When this season began, many hockey experts did not have high expectations for the Detroit Red Wings. Coming off a first round playoff exit against the Boston Bruins, there were many question marks for a Red Wings team that many believed had overachieved in even making the playoffs. Yet, Detroit has thus far proven the critics wrong as the team sits in second in the Eastern Conference, only one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite its great play, it still does not seem to be garnering the attention it deserves.
In some respects, the Detroit Red Wings are the NHL’s version of the San Antonio Spurs. Both are consistent, winning organizations, getting the job done without the glitz and glamor that other teams showcase. The casual NHL fan is probably much more likely to recognize Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin than Henrik Zetterberg. Like the Spurs, the Red Wings are made up of hard-working, unassuming players who are capable of putting up the big numbers of a star without possessing the ego of one.
Even though they don’t receive the attention that teams like Pittsburgh and Chicago garner, the Red Wings are perhaps the most consistently great NHL franchise over the past few decades. To take it one step further, they are arguably the most successful North American professional sports franchise of the last quarter century. They have reached the playoffs an astounding 23 years in a row, the most of any other North American professional sports franchise. Additionally, during this period they won the Stanley Cup four times in six appearances.
Coming into the season, many wondered whether Detroit’s youngsters, such as Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, could replicate their success from the previous season. Nyquist has proven that his 28-goal season was no fluke, as he has put up 19 goals and 36 points through 47 games. He also boasts perhaps the best play of the season, in which he skated circles around the Ottawa Senators for half a minute before scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. Meanwhile, despite suffering a very slow start in October, Tomas Tatar has scored a team-leading 21 goals, proving that his 2013-2014 success was also no accident. Both Nyquist and Tatar have been two important reasons why Detroit is experiencing their current success.
Additionally, many questioned whether Pavel Datsyuk could regain his former superstar status after spending much of the 2013-2014 season injured. That season, he played only 45 games due to knee problems, and, after separating his shoulder prior to this season, some wondered whether he could ever remain healthy again. After missing the beginning of the year, however, Datsyuk has put up a very successful campaign thus far. He has scored 15 goals and 20 assists in 36 games, scoring at almost a point-per-game pace. The self-proclaimed Magic Man is one of the most fun and dynamic players to watch in the league.
Of course, the Red Wings are led by captain Henrik Zetterberg, who leads Detroit forwards in ice time and serves as a consummate leader and role model for their younger players. With his leadership, combined with the steady coaching of Mike Babcock and superb goaltending of All-Star Jimmy Howard (assuming he fully recovers from injury), the Red Wings have the potential to make a run for the Stanley Cup and add to their under appreciated legacy.
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