While it may seem like a mystery to some, the Detroit Red Wings just don't seem to lose in the playoffs. They may have their blips in the regular season, but the attitude on the bench and in the locker room dramatically changes the minute the post-season begins.
The answer is quite simple, and may cause arguments, but the fact of the matter is, they try. From getting undressed after game 82 until their last playoff game, the Detroit players and coaches are relentless in their effort to win.
Take a team like San Jose. Best regular season record, fourth in goals, third in powerplay, but once the playoffs start, the team seems to rely on those stats to get them through. Everything for them suffers, and consequentially, they lose early.
Detroit is the exact opposite. One hundred percent of the players give 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time, and the results show it. Looking at game four of the Western Conference final, every time Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews touched the puck, there were Detroit bodies adding pressure to force a pass or turnover. They then capitalize on those chances by getting odd man rushes or drawing penalties.
They never seem to stop. It is the one reason that they beat their opponents so badly in the playoffs. Even in the four games they have lost (twice in OT, and by one goal, the other two), they still played 100 percent the entire game and contended for the win.
In round one against Columbus, the Blue Jackets looked lost in a sea of red. When Detroit scored early, the Jackets had no answer, and when the score was close or tied halfway through the game, Detroit would score in bunches and seal the victory. Especially in game four of that series, Columbus looked to play more desperately and scored early. But Detroit out lasted and scored a late goal to clinch the series.
It is that kind of effort that wins championships, and it didn't stop in the first round.
Game one of round two against the Ducks, Detroit again scored late in the third to close any hopes of overtime. Although games two and three were loses, Detroit still outplayed the Ducks, who relied solely on Jonas Hiller in the series. Games four and five were blowouts, while game six was all Hiller, despite another late goal and resurgence by the Wings. A late goal in game seven was the clincher, but at that point, no surprise.
So what about teams who have more skill? Take the Blackhawks in game four. Detroit was without Hart Trophy candidate Pavel Datsyuk and defensive legend Niklas Lidstrom, yet they still dominated and out performed the energetic and youthful Hawks.
Same story in last year's Stanley Cup final. Arguably both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are better players than both Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, but Detroit still dominated the series. They never ceased fire on the Penguins. Perhaps the only similar effort shown by the Pens in that series was Marian Hossa's last second tying effort, and look where he is now.
It seems inevitable that Detroit will once again compete in the finals, and we can only expect the same consistent effort shown, and hopefully a better effort by the Eastern Conference champions.
Though it applied to the Sharks' loss to the Ducks, former Red Wings' assistant coach and current Sharks' coach Todd McLellan roughly sums up the reason for Detroit victory: "Their will was greater than our skill."