It should be interesting to see how the end of the NHL regualr season plays out. The Detroit Red Wings, who have established themselves as an NHL powerhouse, are currently in 8th place in the Western Conference standings when they are usually consistently among the top. Detroit has won four President's Trophies' in the last eight years and have led the Central division for the last eight as well. In a highly uncharacteristic season this year, Detroit has been pummeled by injuries, only recently bearing a full team. In playoff fashion, however, the Red Wings have been 3-1 since the Olympic break, defeating Colorado, Nashville, and most recently Chicago at the United Center. All three of these teams are currently higher than Detroit in the standings, but since Detroit is playing its best hockey all year right now, San Jose or Chicago could be in for a surprise in the first round of the playoffs. The 5-4 win yesterday afternoon over the Blackhawks puts the Red Wings in prime position to make the playoffs 19 years in a row, a number that remains at the top of all profession sports.
Defenseman Brad Stuart recently told the Detroit News after the Detroit-Chicago game, "The priority was to get the two points and keep ourselves in that eighth spot. There are so many teams in the chae right now, all we can do is take care of the things we control. We just have to keep winning games."
Behind the play of Brian Rafalski, who during the Olympic break led Team USA in points and had one of the best performances against Team Canada in the 5-3 USA victory, the Red Wings should take advantage of their upcoming schedule and finish the season in 7th or 8th place. I predict that the Red Wings will be ahead of Nashville in the standings at seasons end, hopefully getting a 7 or 8 seed in the playoffs to attempt a first round knock off of Chicago or San Jose and perhaps advance to the Stanley Cup Finals a third year in a row, as long as this chain of success continues.