Detroit Red Wings: 8 Reasons Fans Can Count on a Deep Playoff Run
The Detroit Red Wings currently sit atop the NHL standings deep into the 2011-2012 NHL season. To no surprise, they're back in the Cup hunt again.
Assuming the Red Wings make the playoffs (They're 17 points over 9th place) it will be their 21st consecutive appearance.
21 seems to be a good number for the Red Wings this year, as they just recently broke the record for consecutive wins at home, with a new record (Still active) of 21.
Detroit hasn't looked this good since at least 2009, when they lost in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, and because of that fans are expecting a long playoff run.
With that, here are eight reasons the Red Wings will make a deep run in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Unstoppable at Home
As it was previously noted in the introductory slide, the Red Wings are kind of good at home.
And by kind of, I mean nearly impossible to beat. If you need it in numbers, you should probably take a seat before reading the next little bit of the slide.
First off, the Wings just set a record for the most consecutive home wins in NHL history at 21. That record brings Detroit up to 24-2-1 overall at home, which is a winning percentage of about 88%.
As of this writing on February 17th, 2012, the Red Wings haven't lost at Joe Louis Arena since November 3rd, 2011. That's exactly three and a half months.
Why does all this matter? Certainly some naysayer will come along an nit pick on Detroit's average road record, but when you're on top of the league it doesn't matter.
Detroit is currently in first place, and first place means automatic home ice advantage, and when it comes to playing in the Joe this season, that's a huge advantage.
Stars Heating Up
Pavel Datsyuk already heated up a long time ago, and is still playing decently with an injured wrist. Valtteri Filppula broke his career season 55 games into the current season. Jiri Hudler has resurrected his career, and perhaps his value in Detroit.
And then there was Henrik Zetterberg.
Zetterberg hasn't been doing to well this year. He's averaging less than a point per game, his goal scoring is at a huge low, and he just couldn't seem to get things going.
Until recently. Zetterberg has put up nine points in his last six games, which is more like the Henrik that Detroit is used to.
Unfortunately, Zetterberg's moment may take a bit of a hit after suffering a lower body injury. He's now listed as day to day and will miss Detroit's game against the Predators on Friday.
Obviously, Detroit's stars are all clicking right now, and that will be dangerous when the playoffs roll around.
Oh, and that Franzen guy isn't doing too badly either.
Defense Is Much Improved
With Nicklas Lidstrom turning 41 and Brian Rafalski surprisingly retiring during the offseason, everybody thought the Red Wings' blue line was on the verge of taking a huge hit.
And then they prove everybody wrong. Lidstrom is a shell of his former self... And is still better than 90% of the league's defenders.
Then there's the hole left by Brian Rafalski, which was blown way out of proportion. If we were talking about the Brian Rafalski of five years ago when Detroit originally had signed him, it would have been a devastating loss for the Red Wings.
But we're talking about the Brian Rafalski of the 2010-2011 Season, who was hampered by injuries so badly that he went from a great defender to below average.
Ian White, who was acquired by Ken Holland over the 2011 offseason, has done more than fill the gap left by Rafalski's retirement, and White is currently tied with Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins at the top of the plus minus chart.
If solo stats aren't good enough for you consider this; Detroit was 23rd last year defensively and made it to game seven of the Western Conference Semifinals. This year they're 5th overall defensively.
Newfound Goaltending Depth
If you're a Red Wings fan and you've suffered from nightmares of Jimmy Howard getting injured during the playoffs and Ty Conklin having to start, you probably aren't alone.
Conklin has been an absolute mess for the Red Wings in net this season. Whenever he was given the chance to start a game, he commonly made Cristobal Huet look like a Vezina candidate.
Simply put, Conklin's best days are way behind him. As luck would have it though, Jimmy Howard suffered a minor injury, and Conklin played so poorly that the Wings were forced to start 3rd string goalie, Joey MacDonald.
MacDonald has panned out very well so far. He has one win extra over Conklin and has started in just half as many games.
His .930 Save Percentage and 1.7 Goals Against Average, while heavily skewed, are far better than anything Conklin has done all year, and MacDonald has presented himself as a legitimate backup goaltender that Detroit can rely on.
Read into this what you will, because it means absolutely nothing, but it's fun just to think about.
The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2002 and in 2008.
In both 2002 and 2008, the New England Patriots lost the Superbowl.
In both 2002 and 2008, the Red Wings won the President's Trophy.
In both 2002 and 2008, the Red Wings were on top of the league at the All-Star Break.
In 2012, The New England Patriots lost the Superbowl, the Red Wings are currently the favorite for the President's Trophy, and Detroit led the league at the All-Star Break.
For those unfamiliar with the term, "Black Aces" refers to the players you're allowed to bring up once the playoffs start. Unlike the 23 player limit you have to abide by during the regular season, teams can call up many more players and scratch them during the playoffs.
Why is this important? Consider this, if any Red Wings player goes down, they have to call up somebody to replace them.
Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Brendan Smith are all currently NHL ready players who sit in Grand Rapids because Detroit loves to leave their prospects until they're overripe and because Detroit has so much depth already.
If any player goes down, these guys will be ready to show what they can do at the pro level.
If I had a nickel for every time I heard the Red Wings were too old, I'd buy the Coyotes and relocate them to Seattle.
Detroit is as young as they have been in many, many years. They're younger than the were in 2002 and 2008, and they won the Stanley Cup both of those years.
Their oldest player, Nicklas Lidstrom, is still in talks for a Norris Trophy nomination as the league's best defenseman.
Some people will call it old age, but we'll stick to experience. Amongst the current players on their roster, the Red Wings have a total of 19 Stanley Cup Rings. That's a lot of diamonds.
One word describes Jimmy Howard this season: Unbelievable.
Before breaking a finger, Jimmy Howard was on pace to break a single season wins record amongst goaltenders. Oh, and it may be worth noting that that record of 47 wins was held by Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur.
Howard is still looking at a possibly Vezina nomination and he has had outstanding numbers all season. Despite missing the last six games, Howard still leads the league in wins.
Some may call Howard's injury unfortunate, and it certainly is unfortunate that he may have been robbed of a chance to make history, but his injury was a blessing in disguise.
Up until his injury, Howard was slated to start 65+ games by the end of the season, mostly due to the fact that the Red Wings had shoddy backup goaltending.
Now, Howard has gotten two weeks of rest, and Joey MacDonald has proven that the Red Wings can rest Jimmy more often, to keep him fresher for the playoffs.
Hands down, Howard has been the MVP for the Red Wings this season.
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Jordan Matthews writes for the NHL and for the Detroit Red Wings. You can read his recent articles below, and for more coverage you can Become a Fan on Bleacher Report.