Friday, April 06, 2012

If you're really honest about it, the Red Wings would win by losing

I'm sure the preferred option for the Red Wings in the opening round of the playoffs is getting the fourth seed in the Western Conference and meeting Nashville - with the home ice edge.
They will play very hard Saturday and celebrate mightily if they beat Chicago in the season finale at Joe Louis Arena.
The only way the Red Wings will get home ice in the first round is to get two points in their season finale, and Nashville none in a late Saturday game at Colorado.
Other scenarios have the Red Wings dropping to a fifth seed and still playing Nashville (if the Wings win Saturday and Preds get a point, as an example). Or having Chicago vault past them by winning, taking the higher seed and the Red Wings dropping to sixth, which, oddly, is their best option.
That's because the Pacific Division champion gets the third seed. And it will be either Phoenix, San Jose or Los Angeles.
The Red Wings have beaten Phoenix in the opening round the last two years. Ray Whitney has been the Coyotes best player, and Mike Smith is their goalie. They stay competitive because of tight checking.
Phoenix is clearly the Red Wings best option for the opening round.
San Jose has struggled this season, but remains daunting. They have knocked the Red Wings out of the playoffs the last two seasons in the Western Conference semifinals, still have one of the best power play units in hockey and a Cup-winning goalie in Antti Niemi. I'm sure Joe Pavelski is licking his chops at the prospect of facing the Red Wings. It's like NHL has a mandate he must score a goal every time the Sharks play Detroit. And it must be an important one.
The Kings have played exceptional hockey down the stretch, and their goalie, Jonathan Quick, is on the verge of becoming the league's next great player. Anze Kopitar is one of the NHL's best forwards, if under-appreciated players. Since making a deadline trade with Columbus that sent former University of Michigan star defenseman Jack Johnson to Columbus for goal scorer Jeff Carter, the Kings have taken off. Oddly, it hasn't been because of Carter, who had some big seasons in Philadelphia, but was a disaster in Columbus. He hasn't even played lately because of an ankle injury. For the Kings, it's all about Quick and Kopitar, and Drew Doughty, a gifted defenseman, but one who has struggled to live up to the hype after starring at such a young age for Canada in the 2010 Olympics.
Nashville, home ice edge or not, is the worst option. These are not the old Predators the Red Wings ousted rather easily in the past. They won a playoffs series last year and pushed Vancouver in the second round. Pekka Rinne is a great goalie. The Preds have a tremendous power play, and Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are Superman and Green Lantern along the blue line. Honestly, the Preds might be the best team in the Western Conference.


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