Talk about the skate being on the other foot.
Perhaps not my strongest analogy, but you get where I’m coming from here.
For decades the Red Wings have played the role of frontrunner in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and when the Big Red Machine lost it was almost always considered an upset.
It was definitely an upset in the 1994 playoffs when an errant Chris Osgood clearing attempt was flung into an empty cage by Jamie Baker, pacing the 8th seeded San Jose Sharks to a first round victory over the heavily favoured 1st seeded Detroit Red Wings.
It was surely a surprise in the 2003 playoffs when a Mike Babcock led Mighty Ducks of Anaheim team ousted a Hall of Fame ladened Detroit squad in just 4 games.
Or, how about the 2006 playoffs when the Stanley Cup favourite Red Wings were sent packing by the 8th ranked Edmonton Oilers in the conference quarterfinals, yup that was an upset.
You get the idea here. This year’s playoffs have presented us with a role reversal of sorts… a very pleasant one I might add.
Detroit’s 2013 postseason script is not one that anyone could have predicted, including Wings’ bench boss Mike Babcock who expressed his astonishment at his team’s current situation: “If you would’ve asked me two months ago I’d be shocked.”
Consider me shocked. Yes, a 3-1 series lead for a Detroit team that had to win their last 4 games of the regular season just to be invited to the tournament seems to have caught everyone in hockey circles off guard.
I figured at best the Wings would be able to push this star studded Hawks team to 6 games. My gut feeling was the talent and depth of Chicago would be too much for a young and inexperienced Detroit blueline.
Yet, the exact opposite has occurred. The Wings have taken control of this series for 5 reasons:
1. Detroit’s stars have outplayed Chicago’s big guns.
2. The Wings’ 3rd and 4th lines have generated more offense without compromising their defensive zone responsibilities.
3. Chicago’s d-core has been outperformed by a younger, quicker, and smarter Detroit defense core.
4. Coach Q has been taken to school… a school that goes by the name of The Mike Babcock Coaching Clinic.
5. Jimmy Howard
For these reasons, Detroit has put themselves in a position where with a win tomorrow night in Illinois they could pull off the greatest upset in franchise history.
You think I’m being too dramatic? Think again.
On paper, the Hawks are one of the most talented teams the NHL has seen in recent memory. On paper, the Red Wings are an average hockey club.
Jimmy Devellano seems to agree with me. In an interview with Fox Sports Detroit, the Wings’ President recently stated that if Detroit managed to beat the Hawks, “it would be the upset of upsets.”
Fortunately, for the Red Wings, you don’t win Stanley Cups on paper.
And, on Saturday night, against all odds, Chicago just might receive their walking papers.