Just this time last week I found myself reading articles stating, in that trendy sort of blog-sphere way, that the Red Wings may find themselves on the outside looking in at the end of their opening round series against the Phoenix Coyotes. The seasoned pros on Versus, including the esteemed JR Superstar, also came to that consensus.
Hopefully the pundits keep predicting the Winged Wheel's downfall. It seems to be working out for the guys in Red and White so far.
After skidding during the last month of the regular season the Wings looked more juggernaut-like than they have in the last few years—including the last time they won the Cup—in their four game dismantling of Phoenix.
Yes, you heard it here first.
This could be the most well oiled Detroit team since '02.
Here are five reasons why no team left standing (read: every team that started the playoffs besides the recently extinguished Desert Dogs) wants any part of the Detroit Red Wings.
In no particular order...
Pavel Datsyuk and his puck magician skills were on full display against the Coyotes.
Nearly every time Pavel Datsyuk touched the puck against the Coyotes he created a YouTube moment.
I think he could have probably scored 26 goals in his last four games. At least. While this may be a bit of an exaggeration (but perhaps not much of one...) this was the most dominating performance put on by Pav in recent memory.
With Zetterberg out and Franzen taking stitches to his face every game, thus missing some time, No. 13 knew he needed to be the caffeine in Detroit's coffee. Make that a Dunkin Donuts TURBO coffee. He was everything the squad needed him to be, and more.
By taking over shifts with his talent he allowed the "lesser" Wings forwards to step up and make plays by disorienting the defense and opening up space. Look no further than Tomas Holmstrom's goal in Game 4. Fake pass to Mike Modano, blind drop pass to the trailing Homer, goal.
The saying goes that the best players make those around them better, Look no further than Pavel in this series for evidence of this. So the question is this: if the Norris-quality Keith Yandle can't contain Pav, who in the West can?
Dan Boyle and Ian White? Please.
Jimmy Howard seems to be finding his playoff bearings.
The question for Detroit coming into the current postseason was the same as it was last year: can Jimmy Howard take the Wings all the way? Could he be the guy?
And last year I was inventing insults for him as he let puck after puck find the back of the net (and reportedly some beach balls during warms-ups) in the San Jose series while a tired forward contingent failed to keep up on the scoreboard.
Needless to say I was a little shaky on the kid coming into the series against Phoenix.
My doubts have been erased, and yours should be too.
Howard dealt with plenty of traffic and plays to the front of the crease during this series. He maintained his composure throughout, and made the saves without letting the bodies unnerve him. If you want your playoff goaltender to have just one trait, it'd be composure. Jim seems to have found his.
He also seems to have found his ability to make the timely saves. From doing his part to kill off a 5-on-3, to making an athletic cross ice push to get his toe on the puck, he has been a rock when the Wings needed him to be. Howard hasn't been their best player, and Detroit doesn't need him to be. They need exactly what they are getting out of him.
Who is going to down the Wings while scoring only two goals a game?
Jim has always been a strong regular season goaltender. Now appears to be coming into his own as a playoff caliber net minder.
Secondary scoring should make the Red Wings hard to defend.
13 different players scored for Detroit against the Coyotes.
Let that number sink in for a moment, and pretend that this was your team putting up that number. You'd be stoked, right?
That fact hasn't been lost in Motown.
When Ruslan Salei is scoring in the opening minutes of a Game 3 on the road, taking the crowd out of it, your team may be onto something.
It was the Datsyuk show during the first two games at home. When the Wings took to the road for Game 3, it was the secondary depth guys finding the back of the net. Is Salei going to explode for 12 goals in his next 15 games? I doubt it.
But if a few different guys are stepping up for the Red Wings on a nightly basis, that takes pressure off of Franzen and Pavel to score every game. It also means teams can't focus all their defensive efforts on one line, or take a single shift off.
I'd argue that Detroit is deeper than any squad in the playoffs, save perhaps the Flyers.
The New Grind Line of Draper, Eaves and Helm
I grew up on the Grind Line. I had a Grind Line shirt that I wore in middle school. And up until now I missed the personality they brought to the ice every night.
In the most well known adaption the line consisted of Darren(still gives me chills)McCarty , Kirk Maltby, and Kris Draper.
If I could interview Kris Draper I'd ask him if he feels like he is playing with those old line-mates right now.
I have a feeling he'd say yes.
Wow have these guys been awesome.
I'll be the first to admit that I've had a bit of a man crush on Helmer since he broke—nay, exploded—onto the NHL scene with his blazing speed and tenacious, never-say-die fore-checking. And any Wing fan from the '90s should love Drapes. Eaves has come out of left field to unite with this line, and they have been spectacular.
Timely goal scoring and fore-checking the other team to death. That was the formula for Grind Line 1. And it is working for Grind Line 2.
It is way early to write this forward unit into Red Wings history as a beloved and outstanding line of grinders. But they are well on their way.
And lets not overlook the work of Abdelkader and Drew Miller. They have both been outstanding in this regard. As long as these players continue to know their rolls and do what they've been doing, I'm comfortable with them out there against Anaheim's RPG line.
I want to take a second to commend the fans that were at Games 1 and 2. They were loud, rambunctious and difficult on visiting players. The home barn hasn't sounded that good in a while.
There were rumblings abound about the death of Hockey town.
But so far local fans have proven otherwise.
This isn't an easy place to play. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the Red Wings to give them a reason to cheer, the crowd seems driven to give the guys on the ice a reason to score. The value of having an outstanding home-ice advantage shouldn't be overlooked.
So everyone in Detroit—keep it up! You've been doing the Wings Nation proud while chanting constantly while on national television.