There is a tendency to look at Detroit's roster and say this is virtually the same team as it was this past season and the season before because so many of the players are the same.
The difference is that some of those players are far more dangerous now, and that's why the Red Wings are better suited this season to win the Stanley Cup than they were in either of the previous two.
The Big Why:
Defense - DET
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 34
SOG: 148 | +/-: 21
Outside of the obvious, including all-world talents such as Henrik Zetterberg
, Pavel Datsyuk
, and Nicklas Lidstrom
, the Red Wings are dangerous because Jiri Hudler
has had a solid season after struggling through all of 2010-11 while adjusting back to the NHL following his one-season stint in Russia. They're dangerous because Valtteri Filppula
has been far better this season than in any of his previous five.
Both Hudler and Filppula have become legitimate scoring threats, and the Red Wings already had plenty of those up front with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom.
The Red Wings are dangerous because of All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard. Instead of being asked not to lose the game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Howard can now be tasked with the responsibility of playing a major role in why the Red Wings win in the playoffs. He has jumped the hurdles that were standing in his way to become a star goalie in the NHL and one of the X-Factors on his team.
They're dangerous because their defense is deep and talented beyond Lidstrom, with Jonathon Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart all providing exemplary play.
Ian White has filled in admirably for the retired Brian Rafalski, who was banged up throughout the playoffs this past season and struggled just to get himself dressed. The acquisition of Kyle Quincey earlier this season added to Detroit's defensive depth and also made it tougher. Jakub Kindl has also taken the next step in his career and can be relied upon for some key minutes.
The Big Uh-Oh:
Goalie - DET
GAA: 2.13 | SVP: 0.920
The good news is that outside of Darren Helm
(knee), the Red Wings appear to be in decent health heading into the playoffs. The problem is they have proven this season that health isn't always going to be their ally. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Howard, Ericsson, Kindl and Franzen have all returned from recent injuries.
Detroit is also a month and a half removed from playing its best hockey. The Wings struggled in the last quarter of the season after winning 41 of their first 60 games. Injuries are a major reason for the drop-off, but it's fair to wonder if Detroit can get its swagger back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Final Argument: This is a 100-point team that hasn't been healthy all season. It seems to be fine right now, and as long as it stays that way, Detroit can claim another Stanley Cup.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl