The Detroit Red Wings ended their 2011-12 season with a fizzle. The second half of the season was plagued with injuries, road woes and missed opportunities.
Through their experience and luck, the Wings are making another playoff run once again. This time, they need to rely more than luck to make it past the first round against the No. 4 seed Nashville Predators.
They draw up a tough match, and it won't be easy for Detroit. Here is what the Wings need to do to beat Nashville and make it to the next round.
There is one thing that Detroit holds over the Predators and it's experience. Detroit is well known for making the postseason, recording their 21st straight playoff appearance this year. Most players on the team are veterans, so they won't be easily rattled on the ice.
The last two times Detroit met Nashville in the postseason was in 2004 and 2008, where they won each meeting in six games. This time it's different, as Nashville will have the home-ice advantage.
Detroit needs to use their experience against Nashville.
Detroit is the only team in the Western Conference playoffs to have a losing record on the road. Without home-ice advantage, this first round isn't looking so well for the Wings.
They need to end their road woes now against Nashville. If they don't, this will probably be a short round. Though the regular season is a different story, this is the playoffs, where almost anything can happen.
What would really aid them is if the Wings were to take advantage on the man advantage. They rank 24th in the NHL on the power play this year.
They need to formulate a better plan on their power plays. While they started the season strong with the man advantage, they truly struggled toward the end. They need to get fired up and generate goals out of the power-play opportunities they get against Nashville.
On the plus side, they do have an effective penalty kill.
Injuries had been plaguing the Wings the second half of the season. The Wings look as if they will be facing the Predators for several games without Darren Helm. He's a fast puck hound as of late, and the Wings will need to find someone else to depend on while he's nursing his sprained ankle.
Nicklas Lidstrom is still limited on the ice as he is still sporting a deep bone bruise on his ankle. The Wings struggled through 11 games without him on ice. Though his presence is still a plus, the Wings need strong defensemen to step up while Lidstrom attempts to fully recover.
Despite injuries, Detroit still has a lot of dangerous players on their team. Valtteri Filppula has been having a stellar season this year and has become a scoring threat for the Wings. Jiri Hudler is also having a solid season, as he's been finding his way to the net as well.
Other star players such as Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi have been creating scoring opportunities on the rink. Johan Franzen has been on a bit of a hot streak lately, and he needs to keep up the dangerous vibe against Nashville.
The offense solidified itself during the last few games of the regular season—and though they may be without Helm—the forwards look hot and dangerous coming into Wednesday evening.
Jimmy Howard struggled in goal with his nagging groin injury during the second half of the season. Healthy, Howard has played a stellar year and is one of the best goalies in the league. Howard needs to find his touch again in the playoffs if he wants to be of great aid to the Wings.
Niklas Kronwall has done well in aiding the offense this season. As a group, the Detroit's defensemen have scored 49 goals this year. While it's great they are aiding the offense, they need to keep on eye on their end and make sure not to commit any turnovers. They can't afford to sacrifice the defense as they are generating offense in this round.
Detroit's defense needs to play their best game against Nashville.