This is the second part of our analysis of the 2006-2007 Detroit Red Wings season. Memorable moments are included in the playoff recap.
The 2007 playoffs were nail-biting to say the least. The Wings entered again as a #1 seed and definitely made it interesting in the first round. The Captain once said the first round was the toughest to play. 2007 showed that.
Western Conference Quarterfinals: Red Wings win series 4-2 over Calgary
The first two games were dominated by the Wings. Then they let Calgary back in it. I still remember feeling my stomach drop after they lost Game 4, wondering if it would be another heart-breaker. Then came Game 5. The Wings blew the Flames out 5-1, and Johan Franzen was chopped by Jamie McLennan after scoring a goal. Franzen got the last laugh, scoring the game and series clincher.
Two great memories for me with this goal: One, my brother and I bought tickets for Game 2 against the next round opponent before this game. Two, my reaction to this goal was in front of people who didn’t watch hockey. To say they were amused by my screams of joy and happy dances are an understatement. The Wings climbed out of the first round and prepared for a series that would be even more nerve-wracking. More important from a psychological sense, the Red Wings survived the first round.
Western Conference Semi Finals: Red Wings win series 4-2 over #5 San Jose Sharks
If any series showed this Wings team had the makings of a champion, it was this one. On more than one occasion, they were dead in the water. The Sharks looked better, faster, and unbeatable. Game One was horrific, and Game Two (which I was at) looked over in the first five minutes. But the Wings clawed back, winning that one 3-2 thanks to a Pavel Datsyuk goal with just over a minute left in the game. Another great memory: My brother and I were sitting on makeshift wooden boards in the highest section of the Joe. We snapped our feet through the wooden planks when we jumped into each other’s arms after that goal. That game signified the Wings digging deep to do whatever it took. Game 3 was a loss, but Game 4 was the turning point of the series. Enjoy the video below.
Wing fans loved Robert Lang more than they ever could have imagined after he tied that game. Matthieu Schneider, although done after this game, scored the clutch winner in overtime. A come from behind 3-2 victory turned the tide and the Wings went onto win the next two and end the Sharks season. Ron Wilson found another reason to hate Detroit.
Western Conference Finals: #2 Anaheim Ducks win series 4-2 over Detroit
Okay. I’m going to try to be rational about this because it was seven years ago already. But I still want to throttle Lilja for this play. (I apologize in advance…this still hurts). I know he scored the only goal of that game, but c’mon man.
This series was up for grabs from the beginning and the Red Wings should have won this series. But sloppy play and an overachieving Ducks team (specifically the last gasp of J.S. Gigeure’s career) made off with the win. The flurry at the end of Game 6 nearly resulted in a tying goal for the Wings but it was too little, too late. Even Babcock admitted they should have won Games 4 and 5 after blowing the Ducks out in Game 3, 5-0:
“Games 4 and 5 where we played at every opportunity to win and let them slip away, that in the end cost us. You have to tip your hat to Anaheim,” Babcock said.
Worse, Chris Pronger was suspended for Game 4, and left it open for the Wings to put the series away. But it wasn’t to be. The Ducks went on to beat the Senators in a five game Stanley Cup Finals series. But this season, despite the disappointing finish, led to some important realizations.
While it was still a premature ending, the Wings made a case that they were legitimate contenders and ready to take the next step as a team without relying on the leaders of the past. They had timely goal scoring, rallied from deficits, and overcame injuries to remain competitive. While Schneider would bolt in free agency, it would lead to the Wings grabbing Brian Rafalski, who would bolster the power play and give the Wings a desperately needed right hand shot at the point. Further, the grit and progress showed (they were dead to San Jose twice in that series) revealed that by embracing Babcock’s style, they could be champions. One other interesting note: Franzen showed his flair for scoring big goals in the ’07 playoff run. Finally, people were still questioning the abilities of Zetterberg and Datsyuk up until their clutch performance in Game 2 of the San Jose series. The 2007 playoffs showed to both Hockeytown and the rest of the NHL that the Red Wings had the makings of a champion. The next season, they would show everyone just that.
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