The Detroit Red Wings have been resting their “old bones” for a few days now since handily and convincingly discarding the Phoenix Coyotes in a four game sweep. Not too shabby for a team that some felt were on the downward slope.
Yet again, reports of the demise of the Red Wing have been vastly exaggerated.
Nonetheless, Detroit advanced before their series could get too interesting. That can’t be said for the rest of the League. I waited a few days to write this up because I was hoping we’d have a clearer picture as to who Detroit will face in the second round. But Anaheim and Nashville are still trading games like elementary school kids trade bags of chips, and the Hawks are making the Canucks sweat it out a lot-a-bit. (Is there anyone in Vancouver with nails left?)
The Sharks should be able to ditch the Kings here in the next game or two, which is a shame. If Anze Kopitar is healthy this is a different series all together. But the Penguins don’t have Malkin or Crosby, and I don’t know if I could make it out of the first round on NHL 11 for the XBox with their lineup. Yet they are one win away from dispensing the start-up Lightning, so no excuses.
That leaves three possible opponents for Detroit. Barring a miracle type comeback for the Blackhawks and the Kings, Detroit in all likelihood will play the San Jose Sharks. Should the Hawks manage to down the Canucks, they would play San Jose and Detroit would face the winner of the knock-down drag out Nashville-Anaheim series.
Got all that?
Nashville would be the opponent that everyone expected the Coyotes to be. Tenacious and stingy defense, goal scoring by committee and a goaltender that can have you breaking your stick over the cross-bar. The Preds also have one of the most underrated (somehow) defensive pairings in the League in Sutter and Weber. If these guys were playing in Edmonton they’d already have statues.
So it’d be a tough test to say the least. The Predators gave Detroit fits during the regular season, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot now. Anyone who watched a period or two of the Wings opening round series knows that this isn’t the same hockey club.
This one would go six or seven to be sure, and the difference would probably be in net. The Wings score a lot of goals and the Preds prevent a lot of goals. Sound familiar? It should. This is exactly how Anaheim and Nashville were billed going into the first round.
I don’t think my feelings on the Anaheim Ducks are a mystery at this point. I don’t like ’em. Uh-uh. Not one bit. Though I am a lot less afraid of them now than I was a month ago though. I wouldn’t mind playing them at this point—especially with a healthy and effective Zetterberg.
Detroit’s grinders are really stepping up to the task and I can’t say enough about how well the secondary guys have been for the Red Wings. Bertuzzi is playing big, Cleary is getting to the front of the net, and the Draper-Helm-Eaves line has been sensational. Even Kronwall has started to live up to the expectations the club had for him when he was drafted.
Toss in Pavel playing out of this universe, and the return to form of the Mule and I believe Detroit can score goals in bunches to a larger degree than Anaheim can. The RPG line is scary, and Selanne looks like he is 28 again. But in the end I think Detroit’s guns of all sizes outmatch the Ducks.
This is also the only series where I feel like Detroit has a true edge in goal. As long as Ray Emery is the go-to guy in Anaheim, I’ll take Jimmy. (Sidenote: How awesome was he in the first round. Great to see.)
And that leaves the San Jose Sharks—the most likely of all second round scenarios.
Bring. Them. On.
I’d love nothing more than to see the Winged Wheel yank the teeth out of the Sharks after last year. That series didn’t live up to the billing as Detroit was worn out from two lengthy playoff runs (something San Jose would know nothing about) and just couldn’t match intensity with a team playing to prove itself after years of futility.
The Sharks have a very talented group of forwards, to be sure. Marleau, Clowe, Thornton, Logan Coture, Joe Pavelski, Setoguchi…make no mistake, these skaters are dangerous every time they step on the ice. But it wasn’t the deadly first line that gave Detroit fits last year. It was the second and third lines that the Wings couldn’t seem to solve. Pavelski and Setoguchi in particular.
Detroit had 13 players score goals in the four game set against the Coyotes. If they can keep that up—and I have every reason to believe that they will—this would be a high scoring, high-octane series that will have the goaltenders hating their lives for one or two weeks.
Good stuff, right?
Whoever the Wings draw, I feel they have the weapons and, suddenly, the determination to down them. Each opponent brings a unique set of challenges, but in the end I feel that Detroit has the keys to unlock each squad and prevail.
Hockey God’s know, if the continue to play like they were when they closed out Phoenix, Detroit could be having itself another parade sooner rather than later.