Over the past several years, the Wings have excelled due in large part to the world-class trio of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Nicklas Lidstrom. The skilled and possessive Red Wings style of play fueled a Stanley Cup run in 2008 and a return trip the following season.
The arrival of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (2007) brought hockey back to the forefront in the Windy City. Mirroring Datsyuk and Zetterberg's rise in Detroit, Kane and Toews quickly became the central pieces of an exciting and competitive team. Three years later, Kane clinched the Stanley Cup with a quick wrist shot from the left boards.
This season has presented challenges for both clubs. Going into the season, the Red Wings lacked consistent scoring outside of the Euro Twins, while the Blackhawks were looking to fill an apparent lack of depth at center.
Filppula answered the call for the Wings, asserting himself as one of the NHL's most underrated two-way forwards. Only Zetterberg and Datsyuk play the opponent harder. With great skating and reactive hands, Filppula has a nose for the puck. With 64 points on the season, his play in the opponent's zone has improved drastically. With more pucks going to the net, linemates Zetterberg and Hudler have not only embraced Filppula, but flourished.
Unlike Filppula, Kane is not enjoying a career year. In fact, this is the second year his numbers have slipped. Kane missed a large part of training camp as a result of offseason wrist surgery. In a somewhat questionable move, Quenville looked to move Kane, a natural winger, to center. Though Kane has excellent offensive awareness and playmaking ability, he turns the puck over and does not back-check.
With a handful of games remaining, Filppula has more goals (23) and points (64) than the heralded Kane (20G, 60P).
Patrick Kane is one of the more dynamic players in the league, so is Filppula's better play just a fluke?