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Why the Wings will win Stanley Cup

by Staff Writer / Detroit Red Wings
Veterans like Henrik Zetterberg will have to step up their roles if the Red Wings are to go on a roll in the playoffs this spring. (Photo by Getty Images)

The Red Wings have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 25th straight season.

It's a remarkable achievement in itself, but it will mean even more when Detroit wins its fifth title during this quarter-century run of excellence and first since 2008.

The last time the Red Wings didn't make the playoffs was the 1989-90 season. Since then, they've made the Stanley Cup finals six times, won the Presidents' Trophy six times and had 14 division titles.

Detroit may not have won its division, but the Red Wings have all the elements to make a deep postseason run.

It starts in goal with the dynamic duo of Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard.

Howard, who lost his starting job to Mrazek early in the season, started the final five games of the regular season and allowed two goals or fewer in six of his past seven appearances. Howard, who has made the majority of the starts for the Red Wings the past seven seasons, will step up when it matters most.

If he falters, the relief is Mrazek, who made the NHL All-Star Game this season and was 27-16-6 with a 2.33 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and four shutouts. Despite a rough March, he carried Detroit for most of the season when it was struggling to score goals.

The Red Wings are full of veterans who have won the Stanley Cup. Forward Pavel Datsyuk has won the Cup twice, captain Henrik Zetterberg, forward Darren Helm and defensemen Niklas Kronwall have won it once. Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey and Justin Abdelkader played on the Red Wings during the 2007-08 season, although they did not play enough to get their names on the Stanley Cup. Throw in offseason addition center Brad Richards (Stanley Cup winner 2004, 2015) and there's no question Detroit has the leaders who know what it takes to win in the postseason.

It hasn't just been the veterans.

Dylan Larkin finished the regular season with 45 points (23 goals, 22 assists), ranking among rookie leaders in those categories, and was a plus-12. Larkin, who made the Red Wings opening-night roster as a teenager, has shown flashes of brilliance and has used his speed and hockey IQ to become one of Detroit's most important offensive pieces.

Detroit also signed veteran defenseman Mike Green this offseason. The 30-year old provided stability on the back end and was an important puck-mover on the power play.

The Red Wings first-year coach Jeff Blashill, 42, knows how to get the most out of his players. He was familiar with most of the roster from his time as an assistant with the Red Wings in 2010-11 and as the coach of Grand Rapids in the American Hockey League, where he spent the past three seasons with many of the young players now in Detroit. It has been a seamless transition from Mike Babcock, who left in the offseason to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Red Wings have the coaching, the goaltending and the playoff experience. They may not be one of the favorites, but that's fine with them. Detroit will thrive in the underdog role and will hoist its fifth Stanley Cup in the past 19 seasons.

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