Anything can happen during a seventh game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings
knew that, and made sure the Western Conference Finals never got there.
With a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Monday night, the Red Wings wrapped up the series in six games and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2002, when they beat Carolina for their last title.
They also avoided putting themselves at risk of becoming only the third team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven playoff round. Detroit had racked up nine straight wins, a franchise record for a single postseason, before Dallas rallied to take two straight.
The Stars had that momentum, plus a rabid home crowd on their side for Game 6, but the Wings quieted the fans at American Airlines Center with a three-goal first period. Chris Osgood got back to his winning ways in goal, and Detroit was able to stop sweating and start looking ahead.
Now the two best teams in the playoffs will meet for the Stanley Cup – the Wings and Penguins are a combined 24-6 and neither has trailed yet in a series. While we wait for what should be a highly entertaining and competitive battle to get underway, here are five talking points from Monday night’s game to consider:
1. First Goal Wins
The Wings finally sent the Stars packing by continuing the trend throughout this series that whichever team scores first prevails. A hard-working shift by Detroit’s checking line paid off with a fortuitous bounce, as the puck deflected in off Kris Draper at 3:45 of the opening period as he crashed the crease on Dallas goaltender Marty Turco.
Scoring first was particularly vital for the Wings on this night – if any doubt had started to creep into their minds after failing to close the Stars out the previous two games, it only would have increased if they fell behind at the start. The home crowd was waiting to roar its approval, but the Wings kept them silent.
Not content to sit on the lead provided by Draper’s goal, Detroit added two more in the first and another in the second for a 4-0 advantage, while outshooting Dallas 22-13. The Wings looked much more like the squad that dictated play early in the series than the one that struggled to seal the deal.
2. Role Players Contribute
It was suggested, after the Wings managed just a single goal in each of their two defeats in the series, that the absence of leading goal-scorer Johan Franzen was starting to be felt. Whether that was true or not, it was clear the team needed clutch scoring from players other than Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Detroit got it on Monday, starting with Draper’s goal, which was his third of the playoffs. Later in the first period, linemate Dallas Drake chipped in with his first postseason goal in four years. Drake had already contributed earlier in the series with some big hits, but when he beat Turco to make it 3-0, the Wings had to feel it was their night.
Meanwhile, the Datsyuk-Zetterberg tandem also chipped in with a pair of key special-teams goals. Datsyuk tallied on the power play, sandwiched in between the scores by Draper and Drake, then Zetterberg broke the Stars’ backs with a shorthanded goal early in the second.
3. Powerless Power Play
Defenseman Stephane Robidas ended Osgood’s shutout bid in the third period with a power-play goal, but the Stars missed numerous opportunities on the man advantage earlier in the game – when the outcome was still in doubt.
Over the first two periods, Dallas went on the power play six times and came up empty on all six. To add insult to injury, they yielded Zetterberg’s shorthanded goal at a point in the contest when they desperately needed some sort of positive momentum.
For the six games, the Stars were an anemic 3-for-30 on the power play and couldn’t generate the added offense a team needs when going up against an opponent as potent as the Wings.
4. Hitting the Century Mark
Monday night’s game was the Stars’ 100th since the 2007-08 season began (82 regular season, 18 playoffs), and there were moments when it looked as though they may have finally run out of gas.
Dallas may ultimately look back at the West semifinals, when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead against San Jose and had to expend all sorts of extra energy before eliminating the Sharks in the fourth overtime of Game 6.
Detroit was rested following a four-game sweep of Colorado, and the Wings certainly looked like the fresher team in taking the first three from Dallas. Although the Stars put up a valiant fight and made it a lot farther than most teams in their situation do, they didn’t have enough left in the tank to come all the way back.
5. A Detroit Dynasty?
While no team over the past 15 years has threatened to put together a dynasty the likes of what the New York Islanders accomplished by winning the Cup four straight years from 1980-83 or Edmonton’s five in a seven-year span between 1984-1990, the Wings will be chasing their fourth championship in 11 seasons.
That would make them the League’s most successful franchise in the time since the Oilers won their last Cup. Currently, Detroit is tied with New Jersey for the most titles over that period.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, could join the Wings and Devils in that exclusive club if they were to prevail. The Penguins captured back-to-back Cups in 1991 and 1992, but hadn’t made it back to the Final until this year.