2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Why the Detroit Red Wings Did Not Choke

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2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Why the Detroit Red Wings Did Not Choke
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Wednesday night's Game 7 overtime loss broke the hearts of every hockey fan in Hockeytown. Their beloved Red Wings could not close out the hated Chicago Blackhawks for a third straight game, and their magical run that started at the end of the regular season was over.

Two weeks ago, Detroit residents would have been pleasantly surprised to see their team going the full seven games with Chicago. Nobody gave the Wings a chance to even reach Game 6.

Now that a 3-1 series lead has vanished, there is nothing but sadness in Hockeytown.

Apparently, blowing it like Detroit just did counts as "choking."

That is not the case.

It goes without saying that a loss is a loss, and the Red Wings obviously lost. However, not every loss is a choke. Especially if the losing team was a seven seed that made the playoffs on the last day of the regular season and the winning team is a record-breaking President's Trophy winner.

It may seem like disappointment to the Red Wings right now, but as time goes by, it will be easier to look at the expectation-defying run as a moment to be proud of the team yet again.

The naysayers said the Wings were finally in decline, that the playoff streak was over. They said they could not compete with the top teams in the NHL.

Detroit had been in a slump for the past month of the regular season. The Red Wings had put their 21-year playoff streak in serious jeopardy by falling behind the Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars with only four games left on the schedule.

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This was the first time Detroit had been in this position in over two decades. Win out or go home before the postseason even begins. Sure enough, the Red Wings went on to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars to seal up the seventh seed in the Western Conference.

That's not choking.

Before the playoffs started, the Red Wings were still not getting the credit they deserved. They faced a second-seeded Anaheim Ducks team that was poised to keep turning heads themselves.

Experts were saying that the Red Wings had proven nothing in their last four games. Three were against non-playoff teams and one was against a Kings team that had already secured a spot.

The Red Wings and Ducks battled through one of the best of many series we have seen between the two teams. In the end, Detroit had overcome three separate series deficits and took Game 7 on the road to complete the upset.

That's not choking.

Then came the Chicago series. The Red Wings were about to face the team which had beaten them seven straight times and did not lose in regulation through its first 24 games. It also had not lost more than two games in a row the entire year. Taking four out of seven from the Blackhawks seemed like a completely impossible task.

According to the "experts," Detroit would be lucky to push the series to five games. These thoughts were reinforced when Chicago took Game 1 at home in dominating fashion, winning by a final score of 4-1 (although the game didn't seem nearly that close).

Somehow, the Red Wings were able to prove people wrong again. They went on to win the next three games, handing the Blackhawks three losses in a row for the first time this season.

That's not choking.

What certain fans consider to be "choking" is what happened after those three wins. The problem is that the Red Wings were never supposed to be in the position to choke anyway. How can a team choke if it was not supposed to get far enough to be able to?

In fact, an argument can be made that Detroit was not expected to win any of the final three games.

Chicago winning Game 5 at home to keep the season alive seemed like a given. The Blackhawks have been great at Joe Louis Arena for years, and Detroit was due to lose at home in Game 6. Chicago returned home for a winner-take-all Game 7 with all sorts of confidence and determination.

Detroit even pushed the Hawks to the brink in Game 7 by forcing overtime and keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. It fought off Chicago's attack for three straight periods before Brent Seabrook finally popped one by Jimmy Howard to end the series.

A series that was supposed to be in Chicago's favor by an extreme margin turned out to be almost as even as a series could get.

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Chicago was clearly better in three games; Detroit was clearly better in three games. Game 7 was a well-played contest by both teams, and the only deciding factor was that Chicago was able to score first in overtime.

That's not choking.

If Detroit fans want to know what choking is, look no further than what the Detroit Tigers did in September 2009, what the Red Wings did after taking a 3-2 lead in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final or what the Red Wings did against the Kings in 2001.

In 2001, the Red Wings were six minutes away from a 3-1 series lead, only to give up four straight goals and lose the series 4-2.

This year isn't like those years.

Hold your heads high, Hockeytown, as there is nothing to be ashamed of. Your Wings went much deeper into the playoffs than anyone had expected, and there is nothing but upside for a team that should be one of the top contenders in 2014.

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