For the last two decades we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Detroit Red Wings advance deep into the playoffs. Between the 1990’s and 2000’s, they made 18 straight playoff appearances (now 19) and won four Stanley Cups. Easily the most dominant and consistent team over that time, the Wings were the poster-child for success around the NHL (heck, all of sports for that matter).
But when Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton connected on the game-winners in Games 3 and 5, one thing set in: Detroit is no longer ‘Detroit’.
It’s not like Mike Babcock’s club didn’t put forth their best effort in this series. If you pretend to have amnesia and forget the first ten minutes of Game 1, the Wings gave it everything they had left in the tank to beat the Sharks – and failed to win more than one game.
They held third period leads in Games 2 and 3, only to relinquish them and watch should-be victories turn into crushing losses. In the last two postseasons, Detroit was a staggering 26-0 when leading after two periods.
And if you date back to their Cup win in 2002, they were 47-3. Yet, they lost two critical games while possessing a lead after 40 minutes against the Sharks – more proof that these weren’t your regular Red Wings.
Coming into the series, you assumed Detroit would have the mental edge on the Sharks. That’s true; but as last night’s game came to a close, it was the other way around. San Jose was in Detroit’s heads.
Also, the Wings surrendered almost two more power plays a game than San Jose did in the series – including ten in Game 2. When was the last time you saw Detroit be the less-disciplined team in a series (by such a wide margin)?? They’re always the team drawing penalties and getting the calls.
Who knows what the future holds for this team. You can only assume they’ll bounce back beginning next season, but rumors have it that Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, and Chris Osgood (among others) are contemplating retirement.
What would happen if all three were to call it quits this summer?? Is it as simple as handing over the keys to Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, and Jimmy Howard to replace that trio of Wings legends?? Maybe… maybe not.
If Lidstrom happens to retire, it would leave a gaping hole on the Wings’ back end – a hole that would be replaced. Lidstrom is one of the best defensemen to ever lace up the skates in the NHL, and his six Norris Trophies and four Stanley Cups certainly attest to that.
But Detroit would be losing more than just a great defenseman. They’d be losing their soft-spoken captain that has been a great leader much longer than he’s had the ‘C’ on his chest.
Going into next season, you can bet this team will be one to be reckoned with in the Western Conference. They still have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg working their craft, and Howard has a bright future between the pipes.
As for the ‘old guard’, though, their throne has been taken over. After losing the ultimate Game 7 on home-ice a year ago and departing in five games to San Jose (the team they’ve owned over the years), Detroit’s dynasty-like run over the last two decades has reached its end.
Now it’s time for the ‘new guard’ to start their decade of dominance in Hockeytown.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.