Red Wings are legit Cup contenders 

April, 21, 2011

On Wednesday night, we lost our first playoff team. The Phoenix Coyotes have been escorted out of the 2011 postseason. They had a terrific year, but they again drew a tough first-round opponent. If they were going to beat the Detroit Red Wings, they would've had to play much better. They didn't.

Next, the franchise might be leaving its sunny home. I'll have a little more on that situation later in the post. For now, I'll take my weekly dip into my mailbag to answer some of your questions.

The Red Wings looked great in the first round. Can they win another Cup? --Mary Ann, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Sure! By sweeping the Coyotes, Mike Babcock's team bought itself some extra rest and a little more rehab time for star forward Henrik Zetterberg, who didn't appear in any of the first-round games. I think that alone boosts the Red Wings' chances dramatically.

The Wings' older stars -- guys like Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski -- also get a big benefit. The sweep means they won't have to push themselves in further first-round action. Instead, they can prepare for their next opponent at their own pace. That's a huge benefit. We'll see if they can take advantage of their good early work.

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.