And here we are again.
And, just like last year, they're headed to San Jose to begin Round 2 against the Sharks.
Unlike last year, the Wings beat the 'Yotes in Game 4, not Game 7 and, unlike last year, they've had a full nine days of rest as opposed to the 36 hours they had before flying directly from Phoenix to San Jose for Round 2.
However, what makes this rematch between two of the top teams in the Western Conference different than last year goes far deeper than time lines.
Last season, the Sharks were the top team in the West, posting 113 points and 51 wins during a season that saw them start and finish as perhaps the best team in the NHL.
This year, the Sharks saw much hotter competition in the Pacific Division and were, at one point, as low as 12th in the conference.
A second-half push saw the Sharks re-emerge as one of the most dangerous teams in hockey as they soared to a second place finish with 105 points.
Last season, the Red Wings were out of the playoff picture for much of the year as fatigue and a multitude of injuries limited their effectiveness.
It was only a near miraculous turn-around in mid-February that saw earned them a fifth place finish extending their playoff appearances to 19 straight years.
This year, the Red Wings jumped out to a red-hot start through their first 20 games before cooling off the rest of the season as they struggled with defensive consistency and injury woes yet again.
The paths that got these teams to where they are differ greatly from those they took last year, yet, the destination for both is the same.
Last year, the Sharks beat the Red Wings soundly the first three games of the series before collapsing in Game 4 in Detroit.
Once back in the comfort of HP Pavilion however, the Sharks dispatched the Red Wings for good, and punched their ticket to the Western Conference Finals.
This scenario won't repeat itself this season.
Sure, the Sharks are a very dangerous team. Handicapping this series is nearly impossible, if not foolish to attempt.
Nevertheless, there are five reasons to believe that, this year, the Red Wings won't only provide a much tougher test for the Sharks, but will actually emerge the victor this time around.
My prediction is that the Wings will win this series in six, very hard-fought games—here's why.
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