The “12 Days of Christmas” is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the Detroit Red Wings’ last title came 12 years ago in 2008, when Nicklas Lidstrom became the first European-born captain to hoist the Stanley Cup, but alas, that’s where our team’s countdown to Christmas kicks off.
2007-08 Regular Season in Review
The Red Wings were the team to beat wire to wire, finishing with a record of 54-21-7, and earning the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the NHL. Detroit had three all-stars that season in Lidstrom, goalie Chris Osgood, and forward Pavel Datsyuk, who led the offense alongside fellow “Eurotwin” Henrik Zetterberg. The two of them accounted for 97 and 92 points, respectively, and Zetterberg led the team in goals, recording 45 in 75 total games. Though Lidstrom is already in the Hall of Fame, cases can also be made for Osgood, Datsyuk, and Zetterberg to be enshrined as well.
Osgood and Dominik Hasek split time in net, as each started 40 games. Osgood compiled a record of 27-9-4 with a .914 save percentage (SV%) and goals allowed average (GAA) of 2.09, and Hasek was equal to the task, going 27-10-3 with a .902 save percentage and 2.14 GAA. They combined for nine shutouts — Osgood with four and Hasek with five — and both played so well they earned the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals scored that season.
The Red Wings led the league with 115 points, followed by the Pacific Division champion San Jose Sharks (108), and Northwest Division champion Minnesota Wild (98). The only other Central Division team to qualify for the playoffs were the Nashville Predators, who snuck in as the eighth seed with 91 points.
2007-08 Stanley Cup Playoff Run
In what was then their 17th consecutive playoff appearance, the Red Wings opened up against the aforementioned Predators and quickly asserted dominance, winning the first two games with Hasek in net. After struggling in the next two games, though, coach Mike Babcock swapped Osgood for Hasek during Game 4, a decision that paid dividends beginning in Game 5.
Following the switch in net, Detroit won nine straight games, including a second round sweep of the Colorado Avalanche. John Franzen burst onto the scene as an offensive machine, recording at least one goal in each game while totaling nine in the series. He became the first player since 1985 to notch two hat tricks in the same series, and holds a number of playoff records — most goals in a series, most game-winning goals in a postseason (5), and most goals in a single playoff season (13, shared with Zetterberg).
After dispatching the Avalanche in four games, Detroit won the first three games against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final en route to a 4-2 series win, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final to play the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Red Wings jumped out to a 2-0 series lead behind two consecutive Osgood shutouts, and ultimately built a 3-1 series lead. They seemed primed to close the series out in Game 5, but surrendered a one-goal lead with just 34 seconds left in the game — a game the Penguins went on to win in triple overtime. Though that could have been a crushing blow, Detroit bounced back, and ultimately won Game 6 after Osgood made a desperate flurry of saves as time expired. Zetterberg was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy after leading all players with 27 points on 13 goals and 14 assists, and the Red Wings celebrated late into the night.
Osgood compiled an impressive stat line after relieving Hasek, going 14-4 with a .930 SV% and 1.55 GAA with three shutouts, while also becoming the first goalie since Terry Sawchuck to win a Stanley Cup 10 years apart. Other notable performances included Datsyuk (23 points on 10 goals and 13 assists), Franzen (18 points on 13 goals and five assists) and Niklas Kronwall (15 assists).
Milestones, Awards, and Subsequent Red Wings Teams
There was plenty to celebrate that season: Tomas Holmstrom and Hasek both played in their 700th career NHL game, Dallas Drake his 1,000th, and Chris Chelios his 1,600th. Lidstrom notched both his 700th career assist and 100th playoff assist, and Datsyuk cleaned up, winning the Selke and Lady Byng Trophies, as well as the plus/minus award.
Though the Red Wings remained a serious contender for a few more seasons, the closest they would come to another championship was a heartbreaking seven-game loss to the Penguins the very next season, in 2008-09. Since then, they have yet to return to the Conference Finals, and have missed the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.
The championship 12 years ago was truly special, bookmarking a run of four Stanley Cups in 11 seasons while cementing some iconic players in permanent Red Wings lore.