April brings rain and Red Wings in NHL playoffs

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

NEW YORK (AP) - As familiar as warm weather and rain is an appearance by the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

For the past 13 seasons they have been joined by the New Jersey Devils, but that has changed because the one constant team in the Eastern Conference didn’t measure up this year. Detroit’s dominance dates even further: Not since 1990 have the Red Wings sat out the race for the Cup.

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom, in his 19th NHL season, has seen it all. Throughout his surely Hall of Fame career, Lidstrom has only worn a winged wheel sweater and has never missed the playoffs.

He got a bit of a scare last year when Detroit qualified as only the No. 5 seed. But Lidstrom and the Red Wings still managed to reach the second round with a tough, seven-game series win over the Phoenix Coyotes _ their first-round opponent again.

“Having been with such a good organization for 20 years, and being part of a winning tradition here, you almost take it for granted,” Lidstrom said of being a playoff staple. “Last year was the hardest one where we really had to focus and get some wins and had our backs up against the wall for pretty much the whole season.

“It’s always been fun going into the playoffs. People are always waiting for April to come around for the playoffs.”

And why not?

Not only have the Red Wings made it a habit to be in the playoffs, they are always a threat to win it all. During this 20-season run, Detroit has captured the Cup four times and been to the finals in two other years.

The Central Division champions own the No. 3 seed this time. If they advance past Phoenix again they could pose a serious threat to the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks and the second-seeded San Jose Sharks, who despite being a dominant regular-season team in recent years are still seeking their first trip to the finals.

The Canucks, who topped the NHL with a team-record 117 points, have been knocked out in the second round by Chicago in two consecutive years. The Blackhawks rode last season’s win all the way to the Stanley Cup title and will likely have confidence again when they take on Vancouver in the first round.

Don’t think that the Canucks haven’t taken notice.

“We took a very hard look at the end of the playoffs organizationally about where we were, and we analyzed every element of this team from training staff, medical staff, coaching staff, players, how we handled things as managers,” Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis said.

“The experience of losing two years in a row to the same team was one that was very difficult for a lot of people to accept. However, we did it with a team that we don’t think is as competitive as the team we have this year. Overall, we feel more confident this year.”

The Blackhawks might be sensing a new lease on life, too, given their fortunate road to the playoffs. Chicago could’ve made it an easy Sunday for the team and its fans by beating the Red Wings at home, but Detroit showed why it is so good this time of year and left with a 4-3 victory.

That opened the door for the Dallas Stars to sneak in at No. 8, but with their season on the line they were beaten by already-eliminated Minnesota. The Wild won one more for their home fans and for coach Todd Richards, who was fired Monday.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player