The Stanley Cup finals, pitting Detroit against Pittsburgh for the second straight year, begin at 8 p.m. Saturday on NBC.
The Penguins lost in six games last year and look to avoid back-to-back runner-up sashes. Overcoming the final hump can be hard, especially in a rematch (just ask Bills and Cowboys fans about that), but the Penguins have been playing great lately and should give the Wings a tougher test this time around.
Here is the complete finals broadcast schedule, followed by highlights of the NBC conference call to discuss the series.
STANLEY CUP FINAL BROADCAST SCHEDULE
Game 1 Saturday, May 30 Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC 8 p.m.
Game 2 Sunday, May 31 Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC TBA
Game 3 Tuesday, June 2 Detroit at Pittsburgh Versus 8 p.m.
Game 4 Thursday, June 4 Detroit at Pittsburgh Versus 8 p.m.
Game 5 * Saturday, June 6 Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC 8 p.m.
Game 6 * Tuesday, June 9 Detroit at Pittsburgh NBC 8 p.m.
Game 7 * Friday, June 12 Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC 8 p.m.
* Games 5-7 if necessary
According to NBC analyst Pierre McGuire, the extra year of seasoning should benefit Pittsburgh.
“The theater will not intimidate Pittsburgh like it did last year in games one and two when they were shut out and they looked hopeless. They will look a lot better because of that experience of losing last year. Sidney (Crosby) has become a much better leader. (Evgeni) Malkin has become a much more effective player, especially in key times in games, and (Marc-Andre) Fleury is a much more refined goalie,” he said.
“We’re all excited to see what they can do in the second go around,” said analyst Mike milbury. “I think you’ve seen the two superstars, Crosby and Malkin, continue to grow up along with Marc-Andre Fleury. That growth pattern is going to be tested against what I consider to be the most intelligent team that I’ve ever seen; as a group that obviously has enough depth to handle a half a dozen players on the injured list and still manage to beat Chicago and advance to the final. It should be fun.”
Play-by-play man Mike “Doc” Emrick noted the difficulty in anyone winning hockey’s top prize once, yet alone back-to-back seasons like Detroit’s trying to do.
“It is the hardest prize to win – the combination of the tenacity that these guys have to be in the lineup and play as hard as they possibly can, as well as the fatigue factor that normally enters in when you have so much competition just to get to this point,” he said.
Pittsburgh looked like it might not even qualify for the playoffs near the midpoint of the season, when the decision was made to hire Dan Bylsma as coach. That, the commentators said, was the catalyst the squad needed.
“What Danny Bylsma brings is an intelligent approach to the game, educating players through a common sense approach. Rather than coaching them through intimidation, he coaches them through vocalization, imagery, passion and energy. And you can see that’s how they play. He turned these guys loose,” McGuire said.
“If nothing else, Dan Bylsma just wanted to let the guys have some fun and play the game with a little more passion and letting loose a little bit. They were able to find balance both offensively and defensively and boy it’s been a heck of a balance. A change in approach, and change in attitude, comes with a change in coaches,” Milbury said.
Stanley Cup finals fun facts
• Red Wings forward Mirian Hossa skated for Pittsburgh against Detroit last year.
• Detroit has won 11 Stanley Cup championships; the Penguins have won two.
• Twenty-one current Red Wings players (total of 40 times) have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup compared to five for the Penguins.