Better the second time

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

How history repeats itself is truly amazing.

Especially when it's for the good.

This year's Stanley Cup final featuring the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins is a rematch of the series from a year ago, and all hockey fans should relish what's coming our way.

The talent level of both squads is the best offered by both sides of the NHL, and the style of play both exhibit is entertaining.

The six-game series from a year ago was enthralling from start to finish, which should come as no shock considering the characters in the story: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Marian Hossa, Evgeni Malkin and, of course, Sidney Crosby to name a few.

The best part is we can expect this year's Stanley Cup final to be even better.

The Red Wings are more potent than a year ago. It helps when you have the same team and get to add the extremely talented Hossa -- who jumped ship from the Pens to the Red Wings in the off-season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins are a year older, a year wiser.

Better yet, they're more experienced having gone through the final a year ago.

They learned first-hand from the savvy Red Wings the difference of getting to the championship and winning it.

They learned what it means and what it takes to go to yet another level when the biggest prize is on the line.

What it all adds up to, however, is a different result.

History will be repeated, but not the chapter from last year's championship series.

You have to go further back in hockey's annals to find this storyline.

All the way back to the early 1980s.

Remember how the Edmonton Oilers finally reached the summit of the mountain?

It took two cracks.

The first was a humbling loss to the New York Islanders in the spring of 1983, when their talent was overpowered.

New York's experience was the difference. The Oilers had youth and exuberance on their side, but it wasn't enough to unseat the champs, who still had enough to run their string of championships to a fourth year.

A year later, though, the Oilers were back, more prepared and ready to knock off the champs.

Just like the Penguins are this time around.

From the start of the playoffs, Pittsburgh's true leader, Crosby, has been a man possessed, doing everything to ensure he and his teammates receive another chance at the prize that eluded them.

Look at the way he's been a difference maker night in and night out.

Malkin has been a dominating force on the way to the final, and is certainly the flashy figure, but it's still Crosby who brings the Penguins all together in the crunch.

His teammates have fed off that desire.

Think of the way Malkin has become more consistent. He won't be held in check in the manner of a year ago. Malkin was kept under wraps by the Red Wings a year ago, just like Chicago's Patrick Kane experienced over the past couple of weeks. Malkin benefited from that experience and will show what he's learned this time around.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's supporting cast is filled with players who either remember the sting of last year, along with those who have won in the past, including Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Craig Adams.

One last reason the Penguins will take their turn hoisting the Cup is the injury front.

The early turnaround from the conference finals benefits the Penguins in a big way.

Detroit is already combating a bevy of problems.

Datsyuk, a finalist for the Hart Trophy, missed the past three games due to a foot injury suffered when hit by a shot.

He may return in time for tomorrow's opener, but based on his time on the ice during the morning skate prior to Wednesday's clinching game against Chicago, it'll be a while before he's skating at full speed.

Meanwhile, Lidstrom, the star defenceman and perennial Norris Trophy winner is nursing a lower-body injury that's sidelined him the last couple of games. When he returns, he won't be at 100%.

Throw in Jonathan Ericsson's emergency appendectomy, which knocked him out of Wednesday's tilt, Kris Draper's groin problem and the loss of Tomas Kopecky and Andreas Lilja, and the Wings are starting out with big problems.

Plus, there are all the bumps and bruises suffered at the hands of a Chicago team that made sure to exact a pound of flesh before going down in five games.

The Wings are a great team, with incredible talent and depth. They are so good, teams learn from them and are more prepared down the road.

This year's Penguins will benefit from the knowledge gained last year. Which is why the birds will take flight.


Photos