Nicklas Lidstrom, 3 rings. Henrik Zetterberg, 2008 Conn Smythe trophy winner. Kris Draper, 4 rings… did you really think the Detroit Red Wings were even the slightest bit tense about their game 7 against the Phoenix Coyotes? If you did, you must not know these boys at all.
Sure the Coyotes put a 5 spot on the Wings in game 6 to force a game 7, but the Red Wings came out as if game 6 was nothing more than an aberration. “They got lucky,” rookie goaltender jimmy Howard said after he got lit up 5-2 in game 6. He played like it in game 7 stopping 32 of 34 shots while Ilya Brygalov was shelled for four goals in the second period, two by two-time Selke trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk. As a matter of fact it was basically the same names doing the damage that Detroit fans have been used to since the start of the 2000 season.
Lidstrom scored two goals in addition to Datsyuk’s two, Zetterberg had 3 assists, Johan Franzen chipped with an assist and quality penalty killing, even Detroit newcomer but Ex-champion Brian Rafalski (won two cups in New Jersey) had two assists. The Red Wings may be getting long in the tooth, but they can bring the pain to foes younger than them.
“Their top players came out and dictated the pace and we had no answers. They were relentless. They turned it up another level that we couldn’t get to,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after the game. TIppett is used to the Wings rocking his teams to sleep when he was coach of the Dallas Stars for the better half of last decade.
The Wings at the beginning of the season looked like a team on the decline and found themselves on the outside looking in, in the Western Conference playoff picture in February. Then those same names started the Wings on a roll that pushed them to the fifth seed in the conference and now they meet the San Jose Sharks, who the Wings have owned in the playoffs winning all three of their playoff meetings all-time.
“We were playing against one of the top teams in the world, and the way they played tonight, I don’t know if anybody can beat them,” Bryzgalov said after the game. That’s bad news for a Sharks team that is still fighting the demons of playoffs past and that can’t seem to get their top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley going. If the Sharks want to advance to the conference finals for just the second time in franchise history then they need more than the one goal the Thornton-Heatley-Marleau line collectively scored in the Colorado series.
The Wings immediately headed for San Jose after smoking the Coyotes last night. They’re on a mission to get back to the Stanley Cup and avenge last year’s loss to the Penguins, and it shows. They’ve got possibly the hottest goalie in the playoffs in Jimmy Howard, and a few guys you may have heard of. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Rafalski; same names, same team, and seemingly the same result. Sickening isn’t it? Not to Detroit fans. It’s just business as usual.