If experience and defense wins championships, the Detroit Red Wings will raise the Stanley Cup again in June.
The Big Why: Only one team has Nicklas Lidstrom, easily the most experienced and arguably still, at 41, the most superior defenseman in the NHL. Only one team has Pavel Datsyuk, perhaps the slickest two-way centerman in the game. Only one team has Henrik Zetterberg, a bulldog pivot with offensive flair and outstanding defensive instincts.
The Red Wings play a style that -- when they're healthy and working together -- is nearly impossible to stop. As NHL Network analyst Craig Button told NHL.com, they don't dump the puck in so their forwards can forecheck and pound; they dump the puck in because it's one of the best ways to start their offense.
Detroit is a puck-possession team. The depth it has in two-way forwards is remarkable and its defense corps is full of guys who can move the puck and take the body. The Red Wings don't need to pound you because they wear you down with passing and puck retrieval.
The Big Uh-Oh: Health could be a concern. The Wings are the NHL's oldest team with an average age of 31.8. Datsyuk, Mike Modano, Brian Rafalski, Chris Osgood and Brad Stuart have all missed significant time this season with injuries, and Zetterberg might not be ready for the start of the playoffs.
Final Argument: Is it the destiny of Lidstrom and Modano to go on one final championship run before they entertain job offers off the ice? Was losing in the second round last season and having their first extended offseason since 2007 the best thing to happen to these Red Wings?
The answers to these questions are, unequivocally, yes. The Red Wings are back and they have the defense and experience to go all the way again.
We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.
— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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