NEWARK, N.J. – Well, they’ve been in this position before, having to win the final game of the regular-season to insure a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Actually, heading into Saturday afternoon’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, there’s a tetrad of possible scenarios for the Red Wings to qualify for the postseason.
But, of course, the simplest way to ensure a playoff berth on Saturday is to heed the message of the late Al Davis, the former owner of the Oakland Raiders, who so famously told his teams to ‘just win, baby.’
Detroit, Boston and Philadelphia are vying for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference.
“We don’t want to depend on any other teams to help us to get in,” Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser said following Friday’s optional skate at the Prudential Center. “We just want to make sure that we win and take care of our own business. We had to go into Dallas the last game of the (2013) season. We put in a good effort and win that game. We plan on doing the same tomorrow.”
Jimmy Howard, who surrendered five goals on 26 shots in the Wings’ 5-2 loss at Boston on Thursday, will get his fifth straight start Saturday.
“At times last night we did a good job, but then when we reached a point where we pulled a little bit tighter it just wasn’t there, wasn’t in the tank,” Howard said. “Hopefully everyone got a great night sleep last night and sleeps well tonight and gets recharged for tomorrow because it’s win and play or lose and hope. We control our own destiny which is great.”
For the Wings, who are looking to extend their playoff streak to 25 straight seasons, they must beat the Rangers in regulation or overtime. If they do that it won’t matter what the Bruins and Flyers do in their final games. Though there’s still hope should they lose Saturday or win in a shootout.
It’s hard to imagine that Philadelphia, who is 1-2-1 in its last four games, can win its two remaining games against playoff teams – Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders. But anything can happen in this league. In the last month the Flyers have lost twice to the red-hot Penguins, 4-1 and 6-2, while being out-shot by a combined 74-47.
Here is a look at the four ways the Red Wings can still get into the postseason:
- If the Wings win in regulation or overtime they clinch regardless.
- If the Wings win in a shootout they need Boston to lose in regulation or overtime, or for Philadelphia to go 1-0-1 or worse.
- If the Wings lose in overtime or a shootout they need Boston to get one point or less, or for Philadelphia to go 1-1-0 or worse.
- If the Wings lose in regulation they need Boston to lose in regulation, or for Philadelphia to go 0-1-1 or worse.
The Wings haven’t fared well at Madison Square Garden since realignment moved them to the Eastern Conference. Detroit has lost five straight in New York, including the last four since moving from the West.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has had the Wings number, recording three shutouts while stopping 105 of the Wings’ 108 shots in the last four games. However, the Rangers announced Friday that backup Antti Raanta will start in place of Lundqvist. He’ll join four other Rangers regulars who are nursing various injuries and will miss Saturday’s game – forwards Mats Zuccarello (lower body) and Viktor Stalberg (lower body), and defensemen Dan Girardi (upper body) and Ryan McDonagh (upper body).
Howard, who grew up in upstate New York as a huge fan of the Rangers and goaltender Mike Richter, said Saturday’s game doesn’t get any bigger for him.
“Every time I play there I just enjoy it and try and take in the whole atmosphere and soak it all up,” said Howard, who wears No. 35 in honor of his boyhood goalie idol. “It’s fun and we’re playing at Madison Square Garden, big stage so it’s going to be great.”
DEVILISH TIME: Some Red Wings players and coaches made the 40-minute bus ride to practice in Newark on Friday afternoon. They skated at the New Jersey Devils’ practice facility, adjacent to the Prudential Center.
It’s a similar layout as to what the Red Wings can expect once the Detroit Events Center and underground practice facility opens in time for the 2017-18 season.
Besides DeKeyser and Howard, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Alexey Marchenko, Petr Mrazek, Tomas Jurco, Brendan Smith, Anthony Mantha and Teemu Pulkkinen all participated in the practice conducted by assist coaches Tony Granato, Jim Bedard and Pat Ferschweiler.