Having been bounced from the postseason in the second round by the San Jose Sharks each of the past two seasons, Mike Babcock and the Red Wings are looking to return to the Cup Finals. In order to do so, they need to be consistent and carry their momentum generated throughout the season into the playoffs.
Here is a list of five players that are essential to the Red Wings chances of playing in June.
A top-four defenseman for the Red Wings, Ian White has helped improve the team’s blue line.
Leading the team with a +31, White has the second most points for Detroit blueliners with 25, only three behind his defensive partner, Nicklas Lidstrom.
White’s experience has lessened the blow of the Wings losing Brian Rafalski last summer and has taken some of the pressure off of Lidstrom’s shoulders.
The journeyman defender has proved that he can have strong impact on a team that offers him stability and may have found a home in Detroit if he continues to play the way he has thus far.
With Jimmy Howard sidelined for up to six weeks with a broken finger, Ty Conklin will have to play strong in net for the Wings to stay atop the NHL standings
In two of his last three outings, Conklin has given up eight goals. And that’s in only four periods of action. Last night, Conklin gave up three goals in the opening period and was pulled before the start of the second – not the most reassuring way to begin a stretch without Howard.
Hopefully, with the opportunity to play consistently, Conklin can string together some strong performances until Howard is ready to return. If he continues to struggle in net, look for general manager Ken Holland to trade for a goalie before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
Finally having the much anticipated breakout year, Valtteri Filppula has already set a career-high in points this season.
Tying his career-best in goals this season with 16, Filppula has the second-most points for the Red Wings with 42.
Filppula’s point scoring has been consistent throughout the season and has earned him more ice time on the power play unit.
His speed, puck-handling skills and defensive awareness make Filppula a critical part of the Red Wings success.
Jiri Hudler has looked like the Jiri Hudler that Red Wings fans remember prior to his one-year jump to Russia’s KHL.
With 34 points on the season split evenly between goals and assists, Hudler has made good decisions of when to shoot the puck. He leads the team with a .230 shot percentage.
Hudler has been on fire recently having scored nine goals and three assists over a 16 game stretch since New Year’s Eve, including four goals in his last four games.
Once again, Pavel Datsyuk is putting up MVP numbers.
After starting the season slow, Datsyuk has increased his production to average just over one point per game. He is tied for third in the league with 53 points, and also has the third most assists with 39. Both numbers are tops on the Red Wings.
Datsyuk’s ability to create scoring opportunities for his team as well as his reputation of being among the NHL’s best two-way forwards is essential to Detroit making a long run in the playoffs.