Detroit Red Wings: 22 in a Row – 2013 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview
Jae C. Hong / Associated Press
By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)
On Saturday night, the Detroit Red Wings extended their professional sports leading playoff streak of 22 consecutive appearances with a decisive 3-0 shutout of the Dallas Stars.
With that victory, Detroit finished the season on a four-game winning streak and clinched the seventh playoff position. The Red Wings were 5-2-3 in their final ten games. Detroit will visit the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night. The Ducks lost their final regular season game and finished their final ten games 5-4-1.
The team statistics suggest a close match up. During the regular season, Detroit scored 124 goals while allowing 115, which was good enough to tie for second lowest scoring Western Conference playoff team and the second lowest goals against. On the other hand, Anaheim scored 140 goals versus 118 goals against. The Ducks are the second highest scoring Western Conference playoff team and tied for third in goals against.
The differences between the two teams may be best illustrated by their leading scorers. The Wings alternate captain Pavel Datsyuk scored 15 goals and 34 assists while posting a plus-21 and contributing 14 penalty minutes. The Ducks were led by captain Ryan Getzlaf who also scored 15 goals and 34 assists while posting a plus-14 and 41 penalty minutes.
Detroit’s second highest scorer was captain Henrik Zetterberg, who posted 11 goals and 37 assists. He added 18 penalty minutes. Anaheim’s alternate captain Corey Perry was the team’s second highest scorer with 15 goals and 21 assists. He posted 72 penalty minutes.
While Detroit is known for its puck possession style, Anaheim is more than a little more rough and tumble. As a team, the Red Wings accumulated 469 penalty minutes with 15 major penalties, second lowest in the league. The Ducks amassed 535 penalty minutes on the back of 25 major penalties, tied for eighth most in the league.
Anaheim hit the opposition’s players 1149 times, while Detroit only totaled 865, second lowest in the league.
Despite the apparent physical domination that the Ducks bring, the Red Wings won the regular season series 2-1. In February, Anaheim beat Detroit 5-2 at Joe Louis Arena. In March, Detroit responded by taking back-to-back games in Anaheim, thrashing the Ducks 5-1 and adding another win by the score of 2-1.
In sixteen years, both teams have met six times. Detroit swept the first two meetings in 1997 and 1999. While Anaheim swept Detroit in 2003 and beat Detroit 4-2 in 2007 on the way to its two Stanley Cup Final appearances, Detroit won the most recent in 2009 4-3.
Detroit is the hottest Western Conference team entering the playoffs, though several higher-seeded teams dealt with some late season injuries and were undoubtedly resting some players. Anaheim was no exception having roared out of the gate to 22-3-4 start.
The Red Wings are almost completely healthy for the first time all season with Darren Helm (back) still on the mend and the newly injured Drew Miller out indefinitely (broken hand). Coach Mike Babcock has indicated that the team will stick with the team that gave it recent success, which means veterans Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson will remain scratched.
With a healthy lineup, Detroit matches up well against Anaheim. Both teams’ top two lines feature the aforementioned superstars and several potential game-changing forwards like Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula for the Red Wings and Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne for the Ducks.
Both teams have also relied on role players to make it to the playoffs. Dan Cleary finished the regular season with nine goals and six assists. Surprisingly, Saku Koivu finished fourth in team scoring with eight goals and 19 assists. In its final run, Detroit received scoring from various role players, including the aforementioned Cleary, Jordin Tootoo, and Cory Emmerton, among others. Anaheim has received excellent play from its third line featuring former Michigan Wolverine Andrew Cogliano, Daniel Winnik and the aforementioned Koivu.
Both teams received significant contributions from their young forwards. Damien Brunner was the fourth highest scorer for Detroit posting 12 goals and 14 assists. The Ducks’ Kyle Palmieri contributed 10 goals and 11 assists. In April, the Wings third line became Joakim Andersson centering Gustav Nyquist and the aforementioned Brunner. Though young, that line has a skill level that will eventually rival other team’s top line. The Ducks relied heavily on youngsters Nick Bonino (13 points), Matt Beleskey (13 points and plenty of hits), and Emerson Etem (10 points) in various roles.
On defense, Detroit is led by Nicklas Lidstrom’s heir apparent Niklas Kronwall. Jakub Kindl, Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey, and the most recent addition, college free agent Danny DeKeyser round out Detroit’s recent starters. Ian White, Brian Lashoff, and Carlo Colaiacovo give the Red Wings some depth that kept the team afloat at times during an injury-plagued regular season.
Anaheim is led by veterans Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray. Beauchemin was on some early lists of Norris Trophy candidates. He ultimately ended the season with 6 goals and 18 assists. Cam Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, Toni Lydman, and Bryan Allen have also played substantial time for the Ducks. Youngster Luca Sbisa is healthy again having participated fully in practice on Monday. Sami Vatanen and Jordan Hendry are also available.
While the Ducks are deeper in goal where Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth have split time, the Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard is a superior goaltender compared to each of the Anaheim netminders and enters the playoffs on a hot streak that included two four wins and two shutouts.
Howard went 21-13-7 while posting a .923 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average with five shutouts. Hiller went 15-6-4 with a .913 save percentage, 2.36 goals against average, and one shutout, while Fasth ended the season 15-6-2 with a .921 save percentage, 2.18 goals against average, and four shutouts.
Detroit finished the regular season 13th in the NHL with an 18.4 percent conversion rate on the power play. In contrast, Anaheim’s power play was deadly converting at 21.5 percent, fourth best in the league. Detroit’s power play improved dramatically as the season progressed, a progression that must continue if the team is going to upset Anaheim. Both teams’ penalty kills hover at 81.7 and 81.5 percent, respectively.
If Franzen and Filppula play well, neither team has an edge up front. Detroit has the slight edge on defense if only because it has a legitimate puck moving defenseman on each shift. Special teams play and goaltending favor Anaheim.
If Detroit cannot stay out of the penalty box, the Wings could come up short in their upset bid. If Howard is mediocre or suffers any injury, Detroit will almost certainly fall with back up Johan Gustavsson in net.
Coach Babcock has been in this position before when his lower seeded Ducks upended the Red Wings in four games in 2003. History may not mean everything, but Coach Babcock’s experience and another hot goaltender in Howard could prove to be the difference in their quest to prove that the 22nd appearance means more than just another year added to the streak.
Prediction: Detroit in 7.
Rhys’ s Rants: On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to attend the game in Dallas. I have heard mixed reviews of Dallas over the years, but the team’s fanbase was impressive. A dear friend and I took in the game from seats near a former Chicago Blackhawk defenseman Ralph Nattrass. The Regina native accumulated 18 goals, 38 assists , and 308 penalty minutes in four seasons with Chicago. He finished his professional career with the Cincinnati Mohawks, where he contributed 30 assists and 84 points in the 1950-51 season.
Ralph was just one example of an arena full of rabid, intelligent Stars fans. Despite our Red Wings jersey and t-shirt, Ralph and his family were very welcoming. Cheers to Ralph, the Dallas Stars, their fans, and the team’s new GM Jim Nill, former Detroit Assistant GM, who has taken over the position from Joe Nieuwendyk.
Statistics and other information obtained at www.hockeydb.com, www.tsn.ca, and www.nhl.com.
Share your thoughts about the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq. He can be reached via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com. Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys