The San Jose Sharks have beaten the Detroit Wings the past two years, and there is a good chance that they will have the chance to do so again in this season's playoffs.
They will not be able to do so this time.
I feel very strongly that the Wings now have something special in young Jimmy Howard, whose play showed a large amount of maturity. That just goes to show that the Wings system of "overdeveloping" their prospects is a good way of ensuring that their youngsters are ready.
Howard should have an advantage over Antti Niemi, who may have won a Stanley Cup but did not appear to be very poised last year (or even the year he won the Cup with the 'Hawks).
The last time I checked, the Wings still have a better overall defense than the Sharks, and should have another advantage there. I think that the Wings will return to their solid two-way play and out-check the Sharks when they square off next year.
I think that even though the Sharks have become better from their experiences in the past two seasons, they still do not have what it takes to beat the Wings again. Henrik Zetterburg, Danny Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi will simply prove to be too much.
The Wings will perfect their passing and puck-protection and overwhelm the Sharks, who do not really have a shutdown checking line of their own.
They will go on to the Western Conference Finals because of an infusion of the type of role players that you need in the playoffs. The Wings have even gotten a little bit tougher, and may even get into a few fights in the postseason.
The Sharks probably just won't know what hit them.