One of the biggest questions going into the 2013-14 NHL season is how the Detroit Red Wings will fare in the Eastern Conference. Motown’s legendary hockey club is considered a powerhouse on the decline after a successful 19 year run of 5 Stanley Cups and 7 appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals. Just when it looked like the Wings epic streak of superiority might be coming to an end, they get transferred to the Eastern Conference where they will compete in a wide open division.
Expect Surprises In The Atlantic Division
Aside from the Boston Bruins, it’s safe to say that every other team in the newly formed Atlantic Division is not without flaws. Even the mighty Bruins could fail to meet expectations in 2013-14. Sure, they had a great playoff run but throughout last season inconsistencies defined their game, preventing them from a division title. Which Bruins show up for the 2013-14 regular season? If it’s the B’s from the 2012-13 campaign, winning the division is not a guarantee.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators made the playoffs last season. This year, with a new playoff format in place, it is probable at least one of Canada’s Eastern teams doesn’t duplicate a trip to the playoffs.
The Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers missed the playoffs one year ago. The Eastern Conference bottom dwellers struggled through a combination of injuries, inconsistent stretches and poor goaltending. That being said, these youthful Atlantic Division teams are not as out of the picture as they may appear. The Sabres, Lightning and Panthers are three teams on the rise. Any one of them are capable of a breakthrough season and surprise visit to the playoffs, especially the high scoring Lightning.
Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock Is Very Familiar With His New Rivals
Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock is one of the best in the business. His teams are always prepared, consistent, and difficult to play against. This season he’ll be reunited with some old foes in the East. Division rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are led by bench bosses Babcock knows very well. In 2007, Randy Carlyle’s Ducks eliminated Babcock’s Wings in the Western Conference Finals. The series was heated and jam packed with hatred. The following year, the Babcock guided Red Wings defeated then Penguins’ coach Michel Therrien in the Stanley Cup Finals. Ottawa Senators Head Coach Paul Maclean is a former assistant of Babcock’s and Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is one of Mike’s former players and colleagues.
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg Will Ravage The Eastern Conference
Every defenceman and goaltender in the Western Conference sighed in relief when it was announced that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were heading to the East. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are two of the most talented players in the National Hockey League, although, the Eastern teams have always had the luxury of observing them from afar. They’ll have no such luck this season. Frequent games against middle of the pack Winnipeg Jets just got replaced with tiring bouts of chasing the Red Wings’ two puck possessing magicians around the ice all night.
The East Is Wide Open
Over the last two seasons, 11 of 15 teams have made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. When compared to the 4 or 5 widely accepted annual contenders in the West, the East really only has 2 teams worthy of such acclaim – the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. The Pens and B’s have represented the East in 4 of the last 6 Stanley Cup Finals. It’s a safe bet both Pittsburgh and Boston once again make the post season. After them, anything is possible.
The Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs for twenty-two straight seasons. If they reach the post season again this year they will be six trips away from tying the Bruins record of twenty-nine straight playoff appearances.