If I told you six months ago that one of these teams struggle on the road, has one of the worst penalty kills in the league and won’t have home-ice advantage in the playoffs, there’s no question we’d all have said Nashville.
We’d all be wrong.
At the beginning of the season, most Predator fans would have been happy with making the playoffs and possibly getting to the second round. Finishing with the third-best record in the conference and starting with home ice shows how far this organization has come. Nashville is now a very real threat to make the Finals.
Everyone knew they were big and Pekka Rinne could steal a game. With the addition of Andrei Kostitsyn, Alex Radulov and the league’s best power-play unit, they’re giving Rinne leads to play with.
Detroit went in the exact opposite direction. After setting the record for consecutive wins on home ice, Wings fans had dreams of the Presidents' Trophy dancing in their heads and were ready to buy their Stanley Cup Finals tickets. Then the injury bug bit. Again.
With stalwarts Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Johan Franzen and a bevy of other players getting nicked, the Wings were forced to mix and match lines for most of the second half. Given that they won two road games in the final two months of the season, this team hardly resembles the one back in October. For the first time in years, Detroit is the underdog.
Here’s how the series breaks down: