It is getting to be that time of year again. Yes, arenas are beginning to buzz, players are starting to up their respective ante while leaving their razors at home, and almost every game being played has a playoff atmosphere to it – mostly because this homestretch is shaping up to be one of the tightest in recent memory.
No team in the West has more than ten games left to play, and only four points separate the resurgent Calgary Flames (who are technically in 10th place as of this writing) and Phoenix (who are cashing in on another quiet but successful season in the desert, sitting in 4th place as of this writing).
That leaves the fans of teams 4 through 10 in a very precarious and stressful situation. For the top three seeds in the Conference though, barring a series drop off in the play of Detroit and San Jose, the question is a simple one. Who will the opponent be a few weeks from now when the playoffs get underway? It’s hard telling, but lets take a look at how Detroit shapes up against the plethora of teams it could face. For these examinations I will assume that the players that are currently out with “short term injuries” will be back in the lineup come round one, game one. I got butterflys just typing out the phrase “game one.” Anyone else with me there?
Detroit vs. Nashville
If the playoffs started today, the Wings would be facing off with a familiar foe. The Preds have always proven to be a tough out, and with good reason. This is a well coached team that is built traditionally from the net out. They have solid guys between the pipes and a very sturdy blue line. Scoring by committee. You know the drill.
Out of all the teams the Wings could run into in the first round, I like this match-up the most. Which is no disrespect to Nashville at all. It’s just that I would much rather play them in the first round than say, the Chicago Blackhawks (yikes). That being said, Nashville would only be a few outstanding goaltending performances away from this turning into a three game series at the back end.
I also like this matchup because of the travel situation. Detroit drawing the Ducks, Stars, Calgary or L.A. in the first round is a lot of travel time. And that could catch up with the Wings a bit by the third and fourth round. I know they are seasoned professionals, and by now they are all used to the travel. But why do it if you don’t have to? Moving on…
Detroit vs. Calgary
The Flames have been tough to play on a nightly basis for the last few months. After floundering through the first half of the season, this squad has caught fire (ha! Get it? Caught fire? ’cause.. they are the Flames…ahem…) and made a push for the playoffs. To be honest I haven’t been able to watch them play recently, but said push leads me to believe they are playing some good puck.
This would also be a disadvantageous traveling situation for our guysin Red and White, but the Wings have fared quite well against the Flames this season, so this matchup is one I would be pretty comfortable with. Again, as is generally the case in the playoffs, the Flames would be one or two stone cold performances from Kipper away from making this a fire fight (okay, I’m done now), but I like the odds here as well.
If nothing else, it’s always great to be able to watch Canadian teams in the playoffs because we don’t see a whole lot of them here in the States. Any chance to watch Jarome Iginla play is one I would jump at. They’ve been getting a lot of hop out of Curtis Glencross and even Olli Jokinen lately as well.
Detroit vs. Dallas
This is the first of three “this team is better than their record implies”, and would be a pretty tough first round draw.
The other two “better than their record implies” teams are the Ducks and the Hawks.) The Stars were the darlings of the NHL before a pretty brutal winless streak brought them all the way back to Earth, and all the way down the standings. They have seemingly righted the ship, and if they can return back to early season form (read: If Brad Richards can continue to stay healthy and play like a man making Sidney Crosby money) then they should be able to squeak into the playoffs and give somebody fits.
This team is pretty much chock full of proven playoff performers. Brad Richards is making a zillion dollars a year based on his play during Tampa’s improbable run to the Cup several years back. Steve Ott is a pain. Morrow is one of my favorite players to watch come spring time, as long as it isn’t against my guys. I feel like this would be a helluva series, and am honestly kind of secretly rooting for this one just because it’d be such outstanding, intense, up-tempo hockey.
Detroit vs. (friggin’) Anaheim
For the record, I still have nightmares about J.S. Giguere. I wake up shaking and with the cold sweats occasionally.
Running into a healthy Ducks squad is another tough first round matchup for the Wings. Corey Perry has been an absolute force this year, and Ryan Getzlaf is an awesome player. He’s always been a monster when the playoffs roll around, and if I had a nickel for every time I have seen him face wash a Wing after the whistle, well, I could go ahead and buy myself an NHL franchise and move it to Winnipeg. (And I’d do it too.)
Everyone knows what Hiller can do in the playoffs, and that Ray Emmery fella’ was an interesting pickup that could pay some dividends in a six or seven game series. If Jimmy Howard doesn’t do his impression of Switzerland’s finest cheese in this potential series, I’d say goaltending is a wash here and this becomes a battle of talented forwards.
I would love to see what Cam Fowler does in the playoffs after watching him be so solid in the WJCs. Bobby Ryan hasn’t exactly been a pushover either, and Teemu Selanne is made out of the same ageless alien flesh that Nick Lidstrom is. Neither of them seem human, as neither of them age. I mean, just look at those full, healthy heads of hair.
All in all, I’d prefer not see these guys at all. It is always a physically taxing series, and that flight is brutal. It isn’t like they’d go away in five.
Detroit vs. Chicago
I’d be okay playing the defending Champs, honestly. Pretty sure that Sidney Crosby let John Toews borrow his mojo while he was waiting for his head to clear, as he has been arguable the best player in the world since the turn of the new year. Hanging on to Patrick Sharp appears to have been the right call – those Bowmans sure are smart! – and I can’t wait to see Kaner’s mullet again.
Is goaltending a question for the Hawks? I don’t think so, honestly. Crawford appears to be the real deal, and I have learned in the past not to think less of a goaltender just because he hasn’t been to the playoffs… unless he is a Red Wing. In which case, it is a kiss of death. But I digress.
This isn’t the same squad that the Wings faced last year. The entire third line is gone and those were the dudes that turned into battle axes and put the Hawks over the top against the Wings in their series a year ago. I still think Chicago has the guns to come out on top in this one, and I wouldn’t be entirely surprised. They have fought adversity this year as they faced what seemed to be an identity crisis coming out of the gate. The Turco experiment fell flat and you could tell the team was missing the personalities it was forced to deal in the offseason.
They have since pulled together and appear to be back on track. I don’t love this matchup, but I don’t hate it either. I feel it’d be another hotly contested series that would be a lot of fun to watch.
Detroit vs. L.A.
The Kings and Canucks series from last year is one of my favorite of all time. What a set of games. For that reason, I hope Detroit doesn’t draw them and Vancouver does, because sequels are always as good as the originals, right?
That being said, I have L.A. kind of in the same place as the Flames in my mind. I just haven’t been able to see them play a whole bunch. They have a lot of zip it seems, and Drew Doughty is one of my favorite players in the League. The loss of Justin Williams hurts, but I considered it a miracle he hadn’t been hurt yet this year as he is clearly made of crystal. However, losing your second leading scorer can hardly be considered a good thing.
They still added Penner at the deadline though. He has points in six of his first nine games as a King. They ice a lot of good role players and go-to guys with the determination that pays off in the playoffs. Ryan Smyth, anyone? Jack Johnson is turning in his best season yet, and Rob Scuderi gets the job done every year.
Detroit could win this series, but again, it’d be a very taxing one. L.A. has a lot of size up front and has some great players. The flight to California still isn’t awesome.
Detroit vs. Pheonix
The League needs to check the water in the Pacific Division or something, because all five of their teams could very well end up in the playoffs. Expansion wasn’t such a bad idea after all, eh?Wings fans will remember the ‘Yotes clearly from last year. A tough six games leading up to a blow out of a seventh.
Going into this year I thought this years version of Pheonix wasn’t as good, but there they are, chilling in fourth so… my apologies, Pheonix. No idea where Keith Yandle came from, but all my fantasy teams are glad he is, you know, going nuts. Shane Doan is still good and one of the best leaders in the game. They still have great goaltending. This would still be a great series.
You vs. This Article
If you read all this, you deserve a golden star or a cookie or something. Maybe a nice shrimp dinner at Red Lobster on me? Thanks for sticking around, anyway. I’d love to hear what you guys think about these matchups. Think I got something wrong? Have something to add? Feel free to kick off a conversation in the comments. I’m always down for hockey chatter. Until next time… be well and good luck.