Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings Hoping There’s Enough Left in Tank for Another Cup Run


Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings Hoping There's Enough Left in Tank for Another Cup Run For the second straight year, the Red Wings' season came to an end in the second round of the playoffs at the hands of the San Jose Sharks. For many teams, winning one playoff round for a couple of years isn't a cause for concern. But the standards are a little higher in Detroit. The median age is high as well, and the window to add more championships might not be open too much longer.

2010-11 Record: 47-25-10, 102 points (1st Central Division; 3rd Western Conference; beat Phoenix 4-0 in first round, lost to San Jose 4-3 in second round of playoffs)

Bruins record vs. Red Wings: Boston trails in the all-time series 235-246-95-2, with the Red Wings extending their advantage with a sweep of a home-and-home series last year. Detroit routed the Bruins 6-1 in Boston on Feb. 11, then took a 4-2 decision back in Detroit two days later.

When to watch: The Bruins and Red Wings play just once this season, but it will still be a special occasion as the Red Wings will be Boston's opponent in the traditional day after Thanksgiving matinee at the Garden on Nov. 25.

Familiar faces: Defenseman Brad Stuart was the centerpiece of the return for Joe Thornton in that infamous deal, but lasted just 103 games before being dealt to Calgary. He won a Cup after joining Detroit in 2008. Boston College product Patrick Eaves was also a Bruin, on paper at least, as he was acquired from Carolina in the Aaron Ward trade, then immediately bought out in 2009. Goalie Joey MacDonald was a backup in Boston in 2006-07 and will be battling University of New Hampshire product Ty Conklin for that role in Detroit. Starting netminder Jimmy Howard played at the University of Maine, as did defenseman Doug Janik (Agawam, Mass.).

Key additions: D Ian White (free agent); D Mike Commodore (free agent); G Ty Conklin (free agent); D Garnet Exelby (free agent); F Chris Conner (free agent).

Key losses: D Brian Rafalski (retired); F Kris Draper (retired); G Chris Osgood (retired); F Mike Modano (free agent); D Ruslan Salei (signed with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL)

Burning question: Can Jimmy Howard take Detroit to another Cup?

There aren't many question marks in Detroit, but one area of concern is in net. Howard has piled up plenty of wins in the regular season (37-17-5 last year), but his other numbers are far from elite. His 2.79 GAA last year ranked him just 36th among qualified leaders, while his .908 save percentage was 33rd. His playoff track record is also unspectacular at 12-11 with a 2.63 GAA and a .919 save percentage over the past two seasons. The Red Wings had their attempt to bring in another veteran blocked last year when the Islanders claimed Evgeni Nabokov on waivers, but they opted not to pursue Tomas Vokoun or any of the other more experienced netminders on the free-agent market this summer. They'll ride with Howard again this year, and he'll be without a Cup-winning backup now that Chris Osgood has retired. Osgood himself was never among the NHL's elite statistically, but did win when it mattered most in the postseason. The Red Wings are banking on Howard being able to do the same.

2011-12 outlook: The Red Wings still boast plenty of talent up front with Henrik Zetterberg (24-56-80 last year), Pavel Datsyuk (23-36-59 in 53 games) and Johan Franzen (28-27-55), while Nicklas Lidstrom (16-46-62) remains among the best blueliners in the league. Detroit will have to replace the retired Brian Rafalski on defense, and made an attempt to do that by signing free agent Ian White. The Red Wings' biggest weakness remains their lack of grit and toughness, though they did add a bit of bulk to the back end by signing Mike Commodore.

Did you know? How old are the Gray Wings? Of Detroit's top 10 scorers last year, nine were 30 or older. Overall, 16 players 30 or older played for the Wings last season, including three players 40 or older. There will be a little room for some more youth this season, as Kris Draper, 40, Osgood, 38, and Rafalski, 37, have announced their retirements this summer. Mike Modano, 40, hasn't officially hung up his skates, but he won't be back in Detroit and has yet to sign elsewhere. The Red Wings did retain their most important elder statesman though, with Lidstrom, 41, re-upping for another season after winning his seventh Norris Trophy last year.

With the bulk of the offseason moves complete and the start of another NHL season inching closer, Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will be previewing one team from each conference every day through August 26.

Saturday, August 13: New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets

Monday, August 15: Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators

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