lemieux

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?

Top 9: All-Time Penalty Minute Leaders

On March 26th, 1997, all hell broke loose at the Joe. Pent up frustrations boiled over during the heated matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and the Red Wings leading to a line brawl with Darren McCarty and “the turtle”, Claude Lemieux, at center stage. With the 17th anniversary of the brawl this past Wednesday, today’s list is going to take a look at the Top 9 penalty minute leaders in Red Wings’ history.

For a look at the fights that happened 17 years ago, visit hockeyfights.com and view the game’s profile. You won’t be disappointed.

Here are the Top 9:

9. Gary Bergman– 1101 PIMS

Gary Bergman

Photo courtesy of Steve Babineau/Getty Images

8. Reed Larson– 1127 PIMS

Reed Larson

Photo courtesy of Steve Babineau/Getty Images

7. Dennis Polonich– 1242 PIMSDennis Polonich

6. Darren McCarty– 1302 PIMS

Darren McCarty

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

5. Ted Lindsay– 1423 PIMS

Lindsay

Photo courtesy of TedLindsay.com

4. Gerard Gallant– 1600 PIMS

Gerard Gallant

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

3. Gordie Howe– 1643 PIMS

Gordie Howe

Photo courtesy of Richard Meek/SI

2. Joe Kocur– 1963 PIMS

Joe Kocur

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

1. Bob Probert– 2090 PIMS

Bob Probert

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

Stats provided by hockeydb.com