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Detroit Red Wings: Can they beat Nashville?

The Detroit Red Wings are about to play in their 21st straight NHL playoff, but for the first time in a long time they are considered an underdog in their first round matchup. The Nashville Predators are strong in all areas on the ice and appear ready to make a long playoff run. Detroit stumbled into the playoffs with injured players and a terrible road record. In this article I am going to highlight what Detroit needs to do in order to get past round 1.

The biggest question the Red Wings comes with scoring goals. Pekka Rinne as a 6'5 goalie has dominated the NHL all season as one of the best and players like Tomas Holmstrom and Dan Cleary will have a difficult time screening him. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are good at finding open space, but Nashville's strong defence could prevent that. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter both could be nominated for the Norris this year. Add Hal Gill and Francois Bullion to the mix and Nashville has a solid defence that will be difficult to beat. In order to win this series, Datsyuk and the other Wings forwards will need to move the puck around quickly to find open space. Shot quantity will be blocked most of the time, but quality shots from the open slots will give the Wings a better chance to score. Johan Franzen is the best at scoring this way and if he scores like he has the past few playoff years, Detroit can win this series.

Another question from this series will be Detroit's injured players, especially Nick Lidstrom. In March Lidstrom missed 11 games with a deep bruise in his shin. During that time, the Wings only won 3 times and struggled mightily in both offence and defence.  If he goes down again, he will leave a large chasm in their lineup that cannot be easily filled. But Darren Helm, Pavel Datysuk, Johnathan Ericsson and Jimmy Howard have all missed time recently with injuries and have not played to their full potential since. If those injuries continue to linger these players, Detroit will need to try to use their depth players instead, which is a big risk when playing Nashville. With a healthy lineup, Detorit is talented enough to beat the Preds and they will need everyone playing if they want to win.

Jimmy Howard had an All-Star season up until the trade deadline, but after that he has been mediocre. Missing time with injuries has thrown him off his game, but even the games he has played are nothing to be proud of. Pekka Rinne on the other hand, has played stellar and has given his team a chance to win every night. In order for the Wings to win, they need Jimmy to return to form as a healthy, solid goaltender. We have seen him play that way earlier this year and I know he will be a difference maker if he does it again. They won 23 straight home games with him in net, now they need to win 16.

In my playoff preview on my other blog, I picked Nashville to beat Detroit in 7 games. I am a big Wings fan but Nashville is a strong team and it will be a big challenge for Detroit to topple them. If they can perform the way they did during their 23 game win streak and by following the guidelines I highlighted above, it will be Detroit not Nashville moving on. However this plays out, this series will be one of the more exciting ones of the first round. These teams are becoming fierce rivals and whenever they play, there is exciting hockey to watch.

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