Red Wings' dominance still evident
Sorry, Sidney Crosby.
Better luck next year (again), Joe Thornton.
C'est la vie, Montreal Canadiens fans.
There are 29 teams in the NHL, and then there are the Detroit Red Wings.
It is game, set and match on the 2008-09 season. The Stanley Cup will return to the summer home it prefers most in recent years -- Detroit, self-appointed Hockeytown, where a Swedish-led Red Army presides over the Ice World.
"I don't think so," said Penguins left wing Ruslan Fedotenko. "Obviously, I think we have a good shot. And there are other very good teams in this league, too.
"(Detroit) is a very good team. Very, very good in the playoffs last year. But let's not go crazy and just hand them the Cup again."
All right, but a lot of so-called experts are going to look foolish if the Red Wings don't become the first team since, yep, the Red Wings (1997, '98) to keep the Cup.
Any proper scavenger hunt in North America includes finding a preseason hockey magazine that hasn't forecast Detroit to defend its title. In fact, the best-made cases by hockey writers brave enough to opt for "the field" over Detroit's hockey club is mostly based upon wanting to visit another Western Conference city in late-May.
Even a veteran of five Cup finals and a two-time winner such as defenseman Darryl Sydor is stupefied by the Red Wings' ability to reload after going 16-6 in the playoffs, including a six-game elimination of his Penguins.
"Usually you lose guys," Sydor said. "Detroit has everybody signed up. I've never seen anything like it."
The Red Wings are a galaxy of soft-spoken stars, led by captain and six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, inarguably the best defenseman in hockey. Their top two centers, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, play on the same line.
Yes, a playoff MVP (Zetterberg) and the player honored as the league's top two-way forward (Datsyuk) on the same line.
"Kind of ridiculous," Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. "You just try to play them like every other team. You don't want to think about the names."
Heck, the Red Wings even have the player with the NHL's best nickname, Johan "The Mule" Franzen, who scored eight goals in a four-game annihilation of Colorado in the second round.
"Oh yeah, I hadn't even thought of him," said Tampa Bay left wing Ryan Malone, who failed to score a goal for the Penguins in the Cup final. "So, (the Red Wings) have probably the best defense group in the league, at least the top four, a lot of good forwards, some great, and a top coach in (Mike) Babcock.
"You've got to say they're the team to beat. And now they've got ..."
Oh yeah, Marian Hossa, who turned down three separate multiyear offers from the Penguins - each at more than $7 million annually -- and signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings.
Detroit gives him "the best chance to win the Cup," Hossa said in July.
"You've got to respect his decision," Crosby said in August. "To be honest, if you look at them, they haven't lost anyone.
"Maybe on paper they have the best chance to win the Cup ... if you ask anybody else, that's the way it looks."
Almost anybody. Fedotenko is willing to take his chances against the Red Wings.
"It's not like you look at the lineup -- and it's a good lineup - and think you have no chance," he said. "I can't speak for anybody else, but I'll never look at it like that.
"I'd like the chance to try."