Underdogs? Not Really
Has it ever occurred to anyone that maybe the Detroit Red Wings have been playing crappy hockey for a few weeks, and also had some key injuries before that? Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard were all out, as were a bunch of supporting players. Doesn't anyone remember the 23 game home winning streak? Sure, they've been bad on the road, but they haven't been awful. Their play in recent weeks is unacceptable, but that doesn't mean the Wings aren't able to change it, and change it quick.
In almost every prediction I've seen, the Predators win the series in six or seven games. I even picked them in six, so the next comments are not 'homer' ones. The fact is that Nashville does not have a lot of things that Detroit has. They have never won a playoff series against the Wings. Ever. Does that mean they won't beat Detroit? No, but that usually helps, and seeing this is Detroit's 21st consecutive appearance in the playoffs, I'd say they're used to the grind.
The Preds have one Stanley Cup ring on their team; Hal Gill with Pittsburgh in 2009. Detroit has a combined 21. It makes a difference.
When comparing the rosters, the matchup looks to be in Detroit's favour. The Red Wings have basically two top lines, including Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler. Nashville's scorers are Patrick Hornqvist, Mike Fisher and Andrei Kostitsyn. Hardly a concern when you compare to Detroit. The one concern is Shea Weber, who had 19 goals on the year. If Nashville gets powerplays, they'll probably score from the point.
Nicklas Lidstrom is still great at age 42, and is so efficient that he doesn't need to paly like Weber or Ryan Suter. If those two are contained, the Red Wings defensive depth is better, including Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincey. Nashville has Jon Blum, Roman Josi, Francis Bouillion, Kevin Klein and Hal Gill, none of which should scare Detroit fans. Factor in that Howard can battle toe to toe with Pekka Rinne, and Detroit can win the series.
The bottom line is that Detroit needs to win on the road, be dominant at the Joe, stay out of the box and light a fire under Franzen's rear. The Red Wings aren't underdogs; people want to root for Nashville for the story they are. The Red Wings have been there for 21 straight years and have four Cups since 1997. People want somebody new to steal the show. With Nashville, St. Louis and Chicago all in the playoffs, the Central Division is no longer a joke with Detroit running away with the title in February.
If Red Wings fans still are not convinced, take into account that Mike Babcock hasn't really changed too much; the lines, the breakout, the powerplay or the penalty kill. Teams have figured out how to contain the Wings. Does he have something up his sleeve? Just to get you in that winning attitude - I bet he does.