Last year the Red Wings had an excuse. They were injured all year. Success became keeping the playoff streak alive. Everyone knew the Bruins were bigger and better. Fans’ hope for a series win rested solely on reputation: the Red Wings tend to win playoff series. Losing to Boston brought no surprise.
The year before, the Red Wings won a playoff series, then lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Well they choked it away. Up 3-1 in the series, Detroit let Chicago force a Game 7, and then allowed a Brent Seabrook overtime goal to win it. Detroit had a Cup run in them, they just didn’t receive the bounce they needed.
This Red Wings teams rests in-between those two. They aren’t bad enough to leave fans facing the choice between logic and hope, but they aren’t good enough to be considered Cup contenders. The Red Wings can win, but they’ll probably lose. That makes this year is closer to 2012. The No. 5 seed Red Wings lost to the No. 4 Predators in the first round. Mike Babcock sat after Detroit’s 2-1, series-clinching loss in Game 6 and said casually, “To me, five games, that’s not close.” He talked about needed to make a big change in the offseason. People wondered if it was finally the end for the Red Wings as a perennial playoff contender.
The Lightning performed better throughout the year. They didn’t collapse in the second half. They’re better offensively and just as good as Detroit defensively. They have better goaltending. Detroit has no answer for Steven Stamkos. Honestly, this one might not be close.
If it isn’t, the Red Wings foundation could crumble. Mike Babcock could bolt and reappear in Toronto as Ruler of Everything. Jimmy Howard might become damaged beyond repair. Petr Mrazek could go from being the next Jimmy Howard to being, well, the next Jimmy Howard.
The run will finally be over. Babcock’s era will end in disappointment, the Jimmy Howard era will without a Stanley Cup and the questions will turn to how long Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk can last. And just to kick fans while their down, it’ll be a Steve Yzerman team that destroyed the Red Wings run.
Then again, the Red Wings could win. Datsyuk and Zetterberg could prove that playoff experience means something, Detroit’s power play could return to it’s unsustainable form, and the Lightning could do the same thing they did last year. The Jimmy Howard era might still be over in Detroit, but the Red Wings run would continue.
One series, a pendulum swing one way or another depending on the result. This is probably an overreaction. I get that. Two counter points: 1.) Isn’t that what sports are for? 2) What if it’s not?