You can tell that everyone is giddy about the Avs-Red Wings series. The League has Avs-Red Wings in the West and Sidney Crosby in New York in the East. (Quick question.. will the NHL even acknowledge the Sharks-Stars or Montreal-Philly series? 100-1 odds that they just "forget" to schedule those games and make these two series the conference finals). We are goign to be treated to countless shots of Roy-Osgood, Roy Vernon, LeMieux's turtling after a sucker punch by McCarty, and countless other points in the Blood Feud.
But those days are over, yet fondly remembered by both sides of the line. Yet there's still a weird tension between the two franchises, kind of Like Russia and the US. Even though the cold war is over there's still a palpable tension between the USA (obviously the Avs in this metephor) and Russia. Sure we don't hate each other nearly as much as we used to, but we still don't really trust or like each other. We tolerate each other (and have you listened to a Red Wings fan recently. This in and of itself shows that Avs fans have patience).
But this series is about so much more than reliving glory days of yesteryear. This series would be extremely interesting if the two teams matched up didn't have a history together. Here's some things that make this series good:
How good are the Avs? I don't think anyone in the league knows how good the Avs are. Sure they are a 6-seed in the west. But they had a long stretch of the season where they were without three of their best players. In the beginning of the season the starting blue line included guys like Brett Clark, Kyle Cumisky, and Karlis Skrastins. They were also giving time to Wyatt Smith. They had a smothering dominating defense against the Wild, but were still victimized by talented players like Brian Rolston. They also let good, not great offensive players, like Mikku Koivu and Bouchard keep the Wild in games. The Avs are a mystery to everyone in the league.
How good are the Red Wings? I know they won the President's trophy (and were dominant against non-central clubs in the West), but the Wings have always been good in the regular season. The Red Wings showed signs of being weak though. they were without Lidstrom for a few weeks and really struggled. They nearly let SJ catch them for that president's trophy as well. The Predetors were able to steal 2 games from them, albeit both in Nashville, and the Red Wings looked anything but dominant in that series. Are they ready for the Avs?
Young Talent: Guys like Lidstrom, Osgood, Chelios, Sakic , Forsberg and Foote are going to get the press, but this series could be the series in which the young talent finally overshadows the old farts. This series is really going to be won by the Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Filpulla, Lebda camp or Stastny, Wolski, Guite, Sauer, Liles camps. Those players are the ones to watch in this series. Datsyuk has been labeled a playoff choker, but had an excellent palyoffs last season and is doing ok this season. Can he keep it up?
Defense: Foote and Sauer Shut down the Wild's top line last series, but Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom is light years ahead of the Wild's top line. Who will Lidstrom and his partner take on. The Hejduk-Stastny-Forsberg line or the Sakic-Bruno-Wolski line? I know Detroit thinks they'll be able to rough up Peter Forsberg and knock him out, but Brett Burns of Minnesota is one of the best in the bus. If he couldn't do it, I don't see anyone on the Wings that can physically impose themselves on Forsberg that way.
Coaching: After a season of very questionable decisions Quenneville flat-out out-coached a very respected coach in round one. He takes on another excellent coach in round 2. Is he better than we all thought? Is he good in a short series, but not in the regular season (his record indicates otherwise). Is he too distracted by goalies and becomes a better coach when his goalie plays well (does that make sense?) ? If he does a great job in this series I may have to tuck my tail in between my legs and eat some crow.
Goaltending: Both Osgood and Theo had spectacular seasons. (At the season midpoint Osgood could have been a Vezina Candidate) Theo was brilliant in the first round. Yet I get the sense that many (not me FYI) will question both goalies. If one plays poorly in this series he could be unfairly run out of town.
All this intrigue is really the meat of this series. I am completely fascinated by it.. The old rivalry is just some icing on the cake.
GDT: Avalanche at Oilers 3/25/17 - Game #74
11 hours ago