Detroit Red Wings Heating Up for Playoffs

Matthew HoganAnalyst IMarch 31, 2010

DETROIT - JANUARY 29:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators with Pavel Datsyuk #13 and Jason Williams #29 on January 29, 2010 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After an uncharacteristically poor first half of the season, the Detroit Red Wings have come to life, and are a favorite to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third consecutive season.

The Red Wings were hit by the injury bug early and often this season; it definitely affected their game.

Players that missed time for the Red Wings this season due to injury included Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holstrom, Valterri Filppula, Dan Cleary, Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, Jason Williams, Jonathan Ericsson, Kirk Maltby, and Andreas Lilja.

I think it’s obvious why Detroit may not have come out of the gate like it normally does. But now that the Red Wings are finally getting healthy, it has been a different story on the ice.

Detroit has gone 12-2-1 since the Olympic break and has catapulted into sixth place in the Western Conference. The Wings will more than likely jump up at least one more spot in the standings before the end of the regular season.

Leading the way offensively for the Red Wings during their post-Olympic stretch has been Henrik Zetterberg. The 29-year-old has 18 points in 15 games since returning from playing for Sweden in the Olympics.

The soon to be 40-year-old Nicklas Lidstrom is having another stellar season for the Wings on the blue line.

While Lidstrom is currently on pace for the fewest goals scored since his 2001-02 season, he is still among the league leaders in points by defensemen.

His 25:30 minutes of ice-time per game is currently 10th in the NHL—keep his age in mind.

But the biggest component of Detroit’s “revival” has been rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard.

Howard is 9-0-1 in his last 10 games and has surrendered two goals or less in eight of those 10 games.

The 26-year-old got a chance to take the reigns in goal away from veteran goalie Chris Osgood at the beginning of the season and never looked back.

Osgood has not won a game since Dec. 12.

Howard’s play has not only made him the starter for Detroit come playoff time, but it has also put him in the running for the Calder Trophy, Vezina Trophy, and even the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP.

Everything seems to be clicking for the Red Wings, and their timing couldn’t have been more perfect.