The Detroit Red Wings ended their season with a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion last night. It was a very exciting game to watch and both teams played well. The Sharks just played that much better. It seems that the best players from each team stepped up. Just look at the scoresheet…Setoguchi, Couture, Marleau, Zetterberg, Datsyuk. Several articles floated around yesterday discussing the possibility of unlikely Game 7 heroes. Not so much, in this case.
For the Sharks, Joe Thornton had the game of his life. And guess who scored the game-winning goal…Patrick Marleau! His first and only point of the series ended being the one that got them, arguably, the biggest win in their 20-year history. Just when they needed them most, the Sharks’ headline act made good.
But let’s not forget. After all the hype that this series generated…the back-and-forth of six one-goal games, two overtimes, and a duel between two exceptional goaltenders, remember that the Sharks are only halfway there. They have to slug it out with Vancouver now to even get an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup.
It’s just as well for the Red Wings though. Their injuries piled up last night with the loss of Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary. Two of the Wings bigger, more physical guys were taken out of play. Cleary’s crash into Jiri Hudler was just brutal to watch and it appeared as he was being helped off the ice that he was staying off his right leg. It could be a knee injury, or a hip, maybe even a head/neck injury when he hit the ice. Either way, it could have been a season-ending blow. Bertuzzi, Cleary, Franzen and Datsyuk (although you couldn’t tell by looking at him) would all go injured into a series with a rather healthy and rested Canucks team.
Despite the early departure from the Playoffs the Red Wings can be proud of their season. They played admirably well, led the Central Division all season long, and really gave the Sharks a run for their money in the Semifinals. The Sharks earned that Western Conference Finals berth, in every sense of the word.
Now everyone’s looking at Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Modano. Are they through? Is this the end of the line? Modano has said that it is, but Lidstrom has kept mum. As a Red Wings fan, and a hockey fan in general, I do hope they both stay on for at least one more dance. Lidstrom still has his talent. He put up some great numbers this year including his first hat trick. There’s no reason to suspect he couldn’t do that again. His decision is going to be completely personal and have a lot to do with his family. As for Modano, what was probably going to be his last season really wasn’t a season at all. He missed most of it with his wrist injury and only saw action in two Playoff games. It’s tough to hang ‘em up without wondering what might have been. As long as Modano is healthy enough and dedicated enough, I think he should take his mulligan and go around the rinks one more time.
For the younger guys on the team, this series is going to solidify their confidence. They’ve grown so much over this past season that they will be a force to be reckoned with. They’ve been in the trenches of a grueling post-season and they’ll be salivating at the chance to hit the ice again come October. Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader will keep developing and working their way through the ranks. Even Drew Miller is another “Mule-In-Training.” I’m mostly impressed with Niklas Kronwall though. He’s had probably the best season of his career and will be looked upon to fill Captain Nick’s very big shoes. These Playoffs, and the last leg of the regular season, Kronwall has been on the top defense pairing and logged more minutes per game than Lidstrom. He’s kept up his bruising physical play and has been very aggressive with his scoring opportunities.
And no one is going to question Jimmy Howard’s youth anymore.
So now the Red Wings can relax for a bit, and heal up. There shouldn’t be any disappointment regarding the untimely end to this season other than not getting that one extra goal in any of the past seven games. The City of Detroit and all the Wing Nuts around the hockey world are proud.
Good Luck to San Jose. This could be your year. Unfortunately, I can’t root for you, though. As is generally the rule around us Original Six fans, we stick with the Six. GO BRUINS!