Fielding playoff questions in the mailbag 

March, 23, 2010

If you thought the Detroit Red Wings' days as legit Cup contenders were behind them, you might want to think again. Since the Olympic break, with a much healthier lineup, the Wings have compiled an impressive 8-2-1 mark, helping shore up their playoff chances.

Last night, in a rematch of the last two Stanley Cup final series, the Wings knocked off the defending champion Penguins, 3-1, to the delight of the Hockeytown faithful. Detroit rookie goalie Jimmy Howard impressed with 26 saves and his willingness to get physical with Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby during a game-ending scrum. You go, Jimmy!

Mike Babcock's team still has a lot of work to do in its final 10 games of the regular season. At this point, holding a four-point lead over the Calgary Flames for the final postseason berth in the West, the Wings don't have much room for error. Still, watching them outplay the Vancouver Canucks (on the road) and the Penguins in back-to-back games, I think the Wings just might have another deep playoff run in their dressing room.

Clearly, Howard will be a vital piece to the puzzle this time around. He seems to be getting better and more confident with each passing game. If Howard can continue to provide steady goaltending, the Wings could be a very bad dream for whichever top seed draws them in the first round.

Now, let's take a few questions from the studio audience.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.