Entering Game 7, it was clear which team would have the advantage in the intangibles: experience, momentum, poise, etc. Those all belonged to the Red Wings. And it showed. They were the veteran group comfortable in the spotlight as they had been there so many times before.
Perhaps Detroit was too comfortable. The Wings came out knowing all too well they had to stem the tide in a rocking arena on the road. They weren’t taking many chances, trying to make their way through. As a result, they were outworked and outplayed in the opening period. And they left it trailing by two.
They did have 11 shots on net in the first, but a lot was just firing from beyond the dots. The quality chances weren’t there. The team was not interested in being caught in transition. They were relaxed. It looked like they weren’t willing to take the risk for a shot at the rewards.
But the somewhat sleepy first period doesn’t explain the night away. As much as they were dominated in the first period, they were as dominant in the second, getting one goal to show for their efforts.
“We pushed the issue the rest of the game, but their goalie was outstanding. I thought this series was a good series. It was entertaining, it was fast,” Coach Mike Babcock said after the game.
Babcock credited some line changes necessitated by the injuries to Todd Bertuzzi and later a friendly-fire hit on Dan Cleary as being the catalyst to get them back in. Yes, for a team that had erased a 3-0 deficit to get here, a 2-0 lead in a game didn’t seem insurmountable. That doesn’t mean those guys going down didn’t hurt.
“We missed those guys, but it was an opportunity for other guys. I’m proud of our group, our group worked real hard,” Babcock said.