The Detroit Red Wings are looking to beat the Nashville Predators and claim their 6th consecutive first round victory in the National Hockey League playoffs. The Red Wings have struggled of late, but they are still the Detroit Red Wings and will always have a chance to win. Here are some things the Red Wings will need to do in order to get past Nashville.
1. Get healthy. The Red Wings were arguably the best team in the NHL for a two month stretch earlier this season before the injury bug set in. Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Danny Cleary, Darren Helm, and Jonathan Ericsson (among others) all missed significant time due to injuries. Of the aforementioned group, Danny Cleary and Darren Helm are still uncertain as to their status to play in this opening round series. Darren Helm being on the ice is especially crucial for the Red Wings considering the Predators maintained the best power play in the NHL this season.
2. Jimmy Howard Needs To Return To His All-Star Self. Howard had his best NHL season to date in 2012, and he must recover his midseason form if the Red Wings plan on advancing. Howard has the second best goaltender winning percentage in the NHL (behind only Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins) with 35 wins in his 57 starts. His form has struggled of late, partly due to his injuries, and partly due to the injuries around him, and he must be better for the Wings to advance.
3. Superstars Gotta Superstar. You can argue specifics all you want, but you cannot argue that Pavel Datsyuk is one of the best, if not the best, players in the NHL. When Datsyuk plays well, the rest of the Red Wings usually follow suit. Datsyuk finished the season with 67 points in 70 games, while teammate (and possible linemate) Henrik Zetterberg led the team with 69 points. Both of these guys need to be on top of their respective games for the Red Wings to advance.
4. Special Teams Must Hold Their Own. The Predators have statistically the best power play in the NHL, in large part due to their great defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. The Red Wings must improve on their 18th ranked penalty kill in order to stop these guys. The Predators also have a better penalty kill than the Red Wings have a power play. The special teams don’t need to be special for Detroit, but they do need to play well. As long as special teams don’t lose the series for the Red Wings, they should be fine.
5. Must Stay Out Of The Penalty Box. The Red Wings were the third best 5 on 5 team in the NHL for both goals for, and goals against. The Red Wings scored 55 more goals in 5 on 5 hockey than their opponents, while the Predators were only plus 8. The Red Wings would be wise to try and keep all ten skaters on the ice.
This may sound like a bit of a tall task for the Red Wings considering their run of play as of late, but the Predators haven’t exactly been on top of their game either. Both of these teams are more than capable of winning this series and potentially hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup. If the Red Wings take care of these five aspects of the series, I believe they can, and will win and advance.