NHL Betting: Detroit waiting in the Wings

By: Barry Daniels | Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Detroit scored four or more goals in all four games against Phoenix.

One of the age-old questions for hockey handicappers during the playoffs concerns teams that have made quick work of the opposition in the opening round and must wait more than a week to find out which team they play in the next series.

Will those teams benefit from the rest, or will the extra time off cause the club to get rusty and lose its competitive edge?

The Detroit Red Wings are such a team.

Mike Babcock’s troops registered a four-game sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference’s opening round seven days ago, with all four outings skipping ‘over’ the closing total.

The Wings will play either the San Jose Sharks or the Nashville Predators in the semifinals, which won’t start until Thursday, April 28 at the earliest.

The Wings would play the Predators if Chicago pulls off a miraculous comeback and defeats Vancouver after dropping the first three games of its quarterfinal series. Detroit would play San Jose if Vancouver eliminates the defending champion Blackhawks.

Of course, one of the positives entering the next round is the chance to get injured players back in the lineup and to rest the older players. The Red Wings qualify on both counts.

Detroit, the oldest team still in the playoffs, played the entire first round without leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg (sprained knee) and the last two games without offensive juggernaut Johan Franzen (ankle).

Zetterberg notched 24 goals and 56 assists during his 80 regular season games for a team-leading 80 points. Franzen, who played in 76 outings during the regular campaign, had a team-high 28 goals.

Both players are listed as “probable” on the Don Best Sports injury report.

Pavel Datsyuk picked up the scoring slack during the Phoenix series by collecting two goals and four assists. The slick forward had 23 goals and 36 assists in just 56 games during the regular season.

The Wings outscored the Coyotes during the four games, 18-10, and scored four goals or more on each occasion. Detroit’s offensive onslaught was not surprising, as the team ranked second during the regular season with a 3.1 goals-per-game average.

Detroit also ranked second by firing an average of 33.6 shots on goal per game, and was fifth on the power play with a 22.2 percent success rate.

Defense continues to be a concern for the Wings, as they ranked 23rd during the regular season by allowing an average of 2.9 GPG. They were a poor 17th on the penalty kill with an 82.3 percent success rate.

Playing at Joe Louis Arena used to be quite an advantage for the Wings, but they actually have a better record on the road (26-11-2-2) than at home (21-14-4-2).

So, which team would the Wings rather meet in the second round? When everything is considered, the answer seems to be Nashville.

Teams that play the least and travel less obviously have an easier path to the Cup because the opposition is exposed to more wear and tear. It's not an iron-clad proposition, of course. But the best-rested, least-injured teams clearly have a better chance to win.

But for the Wings — the only team from the Western Conference that plays in the Eastern Time zone — repeated trips to the West Coast are tiring. Detroit accomplished much by sweeping Phoenix, eliminating one round trip across the country.

But to play San Jose in the next round, for example, and then Vancouver in the conference finals, would require significant travel, anywhere from two to six coast-to-coast, round trips.

Detroit would have home-ice advantage if it played Nashville, but the Wings dropped four of six regular-season meetings against the Predators.

The third-seeded Wings would not have home-ice advantage if they play the second-seeded Sharks. San Jose took two of three regular-season matchups against Detroit, with the ‘over’ cashing twice.

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