Making the Argument: Postseason Prospects for Penguins and Red Wings



Making the Argument: Postseason Prospects for Penguins and Red Wings

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Fourteen years ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings clashed in the Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive season. Following the Red Wings’ victory in the 2008 Final, the Penguins secured the Cup the following year.

Since then, much has changed. The Penguins enjoyed an impressive streak of 16 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff appearances, clinching the Cup in 2016 and 2017, before falling short last season. Meanwhile, the Red Wings haven’t seen postseason action since 2015-16 after an impressive run of 25 straight appearances.

As both teams gear up for this season, they’ll face off at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; MAX, TNT, TVAS). The burning question remains: which team is better positioned to make the playoffs this season?

This is the inquiry presented to writers Tracey Myers and Amalie Benjamin in this edition of State Your Case.

Myers: I’m putting my faith in the Red Wings. Yes, it’s true they haven’t seen the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons, but every dry spell eventually comes to an end, doesn’t it? Following several seasons of rebuilding, Detroit now possesses the roster that can break the playoff drought. I’m particularly excited about the additions of forwards Alex DeBrincat, whose scoring prowess shone with the Chicago Blackhawks from 2017 to 2022, and J.T. Compher, a Stanley Cup winner with the Colorado Avalanche in 2022. Dylan Larkin aims to build on last season’s success, where he notched an NHL career-high of 79 points (32 goals, 47 assists) in 80 games as the Red Wings’ captain. Goalie Ville Husso, who boasted a record of 26-22-7 with a 3.11 goals-against average, .863 save percentage, and four shutouts last season, is bound to find his rhythm soon. The hockey world is enriched with the presence of the Red Wings in the playoffs, and they’ll make it happen this season.

Benjamin: There’s no denying the Red Wings’ progress and the positive direction they’re headed in Detroit. However, my bet is on the Penguins for several reasons. Let’s start with their division. The Atlantic, where the Red Wings compete, is an absolute powerhouse this season. The Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators are vying for a place in the conversation, and don’t forget the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Florida Panthers, along with perennial contenders like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning. On the other hand, the Metropolitan Division, while still challenging, offers a bit more breathing room for the Penguins. They bolstered their offense in the off-season with the acquisitions of defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Reilly Smith. The latter has already made an impact with three points (two goals, one assist) in three games. When you add these new assets to their seasoned core, something special seems to be brewing in Pittsburgh.

Myers: The Red Wings undoubtedly face a formidable challenge in securing a playoff spot in the Atlantic. However, I remain optimistic about their chances. This extended playoff drought has left them hungry and determined. They possess the talent and drive to mount a significant push this season. Yet, it’s not just about the roster; luck and the performance of other teams also play a crucial role. The Florida Panthers serve as a prime example: a highly competitive team last season that capitalized on the struggles and setbacks of other franchises down the stretch (Pittsburgh’s 5-2 loss to Chicago on April 11 altered the course for a few teams). The Panthers clinched a playoff spot, advanced to the Cup Final, and the rest is history. I believe Detroit absorbed valuable lessons in the latter half of the previous season, and they’re poised to qualify this time around.

Benjamin: Now, let’s circle back to the players who have been the backbone of the Penguins for over a decade. Beginning with Evgeni Malkin, the forward is coming off a phenomenal season where he tallied 83 points (27 goals, 56 assists) in 82 games. He’s kicked off this season even stronger, racking up six points (two goals, four assists) in his first three games. Malkin, along with Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and the rest of the seasoned Penguins, concluded last season with a bitter taste of missing the playoffs. It’s evident that Malkin is entering this season with an abundance of motivation, and his performance reflects that. If I’m placing my trust in anyone to lead the charge back into the playoffs, it’s the players who not only have the experience and the Cup wins but also understand that their careers have a ticking clock. While the future may belong to the Red Wings, the time is now for the Penguins.


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