Did you expect anything else? Closing out the season with a 3-0 dominant win over the Dallas Stars to take whatever control over their playoff lives to earn a 7th seed in the West facing a potentially more manageable first round opponent in Anaheim.
We also learned a lot from this Wings team this year. Heading into the season, with the loss of Lidstrom and Brad Stuart there was considerable concern surrounding a suddenly young blue line. However things worked themselves out this year and it really became a pleasant surprise. From Kindl to Smith, to the pickup of Danny DeKeyser the end of this regular season in regards to the defense was really a positive sign in terms of the growth and an area that’s going to be fun to watch in the coming seasons.
Then there was the offense that really displayed a roller coaster type year. The hope though going forward into this playoff run is that Franzen can continue his inspired play instead of the guy that floated for about 35 games this year. Zetterberg and Datsyuk have also shown that they can still control a game and take over while guys like Andersson and Nyquist have provided Detroit with a relentless attack.
The only problem is that attack isn’t resulting in goals.
The Wings have found some nice pieces moving forward and should fill out a nice roster next year, with any luck in the free agent market the Red Wings could return to their dominating ways, only in a new conference.
You also can’t pass up the emergence of Jimmy Howard.
In today’s NHL Jimmy Howard has put himself in the top tier netminder conversation. He has gotten better every year, and with a piece I wrote earlier, find me a goalie with better numbers in Detroit the last 25 years? You can’t. And in terms of stats, Howard was right near the top in just about every significant goaltending category:
- He was tied for the league lead in shutouts with five.
- In terms of his total games played, only Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Niemi played as many games as Howard and had a higher save percentage. (Howard was .923, Niemi was .924 and Lundqvist was .926)
- Howard was top 5 in Goals Against for starting goalies with 30 games. Of goalies that played over 40 games, Howard was 2nd.
Also I ask Red Wing fans to keep in mind that Jimmy was top seven in shots faced, and was top five in saves made. So if you’re wondering how Detroit stayed alive, when they forgot how to score 3 goals in a game? Well, Jimmy Elite is your answer.
Concerning the playoff push, Detroit should be hard for the Ducks to handle. The Wings won two of three games against Anaheim during the season, and Detroit should be in line to make it to the second round. Zetterberg and Datsyuk will be all over Perry and Getzlaf while Howard won’t need to play out of his mind but will have to still be solid against a very good Anaheim offensive attack. But if Detroit were to move on Howard needs to be better than the other goalie. I will hate to see Detroit go into that goal scoring drought they have been prone to do, and Jimmy get blamed by the talking heads and fans when he puts up numbers good enough to win.
I will say this in closing, Detroit will go as far as Howard can take them. Special teams play will take on a huge role in the playoffs especially with the penalty killing unit getting better, climbing into the top half of the league. The power play too has shown signs of life as of late which will also be a nice asset heading into the postseason. As long as those units are serviceable I can see Detroit making a 2nd round appearance, but ultimately losing in that round.