While the Detroit Red Wings count postseason victories on the tentacles of octopi, both they and the Pittsburgh Penguins can chart their playoff losses on the fingers of one hand -- and still have some left over.
It's been quite a run to the Stanley Cup finals for this year's NHL conference champions, who have combined for 24 wins and only six losses along the way.
Back when it took only eight wins to claim the Cup in the Original Six era, octopi starting hitting the ice in Detroit to provide a symbolic squid-like countdown of tentacles to the championship. Even though the necessary win total has doubled, the tradition still exists at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings rolled through the Western Conference playoffs with a 12-4 mark, sandwiching six-game victories over Nashville and Dallas around a sweep of Colorado.
Pittsburgh stormed through the East, grabbing 3-0 leads against Ottawa, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia. New York and Philadelphia both managed home wins in Game 4 to stay alive only to be eliminated two days later in Pittsburgh. The Penguins are 8-0 in the playoffs at home and have a 16-game winning streak there dating to a shootout loss to San Jose on Feb. 24.
Adding in the first-round sweep of Ottawa, the Penguins are a sparkling 12-2 overall.
Each team relies on big-name forwards to carry the offensive load and both have solid supporting casts. Don't be fooled, though. The Penguins and Red Wings have ridden a strong defensive presence -- up front and on the blue line -- with exceptional goaltending to get this far, too.
Detroit had a league-high 115 points in the regular season, while Pittsburgh earned the No. 2 seed in the East with 102.
"Both teams are very similar," said Penguins forward Ryan Malone, a Pittsburgh native. "The way we played through our playoffs, I think we earned our chance out of the East. I think the same for them. I think we match up pretty similar, which is kind of scary."
So is the sheer collection of talent and marquee-quality star power that will be on display beginning Saturday night in the series opener. The names are familiar even to those who might not have tuned into Versus much throughout the long NHL season.
Pittsburgh boasts reigning MVP Sidney Crosby -- who is only 20 -- and fellow young forward Evgeni Malkin, a finalist for the award this season at age 21.
The Red Wings are powered up front by Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, who combined for 74 goals and 189 points in the regular season.
STANLEY CUP FINALS
DETROIT VS. PITTSBURGH
SATURDAY: Pittsburgh at Detroit, 8 p.m.
MONDAY: Pittsburgh at Detroit, 8 p.m.
WEDNESDAY: Detroit at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m.
MAY 31: Detroit at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m.
JUNE 2: Pittsburgh at Detroit, 8 p.m.*
JUNE 4: Detroit at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m.*
JUNE 7: Pittsburgh at Detroit, 8 p.m.*
* if necessary