Five random things which have changed since last season's Stanley Cup final.
1.) Switching sides. Yeah, him. He's an amazing player. He came to Detroit to win a Cup. He's four wins a way. But so are the Penguins. Does he have the hunger to prove he was right in switching zip codes in his pursuit of success? Or are the Penguins driven enough to make him regret leaving the nest?
2.) Double trouble. Mark Eaton and Philippe Boucher (above) were not a part of the Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup final last year. Now, they're vital parts of a defense that has provided a good deal of offense. What can they provide to a blue line that looked overwhelmed at times last year against Detroit?
3.) Malkinmania: Evgeni Malkin ran out of gas as the playoffs wore on and was a notable non-factor in last year's final. He enters this final with a little bit more steam and he's going against a fellow finalist for the Hart Trophy in Pavel Datsyuk. Malkin tends to pick it up when Alex Ovechkin is on the same rink. Will he have a little bit more step in his skates while sharing the same sheet of ice with another fellow Russian MVP candidate?
4.) New Bench Boss: After Game 2 of the 2008 final, a convincing 3-0 win by Detroit, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said his team needed to play better. In contrast, Penguins coach Michel Therrien complained about the officials, obstruction and Chris Osgood. Therrien's not a horrible coach, but he's not Mike Babcock. Dan Bylsma is the Penguins' coach now and while he also is no Mike Babcock, he's no Michel Therrien. He has a style that demands much more the ways of an aggressive attack. Is that a better way to approach seven games with the Red Wings? We'll find out.
5.) The tougher road traveled: Through most of the 2007-08 season, the Penguins had a fairly easy go of it on their way to the playoffs. Despite injuries to players like Marc-Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby, the Penguins cruised to an Atlantic Division title and a high playoff berth. Once in the playoffs, they chewed through the Senators, Rangers and Flyers in 14 games. They then ran facefirst into a red buzzsaw and saw that team lift the Stanley Cup on their ice. This season, the Penguins struggled to stay in playoff contention, went through some major organizational changes and looked rather ordinary at times in the playoffs, particularly in the second round. It took them 17 games to get back to the final and it was a rockier road this year. Will that struggle better prepare them for what Detroit will throw at them?