The Detroit Red Wings enjoy a travel eased move to the Eastern Conference under NHL Realignment, which begins at the start of this season. The Wings arrival in the East means 5 of the league’s Original 6 teams will now play in one conference, leaving the Chicago Blackhawks the lone pre-1967 NHL franchise in the West. The Western Conference is praised for its reputation as the league’s best within the NHL, however, as great as the competition and on ice product are out west, it’s the Eastern Conference that always receives more attention from main stream media.
Two of the absolute best NHL players have spent the last decade dropping jaws and turning heads in the Western Conference with unmatchable skill and raw talent. In joining the East, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg of the Wings will now be watched more closely every night, as they travel through the NHL’s most popular cities – Toronto, Montreal, Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
Unreal and unrelenting, Datsyuk and Zetterberg have been dominating the NHL for several years now in the red and white of the Wings. In 2008, they led Detroit to a Stanley Cup championship, representing a new era without captain Steve Yzerman and some of the other old faces responsible for the previous three Cups. If any players in the West already receive a lot of attention in the East, Datsyuk and Zetterberg are them. Now, the spotlight will only be even more intense.
Eastern Conference fans are in for a wonderful treat but its teams should expect a terrible nightmare when the Red Wings’ top two guns come to visit. The Wings play a puck possession game that will stretch Eastern defensive coverage to its limits, while Datsyuk and Zetterberg find kinks in their opponents’ armour for goals and wins. Below is a clip of the two Wings combining for a huge Game 7 goal in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs:
Datsyuk and Zetterberg compete as one of the best 1A/1B centreman combos in the Eastern Conference with Crosby/Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Krejci/Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. The Wings’ duo up the middle allows them ample opportunity to attack in waves or load up one line when the game is in balance. Datsyuk’s 49 points from a season ago ranked 8th best in league scoring, and Zetterberg wasn’t far off with 48 total points.
The Wings Change Eastern Conference Dynamics
The Eastern Conference just became more competitive. In the 2nd round of the 2013 Eastern Conference playoffs, the two widely accepted favourites the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins manhandled their opponents for comfortable 4-1 series’ wins. Meanwhile, over in the West, the Red Wings were pushing eventual Cup champion the Chicago Blackhawks to the limit.
The addition of the Red Wings to the East drastically alters the dynamics of the conference. Moving a Western club to the East isn’t a regular occurrence, however, there is one comparable. In 1999 Toronto Maple Leafs went from West to East. They missed the playoffs for two straight seasons before leaving the Western Conference, however, were successful in the East upon arrival, making it all the way to the Conference Finals, sparking a string of 6 straight visits to the postseason.