After blowing their chance to even the Stanley Cup final with Detroit at two games a piece on home ice despite scoring the first goal of the game on Saturday, Pittsburgh is in dire straits. They now have to head into the hostile Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to win a game from a team and a crowd that has won it all before and knows and loves the smell of blood in the water. The sportsbooks really don’t like their chances – Detroit is a very solid -230 favorite for game five. If they do manage to pull off a miraculous win tonight all they have to do is win two more in a row against the best team in the league and the hottest goaltender on the planet. Not an easy task for anyone, never mind a team that’s core is made up of guys that are too young to grow a playoff beard. Playoff peach fuzz reigns in Pittsburgh.
It looks like an uphill battle for the Penguins tonight, but they can pull it off, can’t they? The short answer is no, probably not, but let’s take a closer look.
Let’s start with history. This does not make it look good for the underdogs. A team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals before, but not for 66 years. Recent history is no more forgiving. All the team has to do is win two games in a building that they have yet to score a goal in. Two straight shutouts started this series, and the Pens will have those bitter memories bouncing around in their heads. That’s not the only problem. Pittsburgh has a truly explosive offense but they have score just four goals in four games, and they have been shut down by Detroit. Sidney Crosby has been very good, and Marian Hossa has been solid, but Evgeni Malkin has been invisible, and the secondary scoring hasn’t existed.
Handicapping this series comes down to just one thing – what do you think the mental state of the team is? If Pittsburgh realizes that they have nothing to lose and they can se their situation as a rallying point then they can make a contest of this. If you buy into that then you’ll like the juicy longshot price you can get in game 5. On the other hand, the team could dwell on the fact that Detroit has been better, faster, and stronger and has dominated them in pretty much every aspect of the series. If that’s where the thoughts lie, or at least where the majority of them do, then the game could be ugly tonight.
For me, it comes down to this – I’ll be cheering for Pittsburgh to make the series interesting, but I can’t justify betting against Detroit. Sadly, I won’t be betting on them either given the price. I guess I’ll satisfy my habits tonight by betting on baseball and watching hockey.