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THN.com Playoff Blog: Pens have puncher's chance

Ryan Dixon
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Petr Sykora\'s overtime goal in Game 5 sent the Stanley Cup final back to Pittsburgh for Game 6. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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THN.com Playoff Blog: Pens have puncher's chance

Ryan Dixon
By:

To paraphrase John Cusack from the classic flick High Fidelity, I’ve been listening to my gut for years and I’m convinced my gut doesn’t know anything.

That’s why I can’t confidently say whether we’ll see the Stanley Cup make more than a cameo appearance tonight. There’s every chance in the world all Pittsburgh did by forcing a Game 6 is make Detroit really, really mad. And if that’s the case, look out.

But all I can state for certain after watching five games of the final is while the Red Wings are clearly the superior team, Pittsburgh now has a puncher’s chance.

If this was a contest to see which squad excels at more facets of hockey, there would have already been a Motown hoedown. But the party is on hold because the Pens have found enough cracks of daylight to sustain their hopes.

What they need now is extreme precision on the few scoring chances they get and goaltending like they saw from about 10 p.m. on during Monday night’s marathon.

It’s hard to argue a team that needed five-plus periods to hit 30 shots in Game 5 is poised to take over a series. But by allowing the Pens to linger into the late rounds, Detroit has left its chin hanging out there and Pittsburgh has the gusto to land one or two potentially devastating swats.

Paying dues in Detroit
Aside from having the Stanley Cup’s red carpet pulled out from under their feet in Game 5, Detroit fans have had it pretty good these last few years.

In fact, there are likely college-aged Red Wings supporters who don’t even realize missing the playoffs is something that can happen to a team.
 
But before fans of the NHL’s other 29 teams get green with envy over the Red run, consider the segment of Detroit fans who endured nearly two decades of watching Octi-pushovers.

From the last season of Original Six play in 1966-67 through the 1982-83 campaign, Detroit qualified for the playoffs just twice. That’s 2-for-17 if you’re counting.

And Florida Panthers fans want to claw their eyes out?

Basically, in the space between The Beatles coming to America and Michael Jackson releasing Thriller, Wings fans had absolutely nothing to sing about.

Enter, in the following order, Mike Ilitch, Jim Devellano and Steve Yzerman. The Wings have missed the playoffs just twice since drafting Stevie Y in ’83, the last time coming in 1989-90.
 
But for all the spoiled fans in Zetterberg sweaters who are still in the front row of their lives, there’s a group of older Detroit supporters who are a little wiser to the sporting life’s lumps.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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THN.com Playoff Blog: Pens have puncher's chance