Last night, the Chicago Blackhawks came back from their 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games. That glimpse of possible silver us fans caught after Game Four has been taken away from us – and our team – and now we have the long off-season ahead of us. No Stanley Cup is in our future.
On the positive side, the off-season is not as long as years past because the playoffs started two weeks later than normal. We had Red Wings hockey until the end of May this year, and we will still have hockey to watch until well into June. There’s still the NHL draft coming up, the NHL Awards, and the start of free agency. Before you know it, faster than normal, it will be preseason and everything will be crazy from realignment.
What can you say about this Red Wings team in the harsh morning light after a Game Seven loss?
This team blew it. They had the number one team in the NHL, the guys favored to win the series and potentially even the Stanley Cup, on the brink of elimination (in five games, no less!), and they backed off. They stopped playing for the majority of games. They could not hold onto one goal leads. They could not hold onto leads in the last few games.
The majority of the offense came from our third and fourth lines. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg spent more time covering Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane than actually doing anything offensively, minus the handful of goals.
This meltdown is inexcusable.
And some players need to shape up or ship out. With a decent amount of UFAs on the roster this off-season, it’s safe to say that the Red Wings will be making some changes as well as buying out some contracts for players that did not do what they were supposed to.
Valtteri Filppula did a whole lot of nothing in these playoffs. Johan Franzen disappeared in the last three games against Chicago. When your top chances in Game Seven are coming from Cory Emmerton, there are some serious offensive problems that need to be addressed…even if no one understands what exactly is wrong.
There are still gaping holes in this roster. Winning one playoff series and going seven games against the top team does not fix the glaring problems this team still has to face.
No one expected us to get this far. Half our fans didn’t expect us to get this far. We all were just happy to keep the postseason streak alive, for goodness’ sake!
Our roster was a ragtag team of misfits that barely managed to squeak into the playoffs in the first place. Even amid the failure of a second round, there were moments of clarity that showed how important these rookies are going to be in the future. With the departure of Datsyuk looming in our future, it’s a little comforting to see that there are a few guys ready to step up to the challenge of filling his skates.
These playoffs showed that Babcock still knows what he’s doing. That infuriating combination of Abdelkader and Cleary on Datsyuk’s line actually turned into something magical. Cleary was in the middle of almost every single scrum against Chicago, and had four goals in the playoffs and the second most points on the team behind Zetterberg. And Abdelkader showed that he will be a core part of this team. He came alive.
I don’t know what caused this team to melt down in the last three games of the series, but you can be sure that Babcock was doing his best to shake up his lines to get something out of his players.
What Needs To Change
There are holes that still need to be fixed. This is the team that had yet to replace Brian Rafalski on the roster, and he retired two years ago. Add on the losses of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart and you’ve got a weak defensive core. Kyle Quincey had select moments of brilliance (same for Brendan Smith), but the pair made far too many mistakes.
The addition of Danny DeKeyser is a welcome relief. He’s that Rafalski-like defenseman the team needs. His play is simple and efficient. Had he not gone down with a broken thumb in the playoffs, perhaps we would be singing a different tune today. Look for DeKeyser to be in the top two pairings next season.
We still need a net-front presence like Tomas Holmstrom. There will never be another player that does this as well as Homer. You can argue that Justin Abdelkader jumps to the front of the net and Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen do the same from time to time. But I found myself on multiple occasions every game yelling at my television screen because someone was behind the net, ready to throw it out front and there was nothing up there but Blackhawks sweaters.
When we’re used to Holmstrom being at the front of the net all the time, to see the space vacant is angering. So many chances are missed because of it.
Something else that needs to change is the officiating. Unfortunately, this is out of our control. From the proper-yet-infuriatingly-terrible penalty shot that turned into the game-winning goal in Game Six to the “intent to blow” call that made Chicago have to win it in overtime in Game Seven, there are some serious problems. This is nothing we can fix, unfortunately.
In the end, you don’t have to listen to the rest of the hockey world to tell you how to feel. You are allowed to be angry and upset at this team for dropping the lead. You are allowed to be proud of everything they accomplished.
What it comes down to in the end is how we’ll make up for it next year when it’s a full 82 game season and everything is realigned.