The Detroit Red Wings finished the season with 115 points earning them the President’s Trophy. They will take on the 8th place Predators when the series starts on Thursday in Detroit.
The Wings will be looking to continue their success against the Predators this season as they won 5 out of the 8 meetings this year.
The Red Wings boast the 3rd best offence in the game led by the dynamic one-two punch of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Zetterberg finished the season with 43 goals, while Datsyuk was the NHL’s 4th leading scorer with 97 points. The top line will give the Predators’ defence nightmares on even-strength and power-play. The Wings also have great depth at the forward position. Holmstrom, when healthy, is a big-game player and he has consistently stepped up his game in the playoffs. Franzen, Hudler and Cleary will also contribute to the offense while Draper and Maltby will be relied on to shutdown Nashville’s top line. Draper does remain a question mark, however, as he has not been fully healthy as of late.
The Predators were led in scoring this year by J.P. Dumont. Together with Arnott and Hlavac, the Preds top line has provided consistent scoring all year. However, the Preds will be without David Legwand and Steve Sullivan will not be available after missing the entire season with an injury. The only way the Preds stand a chance is if their second line of Radulov, Bonk and Erat can step up and take the pressure off the top line. If they can find a way to score, the series could be a lot closer than people expect.
Edge: Red Wings. The Wings top line, coupled with their depth, experience and balanced attack will give the Wings forwards a very strong edge.
The Red Wings have the best defenceman in the game in Nicklas Lidstrom. The favourite to win the Norris Trophy finished the season with 60 assists and 2nd in the league in +/- (behind Datsyuk). He has consistently demonstrated his ability to shutdown the opposition’s forwards and quarterback a power play More importantly, Lidstrom has won the Stanley Cup 3 times already. The Wings’ offseason free agent signing, Brian Rafalski, had a career year. He gives the Wings another offensive weapon on the power-play and brings Stanley-cup experience. The ageless Chelios, Stuart and Kronwall round out the Wing’s solid defensive corp.
The Preds’ defence is young one of the youngest in the league. Weber and Suter have been played well this year but they do not have much playoff experience. Veterans, Zidlicky and de Vries, will have to play at the top of their games to stand a chance against the Wings’ powerful offense.
Edge: Red Wings. Nicklas Lidstrom – enough said.
Babcock has stated all year that Hasek is the team’s starter. However, Hasek has suffered through injuries all year and when he has played recently, his age has shown. If Hasek falters or is unable to go, Osgood will fill in quite admirably as he has done all year.
With his strong play down the stretch and league leading save percentage, Ellis will be the Preds’ starting goaltender. While he has clearly demonstrated his worth during the season, he has no previous playoff experience and with the Red Wings’ experienced and talented forwards peppering him with shots, the Preds’ goaltending remains a big question mark.
Edge: Red Wings. Both Hasek and Osgood have Stanley Cup Rings and are proven performers when it counts most.
It seems that every year the Red Wings are favoured to win the Cup and this year is no exception. They were the NHL’s best team during the regular season and they are poised to continue their success in the post season. With a solid mix of both young and veteran players who can dominate at both ends of the ice, look for the Wings to overmatch the Preds in all facets of the game.
Prediction: Red Wings in 5.
For Illegal Curve, I am Adam Gutkin.