Let’s get something straight right off the bat: The Detroit Red Wings
will lose a game again, someday.
It could happen as early as Wednesday night, when the Dallas Stars
will look to stave off elimination in these Western Conference Finals. Or it might come at some point during the Stanley Cup Final.
But with the way the Wings have been cruising ever since they recovered from a hiccup in the first round to finish off Nashville, would anyone truly be surprised if their next defeat comes at some point in October, after the 2008-09 season begins?
broke a tie midway through the second period Monday night, then Henrik Zetterberg
broke the back of the Stars with a shorthanded goal early in the third as the Wings won 5-2 at American Airlines Center to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
also netted his first career playoff hat trick, but the Stars answered his first two goals. They couldn’t recover from Hudler’s goal with 8:06 left in the middle period, though. Handed a power play 18 seconds into the third and a chance to tie, Dallas instead watched as Detroit doubled its lead with Zetterberg scoring unassisted. Datsyuk added his third of the night with under three minutes left.
It’s just the way things have gone for the Wings in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. Playing without leading goal scorer Johan Franzen
for a second straight contest, their depth still overcame the best efforts of Marty Turco
and the Stars.
With Game 4 set for Wednesday night in Dallas, here are five talking points from Game 3 to ponder as we await the start of Game 3 between the Pittsburgh Penguins
and Philadelphia Flyers
on Tuesday night:
1. Reaching New Heights
Detroit has been a prolific playoff team for well over a decade. They swept Philadelphia and Washington in consecutive Finals in 1997 and 1998. But the Wings have never been this hot in the postseason before.
By winning Game 3, they extended their winning streak to nine straight games, a new franchise record for a single playoff season. The last team to enjoy this kind of a streak when the stakes are at their highest was the 1993 Montreal Canadiens
, who won 11 in a row en route to their most recent Stanley Cup title.
There are wake-up calls, and then there’s whatever happened to the Wings after they dropped a pair of games against the Predators in the West quarterfinals. Who knows what Mike Babcock might have said between the end of Game 4 and the time the puck dropped for Game 5 of that series, but the Wings finished off the Preds and then roared past the Colorado Avalanche
without ever looking back.
Now the Stars have been given the task of slowing down the latest fine-tuned machine to come out of Detroit. They have found any answers yet and they’re almost out of time.
2. Too Many Weapons
When Franzen was unable to play in Game 2 because of concussion-like symptoms, Zetterberg came through with the game-winning power-play goal in a 2-1 Detroit victory. On Monday night, Datsyuk was the Wings star who shined the brightest.
The team’s leading scorer during the regular season with 97 points, Datsyuk took the home crowd out of the game early by netting the game’s first goal midway through the first period, finishing off a 3-on-2 break by converting a Zetterberg pass.
Dallas defenseman Nicklas Grossman
tied the game with his first NHL tally, but the fans only had 37 seconds of on-ice action to celebrate before Datsyuk restored the lead for the Wings. His third goal, with 2:41 remaining, put an exclamation point on the Detroit victory.
Another staple of this Wings win streak has been the role player coming through in the clutch, and Monday night that player was Hudler. His third goal of the playoffs was a backhanded shot that got past Turco and took the Stars’ hopes of pulling out Game 3 with it.
3. Not Enough Pressure
In their four-overtime marathon against San Jose, which they won to advance to the Western Conference Final, the Stars peppered Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov
with 55 shots on goal.
In the first three games against Detroit, the Stars have managed just 57 shots on Wings netminder Chris Osgood
. Their meager total of 21 shots on net in the series opener has actually been their best output so far. Dallas finished with 18 shots in each of the last two games.
That’s not going to get the job done when you’re facing a goalie who’s in the zone as much as Osgood’s been since taking over for Dominik Hasek
Part of the Stars’ problem has been an inability to hit the net. A perfect example of that came in the opening minute of the second period Monday night. On the power play and trailing 2-1, captain Brenden Morrow
had the right side of the net completely open but the pass to him bounced over his stick and Morrow ended up without a shot.
4. The Wizard Of Oz
While the Wings are challenging the playoff record book as a team, Osgood is making a run at the consecutive wins mark for a goaltender.
Osgood has been the goalie of record in each of Detroit’s nine straight wins, leaving him two shy of the standard of 11 straight. Chicago’s Ed Belfour
and Pittsburgh’s Tom Barrasso
first accomplished the feat during the 1992 postseason and Patrick Roy
matched it the following year during Montreal’s run to the Cup.
When Babcock made the switch from Hasek to Osgood during the Nashville series, he was undoubtedly looking to swing the momentum. The veteran who led the Wings to the 1998 championship has taken the opportunity and run with it. For the most part he hasn’t had to be outstanding, but he’s consistently made the big save whenever Detroit needed it.
5. Odds Stacked Against Them
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs
were the first team in major professional sports to rally from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. The 1975 New York Islanders
also pulled off the feat.
There was a 33-year gap between the only two occurrences of such a comeback in the NHL and now, 33 years after the Islanders did it, the Stars must pull it off if they want to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Right now it’s difficult enough to imagine Dallas winning a single game from the mighty Wings, much less four of them. But that’s exactly how the Stars have to approach this daunting task – one game at a time.
All they need to do is to look back to the previous round to know how quickly a team’s fortunes can change. The Stars held a 3-0 lead on the Sharks but lost two in a row and needed four overtimes in Game 6 before putting San Jose away.