Detroit Red Wings: Easy Playoff Road Paved in Advance

Henry DyckSenior Analyst IMay 14, 2008

Finally, the President’s Trophy is worth its weight.

For years, this award, which is given out to the team with the most regular season points, has proven to be nothing more than a glorified paperweight.

Since its inception in 1985, only six teams have claimed both the Presidents Trophy and the Stanley Cup—the last being the Detroit Red Wings in 2002.

While there is a cash prize for winning this award, the greatest reward it offers is home ice advantage throughout the postseason.

Nevertheless, as history has shown, this advantage seems to only help fatten an owner's pockets rather than guarantee more playoff victories.

Thanks in part to the salary cap introduced three years ago, things have never been tighter in the NHL. Contrary to other leagues, the first round usually proves to be the toughest in hockey, with each subsequent round becoming increasingly difficult.

This season, however, all the hard work the Red Wings have put in from October’s opening face-off to the last buzzer in April has paid off.

While San Jose was surviving a knock-down, drag ‘em out war with the Calgary Flames, the Wings were finishing off an injury-riddled Predators squad.

Already without offensive sparkplug Steve Sullivan, the Preds would lose two more important offensive cogs when David Legwand and Jason Arnott were sidelined with injuries of their own. Arnott’s injury proved to be costly as he missed the final two games of the series—both losses.

In the Conference Semifinals, the Wings would renew their rivalry with Colorado. The Avalanche received superb goaltending from Jose Theodore, who almost single-handedly defeated Minnesota Wild in their opening round.

Greatly outplayed for most of that series, it was the former Hart Trophy winner who stole four wins from the Northwest Division champions.

Colorado narrowly made the playoffs due to the abundance of games lost to injury. While they were lucky to not have the same problem in the first round, their luck would also run out in this regard against Detroit.

Peter Forsberg, Ryan Smyth, Paul Stastny, Scott Hannon, Wojtek Wolski, and Marek Svatos would miss all or some of this series. And Theodore played most of his minutes while fighting the flu. The result: a four-game sweep in which Detroit never appeared to be challenged.

And now, in the Conference Finals, the Wings have feasted on a tired and drained Dallas Stars club which had the daunting task of usurping last years champs, the Anaheim Ducks, and this years odds-on favorite, the San Jose Sharks.

With a commanding three-games-to-none lead over Dallas, the Wings have a chance to put them away tonight, giving them even more rest for the Stanley Cup finals.

The NHL playoffs have always been about luck and health. The Wings have had both in spades. If Detroit were to win the Cup this season, many fans and analysts alike, no doubt, will speak about what an easy road they traveled on route to the Finals.

But what most of them will fail to mention is that this road was paved over a grueling 82-game season. They’ve earned it.