By Ashley Dunkak
@AshleyDunkak

CBS DETROIT – About 10 months ago, Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock thought the team had no chance of making the playoffs. The 23-year streak was going to come to an end.

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“I just think we weren’t good enough, just not good enough,” Babcock told reporters Thursday in Montreal after the Red Wings clinched a playoff berth thanks in part to the point they gained with an overtime loss to the Canadiens. “I didn’t know some of the kids could be as good as they were.”

A loss by the Boston Bruins put Detroit over the edge, bumping the playoff streak to its 24th year.

The Red Wings would have preferred a win and two points rather than an overtime loss and one point, of course, but they were still happy to solidify a spot in the postseason.

“It doesn’t really matter how it looks, just get points, and we’ve been doing that,” Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “Obviously Ottawa keeps winning, but there’s a lot of teams in the mix here. That point was huge. Obviously two points would have been better, but we’re in, and now we can move on.”

Taking until the end of the season to clinch a playoff spot has been the norm for Detroit in recent years.

“It’s nothing new for us,” Zetterberg said. “Last three years, this has been a situation we had to win games, had to get points to get in the postseason … Almost all the guys has been through it, and we knew if we just kept playing good hockey, we would have a good chance.”

Zetterberg and fellow star Pavel Datsyuk stepped up in a big way Thursday and also Tuesday. In each game, Zetterberg and Datsyuk each had two points.

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“They were outstanding,” Babcock said. “If you’re [Niklas] Kronwall and those two guys, Datsyuk and Zetterberg, they feel like I do. You feel like you’ve got an obligation to the city. You’ve had this run going for a long time, and you feel that. These guys have been around a long time. They’re almost part of the management team or coaching staff [in] that they feel that it’s your duty; as part of the Red Wings you just keep finding a way to get in.

“People talk about 24 years, but for me, 10 years since the lockout we’re the only team in the National Hockey League to make it all 10 times,” Babcock added. “The last three years we’ve been grinding to get in, we’ve changed our group totally, and to find a way, I think has been incredible.”

Along with excitement over securing a playoff spot, though, Babcock noted the team’s goaltender situation is still unsettled. Jimmy Howard, who had gotten the team wins Tuesday and Saturday, allowed four goals Thursday, and Babcock expressed his frustration.

“We should have won that game,” Babcock said. “The puck went in; it shouldn’t have went in. We’re going to have to deal with that the next few days to get that straightened out.

“They can’t go in,” Babcock added. “Period. It’s the National Hockey League. They can’t go in.”

The coach would not commit to starting Howard over backup Petr Mrazek, who played particularly well in place of Howard in January, when Howard was injured. Mrazek has also struggled lately, however.

“I’m going to go have a beer and I’m going to think about that, how’s that?” Babcock said.

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The Red Wings will play their final game of the regular season on the road Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.