a chance to be a factor, though, working with a double-shifting Crosby or Malkin on the fourth line.
LeBrun: Satan is still playing in the NHL? Just kidding. But I've been covering the West for a month, and I can tell you young Mr. Helm is something else to behold. His game winner in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals was no fluke. This is a young Kris Draper in the making, a guy who will play a gritty game and provide clutch moments for this team for years to come.
6. What makes restaurants in Pittsburgh think that fries on your salad is a good thing?Burnside: It's a question as old as time. Salad. French fries. In most communities, never the twain shall meet. Not in Pittsburgh, where it's a given that if you're ordering a salad, you want fries with it.
Hradek: Fries on your salad ... there's something wrong with that?
LeBrun: Fries belong in a bowl with cheese curds and gravy. It's called poutine. God bless the province of Quebec.
7. Who wins the Father Time Award, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios or Bill Guerin?Burnside: Lidstrom will play in Game 1, but this schedule does not favor the all-world defenseman, who missed Games 4 and 5. Chelios had his moment of glory, nearly scoring in overtime in Game 5 of the West finals. But Guerin has been getting better and better and has the potential to deliver the goods in the coming days.
Hradek: As much as I'd love to say Chelios, the right answer is Lidstrom. The Wings' captain is the right answer to most questions.
LeBrun: Gee, 39 years old and clearly still the best defenseman in the NHL? Come on, too easy. Nicklas Lidstrom defies logic. I regret not giving him my first-place vote for the Norris Trophy.
8. Two coaches, toe to toe, at center ice. Who's left standing?Burnside: Dan Bylsma took out Matt Cooke back in the day, which is why Cooke still wears a knee brace. But gee, Mike Babcock's got that steely jawed thing going on. Babcock.
Hradek: While Babcock seems like a pretty tough character, I'd have to go with Bylsma. I can remember him fighting during his NHL career. Babcock and Bylsma do have a history. Bylsma played under Babcock during their time together in Anaheim.
LeBrun: Bylsma would be the better fighter since he's younger. But Babcock might be able to distract him with a bear hunting story.
2009 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
The Stanley Cup finals are here. Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun and the rest of our NHL team preview the action: