Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 4/11/12
Detroit -- Have the Detroit Red Wings suddenly become the NHL's version of Rodney Dangerfield? Because the Wings sure aren't getting any respect these days. NHL.com had its writers, international staff and NHL Network analysts give their predictions for every series and of the 16, exactly two picked the fifth-seeded Wings to beat the fourth-seeded Nashville Predators in the first round. ESPN did the same thing and only one of the 12, noted New York Rangers fan and anchor Linda Cohn, picked the Wings to win in six games. The other 11 did say the series would go seven games but all said the Predators would prevail. Hey, I get it, the Wings didn't exactly dominate at the end of the regular season. Their power play struggled, their penalty kill didn't look very good until the last several games and they weren't putting the puck in the net as often as they used to. Not to mention the Wings' road woes all season. They were No. 1 at home with a 31-7-3 record but 21st on the road with a 17-21-3 record. But good grief, the Wings were one of the 10 playoff teams to reach 100 points (102), just two points behind the Predators. The two teams split the season series, 3-3, with each team winning once in the other team's building. Only three teams had a better goal differential than the Wings, who were plus-45. The Boston Bruins were plus-67, the Pittsburgh Penguins were plus-61 and the Vancouver Canucks were plus-51. The St. Louis Blues tied the Wings at plus-45. The Predators? They were plus-27. The Predators did not have anyone with more than 58 points. Martin Erat led the team. Grosse Pointe native David Legwand had 53 and Mike Fisher had 51. The Wings were led by Henrik Zetterberg, who had 69 points in what was considered a down year for him. Pavel Datsyuk had 67 points in just 70 games. Valtteri Filppula had a career best 66 points. Johan Franzen had 56 points in 77 games, Jiri Hudler had 50 points in 81 games. Pekka Rinne is widely acknowledged as one of the top goaltenders in the league. He led the NHL with 43 wins this season. But Jimmy Howard still won 35 despite a broken index finger and groin injuries cutting his season short. Rinne's goals-against average was 2.39 and Howard's 2.13. Rinne's save percentage was .923 and Howard's .920. Howard, who knows Rinne from their days in the American Hockey League, knows his teammates have their work cut out for them against the Predators netminder. "He competes," Howard said. "He battles. He works extremely hard out there. He does a great job of moving the puck and relieving pressure for his (defense). "The one thing that sets him apart is he never gives up. When you think you've got him beat, sometimes he finds a way to get a piece of equipment on it." Howard thinks a lot more of Rinne than he does of the predictions. "I really don't care, not at all," Howard said. "That's why we go out there and play the games. I'm sure they'd (Predators) say the same thing. It doesn't matter. That's why we play." Captain Nick Lidstrom, the four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner, is seemingly never flummoxed by anything, so other people's predictions about the Wings' demise certainly wouldn't upset him. "We don't mind that at all," Lidstrom said. "We don't mind being the underdogs. Nashville had a real strong regular season, finished ahead of us in points. I think they're the team to be the favorites right now." In the salary cap era, there is more parity among teams than ever before, which is why the standings stay so bunched up all year. That is why when it comes to the Wings and the playoffs, I say the same thing every year. The Wings could lose in the first round or they could make it to the Finals. Staying healthy is one of the most important factors for any team that wants to succeed in the playoffs, that's why these things are so hard to predict. It's better to just let it play out. Stuff like that I really never look at, so you have to play the game," four-time Stanley Cup winner Tomas Holmstrom said. "Ive played the game so long that it doesnt really matter what the records are and whats in the papers, you have to play the games.
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