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Red Wings remain positive despite long odds

by Brian Hedger /
DETROIT -- His team is faced with a situation that almost no team overcomes, but Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock refuses to let it drag him down into despair.

The Red Wings mirrored that attitude, at least in what they said after their optional practice Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, once again down 3-0 in a Western Conference Semifinal series to the San Jose Sharks -- the same, exact position Detroit was in exactly 365 days ago.

When you include last year's series, the Red Wings are now losers of seven one-goal playoff games against the Sharks in the past two postseasons and have dropped three of those games in overtime, including two this season.

Coupled with the fact only three teams in NHL history have overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series, you'd think there must be some sort of confidence vacuum or frustration building for the Red Wings. Not so, according to them.

"I believe in being positive," Babcock said on Thursday. "That's how I live my life. That's how I deal with my family. That's how I deal with every game. In other words, I just think that I'm going to disarm the bomb. I've always thought that. That's how a coach thinks. Whether that's selective memory, whether that's being hard-headed or that's just not being that smart … whatever you want to call it, I'm just a believer."

If you take them at their word, his players feel the same way. Still, Wednesday night's 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena -- exactly one year after a 4-3 OT loss that put them down 3-0 to San Jose in this building -- was a particularly difficult one to stomach.

It was lost in almost the same, exact manner, too -- allowing a late goal in regulation to tie it and then allowing the winning goal off the rush in overtime.

Last season, the Red Wings responded by blowing out the Sharks  7-1 in Game 4 before San Jose clinched the series at HP Pavilion in Game 5. This time, however, Detroit is just trying to get any kind of win in this series, which has been decided entirely by vice-tight, one-goal margins.

"Once in a while, (blowouts) will happen, but more often you will be in close games (against San Jose)," said Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg, who had 2 assists in Game 3 and has 3 points in the series. "Especially now. It will be a close game tomorrow again. We've just got to win."

They've also got to be like Babcock and believe, one agonizingly tough game at a time.

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard compared the feeling of losing Game 3 on Wednesday to being "stabbed in the back," but even he said Thursday was a new day and it's time to start thinking positive. They don't have much other choice.

"When we woke up this morning, we got here and we had to stop feeling sorrow and get back to work," Howard said. "We have to have that mentality of 'why not us?' It has happened before in sports, but we can't get ahead of ourselves. We have to win one game."

They also have to find a way to overcome whatever the Sharks do that allows them to prevail in close games.

Whether it's the sharp goaltending of Antti Niemi -- at least in this series -- the swarming defense in front of him or the inspired two-way play of star center Joe Thornton, San Jose seems to have the blueprint for winning tight games. The Sharks have been in five overtime games already in this postseason and won all five, including two against Detroit.

The bounces seem to go their way sometimes, but they've also capitalized on the good fortune they created themselves. It can be tough to put a finger on just one thing San Jose has done better than Detroit, other than finishing ahead on the scoreboard, but it's clearly working -- whatever it is.

"I don't have an answer for this one, what they do better," said Red Wings star center Pavel Datsyuk, who has a goal and three points against the Sharks. "So far, it's a 3-0 series. Could be another way, but it is what it is."

All Detroit can do now is get back up for Game 4, stay positive and see what happens.

"We're ready," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We're ready to compete. The deeper you get into a series, the tougher the games get. That's what we have to be ready for tomorrow night. It's going to be a tough game and we have to win. Otherwise we're done."
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