Yes, FIVE. Sure, many people love the Nashville Predators, and some even have them going to the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Red Wings are being underestimated once again. With a finally healthy team accompanied with a plethora of playoff experience, the Red Wings will win this series quicker than most would think.
Nashville has vastly improved over the last several years, building a team that has finished 2nd in the very tough Central Division two years in a row. And while the Preds have made the playoffs seven of the last eight years, they have won just a single playoff series in their 14 years of existence.
Conversely, since the 2001-2002 season, Detroit has won two Stanley Cups and reached the Finals another time.
I know, the past cannot tell the future, but in this case the past is still part of the present. A photo of the 2007-2008 Stanley Cup Champions doesn’t look much different than the 2011-2012 Red Wings do. More than half (15) of the players on this year’s team also played for the Wings’ most recent Cup team.
But enough about history. This is the playoffs, where the regular season means little and seasons prior mean nothing. The team that shows up and wins four games moves on, the team
that fails to do so goes home.
This series between Detroit and Nashville will provide some great matchups, of which I’ll highlight a few.
The first and most entertaining matchup is star center Pavel Datsyuk against the Predators defense. Datsyuk has dazzled all year, but Nashville has a pair of defenseman that rank among the league’s best. Captain Shea Weber and Assistant Captain Ryan Suter are two very consistent D-men that coach Barry Trotz will undoubtedly have on the ice whenever Datsyuk is out there.
However, don’t forget that Datsyuk made Suter look silly as part of his marvelous game winner during a regular season matchup between the two. I’ll include the video here, just because it’s really that good of a goal and I want to see how many articles I can put the link into.
Datsyuk provides the Red Wings with a talent that Nashville will not be able to match in my opinion. Combined with Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler and Todd Bertuzzi, Datsyuk leads a team of forwards who can all score the puck with great effectiveness.
Which leads me to the next key matchup in this series: goaltender Pekka Rinne against the talented Wings scorers.
Rinne has been fantastic this year, tallying more wins than any other goaltender with 43. Rinne, while posting average numbers in terms of GAA (2.39), had a very solid save percentage of .923. The Red Wings will have to be very persistent in getting good scoring chances and firing a lot of pucks to the net if they want to win this series.
The last matchup lies solely on the shoulders of goaltender Jimmy Howard. Essentially a Howard vs himself matchup, I still have questions about the young goaltender who is coming off his first ever All-Star appearance. Will he be mentally ready? Will he be physically ready? Howard has played a very limited amount since going down with a hand injury in February, and I still have concerns about his health and readiness.
If Howard plays well, I see the Wings not only winning their opening series easily, but also making a run deep into the postseason.
In hindsight, maybe I was a bit bold with a Wings-in-five prediction, as this is a very good matchup between two good teams. The season series was split 3-3, with each team winning once on the road. I see Detroit taking a game in Nashville before returning home to Joe Louis Arena to win twice. With a 3-1 series lead after four games, I could definitely see Detroit winning game five back in Nashville.
Whether it’s in four or seven, I’ll take Detroit.
What to watch for
Look for the Wings to come out firing and win one of two in Nashville
Wednesday @ Nashville (8:00pm, FSD)
Friday @ Nashville (7:30pm, FSD)
Sunday vs Nashville (12:00pm, NBC)
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