One question that has lingered around Detroit Red Wings teams in recent years is if they are ‘too old’ to win in the playoffs. 2008 and 2009 debunked those doubts, as the Wings made it to the Cup final in each year. Last spring’s second round exit may have been the result of running out of gas after those two aforementioned deep runs.
This year, however, we may find out if age really does matter to Detroit and their pursuit of a 12th Stanley Cup.
Going into this postseason, the Red Wings are indeed the oldest team in the NHL. They are the only team in the league to boast an average age of over 30 (30.8 to be exact). On top of that, a good chunk of their veterans are go-to players.
Nicklas Lidstrom is 40 (though he’s not playing like it). His defense partner, Brian Rafalski, is 37. Big forwards, Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi, are 38 and 36, respectively. Other key players such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall have all surpassed the 30-year mark.
In total, the Wings have 13 players that are 30 or older. Anaheim – the only team that has more than Detroit – has 14, but most of their catalysts have yet to reach their prime.
With there being so much young talent around the league in this post-lockout era, age may be more important now than it did five-to-ten years ago.
So is this going to be a problem for the Wings this spring? Can they overcome this in usual Detroit fashion and make another run deep into May? Or will they wear down in a long seven-game series against a younger team?
Obviously, we won’t know the answers to those questions until the time comes.
What is somewhat concerning is the fact that they have been vulnerable here down the stretch. I don’t care who’s in net; a 10-3 loss on home-ice is flat out embarrassing. The Wings went 5-5-4 in March and haven’t been at their best since mid-February.
If anyone can overcome the age and vulnerability questions, though, it is Detroit. Mike Babcock knows how to get the best out of his club at the right time, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he worked that magic once again.
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