The Detroit Red Wings are the Western Conference’s #7 seed. They will be taking on the Anaheim Ducks. We called upon JJ from WingingItInMotown.com to give us some insight on the Red Wings. Make sure to give them a follow on Twitter at @WingingItMotown.
1. Was there really any doubt that the Red Wings were going to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight year?
Oh there was plenty. Preseason expectations were to make the playoffs, but injuries and inconsistency can turn a mid-tier contender into a bubble team, especially in a shortened season. That’s exactly what happened with the Wings and Saturday night was the most-nervous I’ve been for a hockey game since game seven of the Sharks series two seasons ago.
2. How did the retirement for Nicklas Lidstrom affect the team on and off the ice this season?
Lidstrom took 24 minutes of solid shut-down defense with an outlet-creating breakout pass and great vision on the power play and he made the Wings replace that with guys who hadn’t proven they could. He also took one of the most-calming and intelligent hockey minds off their bench and out of their locker room on a daily basis. The Wings are less-consistent without Lidstrom, but they’ve made some adjustments which have lessened the sting. Detroit’s defense is a lot better than people thought it would be this season.
3. Who has taken over the leadership role?
The guys with letters on their chests were already in place and ready. Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, and Pavel Datsyuk bring much of the same calm professionalism and a good amount of experience. Datsyuk is very much a lead-by-quiet-example guy while Zetterberg is a strategist. Kronwall is said to be the more-vocal guy in the room.
4. Jimmy Howard got the big contract extension, is he right guy for the future?
Howard is a fiery competitor who can put up numbers that fit his pay grade comparable to other goalies around the league. He absolutely loves it in Detroit and is a great fit for the system they play. I might have preferred a five year deal to six, since Detroit is suddenly getting much better in the goalie prospects department, but we’ve got several years to worry about a guy who in the clutch of the last week of the season with the Wings needing to go 3-0-1 or better to guarantee a spot, proceeded to play four games in which he gave up three goals total.
5. How has the addition of Damien Brunner been?
Wings brass hoped Brunner would bring consistent scoring in a top-six sniper role and thought they had nailed that down after Brunner got off to a hot start. He cooled off in the second half of the season and now finds himself on Detroit’s third line. However, his “demotion” hasn’t altered his aggressive, creative, and speedy style of play. He’s still adjusting to the faster, more physical game and the smaller ice surface, but the guy has the attitude and the skills to make it in the NHL.
6. Has Jordin Tootoo behaved himself so far?
His stats tell of another season with high penalty totals, but his play has been more-controlled. He spent a lot of the early season taking on whomever wanted to fight, but he’s calmed down as far as taking ill-timed battles and concentrates on playing as a great aggressive forechecker who makes space for his teammates. For comparison, Tootoo has the same number of minors this season as Zetterberg. I will admit that he’s made a couple of hits I wish he had done differently. To the refs’ credit, they penalized him each time he made a hit perhaps more dangerous than he should have.
7. The Wings draw the Ducks in the first round, how does do they match up with the Ducks?
The Ducks matchup should be fun. Offensively, Anaheim has an advantage, but Detroit is a better defensive team and can match forward lines fairly well against Anaheim’s most-dangerous players. Anaheim has a size advantage, but Detroit plays a better system. For the second-best team in the conference, the Ducks are about due to have their possession disadvantage come to bite them.
8. Is Hockeytown ready for a deep run this year?
The fans are ready for a deep run every year, but the team shouldn’t have those expectations. In today’s parity NHL, just about any team that makes the postseason can make a serious run for the cup, but I think Detroit would be more than thrilled with even a Conference Finals appearance. There are a lot of ifs that need to go right for the Wings in the postseason for them to be dangerous enough to compete for the cup and I’m just not confident relying on things like them staying healthy enough during the roughest hockey of the year.