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Detroit Red Wings Playoff Hockey: More Than Just a Game

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports

It’s gameday.

Today is the return of Red Wings playoff hockey. For the 23rd year in a row, Detroit’s beloved hockey team will begin its quest for the Stanley Cup.

Legends of the game have donned the Winged Wheel in pursuit of the most glorious trophy in sports. Some have succeeded, while others have failed. However, every year there is an optimistic feeling entering the playoffs, no matter what the circumstances are. Biased? Maybe.

As a Red Wings fans, I’ve seen it all. We have been the number one seed and captured the Cup. We have also been the number one seed and have been eliminated in the first round. Anything is possible.

We have seen the highs. “McCarty draws. McCarty in. McCarty…SCORES! A magnificent goal! Darren McCarty!” We’ve seen Igor Larionov, the oldest player on the ice, shelf a backhand over a sprawling Arturs Irbe in triple overtime. We’ve seen Steve Yzerman (three times) and Nicklas Lidstrom hoist the Stanley Cup while the Red Wings faithful erupt in a euphoria unlike any other.

We have seen the lows too. Both Yzerman and Lidstrom had their careers come to a close after a disappointed first round upset. We’ve seen the New Jersey Devils sweep the Red Wings in the finals after Detroit had steamrolled everyone in their path. We’ve seen Claude Lemieux smash Kris Draper’s face in. On top of that, the Avalanche eliminating the Red Wings after a record-setting 62 wins during the regular season to advance to the finals was a tough pill to swallow.

Vladimir Konstantinov

Photo courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images

Emotion does not quite capture the feeling of Red Wings fans during playoff season. Though we are away from the players in the stands or through the TV at home, we are there with the players feeling what they feel. Hockeytown’s reaction to the 1997 Stanley Cup championship was equivalent to Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, and the rest of the team celebrating on the ice after overcoming so many obstacles during the season.

Nothing can compare to the way hockey players feel after winning a championship. Hockeytown knows that feeling though, even if we are not on the ice with them. The feeling after losing a crucial game and having your season end is one of the worst, most gut-wrenching emotions every hockey player will endure. Detroit knows that feeling as well. But every year, we hope and pray for that championship elation at the end of the playoffs. Addiction? Possibly.

As the 2014 playoffs begin, we ready ourselves for a familiar setting, even if some things are different. Sure, Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson are out of the lineup, but can that stop Detroit? No. We are the eighth seed playing the President’s Trophy-winning Bruins. Is that a problem? No, Edmonton eliminated us in a similar circumstance in 2006. We might as well have the top seed with all the confidence the Red Wings and fans have entering the first round.

Best of luck, Detroit. We are all behind you and cannot wait to see the Red Wings on top at the end of the pursuit.

Let’s go Red Wings.

Throwback Thursday: Taking a look back at the 1997 Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Mary Schroeder/Detroit Free Press

In the spring of 1997, the Detroit Red Wings captured Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in 42 years. Steve Yzerman led the team through a trying regular season to the finals, where the Red Wings faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers. You all know this though. We all know this. I even have the championship video committed to memory and have been able to recite the lines from the “documentary” since I was a kid.

This Stanley Cup victory was especially sweet for Detroit because most of the Red Wings’ fan base had not seen a championship in their lifetime. It was the first one I had seen, despite the fact that I was only seven. It was also the first my dad had seen though. That victory was the first time the Stanley Cup was brought home to Hockeytown since my Grandpa was 33 years old.

Detroit had a rough season that year trying to find an identity. They had won a league record 62 games the previous season, but did not bring home the Cup. The year before, the Red Wings were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the first round. The Wings had a coming-together moment on March 26th that propelled them into the playoffs on a high note. Darren McCarty finally got his vengeance on Claude Lemieux for his hit on Kris Draper the previous spring. Patrick Roy came to Lemieux’s aid, but Brendan Shanahan met him at center ice. Adam Foote and Mike Vernon soon joined the fray. All of this started from a stop in the play because of Igor Larionov going after Peter Forsberg. Even though “The Professor” was over a decade younger than Forsberg, he stood up and helped to inspire the team. Detroit came back to win the game 6-5 in overtime.

Those were only a few players crucial to the team’s success that year. Scotty Bowman and the Red Wing’s front office put together a grittier team than recent years, instead of relying on talent alone. Let’s take a look at the lineup and how each player was acquired.

C: Steve Yzerman (C) – Drafted 4th overall by Detroit in the 1983 Draft.

LW: Tomas Sandstrom – Acquired from Pittsburgh for Greg Johnson halfway through the season.

RW: Darren McCarty – Drafted 46th overall by Detroit in 1992.

C: Sergei Fedorov (A) – Drafted 74th overall by Detroit in 1989.

LW: Slava Kozlov – Drafted 45th overall by Detroit in 1990.

RW: Doug Brown – Claimed off waivers from New Jersey in 1995.

C: Igor Larionov – Acquired from San Jose for Ray Sheppard in 1995.

LW: Brendan Shanahan – Acquired from Hartford along with Brian Glynn for Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey, and a first round pick one game into the season.

RW: Martin Lapointe – Drafted 10th overall by Detroit in 1991.

C: Kris Draper – Acquired from Winnipeg in 1993 for future considerations ($1).

LW: Kirk Maltby – Acquired from Edmonton for Dan McGillis in 1996.

RW: Joey Kocur – Signed as a free agent in December of that season.

D: Nicklas Lidstrom – Drafted 53rd overall by Detroit in 1989.

D: Larry Murphy – Acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline for future considerations.

D: Slava Fetisov – Acquired from New Jersey in 1995 for a third round pick.

D: Vladimir Konstantinov – Drafted 221st overall by Detroit in 1989.

D: Aaron Ward – Acquired from Winnipeg for Paul Ysabaert and a fourth round pick in 1993.

D: Bob Rouse – Signed as a free agent prior to the 1994-95 season.

G: Mike Vernon – Acquired from Calgary for Steve Chiasson in 1994.

G: Chris Osgood – Drafted 54th overall by Detroit in 1991.

 

Other key contributors that season drafted by Detroit were Mathieu Dandenault, Jamie Pushor, Tomas Holmstrom, Kevin Hodson, and Anders Eriksson. Detroit signed Tim Taylor as a free agent in 1993.

Shanahan, Lapointe, McCarty, Sandstrom, Draper, Maltby, and Kocur gave Detroit sandpaper that they could balance across all four lines. The acquisition of Larry Murphy gave Detroit’s defense a former Cup winner that brought out the best in Nick Lidstrom.

No one predicted this team would win the Cup in 1997 after everyone did the previous year. The Red Wings overcame adversity to eventually become the best team in the NHL. Who is to say the Red Wings of 2014 can’t do the same?

Friday Fun: Red Wings’ Streak Continues

I’m still pumped the streak will continue for the Red Wings. At times during this season, thoughts of making the playoffs were more of a wish than a guarantee. Nonetheless, Detroit will make the playoffs for the 23rd straight year. Today’s Friday Fun is a video tribute to the playoff streak and the 23 overtime goals scored in that time. Coincidence??? Thanks to YouTube’s awood40 for yet another awesome Red Wings video. It was great to see players like Bob Probert, Bob Errey, Shawn Burr, Igor Larionov, Yves Racine, and young Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman in action. Enjoy 23 years of success:

 

Looking into the Future: 2018 Lineup

After really thinking about how prospects like Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, and Petr Mrazek are getting a chance to prove themselves earlier than expected, I began to wonder what the lineup would look like when those players were in their prime. Five years from now, the current batch of prospects would be in their mid- to late-20s and hopefully will be mainstays in the Red Wings’ lineup.

Below is a depth chart of how I think the Red Wings lineup will look in five years. All of the players are in the organization, as I cannot predict who will get traded or let go in another way. Note: Pavel Datsyuk will not be playing in the 2018-19 season, unless he decides to follow in the footsteps of Igor Larionov and play until he is 44.

2018 Lineup

2018-19 Projected Lineup

It was tough to predict the future.

Only Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jimmy Howard are under contract for that season currently. Everyone else will be on a new contract than the one they are currently signed under.

I surely hope Anthony Mantha is dominating the NHL by then. He has the makings of a goal-scoring power forward and would fit well with an aged playmaker in Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist in his prime.

Defense is a huge question mark in my opinion. I can see Brendan Smith or Brian Lashoff not being on the team in 2018, though I hope they are unless they are traded for even better players. Luckily, Detroit has a great batch of prospects on defense are could afford to lose Smith and/or Lashoff. Even some of the prospects could be dealt. Guys like Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Ryan Sproul, Mattias Backman, and Adam Almquist should all be NHL-ready by 2018, it’s just a matter of who is with the Red Wings, in the minors, or elsewhere in the NHL.

Players I am hoping will be in the lineup: Zetterberg, Mantha, Marchenko, Mrazek, Pulkkinen.

Players who could be traded by 2018: Franzen, Howard, Smith, Jurco, any defenseman prospect.