by J.R. Lind
Detroit's better days are in the past.
Once a formidable giant of efficiency, its aging behemoths are now mere shadows of themselves. Once great hulks now shells cracked with age, held together with duct tape and hope, lurching uneasily towards obsolescence.
And the city of Detroit isn't in good shape either.
The Red Wings and their traveling band of winged-wheel-wearing fans, dolled up with Bumpits and regrettable facial-hair (sometimes both) come to town tonight to face-off against the Predators in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals (7 p.m., SportSouth, 102.5 The Game).
Last night, we gave you a guide to the Preds. After the jump, a FAQ on the Wings.
How many Stanley Cups have the Red Wings won?
Great question. The answer is 11. Don't worry if you forget, just look for anyone in a bright red jersey, they'll know the answer. And if you don't want to talk to a Detroit fan, just wait until the Wings fall behind in the game, because that's when they'll all say in unison "Yeah, so? How many Cups have you won? We've won 11." Gently remind them that the Predators couldn't have stopped them from winning their first nine cups, coming as they did before Nashville had a team. Also, gently remind them it took 10 years for them to win their first sip from Lord Stanley, and this was in a time when there were only six teams.
Is it true the Wings are sponsored by Amway?
Yes. The Red Wings, one of North America's proudest and most storied sporting franchises is sponsored by Amway, the creepy evangelical direct selling firm. Really, it's a natural partnership. Like Red Wings fans, Amway sales people have a glassy-eyed devotion to their cause. For Amway, that cause is selling numerous household goods; for Wings fans, it's convincing people that Pavel Datsyuk is underrated.
Is Pavel Datsuyk underrated?
Datsyuk is one of the world's best players. He's been nominated for league MVP and has won numerous Frank Selke Trophies as the league's best defensive forward. He's also super-likable, evidenced by his handful of Lady Byng Trophies, given to the NHL's most gentlemanly player. The NHLPA/Hockey Night In Canada poll named Datsyuk the League’s smartest player, the most difficult to play, the hardest to take the puck from, the toughest guy to make a save on, the cleanest to play against and the toughest to defend. Despite all this, and the fact that nearly no one has ever said anything bad about him, Red Wings fans are convinced he's underrated. Presumably, they are upset he doesn't appear on postage stamps or the Calendar of Saints.
So everyone likes Datsyuk. Why does everyone hate Todd Bertuzzi?
Well, he almost killed Canucks forward Steve Moore back in 2004. He pleaded guilty to assault and faces a civil action from Moore, which may actually go to court this year.
I've heard a lot about Nicklas Lidstrom. Has he ever nearly killed someone?
Not as far as we know, but Lidstrom is roughly 900 years old, and we can't say for certain he didn't kill any members of the army of the Holy Roman Empire when he was fighting in the Battle of Breitenfeld in the Thirty Years' War. There is also the possibility that Lidstrom is a robot. His skin is cool and metallic to the touch, and when he's hurt, the Wings official injury report lists him as "In for Motherboard Repairs." Hopefully, he's a good android and won't violate the First Law of Robotics.
Is it true a mule plays for them?
No. While the constant braying of their fans may sound mule-like, that's just how Detroiters sound. The Wings do feature a guy named Johan Franzen whose nickname is "The Mule."
So there's a centuries-old potential robot and a guy named after a sterile crossbreed. Any other potentially sentient beings we should know about?
You mean like an octopus? Boy, do the Wings fans loves their cephalopod. Back in the old days — you know, when there were just six teams — it took eight games to win the Stanley Cup. Thus, Wings fans took to tossing octopi on the ice. So there is a tradition at play here — it's not just that Detroiters admire the intelligence of the animal.
Predators fans have Dixie-fried this seafood-slinging tradition, of course.
Can we expect to see an octopus marring the glistening and pristine ice at Bridgestone Arena tonight?
You can count on it. Lots of folks in these parts are Red Wings fans. Things that once made Detroit great (Jack White, automaking) have relocated to Nashville, and also Kid Rock. There's been a mass of so-called Predwings fans ever since Nashville joined the NHL. The home team is offering a deal to get them to fully commit to the Predators, offering 50 percent off a Preds jersey for turning in a Red Wings sweater. The donated Wings gear will go to a Detroit charity, presumably to be given away to former auto execs.
Is there anything else annoying about Detroit fans?
Besides the fact that Taylor Lautner is one of them? By comparison, Nashville's celeb fans include Mike Fisher's wife, Vince Gill, Alice Cooper and Lautner's ex-girlfriend. Also, you can be certain they'll be wearing cowboy hats.
They also love to sing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," which rivals "Sweet Caroline" as sports' most overplayed musical interlude. But it's worse when Detroiters sing it. First of all, there's no such thing as "south Detroit," the birthplace of the song's protagonist. Also, the song says the dude (and his small-town girl) are looking for a midnight train going anywhere. Literally, anywhere. The song is about how this guy would rather be any place on earth other than Detroit. It would be like Nashville fans singing this. For what it's worth, game ops should play this.
Break it down for me, 'Dromemaster. Can the Preds win this series?
Look, in all honesty, Detroit is a very good, very experienced team that has had playoff success. Nashville is the young upstart having finished ahead of the Wings for the first time ever.
But Detroit, sort of quietly, is struggling. They ended the season not having beat a playoff team in regulation since March 9, a win against L.A. On the road, they are abysmal. Since February, the Wings road record is 3-8-2. Two of those wins were in the shootout — which is thrown out the window in the postseason — and the third was against Columbus, the league's worst team.
And get this: The Wings haven't beat a playoff team in regulation on the road since Dec. 26, when they beat a Shea Weber-less Nashville.
Barry Trotz says home ice means little in the playoffs until Game 7, but starting with two at home and getting the extra game certainly doesn't hurt, especially since Detroit and Nashville are both lauded for their particular home atmospheres.
The Wings have talented forwards, no doubt, but after Lidstrom — who, despite remembering the signing of the Declaration of Independence, is one of the world's elite blueliners — the Preds have the edge on defense. And Jimmy Howard is a good goalie, but goodness, he's no Pekka Rinne.
Bold 'Drome prediction: Preds in six.