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What Went Wrong: Detroit Red Wings

May 13, 2011, 3:56 PM EDT

Detroit Red Wings v San Jose Sharks - Game Seven Getty Images

Much like with the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, it’s tough to hammer on a team that went seven games in a series, especially after rallying after being down 3-0 in the series to start, but for the Detroit Red Wings, there’s enough to pick on. So just what went wrong for Detroit against San Jose? We’ve got a few things to pick on.

1. The Obvious
You can’t get into a 3-0 hole in a series and expect to win. It sounds simple enough but last year’s Flyers managed change people’s perceptions and leave the glimmer of hope open that things can change. As this year’s playoffs have shown, dreams don’t always come true and the miracle doesn’t always come to fruition. Asking any team to win four games in a row whether it’s in the regular season or the playoffs is asking a lot of them.

While the Wings did well to do their part, it just didn’t pay off. In a series as close as this was with six games decided by one goal, they were about as close as they could to pulling off wins in four games but just didn’t get the breaks.

2. No secondary scoring threats
The play of Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg in this series was outstanding. Datsyuk led the way with nine points (2 goals, 7 assists), Zetterberg had eight points (3g, 5a), and Lidstrom was the top goal scorer with four goals and two assists. The next best? Not so good.

Detroit had six different players finish the series with three points and while that’s a good spread out amount of help, not getting that little bit extra from any of Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, or Valtteri Filppula hurt. As dominant as the Wings’ top three were, the rest of the gang was doing their part to pick their moments. Getting that kind of production is great, but ultimately it just wasn’t enough.

3. Jimmy Howard got hot too late
It’s tough to get upset with how Jimmy Howard played in this series. A lot of Detroit fans might want to blame the goalie since that’s the usual way things go. This time around, Howard was great in the last four games of the series but his first three just weren’t the same sort of dominating level of play.

With Antti Niemi playing out of his mind on the other side of the ice, Howard had no room for error and in the first three games of the series he just wasn’t on the same level. You can’t quite hold that against him, it’s just a bit of bad luck on the part of the Wings. Howard could’ve used some better help in front of him early on from guys like Ruslan Salei and Brad Stuart, but things tightened up later on. Early mistakes ultimately cost Detroit a shot at the Western finals.

***

Detroit had a tremendous playoffs. Sweeping Phoenix out was impressive and having to deal with an equally as impressive San Jose team in the second round proved to be all that it was meant to be.

Detroit will be back next year. Mike Babcock is one of the best coaches in the business and Ken Holland will get to work in the offseason trying to convince Nick Lidstrom to come back for one more year while getting Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi healthy. They’ll need to sign a goalie to backup Jimmy Howard and figure out what they’re going to do elsewhere on defense. Niklas Kronwall‘s emergence in the playoffs as a big time blue liner gives the Wings hope there, but if there’s one thing we learned in these playoffs and over the years it’s to never count out the Detroit Red Wings.

  1. ready4jets - May 13, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    I think some guy named franzen could have helped.

    • seeingwhatsticks - May 13, 2011 at 7:59 PM

      Maybe, but doesn’t seem like he’s hurt all the time these days? At what point do you have to adjust your expectations for him? I think when players reach a certain age they’re just never fully healthy at any given time and some players adjust to that reality better than others. Style of play is a huge factor in which players can best make that adjustment and bigger, power forward types who aren’t elite skaters tend to struggle most in that regard because they just don’t have a half step to lose. To put that in Sharks perspective, a guy like Marleau is much more likely to remain a valuable and effective player late into his 30’s than a guy like Ryane Clowe because Marleau can lose a step and still be in the top 5-10% of skaters in the NHL whereas Clowe needs every bit of speed and mobility he has right now. Certainly having Franzen in the lineup is better than not having him, but it’s also pretty reasonable to wonder if ever again see more than just flashes of the player he was in the playoffs a few years ago.

  2. polegojim - May 15, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    All true Joe – need a little more youth.

    Heart of Champ almost got it done in spite of odds against.
    Two mistakes and two untimely injuries.

    Way go go Red Wings!!!

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