We are a day away from the start of the 2012 NHL Playoffs, and for the Red Wings, this means their 21st straight attempt to add a Cup Champions banner to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena.
The days leading up to the start of a series are always the most fun and the most nerve-wracking. Without any actual games to dissect and analyze, we're left with no choice but to offer prediction upon prediction as we try to guess what is going to happen.
Travis Hughes, the Godfather of SBNation Hockey and lead guy at Broad Street Hockey, posed 5 questions to our very own Jeff Hancock regarding the Wings' chances heading into their series with the Nashville Predators. You can see the questions and answers here, but he touches on the fact there should be some confidence in Hockeytown heading into the playoffs despite the team's recent poor play and a very tough opponent in the Predators.
Not wanting to feel left out, JJ and I tackled some questions of our own about this team and this series. Follow the jump for more.
Basically, I took the questions that Jeff was asked by Travis and slightly modified them. Below are the questions and our responses:
1) What's the one advantage the Red Wings have over the Predators entering their playoff series?
JJ: Just one? In that case, I'm going with the lowered expectations on them. The Predators have a lot more to lose in this series than the Wings. They're a young team that's going to be feeling all of the pressure in the world. Detroit can deal with setbacks, can they?
Graham: Nashville is a dynamite with the man-advantage, but the Wings were the NHL's best 5-on-5 team and need to be able to score to compensate for the power play goals they are likely to give up. Scoring first is also extremely important: the Predators were the league's 2nd best team when getting the first goal, but they were 15th when falling behind early (Wings were tied for 3rd when trailing first).
2) What's the one player on the Predators that scares you?
JJ: Patric Hornqvist put up almost 30 goals and drew a million penalties with his flopping bullshit. He's like Tomas Holmstrom without the reputation. He's exactly the kind of guy I see getting under Jimmy Howard's skin... or worse, injuring him.
Graham: I think it starts and ends with Pekka Rinne. The Predators have a bunch of forwards that can score a decent amount, their defense corps is solid through all 3 pairings, but if Rinne isn't his usual dominant self, Nashville will have a very hard time winning this series. They remind me of a better version of the Coyotes team the Wings have played in the first round the past 2 seasons, and they made a Vezina-nominated goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov look very ordinary in both of those series.
3) Which player on the Wings' bottom 2 lines will have the biggest impact on the series?
JJ: With Darren Helm set to be back for game 2, I'm having a hard time thinking of a guy who will play on Detroit's bottom-six who can do more for a game than Danger.
Graham: This will sound like an odd answer, but it's only because I believe he belongs down there, but my call is Todd Bertuzzi. First, I think he should be playing on the third line because Gustav Nyquist needs to be in the lineup to add speed against a big but slow Predators defense, and Bert is effective with Helm (when he comes back) and Miller. There's no shootout in the playoffs, so he's got to contribute by a) not taking stupid penalties and b) scoring timely goals to take the pressure off Datsyuk and Zetterberg. He's also got to use his size against the big defense of Nashville and punish them physically whenever they touch the puck.
4) When all's said and done, the Red Wings' playoff chances hinge on ...
JJ: The Wings ability to play their game consistently while making the small adjustments they'll need on a period-to-period basis. Detroit has a more versatile roster than people think and can play a variety of styles. It's going to be up to them to look calm and collected, no matter how much panic may be happening below the surface.
Graham: Getting scoring from players not named Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler both had fantastic regular seasons, and Johan Franzen once again flirted with 30 goals while being as consistent as diarrhea. If the Wings don't get goals from players without 3's and 4's in their numbers, they're in deep trouble.
5) Moment of truth: do the Wings win this series, or are they destined to be the first speed bump on the Predators' road to a long playoff run?
JJ: If the Wings lose this round, the Preds at least make the conference finals, mark that down. However, it's a non-issue. The Wings are going to finish this series making the Predators look like the 2008 Blackhawks.
Graham: This is going to be a brutal series. The Predators are going to punish the Wings at every opportunity and will make them pay when Detroit takes penalties. It's going to take a very strong effort to beat them, but I believe the experience and lack of pressure on Detroit will pay huge dividends, and they advance to the second round a very tired and sore team.