How do you define this season for the Detroit Red Wings? Was this season defined by the record-setting home winning streak, or the lackluster playoff flame-out at the hands of the Nashville Predators. Or was the season doomed by the injury virus that spread through the team over the course of the last two months? The optimist would agree with the former. The cynic to the median, and thus leaving the excuse-maker for the latter.
Me? I’m somewhere in the middle.
I might be riding the fence a little, but in what aspect of anything can you put the entirety of the blame on one portion?
This team was really good. You don’t win 21 consecutive home games in the National Hockey League without that trait. This team was also flawed, albiet their biggest flaw was simply when most of the players were born. Or was their biggest flaw that Pekka Rinne is really, really good?
The Red Wings outshot the Preds in their series, controlled play more often than not, yet found themselves as the first team eliminated from this years playoffs. That doesn’t sound like a team who wasn’t good. This the NHL, where the Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks lasted only six games against the 8-seed Los Angeles Kings and their fantastic goaltender. Jonas Hiller nearly took the 8-seed Anaheim Ducks to the conference finals in 2009. Hot goalies happen. Hot goalie happened to the Red Wings. But was that it?
I’ve seen many people pointing at the Darren Helm injury as the reason the Wings are playing golf right now. Helm is a very good player, but his best work is usually performed on the penalty kill, something that the Wings were proficient in during the series. He certainly would have helped, but was there really a drop off with Gustav Nyquist?
There are a myriad of things that can be said about this team. And they are probably all true.
Yes injuries hurt. Yes the Wings are getting old. Yes Pekka Rinne is really good.
They all may contribute, or it is the NHL playoffs, and these things happen. The Red Wings’ fan base is so accustomed to success, that any taste of the contrary is a little more bitter than most. This was the first season in the last six the Wings’ failed to get out of the first round. Sometimes perspective is needed, but fans of traditionally successful teams don’t want to hear that.
This team isn’t going anywhere. They will be good again next year. I just hope Pekka Rinne finds himself on the other half of the playoff bracket. And Darren Helm’s arm doesn’t get split open. And the Red Wings can find some of those shots in the back of the net.
Sometimes even really good teams just need to catch a break.
It truly is that simple.