The Detroit Red Wings are back at it again. Just 17 games into the season the Wings are in a familiar place in the Western Conference....first. So, why is no one talking about the team from Hockeytown this year?It has nothing to do with a slow start, the Wings have accumulated 26 points, going 12-3-2 in the early goings. Maybe it's because they are just used to it, after all, the Wings have finished 1st or 2nd in the West 8 out of the last 10 seasons, winning the President's Trophy for most points in the regular season four times. This year, 2 out of their three losses were in October while the third was a 6-4 victory for the Vancouver Canucks on the second day of back-to-back games on November 6th. Since then, the Wings have gone 4-0-1, the loss coming to the Wild last Friday (11/19) in a 4-3 overtime thriller.
It's really no surprise that the Wings are in this position yet again. Their superstars have been producing like they should while the role players have stepped up and gotten the job done. Pavel Datsyuk leads the team in points with 19 in his first 17 games followed closely by Henrik Zetterberg (18 points) and Nicklas Lidstrom (17). Workhorse Dan Cleary and the mule Johan Franzen are tops on the team in goals with 9 and 8 respectively. Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom are tied in third with six goals each. The Red Wings lead the league in goals for per game averaging 3.59, just .07 above the second place Flyers. Their 2.53 goals against per game ranks 8th in the league, just .01 behind the 7th place Flyers. With their powerplay, clicking at a 19.7% success rate good for 10th, and their 85.3% penalty killing rate good enough for 8th in the leauge, it's easy to see why the Wings are where they are.
And who could forget Jimmy Howard? The 26 year old American netminder who stole the crease from Chris Osgood last season and went 37-15-10 is back at it again. In thirteen games this season he is 10-1-2, that lone loss to the Canucks snapped a 22-game streak in which he helped his team get at least a point in every game, going 19-0-3 during that stretch. He has also posted a .916 which is good for 18th in the NHL, a 2.34 good for 14th, and 1 shutout. Looking to continue his successes from last season, he's not looking back. Of course, it helps to have Lidstrom, Datsyuk, and Zetterberg, three of the best defensive players in the league, in front of him too.
The Red Wings have been one of the most consistent teams in the NHL, holding the longest active streak in which they have qualified for the playoffs the past 19 seasons, and have failed to do so only twice in the last 27 years. Their post-season success matches their regular season. The Wings have won a total of 11 Stanley Cups since 1936, the most recent one coming in 2008 when they beat the Penguins. Their success can be attributed to incredible scouting (particularly in Scandinavia) and using their scouts at the draft to make their team competitive every year and never have to take time off to rebuild. The Red Wings have been considered a favorite to win the Cup almost every year in the past 25 years and should continue to do so, after all, they have a reputation to uphold.