Previewing the East: Detroit Red Wings
NOTE: Over the next several weeks, BlueJackets.com will take an extensive, in-depth look at the Jackets' new opponents in the Eastern Conference. Be on the lookout for photo galleries, analysis, video highlights and more!
DETROIT RED WINGS
Head Coach: Mike Babcock
LAST YEAR: 24-16-8 (56 points); 7th place in the West, lost in seven games in the Western Conference Semifinals vs. Chicago
VS. CBJ ('13-14): 10/15, 3/11, 3/25
OUTLOOK: After a season that saw the Red Wings with a much younger team (by their standards) and began with a slow start, Detroit was able to turn its 2012-13 campaign around and make it into the playoffs. Their end-of-season momentum could translate into a quick start for their first season in the Eastern Conference. That conference switch is a similar situation to what the Blue Jackets hope to take advantage of, including less travel time and earlier game starts. The Red Wings also picked up Daniel Alfredsson in the off-season, so his adjustment to the team could be a key factor in the first months of the year. Now that the young players have developed a bit more in last year's shortened NHL season and the top line found its scoring touch in the playoffs, expect this Red Wings team to be better than they were last year.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
He was hands down the Red Wings' best offensive player last season. He led the team in points (49), goals (15) and has one of the most accurate shots in the league. Datsyuk is a player teams have to pay attention to when he's on the ice because he effortlessly makes things happen for his team. Whether it's a pass, highlight-reel dangle or snipe, Datsyuk has the stick handling and skating skills to get the job done. Expect him to showcase his skills just as much, if not more, in the Eastern Conference against some of the league's top stars.
Howard has established himself as the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender for the Red Wings, and he's just entering his prime. At 29 years old, Howard still has some of his best years ahead of him and with less travel in the Eastern Conference, it's scary to think how much he could benefit from it. With a capable backup in Jonas Gustavsson and the usual offensive firepower in front of him, Howard could help lead the Red Wings to their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance.