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Detroit News predictions: Red Wings 2015-16 season

The Detroit News

Ted Kulfan, Gregg Krupa, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski offer their predictions on the Red Wings 2015-16 season.

Goalie Petr Mrazek will vie with Jimmy Howard throughout the season for the Wings' No. 1 netminding job.

Ted Kulfan

Season: The Red Wings, as they’ve done the last few seasons, will squeak into the playoffs. They are one of a lot of teams capable of making the playoffs — or missing them.

Playoffs: Once in the playoffs, the Red Wings will lose another seven-game, first-round series.

MVP: Jimmy Howard looks determined and motivated to prove skeptics wrong after last season’s second-half flop. Howard usually plays his best under these circumstances.

Surprise player: Dylan Larkin has the talent to be a real good NHL player.

Starting goaltender: In Game 1 of the playoffs, Jimmy Howard ... as long as he stays healthy.

Gregg Krupa

Season: The Red Wings eventually enjoy reasonably good health and make the playoffs for a 25th consecutive year, this time as a fifth seed. Their depth is increasingly evident, covering injuries that do occur and yielding a surprising, helpful trade.

Playoffs: They will play in the conference finals before losing in another hard-fought effort. Both goaltender see significant time as Jeff Blashill risks keeping two-goaltender system.

MVP: Henrik Zetterberg enjoys the fruit of more time conditioning this summer instead of rehabilitating his back and has a big season. He is what he is enduringly for the Red Wings, their MVP.

Surprise player: Jakub Kindl marries more confidence in his good offensive skills with better defensive play. In the NHL, defensemen often toil long before thriving, and it is Kindl’s time.

Starting goaltender: Jimmy Howard is back in his saddle and Petr Mrazek’s puck-handling skills in the new 3-on-3 overtime makes a critical difference. A two-goaltender system eventually emerges.

John Niyo

Season: The goaltending will sort itself, eventually. And the defense should provide a bit more offense. But even with the young talent gaining traction, the health of Pavel Datsyuk figures to have a huge impact on this team’s fate.

Playoffs: Home-ice advantage sure would help, because Detroit is stuck in the same division with a Tampa Bay team that’s still on the rise. And without a dominant defensive pairing, it’s hard to see the Red Wings making a long run. Second-round loss to Lightning.

MVP: Pavel Datsyuk, provided he’s back before Thanksgiving. Even at 37, he’s still this team’s best — and most indispensable — player.

Surprise player: Mike Green saw his role and his minutes reduced in Washington, but he’ll fill a void in Detroit with 50-60 points.

Starting goaltender: Jimmy Howard’s poised for a bounce-back year, but Petr Mrazek’s most capable of getting a hot hand and winning the No. 1 job at this point.

Bob Wojnowski

Season: The Red Wings will start slowly with new faces and young legs — and no Pavel Datsyuk for a while — then get on a roll and finish second behind the Lightning in the Atlantic, fourth in the East. The offense will be more dynamic and the playoff streak will continue under Jeff Blashill.

Playoffs: The Red Wings will reach the second round, where they’ll be eliminated by the Maple Leafs (kidding!). They’ll be eliminated by the Rangers.

MVP: Gustav Nyquist is primed to take the next step, and should become a 35-goal scorer.

Surprise player: Not necessarily a surprise, but veteran newcomer Brad Richards will show he has something left, centering the second line and setting up Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar.

Starting goaltender: Jimmy Howard, then Petr Mrazek, then back again. By the playoffs, it’ll be Howard.