Pittsburgh Penguins (42-24-6-90) vs. Detroit Red Wings (35-23-13-83)
09-10 Season Series: Penguins lead 1-0 09-10 Away vs. Detroit: Series tied 0-0 All-Time vs. Detroit: Penguins trail 59-60-16 All-Time Away vs. Detroit: Penguins trail 14-41-12 Overtime: Series tied 2-2-6 Shootout: Penguins lead 1-0
April is right around the corner and that can only mean one thing – this is the time of year the Detroit Red Wings enjoy the most. This season is no different. After battling through injuries to Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen, among others, Detroit is on an 8-2-3 run which has catapulted them from outside the playoff picture to the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Detroit’s presence in the postseason field has to make tops seeds San Jose and Chicago leery entering the first round. The Red Wings have tortured both teams in recent seasons.
Todd Bertuzzi – Signed in the offseason to help offset the losses of Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler, Bertuzzi has proven to be a perfect fit during his second tour of duty in Detroit. A physical specimen with soft hands for a big guy, Bertuzzi ranks fourth on the Wings with 16 goals. Bertuzzi ended a 19-game goal-less draught with his tally against Vancouver on Saturday. Finally healthy after battling a back problem in recent seasons, Bertuzzi is once again playing with a healthy edge to his game. He leads Detroit in penalty minutes with 72. Most impressively, Bertuzzi is one of three Wings to appear in all 71 games thus far. The last time he played a full season was 2005-06 with Vancouver.
Jason Williams – Like Bertuzzi, Williams is in his second go-around with the Red Wings after breaking in with Detroit from 2000-07. The 29-year-old Williams, known more for his quickness and shiftiness, is a little more one-dimensional than most of the other Red Wing forwards. He has appeared in just 33 games this season due to a broken fibula which kept him sidelined for 38 games. Williams has picked up 11 points (6G-5A) and a minus-10 rating when healthy.
Dan Cleary – Cleary is the epitome of the classic Red Wing forward since the NHL returned from the lockout. After struggling a bit to find a home, Cleary has flourished in Detroit where his two-way ability in an asset to head coach Mike Babcock’s system. The two-time 20-goal scorer is strong on the puck in the offensive zone and a great penalty killer at the opposite end. Cleary was one of the Wings’ top performers during last year’s postseason with nine goals and 15 points in 23 games.
Pavel Datsyuk – One of the NHL’s most creative talents with the puck on his stick. Datsyuk can not only stickhandle in a phone booth, but he is also one of the best playmakers in the league. When he is not helping to create goals, he is usually preventing them. Datsyuk is the two-time defending Selke Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defensive forward. He has also won the past four Lady Byng Trophies as the most gentlemanly player in the game. Datsyuk’s plus-14 rating leads all Detroit forwards. He ranks first in the NHL with 110 takeaways, 36 more than second-place Ryan Kesler. Valtteri Filppula – Filppula, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Saturday night with a three-point effort (1G-2A) against Vancouver, is yet another great European for the Wings. With 21 assists and 29 points through 44 games, Filppula appears poised to become Detroit’s next big breakout star offensively. He scored three times in six games to help Team Finland secure a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics.
Darren Helm – Role players have a huge part in determining a team’s success or failure in the postseason. That bodes well for Detroit, which seems to have found a keeper in the 23-year-old Helm. A clutch playoff performer the last two seasons with six postseason goals, Helm has notched 10 tallies through 64 games in his first full regular season with the Wings, although he has just two goals over his past 28 games. Helm ranks second on Detroit with 167 hits. Tomas Holmstrom – When you take a minute to ponder, it is kind of shocking that Holmstrom stands just 6-foot tall because he plays much bigger on the ice. There might not be a forward in the game better around the front of the opposition net than Holmstrom, who leads Detroit with 10 power-play tallies, the fifth time in the past seven years he has hit double-digit totals on the man-advantage. Holmstrom ranks second on the Wings with 20 goals, making it the fifth time in his career he has hit that mark.
Henrik Zetterberg – The Conn Smythe Trophy winner two seasons ago, Zetterberg was having a so-so season this year prior to a recent hot stretch which has seen him pick up 12 points (4G-8A) over his past nine games playing on a line with Todd Bertuzzi and Filppula. Like Datsyuk, Zetterberg is generally regarded as one of the best players in the world at both ends of the rink. He leads the Wings with 40 assists and is tied with Datsyuk for the scoring lead with 60 points. Zetterberg represented Team Sweden in Vancouver, tallying once in four contests.
Pavel Datsyuk Valtteri Filppula
Tomas Holmstrom Henrik Zetterberg
Niklas Kronwall – An effective two-way defender coming off perhaps his best season as a pro in ’08-09, Kronwall was one of many Wings sidelined for an extended stretch when he missed 30 games earlier this season. One of the best open-ice hitters in the league, Kronwall has done a great job matching up against the Penguins Sidney Crosby during the past two Stanley Cup Finals. Last season Kronwall scored a career-high 51 points (6G-45A) in 80 games. Kronwall ranked third on Team Sweden in ice time at the 2010 Olympic Games.
Nicklas Lidstrom – Lidstrom probably won’t pick up his seventh Norris Trophy in the past nine years as the NHL’s best defenseman, but he is once again having an outstanding season at age 39. He ranks in the top-10 among blueliners in many of the major categories, including assists (35, 9th), points (43, 10th), rating (plus-20, 6th) and time on ice (25:35, 8th). The only European captain in league history to lead his team to a Stanley Cup, Lidstrom appeared in his fourth Olympic Games last month for Team Sweden.
Brian Rafalski – Often overshadowed in Detroit playing with Lidstrom, Rafalski displayed his world-class skill level for Team USA at the 2010 Olympics. He scored a pair of goals against Canada in a preliminary round victory and tied for the team lead with eight points (4G-4A) in six games. Rafalski makes up for his small stature with tremendous skating skills and a low, accurate shot from the point. He is three points shy of hitting the 40-point plateau for the eighth time in the past nine seasons.
Brad Stuart – It would be simple to look at the 6-foot-2, 210 pound Stuart’s minus-15 rating and assume he was having a miserable campaign. Sure, that’s a figure Stuart would no doubt like to improve, but there are other elements to his game which make Stuart effective for the Wings. He leads the team in both hits with 177 and blocked shots with 115. Stuart is also one of just three Wings to appear in all 71 games.
Nicklas Lidstrom Brian Rafalski
Jimmy Howard – When the Professional Hockey Writers Association casts their votes for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year next month, chances are many of the ballots will have Howard’s name checked off. The 25-year-old rookie ranks among the top-10 goaltenders in wins (28), goals-against average (2.32) and save percentage (.924) during a freshman campaign which has seen him supplant Chris Osgood as the Red Wings No. 1 netminder. He has been especially hot lately, rolling off an 8-2-1 stretch over his previous 11 games.
Chris Osgood – Detroit’s rock between the pipes the past two seasons with a combined 29 postseason victories, Osgood has vacated the top reigns to Howard over the past couple months. However, before you go writing off Osgood, remember that at this point in the season last year Ty Conklin was getting a majority of the starts for head coach Mike Babcock, but it was Osgood who got the call in the postseason. Although his win-loss record doesn’t match last season’s, Osgood’s goals-against average (2.97) and save percentage (.890) are actually better than the 3.09 and .887 figures he posted in ’08-09.
Jimmy Howard Chris Osgood
Johan Franzen - It’s no coincidence that Detroit’s current hot stretch began about the same time Franzen returned to the lineup in late February. Franzen had missed 55 games with a torn ACL before being activated from injured reserve on Feb. 9. His nickname is “Mule” and for good reason. Franzen is a powerful skater who loves to drive to the net with his 6-foot-3, 222-pound frame. Last season he scored a career-high 34 goals in the regular season and followed that up with another 12 goals in the postseason. Franzen has 11 points (7G-4A) in 16 games this year.
“I just think we’ve been getting better and better and building this up. Having a little adversity and our back against the wall, I think it’s pretty good. This team has been playing a lot of hockey the past three years, and it’s tough.” - Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi talking to the Detroit Free Press on the Red Wings play since the Olympic break.
"Desperation has really showed. It says we really want to be in the playoffs. We know the situation we're in. We know teams around us are battling to make it, as well. Calgary is right behind us, and it was a huge two points for us." - Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom speaking to the Red Wings official team website following Detroit’s dramatic victory over Vancouver on Saturday.
“We’re trying to be the best team that we can be. We’re trying to be an elite team. We have areas that we need to work on. We address those and talk about those, and we get challenges against Detroit and going into Washington on Wednesday.” - Dan Bylsma.
4-9 One of the reasons Detroit is barely hanging onto a playoff spot is a 4-9 record in shootouts. Since the breakaway competition was added to break ties prior to the 2005-06 season Detroit is just 21-29 in shootouts
43 Detroit’s 19-10-5 record at Joe Louis Arena gives Detroit the fifth-fewest number of home points (43) in the Western Conference