The Detroit Red Wings capitalized on the collective and total failure of the Toronto Maple Leafs down the stretch to continue their historic playoff run, which stretched to 23 straight seasons.
They made the playoffs with 93 points as the East's second wild card and drew the Presidents' Trophy winners, the Boston Bruins, in the first round.
The Red Wings won three of the four meetings between the two in the regular season.
The Red Wings have been one of the most victimized teams this season by injuries, and several key players—including captain Henrik Zetterberg—are still on IR.
They've relied heavily all season on the young and talented farm system from the Grand Rapids Griffins, the 2013 Calder Cup winners. Pavel Datysuk is back and healthy and could present major problems for the Bruins, but Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson and Stephen Weiss are all done until next season.
Zetterberg, who underwent successful back surgery in February, has skated on his own but is unlikely to come back for the first round as well, per general manager Ken Holland.
The numerous injuries have forced the Wings to look to their farm system, and the results have been outstanding.
Gustav Nyquist has been one of the top players in the entire NHL since getting called up, tallying 48 points including 28 goals in just 55 games for Detroit. Tomas Tatar has 19 goals and 37 points, while fellow rookies Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening have been major contributors as well.
Why the Red Wings Can Win
Boston, led by a fantastic season from netminder Tuukka Rask, will be the overwhelming favorite. But no one should want to play Detroit right now.
A healthy Datysuk is enough to cause major problems for any team and can be lethal on the power play. If Zetterberg is somehow able to lace up this series, the mix of youth and veteran talent could be very, very potent.
Zetterberg is currently third among active players with 55 postseason goals; his teammate Daniel Alfredsson has 51. Detroit is one of the fastest skating teams in the league and comes in with a chip on its shoulder after eliminating one of the best teams in the league last year in the Anaheim Ducks before pushing the eventual Cup champion Blackhawks to the brink in a seven-game series.
Their move to the East this year will only serve as further motivation to prove they are still one of the elite teams in the NHL.
All stats provided from NHL.com