These aren't your typical Detroit Red Wings of yesteryear preparing to represent Hockeytown in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Still, every current player, no matter how young or old, maintains the championship state of mind on which this franchise has prided itself for the better part of the past two decades.
The Red Wings were able to extend their NHL record of playoff appearances to 23 seasons this year due in large part to the play of call-ups from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids.
It's a credit to the managerial team and scouting staff, the coaches in Grand Rapids and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock after Detroit set an unofficial team record this season for man-games lost to injury.
Babcock refused to make any excuses.
He had no Nicklas Lidstrom anchoring the blue line or a Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom or even a Kirk Maltby to help alleviate some of that late-season pressure. Yet, the Red Wings continued to play that same unrelenting, puck-possession style.
Babcock used 37 different players in lineups this season, and eight of those players made their NHL debut in 2013-14. Fourteen of the players came from the 2013 Calder Cup champion Griffins.
Is that roster building a recipe for success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Time will tell, but the fact is the Red Wings won three of four games against the Boston Bruins, the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Their solid play have enabled veterans to rest and overcome various ailments. Top-line center Pavel Datsyuk rejoined the team on April 4 after sitting out almost a month and appears ready for the postseason push alongside right wing Johan Franzen.
David Legwand, Riley Sheahan and Darren Helm bolster the middle of the ice and crafty wings Justin Abdelkader, Daniel Alfredsson, Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Drew Miller and Luke Glendening give Babcock plenty of depth and energy up front.
"We've had a ton of injuries, but I'm tired of talking about that to be honest with you," Babcock said. "The reality is no one seems to get better. We seem to have them and they're key guys, but I've always said each year you find players when you get opportunities like this.
"It's good because they're ready to take people's jobs."
There's also a possibility that captain Henrik Zetterberg could return at some point in the postseason, and that will only strengthen the lineup.
The team has looked to veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall for leadership and some physical play along the back end, while Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser have excelled as second-year standouts on defense. The loss of Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery) hurts, but the Red Wings have done a respectable job on the back end nonetheless behind the goaltending of Jimmy Howard.
After a patchwork regular season, it no longer matters who is in or out of the lineup. With the minor-league depth and winning attitude present throughout the organization, the Detroit Red Wings are in position to win another Stanley Cup under the tutelage of Babcock.
|Back to top|