Tonight the Detroit Red Wings could find themselves in position they haven’t been in in almost a decade: On the losing end of a 4-0 sweep. The last time Detroit laid a series goose egg was in 2003. That was the year that they lost in the first round to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The Red Wings entered those playoffs as the second seed in the Western Conference and they were coming off of a Stanley Cup in the previous season. It was definitely shocking and the Wings became only the second team to be swept in the first round after winning the Cup the year before.
Now the Wings, having swept Phoenix in the first round, look like they may exit the playoffs tonight. Of course, this isn’t the second seed facing off against the seventh seed in the first round. This isn’t the defending Stanley Cup champion against a team that didn’t make the playoffs the year before. This is a second seed versus a third seed. In fact, the Red Wings found themselves in this exact situation last year.
Down three games to none against the San Jose Sharks in the 2010 Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Wings bounced back in a big way, defeating San Jose by a score of 7-1 at home. It wasn’t enough, however, as the Sharks wrapped the series up in game five.
Will history repeat itself this year? Red Wings coach Mike Babcock certainly hopes so:
“I believe in being positive,” Babcock said on Thursday. “That’s how I live my life. That’s how I deal with my family. That’s how I deal with every game. In other words, I just think that I’m going to disarm the bomb. I’ve always thought that. That’s how a coach thinks. Whether that’s selective memory, whether that’s being hard-headed or that’s just not being that smart … whatever you want to call it, I’m just a believer.”
Strangely enough, Mike Babcock was sitting on the Anaheim bench on that night in 2003 when the Red Wings were last swept. Babcock was the coach of the 2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks and he took that team to the Stanley Cup Final that year. The Ducks lost to New Jersey in seven games in the final.
Now Babcock faces the first NHL sweep of his career. Will the Wings bounce back like they did last year and live to see another day? Or is this it for Detroit (and maybe it for Modano as well?)
Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Kris Draper were all members of that 2003 Detroit team. They’ve experienced a sweep before and it’s probable that they didn’t like the feeling. Lidstrom was saying all the right things yesterday:
“We’re ready to compete. The deeper you get into a series, the tougher the games get. That’s what we have to be ready for tomorrow night. It’s going to be a tough game and we have to win. Otherwise we’re done.”
It’s going to take a lot to defeat the Sharks in four straight games without losing one. It may even take more than the Red Wings have left. This was expected to be a tough, close series and while two of the three games have gone to overtime, few expected a San Jose sweep. But that’s what Detroit is faced with right now. Will they react like they did last year and force a game five or will they fall like the 2003 Wings?