With the departure of future Hall-of-Famer Nicklas Lidstrom and Thomas Holmstrom to retirement, this shortened season was supposed to be the Detroit Red Wings’ year of rebuilding.
Scratch that “rebuilding” talk.
When the shortened season resumed on January 19, none of the so-called hockey experts gave the Red Wings a chance to crack the top eight in the Western Conference. Like many teams, they’ve gone through some ups and downs, but the leadership of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have always seemed to pull the whole team through. Along with the supporting cast of Justin Abdelkader, Daniel Cleary, Johan Franzen and Valterri Filppula, the Wings managed to finish in seventh place, with a first round date against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Again, the so-called experts predicted a slaughter by the Ducks who had ample firepower from Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. The defence wasn’t so bad either with Francois Beauchemin, Sheldon Souray and net-protected by Jonas Hiller, who many thought had a slight advantage over Jimmy Howard, who many feel hasn’t earned the No. 1 spot since the retirement of Chris Osgood after the 2010-11 season. Even after signing a renewed contract with Detroit, many still feel that Howard wouldn’t be answer.
How do the Detroit Red Wings stay relevant? It starts with solid management led by Ken Holland and reliable coaching from Mike Babcock. They know that they can always count on the young veterans & kids they’ve brought in and have stepped up in the playoffs. Detroit’s defence still has Stanley Cup experience through veterans like Nicklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and even Ian White or Carlo Colaiacovo that was brought in to help the young defence when Brad Stuart returned to the San Jose Sharks.
The kids on the offense have certainly impressed in the first round, earning vital goals and game winners from Damien Brunner and Gustav Nyquist, relative unknowns before the series started. Now, they will face a much tougher task in the next round against the Cup-Favorite Chicago Blackhawks.
Once again, the so-called experts will predict a Chicago victory in this round. They could be right, but don’t ever count out Detroit. There is so much rivalry and history between these two clubs, this particular series could perhaps be the last one we’re going to see in a while once the Red Wings move over to the Eastern Conference. The Wings have had the Hawks’ number in the last few matchups, but this is a stacked Hawks clubs that could pull it off if they could contain Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Time for the Detroit kids to shine even further.
This will be a fun Original Six clash.
A former novice/atom player, timekeeper and fan of the game, Peter has lived and breathed hockey throughout his life, covering hockey happenings in Edmonton, Vancouver, and currently in Saskatchewan. He is now a contributing writer for the Hockey Writers.