Detroit Red Wings Elimination

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By Dave Cunning

In a season that saw them win 23 in a row at home, with a roster that features offensive firepower, defensive prowess, exceptional goaltending, and veteran leadership, a first round elimination in five games at the hands of the Nashville Predators has to seem like a failure of a season for the Detroit Red Wings.

BetOnHockey_Red_Wings_Joe_Louis.jpgAt the end of the day you have to score more goals than the other team, and your biggest offensive threats have to score more than once or twice if your team has any hope of winning games, let alone an entire playoff series. That’s all that Henrik Zetterberg (2) and Pavel Datsyuk (2) could muster in five games against the Nashville Predators, and it simply wasn’t enough. Zetterberg had three total points, but was also rated a -3, so he basically nullified his own presence in the series. Shea Weber smashing his head against the glass in game one surely didn’t help, so at least Henrik has an acceptable excuse of sorts to cover the following four games. Datsyuk however, simply didn’t perform. There is that bit about him having knee surgery earlier this year and missing 12 regular season games, but still, he’s a go-to guy for Detroit – perhaps the go-to guy for them, and he didn’t, well, go.

Additional uselessness for Detroit came from Todd Bertuzzi, who failed to register a single point through the series, and was a -5. The only things Bertuzzi did worth mentioning were his standing up for Zetterberg and getting beat up by fighting Shea Weber, and speculatively, albeit hilariously, shutting down the Predators using Detroit’s ping-pong table for pre-game warm-ups.   

Also notably absent from making any major scoring contributions for the Red Wings was Johan Franzen – known to score goals by the bushel, Franzen only potted one goal the whole series, and rated -1.

BetOnHockey_Red_Wings_Predators.jpgCombined, the four of these players cost Detroit nearly $19 million dollars of the $59 million they spent on contracts this year. That’s a pricy seven points. The team may have won 23 home games in a row during the regular season, but doesn’t make a lick of difference when you bow out in five games of the first round of playoffs. Just ask the Vancouver Canucks, who have won the President’s Trophy two years in a row – last year, people in Vancouver rioted when they didn’t go all the way, and this year they’re on the brink of elimination in the first round (stat of interest: Detroit has converted 2 of 6 President’s Trophies into Stanley Cups – that also means they failed to do so four times too). You can have a lot of great players and have a lot of success through the regular season, but if they and the rest of your team don’t get it done when it counts and bring home the trophy that matters, you fail as much as the team that finished dead last did. In fact, sometimes it’s far worse to have lofty expectations coming in, and then fail to live up to your billing.

This is where Nashville comes in. The Predators have never won anything – no Cups, no President’s Trophies, no Conference or Division titles, and have never been further than the second round of playoffs – and yet here they are knocking off a team with 11 Stanley Cups and two players within the NHL’s top 35 scoring leaders (Zetterberg, Datsyuk), with a team that didn’t have a player enters that list until number 63 (Martin Erat, 58 pts). Everyone accepts that Nashville has come a long way as a franchise and is a good young team with standout goaltending and an all-star captain, but I’d be surprised if anyone has seriously pegged them as a legitimate Cup contender. Excellence has come to be expected from Detroit on the other hand, and for the fourth straight season it has not been achieved. With the players in their camp, it’s a team you hope to be traded to because they’re always a Cup contender, and a place where you pray you don’t get drafted to because you know you’ll never see a minute of ice-time, unless one of their players dies. They are a powerhouse of a team that you can’t count out until it’s all over – and now for them, it is.

BetOnHockey_Lidstrom_Last_Game.jpgTheir elimination leaves a lot of questions to be answered in Hockeytown – many wonder if Nicklas Lidstrom, the successor to Steve Yzerman’s captaincy in Detroit, will retire; and who could possibly fill his void if he does. Some speculate that the Red Wings’ participation in next season’s Winter Classic may be enough to entice him to hang on for one more year. Others may wonder if Detroit’s roster being comprised of 55% European-born players is not tough enough to be successful in a playoff era that is meaner than ever, and whether personnel changes are in order if the Red Wings hope to win again. Some even may be wondering whether Mike Babcock’s seven seasons behind Detroit’s bench have run their course.

That’s the one good thing about losing early though – you’ve got plenty of time to think about next year. More time to ponder, to heal, to train, to hate losing, to hunger for victory, to focus – time will tell what version of the Detroit Red Wings we’ll see next season. Twitter: @davecunning Twitter: @CunningAthletix



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