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Why the Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup

Monday, 04.29.2013 / 12:47 AM ET / Preview
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Why the Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup

It wasn't easy for the Red Wings to extend their string of playoff appearances to 22 seasons, but a sensational late push got them there.

They finished April going 7-3-3, including winning the final four, a strong run that, in a way, mirrored what the Los Angeles Kings did last season to clinch a playoff spot. A strong closing kick sparked the Kings to the Stanley Cup last year, and it can do the same for the Red Wings.

These aren't the Red Wings of a decade ago, who overwhelmed teams with their star power. It isn't even the Red Wings team of a half-decade ago, a group that was powered by Nicklas Lidstrom, a Hall of Fame defenseman.

A few of the players from the Wings' last Cup champion remain, and though they may be older, they're still capable of carrying the Red Wings to 16 more postseason wins.

Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg showed this season why they're one of the most dynamic 1-2 forward punches in the NHL, despite being well past their 30th birthdays.

At 34, Datsyuk had a flashback season, playing a full season and scoring at a point-per-game clip for the first time since 2008-09. He remains one of the most exciting players in the League, capable of making game-changing, highlight-reel plays.

Zetterberg, 32, remains the perfect complement. Healthy and productive offensively in his first season as team captain, like Datsyuk he averaged a point per game. He also scored the first two goals in the Red Wings last game of the season, a must-win scenario against the Dallas Stars.

With Datsyuk and Zetterberg, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has the good fortune of playing the pair together to overwhelm teams, or separate them to spread the offensive wealth.

The Wings also have a plethora of experienced depth players, among them Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary and Valtteri Filppula. All are capable of raising their game, and all were part of the 2008 Cup team.

Two other members of that 2008 team have evolved into the leaders on defense. After a slow start, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson (a rookie on the Cup team who didn't play in the playoffs) have become an effective duo capable of playing major minutes in all situations.

There are a few youngsters chipping in, as well. Much like the Kings had younger players inherit major roles on lower lines during their championship run, the Wings have put together an all-rookie line of Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and Damien Brunner. The speedy trio has gotten better and better since being put together in late March.

Defensively, Danny DeKeyser, 23, could be a wild card. Signed in late March, the college free agent has used his strong skating and puck-moving ability to move past veterans Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo to claim a full-time job.

Jimmy Howard, 29, was a workhorse down the stretch and is among the biggest reasons Detroit extended its streak of playoff appearances to an astounding 22.

And with Babcock behind the bench, there won't be a situation that possibly could surprise or overwhelm him.

The Kings rode their strong finish all the way to the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings are more than capable of following their lead.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him o

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 52 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 53 9 27 3 36
T. Tatar 52 16 17 -1 33
G. Nyquist 53 14 15 -2 29
P. Datsyuk 38 8 20 12 28
J. Abdelkader 53 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 39 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 49 6 8 12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 20 10 4 .933 1.97
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89