DETROIT >> Since moving to the Eastern Conference the Detroit Red Wings have been bounced from the playoffs each of the last two seasons in the first round.
They get a rematch of last year’s opening round series with the Tampa Bay Lighting, which begins Wednesday. The Wings lost the best-of-seven series in seven games.
Here are three reasons why the Wings will advance past the Lighting and three reasons why they won’t.
Why They Advance
- Win one for Pav
If this is indeed Pavel Datsyuk’s last season in Detroit it could provide the spark the team needs to try and hand him another Stanley Cup before he returns to Russia. “If this is his final last run let’s make it a good one,” Niklas Kronwall said.
- Banged up Bolts
Tampa Bay will be without its top forward, Steven Stamkos, and one of its top defensemen, Anton Stralman, in the series. Stamkos had surgery to treat a blood clot near his right collarbone, while Stralman is sidelined with a non-displaced fracture on his left fibula.
Tyler Johnson, who torched the Wings for six goals in last year’s playoffs, is also banged up and will be a game-time decision for Game 1.
- Bad Brad
Brad Richards knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup and Wings coach Jeff Blashill will rely on him to help lead Detroit to another.
“There’s no question he’s done that throughout his career,” Blashill said. “He’s got an ability to be calm under pressure so as the pressure increases as the moment gets bigger he stays calm. He knows how to manage his body throughout the year so he’s in a good spot come playoff time. We’ve got him up in the top few lines. We did that on purpose because we think he’s a guy that when the pressure increases he stays calm and continues to make plays.”
Richards won the Cup last season with Chicago and also in 2004 with Tampa Bay.
Why They Don’t Advance
- Big Ben
Lighting goalie Ben Bishop, who stands 6-foot-7 without skates, has put together a Vezina Trophy candidate season, posting a league-best 2.06 goals-against average to go with a .926 save percentage, which is second best in the league. In helping lead his team to the Stanley Cup finals last year he posted three shutouts and a 2.18 GAA and .921 save percentage.
- Goals for/Goals against
Of all eight teams that reached the playoffs, the Wings have scored the least amount of goals (211) and have given up the most goals (224). Conversely, the Lightning finished the regular season a plus-26 in goal differential.
- Drouin the X-Factor
With the loss of Steven Stamkos, the Lighting need to rely on Jonathan Drouin, who has scored a goal in each of his first two games since being recalled on April 7. Drouin, who was suspended by Tampa Bay for failing to report to the minors, was a healthy scratch in 20 of the Lightning’s 26 playoff games a year ago.
Wings win best-of-seven series in six.