Tonight at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings will attempt to break an NHL record with their 21st straight home victory. But even if they don’t beat Dallas and make history, has Detroit already established itself as the Stanley Cup favorite?
The Wings have everything a team needs to win a championship. They’re talented, deep and big up front; they’ve got one of the best defenseman in NHL history; their goaltender is an all-star; and their coach is one of the most respected in the business.
Speaking of the man behind the bench, Mike Babcock has coached a lot of good Detroit teams, giving his comments about the current group even more significance.
“I think this has been one of the most consistent teams I’ve ever coached as far as bringing an effort each and every day,” Babcock said. “When we’ve lost it hasn’t been as bad.
“This group has surpassed what I thought we were. We’re a better team than I thought we were and so we reset your bar and you keep pushing to be better.”
However, like every elite team in the NHL, there are weaknesses:
—- The Wings may be dominant at home, but their 15-15-1 road record is second-rate. In fact, only four teams – Tampa Bay, Columbus, Winnipeg and Edmonton – have more regulation losses.
—- Like their road record, Detroit’s special teams are ordinary. The power play is ranked 14th and the penalty kill is 20th.
Let’s also consider the other Cup contenders:
—- Boston may be in a rut now, but the Bruins are built for the brutal postseason.
—- Just imagine if Sidney Crosby returns to the Penguins in time for the playoffs.
—- The Rangers are only one point back of Detroit and have three games in hand.
—- With the addition of David Booth and the emergence of Cody Hodgson, the Canucks are better on paper than last season.
—- No team is stingier defensively than St. Louis, and the Wings are only slightly better at home.
So to answer the question, no, the Wings aren’t the Cup favorites. Only because there isn’t an outright Cup favorite.
Still, that shouldn’t take anything away from them. It’s more of a nod to the league’s parity that a team could be on the verge of winning its 21st straight at home and not be the runaway team to beat.