Detroit Red Wings: Revisiting the 2001-02 NHL Season

Ryan Bourdeau@@ryanbourdeauCorrespondent IIMay 17, 2012

Detroit Red Wings: Revisiting the 2001-02 NHL Season

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    They were arguably the most talented NHL team of all-time. 

    Littered with future Hall-of-Famers, they cruised through the regular season and the playoffs en route to the franchise's 10th Stanley Cup overall and third in six seasons.

    The NHL has not seen a team with this much star power since that season, and they may not see one ever again.

    And all of this is a good sign for the 2012-13 Red Wings.

No. 2 Seed Red Wings Are Upset by Kings in 2000-01 Playoffs

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    The 2000-01 Red Wings were a very good team in their own right.

    They won the Central division and earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference behind the other powerhouse team in the West, the Colorado Avalanche.

    The Wings had an excellent core, headed by captain Steve Yzerman, Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom and perennial All-Stars Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan.

    They unfortunately ran into a Kings team in the first round of the playoffs that was riding a hot goaltender in Felix Potvin and a great defensive pairing of Rob Blake and Mathieu Schneider. 

    Sound familiar?

Ken Holland Has a Legendary Summer

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    It's not every year that a GM can go out and add four future Hall of Famers in the same off-season to a team that is already full of stars.

    A roster that already included Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios and Igor Larionov was vaulted to epic levels with the additions of Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille via free agency, Dominik Hasek via trade, and the addition of a little known draft pick from Russia named Pavel Datsyuk.

    Dominik Hasek was fresh off a season that earned him the Vezina trophy when Holland sent Vyacheslav Kozlov, a first-round pick in 2002 (Daniel Paille) and future considerations (Jim Slater) to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for the unique goaltender. This was a  great trade for the Red Wings.

    After being on the wrong end of a 4-2 series loss to Luc Robitaille and the Kings only months prior, Holland decided to make a run at the man who would end his career as the highest scoring left-winger of all-time.  The result was a two-year, $9 million deal to bring Robitaille to Motown.

    Just two years removed from scoring one of the most controversial goals in NHL history, ironically against his new teammate Hasek, Brett Hull was no longer wanted in Dallas and Ken Holland was all too happy to take him off their hands.

    And after being selected 171st overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Pavel Datsyuk was finally brought over to the U.S. following the 2000-01 season.

    Lets not forget that Holland also convinced Scotty Bowman, perhaps the greatest coach in NHL history, to come back for one last season.

    Needless to say, the team was now the overwhelming favorite to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup in 2001-02.

The Powerhouse Wings Roll Through the Regular Season

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    Now armed with a roster any bench boss would dream of, Scotty Bowman coached the Wings to a 22-3-1-1 record through the first two months of the season.

    While they weren't able to keep up quite that pace through the entire season, they did end up winning the Presidents' Trophy by a wide margin.

    New additions Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille each netted 30 goals, while Dominik Hasek went 41-15-8 with a 2.17 GAA. Datsyuk also managed 35 points with minimal ice time as a rookie on a stacked team.

    The Wings' depth was clearly their greatest strength, as they boasted four different players with 30 or more goals and fourteen players with 20 or more points. Their leading scorer, Brendan Shanahan, finished the year with 75 points.

    Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy as the league's best defense man and Chris Chelios led the league with an amazing plus-40 rating.

    In addition to the three 500-goal scorers Detroit came into the season with (Hull, Robitaille and Yzerman), Shanahan would join the club on March 23, 2002 when he netted a goal against Patrick Roy.

    Yzerman dealt with knee issues for the majority of the season, missing 30 games as a result, but still managed to finish sixth in team scoring.  His grit and determination was an inspiration all season long.

Playoffs Round 1: Wings Defeat Canucks 4-2

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    The Canucks rolled into the Motor City as major underdogs, but they still had a very talented lineup led by Markus Naslund, future Red Wing Todd Bertuzzi and the young Sedin twins.

    After the Canucks took the first two games in Detroit, many Red Wings fans were panicking. 

    Steve Yzerman, who was easily the Wings' best player in those two losses despite his failing knee, showed why he is "The Captain" by having a players-only meeting after Game 2 to rally his teammates.

    There are not many players in NHL history who have garnered enough respect to have the ear of a room full of future Hall-of-Famers, but Stevie Yzerman is definitely one of them.

    Nobody outside that locker room knows exactly what was said, but it certainly worked. The Wings stormed back to take the next four games and sent the Canucks packing.

Playoffs Round 2: Wings Defeat Blues 4-1

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    Detroit was now playing with extreme confidence thanks to their dismantling of Vancouver. It would serve them well against their scrappy division rival, the St. Louis Blues.

    This series was rather uneventful, as Detroit dominated the series. Brett Hull tormented his former team by netting a pair of goals and an assist in the first two games.  

    St. Louis showed some life by winning Game 3 in convincing fashion, but the Wings showed their veteran savvy by not letting the blowout loss get to them, and they came back with a vengeance in Game 4.

    One of the dirtier players in the game, Chris Pronger, tried to take a run at Yzerman in Game 4, but ended up tearing his ACL and missing the remainder of the series.  This was a crushing blow for the Blues, as the Red Wings eliminated them in five games.

Playoffs Round 3: Wings Defeat Avalanche 4-3

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    The glory days of the Red Wings in the late 90s and early 2000s just would not have been the same without their rivalry with the Colorado Avalanche.

    This was the match-up everyone was craving coming into the second round. It was a low scoring, tightly contested series, which came as no surprise given the evenly matched squads and the presence of Hasek and Patrick Roy in goal.

    Game 1 featured a playoff hero from the past, as Darren McCarty netted a hat-trick in a 5-3 Wings win.

    The teams would then alternate dramatic overtime wins before Colorado evened things up with a 3-2 win in Game 4, ensuring this would be a series for the ages.

    Game 5 was electric. The teams scratched and clawed their way to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation, which meant the third overtime game of the series.  It was a familiar foe that silenced the Detroit crowd, when Peter Forsberg scored to put the Red Wings on the brink of elimination.

    It was a heartbreaking loss for the Wings, who now had to head back to Denver in a must-win scenario.

    However, Steve Yzerman gave the team yet another speech before Game 6 and they came out on fire.

    Goaltending was the story of Game 6.  On a night when Dominik Hasek played one of his greatest games of all-time, Patrick Roy made a mistake that not only resulted in the game winning goal, it proved to be one of the more memorable plays of his career.

    Yzerman was left all alone in front of Roy, who made the initial save and seemed to have dodged a bullet, when he raised his glove hand to signify that he had the puck safely tucked away in its webbing.  The only problem for Roy was that he left the puck in the crease, and Brendan Shanahan quickly tucked it in the Avalanche net. 

    McCarty struck again to make it 2-0 and Hasek hung on for the shutout to send the series back to Motown for a deciding Game 7.

    The Joe was rocking that Wednesday night, and the fans were witness to something nobody could have expected.  Detroit scored on their second and third shifts of the game en route to a 4-0 first period lead.  Hasek notched second consecutive shutout and Detroit tacked on three more goals for a shocking 7-0 win, sending the Red Wings to the Finals yet again. 

Stanley Cup Finals: Wings vs. Hurricanes

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    The Carolina Hurricanes were the clear underdogs coming into the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002.

    However, the Hurricanes came into Detroit and took the first game of the series.

    Detroit started Game 2 on the wrong note by taking an early penalty, but would quickly make up for it with a Kirk Maltby shorthanded goal.

    Rod Brind'amour showed why he's a Hall of Fame player by scoring a shorthanded goal of his own to tie the game not long after.  Carolina's penalty kill was superb all game long, but the Wings finally broke through in the third period thanks to a game-winning goal by Nicklas Lidstrom.

    With the series now in Raleigh, the Hurricanes were a much more aggressive and punishing team.  Carolina took the early lead but Igor Larionov answered shortly after to tie the game after one period. 

    We would then see four straight periods of scoreless, smashmouth hockey as the game made it to a third overtime period.  Capping off perhaps the biggest game of a legendary career, Larionov netted a beautiful game-winner, giving the Wings a 2-1 series lead and regaining home ice advantage.

    Game 4 was the most lopsided affair of the series.  Detroit's scoring power was just too much with Brett Hull and Brendan Shanahan adding to yet another Larionov goal to send the series back to Motown with a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup

Red Wings Win 10th Stanley Cup in Franchise History

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    The city of Detroit was abuzz on June 13, 2002.  Their beloved Wings were back in town with a chance to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in six years, this time in front of their fans.

    It seemed like the Wings would cruise to victory until Jeff O'Neill scored late in the second period to make it 2-1 and give the Red Wings a dynamite finish.

    The Hurricanes would not go quietly, and they pushed back hard in the third period, but Hasek would not be denied his chance at finally winning a Stanley Cup.

    Once Brendan Shanahan put the puck into an empty net with less than a minute to go in the game, Joe Louis Arena erupted.

    It was a win that resulted in many long-time NHL veterans, some of which who were already headed to the Hall of Fame, finally earning their first sip of champagne from Lord Stanley's Cup. 

How Does This Relate to Today's Wings?

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    Well, it may not have been a legitimate upset, but I think it's fair to say Detroit was at least Nashville's equal in their first round playoff series this season.  Much like after the disappointing 2001 loss to Los Angeles, Detroit will be looking to shake things up a bit this offseason.

    You can't obviously expect Ken Holland to go out once again and acquire the type of talent he did in the 2001 offseason.  That type of player does not come available every year, let alone four of them in the same season.

    They do, however, have a ton of cap space again and some holes in the lineup similar to that year.

    Like Luc Robitaille before him, Zach Parise is one of the premier left wingers in the NHL.  Alex Semin would also be a very shiny silver medal at left wing if Parise doesn't work out.  With Tomas Holmstrom likely retiring, there will be a void at left wing that will be important to fill.

    Following the 2001-2002 season, it was apparent that although he was still playing at a high level, Steve Yzerman was on his last legs. 

    The Captain had off-season knee surgery and missed the first 66 games of the following year. 

    This year, Nicklas Lidstrom was still one of the top defensemen in the league but is beginning to show some signs of slowing.

    Another big free agent signing on the back end will be on Holland's to-do list as well.  Ryan Suter is the obvious choice, and he would be a perfect fit to shoulder the load of Lidstrom's departure and the potential loss of Brad Stuart. 

    If Suter is not available, there are still plenty of other options on defense with the likes of Dennis Wideman, Pavel Kubina, Jaroslav Spacek, Filip Kuba, Hal Gill and Michal Rozsival all entering free agency.

    Finally, current prospects in the organization will be a big part of this team's future.  Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith are stars in the making who will play large roles in 2012-2013 much like Pavel Datsyuk before them.

    So, let's recap.

    A disappointing playoff loss to a team riding a hot goalie and a solid defense, a summer of big free agent signings, highly touted prospects stepping into full time roles and a legendary captain at the end of his career.

    Here's hoping history repeats itself.