Predators vs. Red Wings Match-up Has a Different Feel This Time

Sunday, 04.8.2012 / 4:27 PM CT / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
By Doug Brumley  - Nashville Predators
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Predators vs. Red Wings Match-up Has a Different Feel This Time
It’s hard to imagine the Nashville Predators being anything but comfortable with their playoff fate this season. If you accept Predators head coach Barry Trotz’s assertion that all eight Western Conference playoff teams are separated by the slimmest of margins, then it stands to reason you’d prefer to face a foe with whom you’re very familiar. That’s what the Predators have in their first-round playoff opponent, the Detroit Red Wings.

“I think we’ve learned things from Detroit over the years that we have to do as a team to keep them under wraps,” Trotz said Sunday during a media event at which he answered questions about the upcoming series. “And so we have some twists to our systems, to our way we play them, [moreso] than we would maybe Dallas or someone else.”

Longtime rivals, the two Central Division clubs are an even 3-3 head-to-head this season, with the Predators winning the last two meetings. Each team has two wins and one loss on home ice, but Trotz gives little credence to there being a distinct edge for the home side. Even before the Predators clinched home-ice advantage for their first-round playoff series—which opens Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena—Trotz repeatedly stated that he has no concerns about going into Detroit’s rink and coming out with a win.

“Early in the [season] series, I thought there was a wide margin,” Trotz said Sunday. “That was because of our youth. That was because I don’t think we had our game in order. The last few times, going into [Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena] and playing here, I think we’ve played very well. I just think the gap from Game 1 of the season to Game 82 has closed.”

Still, facing the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs can be an intimidating proposition, given the team’s history, talent and depth. The franchise has raised the Stanley Cup four times in the last 14 seasons, and as any hockey fan knows, playoff time is unlike any other. There are necessary intangibles that can only be taught or discovered during time spent in post-season play—a place where the Red Wings have taken up residence over the years.

“They’ve got some people who have some great playoff experience,” Trotz said. “People like [Niklas] Lidstrom and [Pavel] Datsyuk. Those are going to be Hall of Fame players and they are game-breakers still at this time. And they’ve gone through the wars. They have a lot of experience in that.”

The Predators have met the Red Wings twice before in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, in 2004 and 2008. Nashville lost both series four games to two, but those six-game battles helped cement the long-standing rivalry between the two franchises. Now, with the 2011-12 Predators finishing atop Detroit in the Western Conference standings for the first time in franchise history, some hockey pundits wonder if this season’s results could finally upset the playoff pecking order.

“Detroit’s always been a benchmark,” Trotz said. “Not only in our division but in our whole conference. [Finishing ahead of Detroit] is another step. You get nothing for it other than peace of mind and home-ice advantage. But they’ve been an outstanding organization. They’ve been the standard of the league for a long time.

“I can tell you the gap from the last two times we’ve played them [in the playoffs] has narrowed. I know that. Going into those series, I think we were serious underdogs.”

This year the Predators seem to be working on something special, though. Trotz’s early season worries about his young, struggling lineup have been replaced by confidence in a group that hit its stride even before being bolstered by playoff-savvy veterans acquired around the trade deadline.

“Our depth is really good,” Trotz said. “I think guys are understanding how we’re going to have to play. Even when I wasn’t happy with our overall play, we seemed to win, so that’s part of being a team that finds ways to win and a team that has some depth.”

So, as opposed to the first two times Nashville and Detroit met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this post-season’s first-round Western Conference Quarterfinal series is shaping up to be a more evenly matched, toe-to-toe battle.

“I think both teams have guys that can be difference makers in net,” Trotz said. “Both teams have difference makers on the blueline, and both teams have difference makers up front. That’s why I think it’s going to be a good series.”





1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70


F. Forsberg 82 33 31 1 64
R. Josi 81 14 47 -3 61
J. Neal 82 31 27 27 58
S. Weber 78 20 31 -7 51
M. Ribeiro 81 7 43 11 50
C. Smith 82 21 16 4 37
M. Ekholm 82 8 27 14 35
R. Johansen 42 8 26 10 34
R. Ellis 79 10 22 13 32
C. Jarnkrok 81 16 14 1 30
P. Rinne 34 21 10 .908 2.48
C. Hutton 7 5 4 .918 2.33