Detroit Red Wings: 7 Reasons Why They Will Win the Presidents' Trophy
The Detroit Red Wings' 20 straight playoff appearances mark the longest active streak for most consecutive seasons in the playoffs.
Did that surprise anyone?
Out of those 20 seasons, Detroit has won the Presidents' Trophy (for best overall record) six times; four more times than any other team.
Detroit has built a tradition of winning based on hard work, puck possession, outshooting their opponents and solid defense.
The solid defense part has been missing for the past two seasons, but seems to have returned just in time for this season.
Detroit once again seems like an obvious bet to make the playoffs, but though they don't want to think that far ahead yet, I will go farther than that.
Detroit will once again win the Presidents' trophy as best team in the NHL regular season.
Here are seven reasons why.
1. "The Captain" Nick Lidstrom
Captain Nick Lidstrom has been a cornerstone and a rock for this Detroit Red Wings defense corps since he stepped into the League in 1991.
Lidstrom is the longest-tenured member of the Red Wings, and at 41 years of age, he can still get the job done on the back end.
Lidstrom's point production isn't what it was to start the season, but he still has 23 points in 38 games played. A noticeable difference for the captain from last year is that he is plus-17.
This is no new phenomenon in Lidstrom's career, as he is a career plus-446!
Lidstrom's leadership on and off the ice cannot be measured in words, but he always seems to be in the right spot on the ice.
Lidstrom also has excellent footspeed for a 41-year-old, and his defensive stick work leaves opponents at a loss when working in Detroit's end.
He brings the x-factor to Detroit that most teams lack: a top-tier two-way defenseman.
2. Jimmy Howard
Detroit has had some great goaltenders play between the pipes over its illustrious history.
Jimmy Howard is no exception.
Howard's stat line reads as follows (brackets are NHL rank): 33 Games played, 23-9-1 (first in wins), 92.9 save percentage (eighth), 1.93 GAA (fouth) and four shutouts (tied for second).
His dominance this season has kept Detroit in many games before the Red Wings managed to score.
When the Red Wings come out flat, Jimmy always seems ready to go.
Surprisingly, Howard did not get an automatic All-Star nomination, but that hasn't stopped Detroit voters from putting him there.
Howard is second among Western Conference goalies and eighth overall with more than 118,000 votes.
If Detroit continues to see excellent play from Howard, they will be in position to challenge for their seventh Presidents' Trophy.
3. Pavel Datsyuk Is a Point-Per-Game Player as a Two-Way Forward
The great thing about having superstar Pavel Datsyuk on the ice is that he doesn't take shifts off.
He doesn't become invisible when he isn't scoring because he is so active in the defensive zone. In fact, Datsyuk is the best two-way center in the NHL today.
His 51 takeaways to only 17 giveaways (a 3:1 ratio if you're doing the math at home) is better than any other such ratio (takeaways to giveaways) in his NHL career.
If you're still not impressed, recognize that Datsyuk is doing this great defensive work at no expense to his offensive game, with 39 points in 38 games played.
He may break the 90-point barrier or he may not, but if he keeps playing his stellar two-way game, the Red Wings may not need him to do more than he is doing offensively.
His 12 goals are nothing to marvel at, but he is 11th in the NHL for total points and has five points in his last five games.
He truly is the key to Detroit pursuing a Presidents' Trophy—great offense but not at the expense of great defense.
4. The Emergence of Valtteri Filppula as an Offensive Weapon
The Red Wings front office and Red Wings fans alike have always hoped that Valtteri Filpulla would emerge as an offensive weapon.
Preferably sooner rather than later.
Well, great news for the Red Wings because Filpulla is now playing on the wing instead of at center and he is reaping the benefits.
Filppula already has 12 goals and 30 points through 37 games.
His previous highs in those categories were 19 goals (in 2007-08) and 40 points (in 2008-09), and he is on pace to smash both of those totals.
His 12 goals may not seem like a lot, but he is shooting 21.1 percent, meaning he scores more than one in every five shots he takes.
The Red Wings will take those kinds of odds any day of the week.
If Filppula can maintain his play offensively and keep his plus/minus afloat—as he's currently a plus-12—he should be a significant contributor on a run to a Central Division crown and a Presidents' trophy.
5. Chicago's Lack of Defense Will Hurt Them in the Long Run
Chicago may have a three-point lead in the standings, but make no mistake, they are a hurting team defensively right now.
The typically defensively strong Joel-Quenneville-coached teams are simply nonexistent in the 2011-12 Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks have scored five more goals than Detroit to give them 128 goals for, but they have given up an eye-popping 111.
What's that old saying?
"Defense wins championships"?
Chicago is tied for 11th in the Western Conference for most goals given up; that is definitely not defense at its finest. Detroit, however, is first in the West, conceding only 84 goals in 38 games.
Detroit's defense will prevail in the end over other teams, and Chicago (which lost to lowly Edmonton tonight) will end up wallowing in mediocrity as they struggle defensively.
6. Vancouver's Dilemma in Goal Will Prevent Them from Repeating as Champs
There's an old saying that goes: "A city divided cannot stand."
Such is the case in Vancouver.
The two camps are the Roberto Luongo camp and the Cory Schneider camp.
Luongo with a 16-8-3 record, a 91.4 save percentage, a 2.48 GAA and a shutout.
Schneider has a 8-5-0 record, a 93.1 save percentage, a 2.15 GAA and two shutouts.
Luongo has the better record. Schneider has the stats to back him up. But who will coach Alain Vigneault start for the majority of the season?
He cannot simply just keep alternating them throughout the regular season and playoffs; one must be declared starting goalie eventually.
After watching Luongo in the Stanley Cup Finals last year, I would be leaning a little bit towards Schneider.
The Canucks have serious offensive potential, as they lead the league in goals scored. Their power play and penalty killing are on fire, but they have a problem in goal.
How will they fix it? Will they repeat as Presidents' Trophy champions?
If they don't address the elephant in the room, then it will soon run them over, and the West will be Detroit's for the taking.
7. The Eastern Powerhouses Will Grind Each Other to a Pulp
The rest of the East is the same way.
With Boston looking like the front-runner to make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals with a plus-55 goal differential, it is difficult to see any other team making a serious run at the Presidents' trophy.
The Flyers also have problems in goal, and have lost their defensive playmaker in Chris Pronger.
The Rangers lean all of their weight on Henrik Lundqvist and I have seen enough seasons of hockey to know that offense, even with Brad Richards, will likely crumble at some point with the playoff choke artist, Marian Gaborik.
Pittsburgh could have a chance if Crosby could make it back. We all saw how dynamic he was last year and even this year in his short amount of playing time. But the Penguins are done otherwise.
Odds for Detroit Taking Home the Presidents' Trophy
All of this said, I'm sure I'll get some solid counterarguments for the points I laid out, especially in the Eastern Conference teams slide.
But having put all the pieces together, I should probably mention Detroit's home record.
15-2-1 with a 13-game winning streak at home.
If the Red Wings clean up their 9-11-0 road record, they can compete with any team in the League.
There are no free lunches as far as wins are concerned and any Red Wing would likely say that it will not be easy.
But Detroit is in the driver's seat with their hot goalie, their spread-out scoring (eight players have eight goals or more) and their home dominance.
As far as odds go, I'd give them 11:2 odds of taking home the Presidents' trophy and 9:2 odds of winning the Western Conference.