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Why the Red Wings can win the Cup

by Mike G. Morreale
Their roster consists of an assortment of perennial All-Stars and NHL Award winners. Their coach has led the team to four straight 50-plus win seasons, they can play a speed game or exhibit some muscle in the trenches and they are the defending Stanley Cup champion.

Do you need any further proof why the Detroit Red Wings shouldn't be considered this year's favorite to again raise the most coveted trophy in sports?

Puck control and a deep bench are the common denominators that fuel the Red Wings each postseason and this spring is no different. They had three defensemen in the top 11 in scoring among the League's defensive leaders during the regular season in Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall and each registered a goal in their opening-round sweep over Columbus.

Their goalie, Chris Osgood, appears to have found his groove in these playoffs with a 4-0 record, 1.75 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. During the Wings’ Stanley Cup run last season, Osgood posted similar numbers -- sporting a 1.55 GAA and .930 save percentage. He has the good fortune, of course, of playing behind an extremely mobile defensive unit that makes life miserable for opposing forwards with their shutdown mentality.

In addition to the aforementioned players along the blue line, the hard-hitting Brad Stuart (11 hits), Brett Lebda and first-year playoff performer Jonathan Ericsson have thrived under coach Mike Babcock's approach. Their power-play is tops in the playoffs, hitting at a 31.8 percent efficiency with seven goals in 22 opportunities.

With Pavel Datsyuk (10 hits), Henrik Zetterberg (team-leading three goals), Valtteri Filppula and Darren Helm (team-leading 17 hits) centering the top four lines, the Wings are deep down the middle. Johan Franzen leads the club with six points in four postseason matches. Dan Cleary (plus-6 rating, 16 hits) has already surpassed his playoff total of last season (3 points) in 18 fewer games and Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler and Tomas Holmstrom (2 goals on 2 shots this postseason) will continue to add to their legacy in Hockeytown.

"They play like old dogs, just waiting for things to come and then taking advantage," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They're capable of bottling you up through the neutral zone and they play extremely smart because they have a lot of experience. Experience allows you to be patient and in position during critical situations. They've learned these lessons over time."

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