Detroit Red Wings – Columbus Blue Jackets Playoff Preview
|Detroit Red Wings||51-21-10||27-9-5||24-12-5|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||41-31-10||25-13-3||16-18-7|
|Goals/GM||GA/GM||PP Pct.||PK Pct|
|Detroit Red Wings||3.52 (1)||2.93 (20)||25.5%(1)||78.3% (25)|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||2.68 (21)||2.72 (9)||12.7%(30)||82.1%(13)|
The expression “can’t get any respect” comes to mind when you think of the Red Wings backstop. Chris Osgood has 3 Stanley Cup rings (2 as the starting goaltender), has won the William Jennings Trophy twice, played in 4 All Star Games and finished this season with a 28-8-8 record. While his GAA is a tad high at 3.09% (41st) and his save percentage was .887% (45th), he is a veteran goalie who knows what it takes to win a series.
Here is where the Jackets have the Wings beat as Steve Mason has been outstanding all season. He finished 2nd only to Tim Thomas with a GAA of 2.29% (2) and a save percentage of .916% (16). If the Jackets have any hope of beating the Wings it rests on the shoulders of this young goaltender.
The Detroit defensive core of Lidstrom, Rafalski, Stuart, Kronwall and even Chelios have been shutting down the other teams top lines for years. Rick Nash can expect a heavy dose of these Norris calibre defenseman whenever he’s on the ice.
Columbus boasts a less well known contingent but this doesn’t mean they are any less effective than Detroit’s. The trio of Tytuin, Commodore and Hejda have logged the most time of any players on Columbus averaging over 22 minutes per game. And while Mason in net might have something to do with the Jackets being 9th best overall in goals against, it has a lot to do with these workhorses limiting the shots he faces.
The Red Wings can roll out some of the sickest forwards in the NHL. Having seen a number of their games live this year you can’t help but be amazed at all the talent this team possesses. They have firepower in Hossa, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen. They have grinders and toughness in Holmstrom, Draper and Maltby. And they have players who can both score and grind in Cleary, Hudler and Samuelson. There is a reason they were the #1 team in the NHL in goal scored this year.
The Blue Jackets don’t boast as powerful a line-up of forwards as the Red Wings. They ranked 21st overall in terms of goals scored. The offence on this team comes mainly from Captain Rick Nash who scored 40 goals this season but it quickly falls off from there. They will be hard pressed to go goal for goal against the defending Stanley Cup champs.
Mike Babcock in his fourth season as the head coach of the Red Wings has compiled an impressive 213-77-38 record during his time with the Wings. They have finished 1st in the Central every year he has been coach and of course won the Stanley Cup under his direction last season. Despite the fact that he has zero emotion (at least when being interviewed) he is one hell of a good coach who gets the best out of his players. The Red Wings special teams are the story of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. They are #1 in the league on the Power Play boasting a 25.5% rating but they are 25th in the league on the Penalty Kill with a 78.3%.
Ken Hitchcock has led his teams to six division titles (Dallas & Philadelphia) and has a 66-51 record in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including a 16-7 mark in 1998-99 when he guided the Stars to the Stanley Cup championship. Since his arrival in Columbus he has improved the team’s position year after year, going from 28 wins in 2006/07, to 34 wins in 2007/08 to 41 wins in 2008/09. The Columbus Power Play has been abysmal this year ranking 30th in the league at a paltry 12.7% and the Penalty Kill puts them in the middle of the pack (13th overall) at 82.1%.
Edge: Coaching: Even, Power Play: Detroit, Penalty Kill: Columbus
This series presents the classic battle, pitting wily, experienced veterans against a group of young, inexperienced playoff newbie’s. In all areas except for goaltending I give the edge to the Red Wings and while I don’t think it’s impossible for Steve Mason to steal the series for the Jackets but I expect Detroit to win.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6.