Ahh, yes, it's that team again.
The defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings.
The Winged Wheel.
Whenever someone brings up hockey, especially in the last 10 or so years, the talk always shifts to Detroit. Home of four Stanley Cup Championship teams since '96-97, the Red Wings are the real deal.
Nicklas Lidstrom, perhaps the greatest defenceman of all time, is actually known as Mr. Norris in hockey circles. (The Norris trophy is given to the best defenceman in the NHL). Since 1999-2000, Lidstrom has earned the award six times in eight seasons.
The other two winners not named Nicklas? Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger (Yep. Both Ducks now.).
Let's take a step back from gushing about just how good Lidstrom really is, though, and look at this whole Red Wings team.
Up front, Detroit has probably the deepest talent in all of hockey. Forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa, and Johan Franzen combined for 137 regular season goals and 163 assists this year.
That's unbelievable, but what's scarier is that they had SEVEN other players with between 10 and 23 goals.
That's not depth, that's just flat out scary offense.
On the defensive side, beyond Nicklas "Mr. Norris" Lidstrom, the Wings have Brian Rafalski (who'll miss Fridays game), Nicklas Kronwall, and Anreas Lilja, all great shut-down defenders.
In net, they have the veteran Chris Osgood. Many folks will argue his value to the team, but a proven Stanley Cup veteran goalie is never a bad thing to have. His backup is journeyman Ty Conklin, a serviceable goaltender with the potential to come up big if Osgood struggles.
The Ducks counter with their new look blueline corps. Stallwarts Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, and Francois Beauchemin are joined by late season acquisitions James Wisniewski and Ryan Whitney to form a line that absolutely shut down the top-seeded San Jose Sharks' offensive units.
The Ducks' blue line also helped propel them into the playoffs, with the Ducks finishing their lackluster season on a 10-2-1 roll to earn the eighth seed.
Up front, the Ducks have the RPG Line: Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf. All three of these players have the skills necessary to completely take over a hockey game, and their gritty style of play will be counted on heavily in this series.
The Ducks also have veteran Teemu Selanne in the fold and second-line contributions from Todd Marchant in the face-off circle help their cause. The Ducks' fourth line played an amazing series in San Jose, with players like George Parros and Rob Niedermayer helping shutdown San Jose lines and also contribute offensively.
The Ducks will no doubt continue to ride the brick-wall play of netminder Jonas Hiller, who all but supplanted former starting goalie (and Conn Smythe winner) J.S. Giguere after an inconsistent season by the legendary netminder. Should Hiller falter, and there are no indications that he will, the Ducks have Giguere as a backup, an embarrassment of riches no NHL team would complain about.
The real key in this series in the Ducks' ability to play without taking foolish penalties.
The Detroit Red Wings' power-play unit is an absolute machine, and the Ducks will not be as successful in killing of power plays as they were in the first round.
That said, I think role players like Andrew Ebbett and Todd Marchant will be huge factors in the series, and I am going to go on record saying the Ducks will steal one of the first two games in Detroit.
Ducks in Seven.