Although the youthful Pittsburgh Penguins are a dynasty in the making, the deep Detroit Red Wings have been here, done that ... and should do it again.
It has most everything a fan could want.
Old Guard vs. (Sid and) The Kids. Past champions vs. wannabes. Offense vs. defense.
And up in this corner of the hockey map, there's almost a hometown flavor to the Stanley Cup finals. From favorite sons like Scituate's Ryan Whitney and his former Thayer Academy teammate Brooks Orpik to Boston College product Rob Scuderi to ex-Bruins of tenures long (Hal Gill) and short (Sergei Gonchar), there's a lot of Boston in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
People from around here know that. People from most everyplace else know the Penguins as an amazingly talented, albeit extremely young team led by Sidney Crosby. More than 15 years after winning consecutive Cups, Pittsburgh seems positioned to dominate the NHL for even longer than its 1991 and '92 predecessors.
But there's a roadblock, in the form of the semi-dynasty that followed the early-'90s Pens: The Detroit Red Wings, Cup winners in 1997, '98 and again in 2002, may be in last-chance territory.
That there are 10 Wings with Cup rings is Detroit's strength, but also a potential weakness. The average Red Wing is 32.3 years old, and two of this spring's three series victories - most recently the Western Conference final against Dallas - have lasted six games. Some of these guys might be tired.
Then again, roughly half the lineup - nine players, to be exact - have won Cups in Detroit (Brian Rafalski won his only title in New Jersey), and six Wings remain from the '97 and '98 championship teams. Wear and tear, the salary cap and free agency figure to nibble at that core before next season, so the Wings are hungry for another Cup before that old gang of theirs begins to break up.
That's not a suggestion that the Penguins aren't starved, too. They may be young (eight players are 25 or younger), but they're determined, and ruthless. Pittsburgh has built a 3-0 lead in each series, and refused to allow either the New York Rangers (Round 2) or Philadelphia (conference final) to sustain momentum after those teams won Game 4. The Pens put the Rangers and Flyers away the next time they had the chance.
Detroit, on the other hand, let No. 8 seed Nashville recover from a 2-0 series deficit in Round 1, and needed an overtime victory in Game 5 to regain control of that series. Dallas closed within 3-2 after Detroit pulled ahead, 3-0.
Still, the Wings have an awful lot going for them, and have all year. The Penguins have been rightly praised for their post-season attention to defense, but Detroit both lives by it (the Wings allowed the fewest goals in the regular season), and doesn't let defense hurt its offense. On name recognition alone, the Red Wings' forward lines may not match those of the Penguins, but the numbers prove otherwise: They finished second in the NHL with 257 goals - 10 more than Pittsburgh.
The Penguins' top two lines - Pascal Dupuis-Crosby-Marian Hossa on one unit; Ryan Malone-Evgeni Malkin-Petr Sykora on the other - face their biggest test of the playoffs. Detroit has a very good checking line, centered by Kris Draper, but their top offensive includes two players (Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg) who are finalists for the NHL's Selke Trophy, which goes to the league's best defensive forward. Then there's Nicklas Lidstrom, who'll probably win the Norris Trophy (best defenseman) for the sixth time in seven years.
In a series like this, when team depth seems essentially equal and neither club has an obvious, on-ice weakness, experience can be a major factor. Detroit has the most, by far, and dominates the most critical position of all: Goalie Chris Osgood, who took over in Game 4 of the first-round series against Nashville, has played 100 career playoff games. His backup, Dominik Hasek, has played 119. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleur (19) and ex-New Hamsphire star Ty Conklin (1) have combined for 20 career playoff games.
Finally, there's home ice. Detroit, 7-1 at Joe Louis Arena in the post-season, has home ice for the final. Pittsburgh (8-0 at home in the playoffs, 16-0 at Mellon Arena since February) wishes it does.
It won't be easy or quick, but enough signs point to a win for the Wings, and a dynasty delayed in Pittsburgh.
Read Mike Loftus's "Blog of Ice." Go to patriotledger.com/sports/blogs.