Farewell to the Red Wings, Sharks
The beginning of a series where Fanspeak says goodbye to the teams that have been eliminated.
It wasn't long ago that the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks were two of the best teams in the Western Conference — if not the league. Just last year, in fact, the Sharks were the No. 2 seed in the West and the Wings were No. 3. The Sharks eliminated the Wings in the Western Conference semifinals in seven games before losing to the Vancouver Canucks in the conference final. (Don't worry, we'll get to the Canucks in another post.) This year, though, the Wings were the No. 5 seed and the Sharks had to wait until the last couple days of the season to clinch a playoff spot — as the No. 7 seed.
Although both teams had their successes, they also had their failures. The Red Wings won 23 straight games at home, breaking the NHL record, and clinched a playoff spot for the 21st straight year. Nick Lidstrom played his 1,500th game and Tomas Holmstrom his 1,000th. But against the Nashville Predators, their age showed. The Predators are a great defensive team and held Detroit to nine goals in five games. Their leading scorers, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, only got three points apiece against Nashville. Goalie Jimmy Howard allowed 13 goals to the Predators and was a bit shaky at times — with just an .888 save percentage. Lidstrom was held pointless for the entire series and very much looked his age (41). These are not the Wings of old, and many changes might be ahead for Detroit. They've got a great GM and coach, and have been able to find stars in the least-expected places. But, for now, they were the first team eliminated and will be enjoying their longest off-season since 2006, when they lost in the first round to the Edmonton Oilers — who ended up making the Stanley Cup finals as an eighth seed.
The Sharks also were done in by a defensive-minded team, the St. Louis Blues — who held the Sharks to eight total goals. While these are not the same high-flying Sharks of the past, they've still got plenty of offensive talent that just didn't deliver. St. Louis, meanwhile, had 14 goals — seven combined by Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund — and kept their goalie rotation of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak working to perfection. After all, in the regular season, the Blues allowed 1.89 goals per game to lead the league. The Sharks, like the Red Wings, face an uncertain off-season that follows a campaign where they clearly slipped. They barely made the playoffs, lost to a Blues team that did a mid-season 180 after Ken Hitchcock took over and now face the same big question as before: are they built to win a Stanley Cup?
A lot of teams will be asking questions this off-season, and unfortunately for the Red Wings and Sharks, they're the first ones on the proverbial golf course.