For any dedicated sports follower, the NHL playoffs have always proven to be an event that encapsulates electrifying bursts of athletic passion while maintaining a staple tradition of awarding the ultimate victor one of the most iconic trophies in sports; the coveted and monstrous Stanley Cup. Each year, every team that earns their place in the postseason gets to fantasize and realistically envision the euphoric moment of what it would be like to hoist that beloved cup over their heads in exhausted satisfaction. Although it’s expected that the team with the best overall record should stand the greatest chance of being the ultimate champion, from time to time, an unexpected resurgence occurs from an under the radar organization. While the Detroit Wings can hardly be considered an under the radar franchise as they have garnered 11 Stanley Cup victories since they became the Red Wings in 1932, they have recently made a name for themselves as an inconsistent albeit fiery team that can take down even the most intimidating juggernaut come post season play. Even though the Red Wings triumphant upset over the Anaheim Ducks during the first round of last years playoffs was awe-inspiring, it was ultimately marred by a meltdown against the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference semi-finals where dropped four straight games. However, despite this tragic misstep, the underappreciated Red Wings look to redeem themselves for their past mistakes to ultimately go farther than anyone expects them to do so.
Out of all of the teams in NHL, the Red Wings are by far the most provocative in terms of their overall rankings versus their individual game outputs. While the Red Wings only average 2.6 goals per game (16th in the NHL), they are capable of putting up double that as they have gone toe to toe with superior offensive opponents such as Pittsburgh and Boston and have come out of the other end supremely victorious. This inexplicable perseverance is due largely in part to Red Wings versatile offense that is predicated on methodical puck movement rather than shooting one mindless one-timer after another. Out of all of the players on the Red Wings roster, defenseman Niklas Kronwell is by far the most unselfish athlete who is heavily involved in his team’s dynamic offense. Although the last few years haven’t been Kronwell’s best, this season, the veteran defenseman emulated his miraculous 2008-2009 seasons where he contributed 45 assists. The fact that a defenseman like Kronwell can be such a fluid and gifted puck facilitator will give the Red Wings a hidden edge when they compete against the Boston Bruins in the playoffs.
While the Red Wings pride themselves on being smart puck facilitators, this team isn’t afraid to shoot the puck and has the killer instincts of an experienced franchise that can attack an opposing defense in a multitude of ways. For the young center Gustav Nyquist, scoring and assisting is seemingly second nature as he was dominant in both categories throughout the course of the regular season (28 goals and 20 assists, both career highs). Even 17 year veteran right-winger Daniel Alfredsson has made his presence known in his first year with the Red Wings with his 31 assists and 18 goals. Even though Alfredsson’s days of scoring 103 points in a single season may be far behind him, his contributions as an experienced and battle hardened hockey player can’t underestimated especially when they compliment the Red Wings style of play so well.
However, even with the Red Wings explosively potent offense, they have a single Achilles heel that could be detrimental to this teams chances of making it far in the playoffs: inconsistent goaltending. Although the Red Wings hardly have the worst goaltenders in the game, they have been forced to settle with the adequate outputs of Jonas Gustavsson (save percentage of 90.7%) and Jimmy Howard (save percentage of 91%). Fortunately, the Red Wings may have discovered an eager young prodigy in Petr Mrazek who has show moments of brilliance in his brief moments on the ice (save percentage of 92.7%). Although it may be unfair to expect this youngster to be clutch in the post season, in both his victories during the regular season he shut out the Edmonton Oilers and the St. Louis Blues.
In the end, the Red Wings have been the enigma of the NHL this season and while they have had their moments of embarrassment, they have just as easily bounced back to become one of the most offensively dominant teams in hockey. Although it’s impossible to tell which Red Wings team will show up during their playoff series against the Bruins, if the their 3-1 record against the gifted Bruins is any indication of what they are capable of, this team could shock the world by going on one of the most inspired post season runs of all time.