While the Tigers are busy scoring sixty runs a game and the Pistons are losing by sixty points a game, Detroit seems to be forgetting about the fact the Detroit Red Wings are in the playoffs…again.
This is something Wings fans have a tendency to take for granted. Every year – literally every year – the Detroit Red Wings are in the playoffs at the pinnacle of the Western Conference of the NHL. If there is one thing Detroiters can mark on their calendar every April, it is that the
Wings will be in at least one best of seven playoff series.
But this year is different, or at least it feels different. The 2011-12 campaign has been up and down in more ways than fans are used to. The 23-game record-breaking home winning streak was certainly a high of highs. On the flip side, the Wings played like pure garbage at the end of March and into May.
Which Red Wings team will we see in the first series against the Nashville Predators?
One of the reasons for their recent slump is the injury bug hit the club. The last time I wrote about the Red Wings, they were in the midst of their home streak, and I questioned whether or not the injury bug would hit this year.
Sure enough, Pavel Datsyuk went down for a couple weeks, Jimmy Howard has been hurt and Darren Helm will start the Nashville series on the pine because of injury.
Injuries are a constant threat to team continuity. Though Darren Helm isn’t a front line forward, he provides depth in the back end that most NHL organizations don’t have.
Then there is the question of age.
Hall of Fame defenseman Niklas Lidstrom’s minutes are decreasing with every passing month. It is clear that, despite his continued productivity, Lidstrom doesn’t cover as much ground on the Wings side of the blue line as he used to.
Finally, there is a need to talk about the opponent, the Nashville Predators. The Preds were the most active team at the NHL trade deadline, adding veteran players to create a healthy dimension of experience to a club that was already on the younger side.
As recent as three years ago, I wouldn’t even be questioning whether or not the Wings could beat a hockey team from the state of Tennessee, let alone get out of the first round. However, given the past few early playoff exits, I can’t help but doubt how long this Detroit Red Wings team will last.
The team isn’t getting any younger. Lineup fixes with Todd Bertuzzi-esque acquisitions are serviceable, but they won’t get this team back to the Stanley Cup finals.
Compared to the league’s best teams, the Red Wings aren’t as quick, strong or complete as the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins or Vancouver Canucks. It hurts to admit it, but a team that is considered the New York Yankees of the NHL is definitely in question of ending their season in the first round of the playoffs.
Call it doubt. Call it skepticism. Call it “hatin’ on the home team.”
In reality, Nashville is the real deal. They’re younger, tougher, quicker and have good goaltending. In the grind of a seven-game series, I’ll
take that over the aging, hurt and inconsistent.