Nobody would have guessed that the Detroit Red Wings would have a 3-1 lead against the Chicago Blackhawks, and just 1 win away from the Western Conference Final. Entering the season, many questions were faced with the Detroit Redwings. Would they be able to keep their streak of 20+ playoff appearances alive? How would they respond without Nicklas Lidstrom, the best defenseman of all time? Would an aging Zetterberg and Datsyuk still be able to perform at an elite level? The Red Wings have beaten all odds, and exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Heading into their second round matchup against Chicago, it was tempting to predict a sweep for the Blackhawks. They did it in the regular season, so why not again in the playoffs? Just one problem, Detroit is all of a sudden a different team.
All four lines are constantly feeding off the energy of Justin Abdelkader. His physical play and surprising offensive production have been vital for the Wings. Abdelkader was having a career year, and has carried this into the playoffs. For Detroit to have continued success, Abdelkader must bring his abundance of energy and physicality shift after shift.
Another factor to Detroit’s success is the strong play of their defenseman. I will be the first to admit, I anticipated Detroit to mightily struggle without Nicklas Lidstrom. However, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl have really stepped up in their roles. Both young Dmen contribute on special teams, and their balance of strong defence and an offensive ability have paid dividends for the Red Wings.
Arguably the most underrated goalie in the NHL, Jimmy Howard has done wonders for the Red Wings this year. Howard has stolen the show this series, shutting out Chicago’s top stars. If Howard continues his stellar play, Detroit will show no signs of slowing down.
With the aging of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel datsyuk, one would have believed that they may be a step behind the game. This is definitely not the case. Both players have been the driving force for the Red Wings. Zetterberg is an exceptional 2 way player, while Datsyuk is an absolute wizard with the puck. Both of these players have played a crucial role for the Red Wings this year, and will continue doing so.
The Detroit Red Wings were the underdogs heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but this doesn’t seem to bother them. In fact, they are thriving in this role. With the continued play of Zetterberg and Datsyuk, along with the dominance of Jimmy Howard, there is not a reason to doubt why the Red Wings won’t be contending for the cup come the end of June.