Youthful Detroit Red Wings make playoffs for record 25 straight season
The Detroit Red Wings advanced to the NHL playoffs for a record 25th consecutive season by losing their final two games.
They also play the injury-depleted Tampa Bay Lightning, which means the team that got in by the skin of its teeth could advance to the second round. Talk about lucky.
However, nothing is easy for the Red Wings, who are no longer the veteran team that won four Stanley Cups the past two decades. They are young, inexperienced and are not favorites to advance far in the playoffs.
Veteran Pavel Datsyuk announced that he is leaving the team at age 38 to return home to Russia where he will probably play one season before calling it quits. He wants to be with family and no longer wants to expose diminishing skills in the NHL.
He wasn’t much help this season anyway. The Wings got a huge boost from teenage rookie sensation Dylan Larkin, who scored 23 goals this season and thrilled the local fan base in part because he is from suburban Detroit.
“It’s pretty cool,” he told the Detroit Free Press about being in the playoff hunt. “I would have liked a better ending to my season, but it’s a great honor. I’ve played with great players all year. I was put in a great situation to achieve it.”
During this playoff streak, the Wings have suited up Hall of Fame lineups that included Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull and Chris Chelios. Owner Mike Ilitch did everything he could to keep the winning going.
The Red Wings are building a championship caliber team by 2017, the year they move into their new arena on the edge of downtown. However, there is pressure on general manager Ken Holland to make an impactful trade to make the team better.
There are expectations here. The Red Wings have more Stanley Cups (11) than any NHL team based in the United States and trail only the Montreal Canadiens (24) and Toronto Maple Leafs (13) in overall championships.
However, the team has not won a Cup since 2008 and last made the Stanley Cup Finals in 2009 when it lost the final two games to the Pittsburgh Penguins. There are unfulfilled expectations in Detroit along with impatience.
But there are growing pains. The players are not the only youthful components. Coach Jeff Blashill is a rookie coach who replaced veteran Mike Babcock who left to become the Toronto’s coach. There was a feeling that Babcock’s voice was lost inside the dressing room.
Blashill is the new voice and is familiar with many of the players that he coached in Grand Rapids, the Wings minor league affiliate.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win a Stanley Cup,” Blashill said. “And to do that our immediate goal was to find a way to earn our way into the Stanley Cup playoffs and we’ve done that through the course of an 82-game year. So we’re excited. We’ve got a great opponent in Tampa. Everybody is familiar with them.”