Stanley Cup Playoffs: How the Detroit Red Wings Can Make This a Series

Franklin Steele@FranklinSteeleAnalyst IIMay 7, 2011

I know that the odds are greatly in San Jose's favor. I know the numbers. Not a lot of teams have rebounded from being down 3-0 to take a series. But a number of teams have pushed it to the limit.

There is no reason these Detroit Red Wings can't push San Jose Sharks the same way the Blackhawks pushed Vancouver. Ultimately, the Canucks prevailed—as they should have. And the Sharks will probably eventually win this tilt with Detroit. But that's one of the best parts of any sport: belief. 

The idea that tonight, just this once, we are witnessing the impossible.

In a playoff year that has seen the Lightning come back from a 3-1 deficit to down the Penguins, in a year where that same squad swept the Capitals, in a year where the 'Hawks almost made history and in a year where the Boston Bruins redeemed themselves mightily...would it be too hard to believe that this veteran-laden group in Detroit could become a part of that story line, as opposed to rolling over and becoming merely part of the sediment?

Here are five reasons that the Red Wings can still make this a fight for the Sharks, and perhaps even push it to a Game 7.

1. Detroit's Old Guard Isn't Quite Ready to Relinquish their Spots

This is arguably the biggest point. Lidstrom played a phenomenal game last night, and it's fair to assume that he'll bring the same effort during these next few outings. The man has had one of the most brilliant careers ever, but he getting to that ripe old age of 40-something.

He can obviously still hang physically. It's still a point of conversation the next day when a player burns Nick Lidstrom.  And he can still show up in big games—last night is a great example.

One has to figure he's leaning one way or the other. If he is considering wrapping up a stellar career after this season (even just a little bit) do you think this is the way that he wants to go down? In a 4-1 route to the Sharks, or anyone? No way, no how. He's going to do everything he can to prevent that from happening.

Ditto for Kris Draper. After being traded to Detroit for a dollar in 1993 he has established himself as a fixture on one of the most consistent hockey teams ever assembled. The flight to San Jose is a long one. What do you figure he's thinking about right now?

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that Draper's time in Detroit is coming to a close. The young players that the Red Wings have waiting in the minors should start cracking the lineup next fall. Every game he plays could now be his last with a Winged Wheel on his chest.

And the players around these guys know this as well. This is a cohesive locker room. Nobody wants to let them down.

2.  All Four of the First Games Have Been Decided by One Goal

That isn't to say that the right team isn't winning this series. San Jose has been better, and I can admit that. But we're having a very different discussion right now if it's Abdelkader that scores the OT game-winner in Game 3.

It's a dangerous ploy. The coulda, shoulda, woulda trap, if you will. And it's a game I am not inclined to play. The point I am making is that all four of these games have been up for grabs.  The next three will more than likely follow suit. 

If the Hockey Gods so choose, Detroit could see a game-winner go in off of a San Jose stick for once, and end up at 3-2 or 3-3 pretty easily. The Sharks game winning goals in the first three games came from deflections off of Detroit's players.

That's the breaks. That's hockey.

But I've been around the game long enough to know that these types of things—bad calls, terrible bounces, lucky breaks, and the like—tend to even out of a series. The further Detroit can push this, the better their odds of seeing things swing back around.

Again, I'm not trying to detract from anything that San Jose has done to this point. All I am saying is the the Wings are due a bounce or two.

3. Jimmy Howard

Howard has arguably been the best player for the Red Wings, but he has yet to really outright steal a game.  He has kept Detroit in games they shouldn't have been in, yet the offense seemingly went dry and couldn't finish the job.

If Jim can continue to play the way that he has been while the Wings set off some fireworks, we're looking at a different series outlook. Goaltenders will always have to be outstanding to make any sort of series wide comeback. 

The game ebbs and flows. It moves and pushes back and forth between two squads.  San Jose will have their opportunities, and plenty of them. If Jim can stymie sustained pressure and cut back on their opportune scoring while the offense matches him, Detroit can claw back into this.

4. Secondary Scoring Finally Making an Impact for the Wings

Burtuzzi had a beauty last night, and Helm came up with a huge goal late to put Detroit over the top after blowing a three-goal lead. The Wings need to sustain that kind of attack, and try to control their highs a bit moving forward.

San Jose hasn't been downing the Wings because of their top line. It's been the depth guys like Couture (another inherent Wing killer, apparently) getting the job done. The Wings' secondary players must find a way to stay on par with these guys to have a chance of seeing a Game 6 or 7.

5. This is San Jose

The team isn't brimming with full-time killers. But they do seem to have Detroit's number nowadays.

Granted the Sharks have played outstanding hockey to the man during this series. But the guys in the Sharks locker room know the history. The game is just as mental as it is physical.

Hypothetically if the Wings go to San Jose and win the next game it could possibly get into the heads of a few Sharks. These are professionals, and it is a long shot to count on.  Detroit would be wise not to do so. But on the off chance that the Wings can get them overthinking a bit, it could win them another game.

These scenarios are ripe with ifs and buts and maybes. I know that. This isn't me thinking that the Wings are definitely going to come back and make this anything beyond what it has been:  San Jose drubbing the hell out of the Wings in one-goal hockey games.

These are just possibilities. I'm not looking for Detroit to come back and win the series in Game 7. I'd just like to see them push it to at least a Game 6 and look more competitive. I don't feel like that is out of the realm of chance for the Red Wings to make this a fight.

What do you think the keys are for Detroit to make this somewhat competitive? Or why do you think the Sharks advance in the next game?


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