While effusive in his praise of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said by Game 7, his team was simply worn out and playing on fumes
"I thought just with the injuries -- everyone has injuries, but I thought with the injuries and then never really getting to the level we'd like to see our team at, I didn't think we did that in the Final at all," Babcock said after the Penguins' 2-1 win in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals on Friday night.
"Now give them credit, they played good," Babcock said of the Penguins, "so part of the equation is them. But I just didn't feel that … you know what your individuals can do because you've coached them for so long. The guys that were injured on our team this year never got their game back to the level it could be. And they were significant players for us."
The Red Wings missed center Pavel Datsyuk
for the first four games of the Final. Another center, Kris Draper, missed the first three games. Then there were the nebulous "upper- and lower-body injuries," along the way coupled with plenty of bumps and bruises that didn't go on the injury list. Still one could surmise from watching the games that a lot of Wings were playing hurt.
"This group, we've basically been taped together all playoffs," Babcock said. "Our guys did a good job to battle through and do the best they could. We weren't in some situations as good as we normally are. But I think when guys are giving you everything they've got, that's all you can ask from them.
"We've found a way to give ourselves a chance. Any time you win three games in a Final, you have a chance. We just didn't have enough to get it done. Like I said, they (Penguins) played well."
So after winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and getting all the way to Game 7 of the '09 finals, the Red Wings were gassed. You could see that from a quick glance at the stat sheet and numbers like 19-straight games without a goal from Tomas Holmstrom
, 14-straight from Datsyuk and 12 from Jiri Hudler
, coupled with the obvious struggles of Marian Hossa.
"I thought we looked out of gas pretty much all series," Babcock said. "I thought we competed, and I thought we tried. But I never thought we got to the level we'd have liked to. We started good tonight (in Game 7), took a penalty. Then they took over, I thought, the rest of the first period.
"Then we had two crucial turnovers in the second period, and they scored. In this type of game, it's always tough to recover and use the minutes like you should when you get behind like we did. And it took us a while to get going. I thought we played all right in the third period. But they competed hard. You've got to give them credit.
"They found a way to win. It's a battle of will. I thought their team played hard."