Thursday, April 09, 2009

"Mighty" 7-seed

The Wings are putting the finishing touches on another spectacular regular season. It might be a tad disappointing for some that the best team in hockey won’t take home the President’s Trophy but 111 points and counting is good enough for me. The year following their Cup win in 1997, the Wings finished second in the Western Conference and promptly waltzed to another Stanley Cup. This year’s team seemed to attack the season in nearly identical fashion. Only playoff failures concern themselves too much with the regular season. The Wings—hardly playoff failures—used this season as one very long preparation for the playoffs. Criticizing a team that is very clearly the deepest and most talented in the NHL certainly reeks of “alarmist” behavior. So, I’ll simply suggest that the .895 Save % accumulated by Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin—good bad for 27th of 30 teams—is something worth noting. If anything is concerning, it’s that Ty Conklin was so unimpressive that Mike Babcock has already named Chris Osgood the starter for the playoffs. Osgood boasts a 3.10 GAA and a .887 save %. Obviously, those numbers are horrifying. Osgood actually led the NHL in GAA last season (2.09). Clearly something has gone awry defensively for the Wings since last season and I’m betting it’s something more substantial than “indifference to the regular season.” Fortunately, the Wings have nearly made up for the defensive drop-off by increasing their scoring by a half a goal a game. Osgood has enough playoff experience and the Wings have enough capable defensive personnel backing him up that it should not be surprising to see Osgood look more like the Jennings Trophy winner of 2008 than the matador we’ve seen in 2009.

While the Wings are clearly the elite team in hockey, simply “turning it on” in the playoffs always comes with hazards. If they hope to use the first round to shape into form—rather than using the last few games of the regular season—they could be in for a rough experience. The Anaheim Ducks are not the ideal first round opponent for a 2-seed. If the season were to end today, the Wings would have the uncomfortable task of starting off the playoffs with quite a battle. Anaheim struggled mightily to open the season which is the main reason that it finds itself fighting for a playoff spot. The Ducks—of course—won the Stanley Cup in 2007 and finished with 100+ points in each of the last two seasons. They are led by the same group of players that led them to the Cup less than two years ago. The Ducks have one of the most potent top lines in the NHL with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. The trio has scored 32 points in Anaheim’s last six games. Of course, Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger, and the Niedermayers—the stalwarts largely responsible for the Cup in ’07—give Anaheim one of the deepest teams in the NHL.

Anaheim is 10-2 in its last 12 games. Over that span, it has scored 3.91 goals per game and allowed 2.42 goals per game—both significantly better than its season averages. The Ducks are clearly improved from what we saw out of them last November. Jonas Hiller’s ascension to the starting goaltender role has been a significant improvement over the sometimes spectacular, often erratic Jean Sebastian Giguerre. Selanne missed a number of games with various injuries including a nasty leg wound. Ryan spent the first part of the season in the minors and really didn’t start turning it on until the New Year. A lot has happened since the start of the year the least of which is Anaheim turning into a team you don’t want to play in the playoffs. The Wings should beat Anaheim. I think they would beat Anaheim. I just fear that the impact of the Anaheim series could be felt well past the first round—assuming the Wings emerge victorious—especially if the route to the cup eventually includes Vancouver and/or Calgary and/or San Jose. Columbus, St. Louis, and even Chicago would make for a much more hospitable first round opponent. So, along with heading to Comerica Park on Friday and Michigan Stadium on Saturday, I’ll be spending the last weekend of the NHL regular season rooting for one of those teams to sneak into the #7-spot. According to, there is only a 37% chance that will happen.


Mike (Rat) said...

The Wings have a penchant for creating a conundrum of lopsidedness in their playoff series' which ultimately works against them if the opposing team's goalie is hot only because Detroit's goalie never is.

You have seen it before: the Wings will put up an onslaught of shots to no avail and one seemingly harmless rush back in the defensive zone leads to a goal.
Final SOG - Det 34 Opp 12
Final score - Det 1 Opp 2
Series result - Opp 4 Det 2

Mike (Rat) said...

How am I the only one with an opinion on this matter?

Anonymous said...

Well, looks like we dodged a bullet. We get to welcome the Jackets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Mason and Nash are awesome. But I'm inclined to believe the Wings playoff experience and talent will be too much.

As much as I'm wary of the hot goalie, and Mason is capable of getting hot and stealing games, I don't think they have what it takes to beat us in a series if we play our A game.

And expect Mr. Perfect, Z, and Pav to watch Nash like a hawk all series long.

Also it'll be nice to start the playoffs in our own time zone. Wings in 6.


Jake said...


Everyone who watches the Wings knows exactly what you're talking about. I think the lack of response on the matter is a sign of agreement with your beef. As for what that means for the series with Columbus, the Wings need to study the St. Louis Blues because they hammered Columbus this year. Mason owned the rest of the NHL but St. Louis owned Mason. We have to find out what they did, and do it.


Nash and Mason are awesome. I agree with you, though. I think we'll be too much. If Lidstrom, Z, and Dats can shut down Crosby, Malkin and Hossa, then they can shut down Rick Nash.

Not only did the Wings dodge a bullet by avoiding an elite caliber team, they avoided the possibility of having to play three consecutive series on the West Coast. That would've been a nightmare scenario. Starting off in the Eastern Time Zone is huge.

Take care!


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