Will The Red Wings Continue Their Playoff Streak?

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22 years in a row.

That’s where the Detroit Red Wings playoff streak currently sits, and given the amount of injuries that this team has seen this year, there have been legitimate questions posed as to whether or not they’ll be able to extend that streak another year. I’m here to tell you one thing; they absolutely will.

In what could be their turning point of the season, the Red Wings up-ended the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout (which made the win even more surprising) and finally showed an offensive outburst after being held relatively quiet for so long this year.

It wasn’t any of the big names that were netting the goals, either, as youngster Tomas Tatar scored one, followed by Patrick Eaves to tie the game up going into the second period. It was here that the Wings rebounded after giving up an early Patrick Sharp goal by defenseman Kyle Quincey unleashing a howitzer passed Corey Crawford to tie the game up.

Later in the period, Gustav Nyquist, who set up the previous goal, put one in the back of the net to give the Wings the one goal advantage going into the third. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to hold the lead, and it seemed that a story that Red Wings fans had seen all too many times this season was about to unfold again.

The Blackhawks controlled the pace throughout the overtime period, and an icing call late gave them a chance in Red Wings territory with about 4 seconds to play. This 4 seconds seemed to take about an hour, as close chance after close chance was rejected by Jonas Gustavsson. Fortunately, they survived to see a shootout, although that typically doesn’t mean good news for Detroit.

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Chicago jumped out to a 2-1 advantage, which put all of the pressure on “The Toddfather” Todd Bertuzzi. He proved his reliability in shootouts and put one past Crawford to keep the Wings alive. The teams went back and forth with Crawford and Gustavsson stopping everything, that is until the oft-injured Darren Helm came up in the 6th round of the shootout and scored the game-winner (a Gustavsson save sealed the deal).

I had the pleasure of being in attendance for this incredible game, and out of all the Red Wings games I’ve been to over the course of my life (I’ve lost count), I’d have to say that this one had to be the best. Joe Louis Arena was filled with so much energy, and it really felt like it was a must-win game.

It was great to see the team finally start to pick things up at home, as they’ve actually been worse here as opposed to the road. The reason I went into so much depth about this one game was because I think a lot about this win pertains to how the rest of the season is going to play out.

We saw role players like Eaves and Quincey, as well as young guns like Nyquist and Tatar raise their game when the big name players like Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss are out. On top of this, the game winner came from a player who’s been out for a majority of the season (Helm).

We saw Alfredsson come back last night and make his presence felt immediately with an assist in the first period, and we’ll start to see all these injuries start to heal as the Olympics approach. Datsyuk has already stated that he’ll be back before the Olympics begin, Johan Franzen should be back any time within the next couple of days, Jimmy Howard is expected to return to the team on Tuesday in Philadelphia, and Stephen Weiss remains on schedule to return the first game after the season resumes.

On top of this, center Joakim Andersson has been skating is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday versus the Florida Panthers, and if he isn’t back then, he’ll be back at some point within the next week. To sum this up, that will be 3 top-6 forwards returning, as well as a key penalty-killer, and the starting goaltender.

When you consider the high profile players that have went down at one point or another throughout the year, I think it’s quite an amazement that the team has stayed afloat and remained in the playoff hunt. They currently sit at 8th in the Eastern Conference, and I think that’s a testament to how phenomenal the depth that they’ve accrued over the past few years is.

We’ve gotten a real glimpse into how good this team will be in the future with players like Nyquist, Tatar, Jurco, Sheahan, DeKeyser, and Mrazek, among others, and we’ve also seen that they’re capable of producing this season. These young, fresh legs will be a great compliment to the veteran pieces that are already in place, and in my opinion will be enough to guide them into the playoffs.

Thanks for reading.

Follow Brian Rzeppa on Twitter.