Are the Red Wings out of their window for success?

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Wings.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs Detroit Red Wings
12:30 p.m. EST – Sunday, March 7, 2010
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The Detroit Red Wings have been so good, for so
long, it’s downright scary. They last failed to win a division title in
1999, and have appeared in two straight Stanley Cup finals, and have
only lost in the first round of the playoffs once since 2003. They’ve
found a way to continue to rebuild through free agency, but more
importantly through the draft as they’ve remained competitive for well
over decade.

This season the Red Wings are going through something they haven’t suffered in a very long time: a fight for a playoff spot in March. Detroit started off the season in a hole, as a poor start put them towards the bottom of the conference standings and the team has been struggling to get out it since then.

It’s been a tough road and one has to wonder: If the Red Wings are able to sneak into the playoffs this season will they be able to continue to dominate like they’ve done in the past in the postseason? Perhaps the age and yes, experience, is finally catching up to Detroit. It’s a situation that the team has not faced in a very long time.

The Red Wings players are not getting any younger.

The
average age of the Detroit Red Wings is 30.5, with the youngest player
on the active roster 23-year old Darren Helm. Every other player is
older than 25 with eleven players over the age of 30. The Red Wings have
built their current team through the draft, with gems such as Pavel
Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg coming in the 6th and 7th rounds. Has the
increasing age of the Red Wings contributed to their struggles this
season, as they fight to maintain positioning just for a playoff spot?

Is
it just a case of injuries?

The Red Wings have had a number
of devastating injuries to key players this season, contributing to a
poor start that has forced Detroit to try and crawl out of the basement
of the Western conference standings. Yet just as it seems as if they
were getting back on top and making a run, as in January, they stumble
and hit another bump in the road. Now that they are relatively healthy,
they sit in 8th place with a one point lead over Calgary and are just
four points ahead of 11th place Dallas. They may be getting stronger as
the season goes along, but how will this older — yet very experienced
— team fare in the playoffs against the younger and faster opponents.
Will their discipline and coaching carry them?

Have to rebuild
at some point.

Every successful team goes through ups and
downs from one season to the next; what made you successful one year
will not necessarily carry over to the next. Somehow, the Red Wings have
maintained a high level of competitiveness for nearly 14 years. Yet
there will come a point when they will stumble, and require a season or
two to rebuild and restock their team. The days of free-agent spending are over and the most successful teams are winning because of the players
they have drafted during the down years.

Is Detroit starting
to enter that cycle? The franchise’s drafts the past few seasons have not fared
all that well, although last year they were able to draft Landon
Ferrarro and standout Tomas Tartar. Are there any mid-round surprises on their way from the 2006,
2007 and 2008 drafts?

Are the Red Wings going to be forced to
restock? Most of the successful teams that are inching towards of top of the conference standings have done so due to drafts that provide a powerful nucleus from which to build around. Most times, these teams can do so because a few years of disappointment and mediocrity have given them high draft picks from which to work.

Detroit is approaching a turning point in the history of the franchise and what happens this spring and this summer will be a clear indication of the direction this team will take.

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The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

Anaheim Ducks v Los Angeles Kings
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In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

Colorado Avalanche v Winnipeg Jets
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.

Video: Zatkoff robs Condra with sprawling paddle save

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All Erik Condra had to do was lift the puck off the ice.

He didn’t, and as a result, he was robbed by sprawled out Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made a spectacular desperation save with the paddle of his stick on the Lightning forward.

The save occurred just past the midway point of the third period. That kept the Penguins in the game, down by a goal at the time.

However, the Penguins couldn’t get the equalizer. The result was a 6-3 loss for Pittsburgh, as Tampa Bay scored twice later in the period.

Defending Eastern Conference champion Bolts continue hot streak

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Remember those distractions the Tampa Bay Lightning had to endure?

— The future of captain Steven Stamkos, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and whose contract situation has been an ongoing discussion point for months now.

Jonathan Drouin‘s camp publicly requesting a trade, then having the 20-year-old forward sent to the minors and then suspended by Tampa Bay, etc.

Well, through it all, the defending Eastern Conference champions have emerged and are now one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League . Since the start of January, the Bolts have lost twice. In 13 games.

They continued their hot streak Friday, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins — another of those teams on an impressive streak — by a final score of 6-3, with Tyler Johnson leading the way with three points. He was one of six Tampa Bay players to record a multi-point night.

Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

Tampa Bay is now five points behind the Florida Panthers for first in the Atlantic Division.

For the Penguins, the loss keeps them on the outside of the playoff bubble for now. They remain one point back of New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to nine games. He also has goals in five straight and is one point shy of 900 for his career.