#1: Detroit Red Wings
May 27, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock (center) in the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks in game six of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
They had to win four straight games, and they did. The Red Wings kept their unprecedented streak of 22 straight playoff appearances alive, and took the seventh seed in the West going into the playoffs. The Wings’ post-season familiarity kicked in, and they beat the impressive Anaheim Ducks in Game Seven. It punched their ticket to a final divisional showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks, with the winner going on to the Western Conference Final. The Wings built a near-insurmountable 3-1 series lead, then they ran out of gas. The ‘Hawks won three straight games, capping off the series in Game Seven overtime. The Red Wings problem is quite obvious; they’re old. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Franzen are talented players, but they are aging, and can’t play the minutes they used to. The Detroit front office seems to ignore this obvious problem, and they did not sign breakout rookie Damien Brunner, instead coming to terms with 40-year-old Daniel Alfredsson. Jimmy Howard is an elite goaltender, and the defensive core is solid, but the Wings are going to need more firepower up front if they want to keep their streak going. In a 82-game campaign, one bad hit could sideline one of the key Wings, and leave them gasping for air on the offense. Younger players like Justin Abdelkader will have to step up, and be ready to provide primary scoring if one or more of the veterans goes down. If the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens put themselves in contention, as well as the division favourite Bruins, the Red Wings might just have to sit this one out.
With over 9 months until the puck drops on the 2013-14 playoffs, anything can change. When the dust settles, there may be a different face here or there, but one thing is for sure; it will be exciting.
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