by Chris Zadorozny (@Zads07)
It’s been a week since the Detroit Red Wings blew a 3-1 series lead to the Chicago Blackhawks to get ousted from the playoffs. For the final time, they played in the Western Conference playoffs and although fans will certainly be upset over the three-straight losses, there are plenty of positives to come out of this season.
In September of 2012, there wasn’t going to be a season. As the days turned into months, a season looked more and more bleak, but negotiations between the owners and players worked out, and the NHL shortened season began in late January.
The Red Wings were blown out in their first game against a rising St. Louis Blues squad. They were shutout in their first season opener since 1958-59, a season they missed the playoffs in.
It was the end of an era when this season began. For the first time, no players from the 1990s teams were on the roster.
In the first 10 days of the season, the Red Wings went 3-3 and in February, went 7-8. In March, they earned a .500 record going 7-7, but it was the last month of the season they pulled it together. Despite going 7-6 in the final month, it was the four-straight wins at the end of the season to guarantee their 22nd consecutive playoff birth.
They were then lined up as the seventh seed, their first seed lower than fifth in those 22 years. They were going up against the second best team in the Western Conference in the Anaheim Ducks, the third best team in the league.
Against the Ducks, who had the fourth best power play in the league, and one of the top point getters in Ryan Getzlaf, the Red Wings weren’t predicted by many to win the series. They won the series in seven games, winning Game 6 and 7 by a one-goal margin.
Fans saw that new captain Henrik Zetterberg can be the leader they expected him to be. He led his team with five points in games 6 and 7.
This pitted the Red Wings against the best team in the league, the team to win 23 straight in regulation, had the best goaltending and the second best scoring in the league. Many “experts” including myself, had the Red Wings not winning this series. I had them losing in six, others had them getting swept or losing in five games.
Instead, they were beat in the first game being outplayed, and losing 4-1. They went on to win the next three games, only one away from eliminating the best team in the league. They couldn’t close it out with some mistakes and weak offense, the Red Wings allowed the Hawks to climb back in it, winning the next three games.
Many fans were upset, some even wanted Babcock fired or Howard gone. Here’s why those fans were jumping to conclusions.
Jimmy Howard signed an extension during the season and many fans felt was a mistake by the Red Wings organization. Of the goaltenders in the playoffs, Howard was ninth as of Tuesday in save-percentage and 12th in goals-against average . In the playoffs, led the leaguein saves with 426 on 461 shots, which tells you a lot about the Red Wings defense…young.
Speaking of the defense, their new leader on the blue line,Niklas Kronwall stepped in well filling the void of Nicklas Lidstrom. Rookie Damien Brunner found some scoring ability and had five goals in 14 games in the postseason. Justin Abdelkader, in just his sixth season in the league, hopped up to the first line with Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg in February and produced his highest point total of his career.
With such a young team, and a fourth line composed of rookies, the Red Wings showed their grit and took the best team in the league to seven games in the second round of the playoffs. With that experience, the Red Wings should become contenders once again in the Eastern Conference next season.
To read the original post on that appeared on Sports Radio Detroit on June 5, 2013, go to www.sportsradiodetroit.com