It’s no secret that the four games played in this first series against the Anaheim Ducks have been carried by the Red Wings young players. You know, the ones who haven’t played an NHL-caliber playoff game in their careers, or only a handful of them.
Those are the ones scoring the overtime goals to keep the Ducks from sweeping the Wings.
Example: In Monday night’s game, the five Red Wings players on the ice for Damien Brunner‘s goal were Brunner (naturally), Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brian Lashoff, and Jakub Kindl. Andersson had two assists in that game and Nyquist had one assist.
It took until Game 4 for Pavel Datsyuk to get his first goal of the series. Henrik Zetterberg still has yet to register a goal. And it’s not for a lack of trying. In Monday’s game, Zetterberg had eight shots on goal, and Datsyuk finally managed to break away from the three Ducks players that always seem to be glued to him whenever he’s on the ice.
Brendan Smith even registered his first NHL playoff goal in the game and also had an assist. This was all after the points in the game when he and paired mate Quincey were playing some not-so-good defense. I believe I had a tweet at one point saying I would have preferred a Brett Lebda/Andreas Lilja pairing…
The youth in the ranks gives this Red Wings team a different feeling. They have to battle harder, come back from deeper holes, and work in every single situation. There’s a bit of an underdog mentality in it all, and it makes those victories a little bit sweeter, a little more special. It’s a good feeling, but it’s a foreign one.
There were comments made after Game Two about how the rookies handled the overtime. It would be easy to let nerves catch up to them and falter, yes? But the veterans of the team who had seen their fair share of playoff overtimes told them to keep it cool, not get overworked, and keep playing as if it was just the second period.
And Nyquist scored to win it not even a minute and a half into overtime.
The veteran players’ messages must have stuck because watching the overtime of Game Four, it looked as though the Red Wings were on a perpetual power play. Minus the two minute actual power play the Ducks had, the Red Wings looked like that puck possession team they used to be.
And the rookies came up big yet again.
We sit back and wonder sometimes how this team will survive without its key players in future years, the years we don’t want to think about. We wondered what the team would look like without guys like Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, and Nicklas Lidstrom.
We wonder what this team will look like without Datsyuk in its ranks. It’s a terrifying thought because he is one of the greatest (and certainly most entertaining) Russian player in the NHL. We wonder what will happen when both Datsyuk and Zetterberg are done. While it may be too early to tell, it’s nice to see that we can put a little bit of faith and trust in guys like Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Brunner.
We can’t wait until we see a penalty kill next year with Cory Emmerton, Andersson, and Darren Helm. It could very well be the new, modern version of the Grind Line. A team has to keep evolving in order to be successful, and while it’s been shaky this year, the ranks are slowly evolving whether we admit it or not.
So while there may be a lot of rookies within our ranks for the first time in twenty or so years and while they may not always perform up to our high expectations game in and game out, you can bet they know how to keep calm under pressure. They’re learning from their veteran teammates. And that’s how Red Wings excellence is passed down.
The rookies have the ability to carry the weight of this team. Growing up in the Red Wings organization, should we really be that surprised?