Updated March 29
Does this look familiar? Seeing the Detroit Red Wings on top of the power rankings, we mean.
|Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom lead a strong blueline corps. (US Presswire)|
But those are just details. Detroit is healthy, hanging on to the puck and winning -- a lot these days -- with a very good mix of offense and defense. In other words the Red Wings, with all their talent and experience, are playing the kind of hockey they are capable of and at just the right time.
With less than two weeks remaining on the schedule, Detroit seems to be the only elite team that has its overall game moving in the right direction. The Capitals, Blackhawks, Sharks and Canucks have been running hot and cold since the Olympic break and all have roster question marks heading into the playoffs. Pittsburgh is hard to get a read on because of the absences of Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar, but the Pens have shown they can ramp it up. The Sabres and Devils still look like teams that rely too much on their goaltenders.
Then there is Detroit, a team that looked like it might be out of the playoffs at the Olympic break but has gone 11-2-1 since. Along the way superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have been triggering two productive top lines, rookie netminder Jimmy Howard has provided solid work and a defense that might not have great stats has still been formidable with Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart as the anchor four.
And that's not a pleasant thought for the rest of the league.
"It's more important how you're playing as opposed to where you finish," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after Pittsburgh lost in Detroit last week. "They're a dangerous team that knows how to win when it comes to the postseason."
The rankings through Sunday night's games: