Detroit Red Wings: Don’t Stop Believing…
So we’re out. But you know what? I’m neither surprised, nor upset. I think, with the season we had of running hot and cold, then to make it to round 2 is pretty good going. At some points it looked like we weren’t going to make the post-season at all!
The season started badly. Back to back losses to St Louis in the globally televised games in Stockholm was not the best way to convince the Detroit faithful that the team could survive without the multiple players lost to cap restrictions.
The Wings went on to win the next 2 games, but then capitulate to Buffalo. The season turned out to follow this same pattern. A couple of good wins, followed by some motivation-killing losses. A high point was the 9-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in November, followed a few days later by a 7-4 win over Anaheim, whilst the low end was a run of just 4 wins in 16 through January and the beginning of February.
The injuries were also racking up, with Franzen out for the majority of the season, Filppula out for a considerable time, Kronwall injured for several weeks, and multiple other month-long and week-long injuries, the Grand Rapids Griffins provided much of the Wings roster for many weeks.
After the Olympic break, the injured players started to return in stages, the Wings finally found their form, and they ran over teams with the confidence and finesse, that we’ve come to know and love from Detroit. They racked up a 16-3-3 record, pulling in 35 of a possible 42 points. With this final surge of wins, the Red Wings were able to plant themselves firmly in the playoff spots.
Despite being drawn against Phoenix, a slightly unknown quantity in terms of Playoff hockey, I was pretty confident of progressing. However, the Coyotes certainly made sure Detroit was put firmly through the mill as they took the lead in the series twice, with the score running to 3-3 and a game 7 decider. The Phoenix team played a physical and hard-working brand of hockey, something which the Wings struggled to contain and they only really found their legs when we brought our own, and possibly only, physical presence in the form of Justin Abdelkader. Even so, it was a tough series, and it took a visible physical toll on the Wings. Nobody will want to face the Coyotes in next year’s playoffs, if this year’s showing is anything to go by.
The next round pitted Detroit against the often disappointing San Jose Sharks. Famous for their ability to storm the regular season and flunk the playoffs, and with a history of being thoroughly stuffed by the Red Wings, there was a slight air of hope from the Detroit fans. However, this wasn’t the Sharks team that everyone enjoyed watching fail in the post-season last year, nor was it the same team that struggled against the Wings for the past 2-3 seasons. This Sharks team was rested (having taken out Colorado in the first series in 6 games), and were a little more rested, hungry and ready to go. Having completed the first series (which they were expected to lose, if history was anything to go by), they were high on motivation.
The Wings were certainly not rested, had just played a body-bruising 7 game series, and were only just able to close out the Coyotes, let alone charge head-first into a new 7 game series. This really showed. The Sharks were faster to the puck, quicker to avoid hits, and were proving they were no chokers. Winning the first 3 games, Detroit looked to be heading home with the humiliation of a sweep seeing them out the door, but they managed to pull one game back to avoid the embarrassment, only to be taken out in San Jose, 4-1 for the series.
There’s no excuses, no claims the refs were bad, no arguments that the Sharks are being handled differently by officials or anything like that. They San Jose Sharks were better than the Detroit Red Wings over a 7 game series. End of story.
With news of a Hudler return on the cards, the emergence of Howard as an excellent starting goaltender, and a possible shipping out of some deadwood, it looks like the future may still be bright for the Red Wings. All the very best to the Sharks, who deserve their place in the Conference final.
Many thanks to penaltykill.net, as I’ve really enjoyed writing this blog, and for my first full season it’s been great to have somewhere to share my thoughts, and also read everyone else’s opinions!