Red Wings vs. Lightning: How they match up
RED WINGS OFFENSE VS. LIGHTNING DEFENSE
Red Wings: When you look at some of the names, it’s somewhat surprising — but the Red Wings have struggled to score. Henrik Zetterberg (50 points) and Pavel Datsyuk (49) lead offensively, but with some of the lowest numbers of their careers. Dylan Larkin was one of the best rookies, leading the Red Wings with 23 goals. But the performances of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Gustav Nyquist, each of whom underwhelmed offensively, will be key. Brad Richards was signed last summer for his playoff successes, and Luke Glendening proved to be a defensive stopper against the Lightning last season.
Lightning: Last season’s series against the Red Wings began to what amounted a coming out party for Victor Hedman, who arguably would have been a playoff MVP candidate had the Lightning won the Stanley Cup. Hedman is a big, strong, mobile defender who can play a ton of minutes, shut down opposing goal-scorers or create offense. He will be particularly important with the loss of Anton Stralman (fractured left fibula). In Stralman’s absence, Andrej Sustr and Matt Carle have received bigger roles — and played well, although neither can match Stralman’s patience and puck possession. Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn are physical and can contribute offensively.
Edge: Red Wings
LIGHTNING OFFENSE VS. RED WINGS DEFENSE
Lightning: Not having Steven Stamkos (blood clot, arm), one of the premier goal-scorers, for the series will hurt the Lightning. But he was held in check by the Red Wings last spring. The line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov, however, was outstanding. Johnson scored 13 goals in the playoffs, six against the Red Wings. He’s been bothered with injuries this season and may not be ready for Game 1. Kucherov has taken off this year, with 30 goals. Watch out for Jonathan Drouin, a 2013 first-round pick, who was sent to the minors after leaving the team because of his secondary role. Veterans Valtteri Filppula, Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan can play a variety of roles and have had playoff success.
Red Wings: This group was steady early, but became increasingly exposed as the regular season progressed. Danny DeKeyser and Kyle Quincey are a shut-down pair, but have been inconsistent. DeKeyser can play a variety of roles and is the top defenseman. Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson had disappointing seasons — Kronwall was bothered by a knee injury and appeared to lose a step, and Ericsson had trouble in coverage. Mike Green hasn’t lived up to expectations, and Alexey Marchenko appears to have passed Brendan Smith on the depth chart.
Lightning: There’s no debate about who the starter is — Ben Bishop was outstanding in last season’s series victory over the Red Wings, with a .922 save percentage. This season, he led the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage, and had six shutouts.
Red Wings: Petr Mrazek was the starter during last season’s series against the Lighting, but he’ll be watching this year. Mrazek struggled the last month and lost the job to Jimmy Howard, who slumped in January-February. Howard started the last five games and led the Red Wings into the playoffs.
Lightning: Even with Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and a variety of offensive threats, the Lightning was lousy on the power play (No. 28, 15.8 percent). Still, not having Stamkos and his lethal one-timer from the dot is going to be missed. The penalty kill ranked No. 7 (84 percent) and has some of the league’s best killers in Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan and Cedric Paquette.
Red Wings: After a season-long struggle, the power play found some consistency the final month and ranked 13th (18.8 percent). A big factor was the net-front presence of Riley Sheahan and Justin Abdelkader. Mike Green and Brad Richards do a good job passing the puck and can deliver it to the net. Richards has had plenty of playoff success. The penalty kill ranked 14th (81.5 percent) but struggled the second half, mainly because of the goaltending issues and not having Drew Miller (knee surgery), one of the NHL’s best penalty killers.