DETROIT -- It’s probably best to start with the bad news for the Detroit Red Wings, who find themselves down 2-0 in a Western Conference semifinal-round series against the San Jose Sharks.
Detroit is just 5-21 all-time when losing the first two games of a playoff series and only 2-6 when facing the same situation during the team’s remarkable 20-year run of postseason appearances. Also, after dropping the first three games against the Sharks in the same round last season, Detroit lost that series in five games.
When you include the 2010-11 regular season, the Red Wings have lost 10 of the previous 12 meetings against San Jose and appear to be completely flummoxed. Also working against them is a middling record at Joe Louis Arena during the regular season, even being booed off the ice a couple of times.
All that being said, it’s not a lost cause just yet for Detroit. The Red Wings can make it a series again this week at Joe Louis Arena by merely by holding serve in the next two games on home ice -- starting on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN2, RDS).
There is also some encouragement in the history books to go along with the bad stuff.
Take, for instance, the two times they have climbed all the way back from a 2-0 hole in the past 20 postseasons. In both instances -- against the Minnesota North Stars in 1992 and the Vancouver Canucks in 2002 -- the Red Wings lost the first two games on home ice and had to scrap their way back on the road during the next two.
They even fell down 3-1 against Minnesota before winning the last three in a row and then took four straight from the Canucks in 2002 after dropping the first two in the Motor City. After climbing out of that hole, Detroit went on to win the Stanley Cup against the Carolina Hurricanes -- losing just five games combined over the next three rounds.
The Red Wings still have four players on the roster from that team, led by captain Nicklas Lidstrom. The other three are star center Pavel Datsyuk, power forward Tomas Holmstrom and gritty “Grind Line” original Kris Draper.
If the Red Wings claw their way out of a 2-0 hole this time, each of them will have to play a big role -- whether it’s physically doing it on the ice or convincing younger teammates off the ice that it can be done.
On the surface, the Sharks, coached by former Red Wings assistant Todd McLellan, simply appear to be the better team. They’ve won six of the last seven playoff games between the two and only allowed one goal in each of the first two games this season, both at HP Pavilion in San Jose.
However, all six of those playoff wins were decided by a slim one-goal margin. The lone game that wasn’t was Detroit’s 7-1 rout of the Sharks in Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena last spring to make it a 3-1 series headed back to San Jose.
That game, however, was against former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov -- whom the Red Wings, ironically, tried to claim on re-entry waivers this season before a claim by the New York Islanders blocked it.
This year, the Sharks have a new goalie in Antti Niemi, who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup a year ago -- that organization’s first in 49 years. However, Niemi struggled in the first round against the Los Angeles Kings and it’s hard to imagine the Red Wings being stonewalled for too much longer.
Despite concerns about them aging, the Red Wings still have an impressive arsenal of offensive weapons -- and they haven’t even dressed Mike Modano yet in this series. If Detroit is going to dig out this time, it will most likely be their combination of skill and experience that does the trick.
Otherwise, they could be staring at a 2-7 record over the past 20 seasons when down 2-0 in a series.