With 12 games remaining in the 2016-17 season and the Detroit Red Wings in last place in the Atlantic Division, it doesn’t appear they will extend their 25-year playoff streak.
There haven’t been many positives this season, but the Red Wings certainly have had their fair share of memorable moments during the past 25 seasons.
For this week’s edition of The Grind Line, we recounted our favorite Red Wings memories from the past 25 years.
Tom Mitsos: Attending the 2014 Winter Classic
When the NHL announced Michigan Stadium would host the 2014 Winter Classic, I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I had to attend.
At the time, I contemplated leaving Michigan for better job opportunities. I hadn’t received an advancement opportunity at my former job, and I knew I would have to move on to find something more rewarding.
However, I told myself I needed to attend this game and check off my bucket list “see my childhood team compete in an outdoor game” before I looked at positions outside of the state — and I’m glad I did.
My first trip to Michigan Stadium did not disappoint; it was an amazing experience. For a regular-season game in January, it felt like Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. There was electricity in the air, as fans tailgated outside the stadium despite the minus-10-degree weather (-1 with wind chill).
The crowd, which was pretty close to a 50/50 split of Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs fans, went back and forth with “Go Leafs Go” and “Let’s go Red Wings” chants, as each side attempted to drown out the opposition’s chants. When Daniel Alfredsson scored the game’s first goal, the horn blared and the stadium went crazy. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
To add to the experience, it snowed the entire game, turning Michigan Stadium into a life-sized snow globe. Other than the teeth-chattering low temperatures — I had to warm up with hot chocolate during intermissions, and I couldn’t feel my toes as I walked to my car after the game — it was a perfect day. The Red Wings lost 3-2 in a shootout, but the outcome didn’t matter. I witnessed my childhood team compete in an outdoor game in the nation’s biggest stadium.
Check it off the list.
Brandon Peleshok: Nicklas Lidstrom’s Goal from Center Ice
There is a plethora of memorable moments to choose from during the Red Wings’ 25-season playoff streak, but Nicklas Lidstrom’s goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the Wings’ 2002 postseason run is my personal favorite.
The 2001-02 roster was absolutely stacked, finishing the year atop the NHL with a record of 51-17-10-4. However, despite their success during the regular season, the Canucks had the Red Wings reeling early on in the first round of the playoffs.
Dominik Hasek struggled through the first two games in Detroit, allowing nine goals against, while the Wings fell behind 2-0 in the series. With roughly 30 seconds left in the second period of Game 3, Lidstrom decided to wind up and take a chance with a slap shot from center ice. The result not only created one of the most memorable goals scored by a Red Wing, but also one of the more notable goals from center ice in all of hockey.
Lidstrom’s goal changed the landscape of the series, and Detroit’s entire playoff run that year. The Wings won that game 3-1, and went on win three straight against the Canucks, finishing them off in six games. They defeated the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes en route to their 10th Stanley Cup. Lidstrom won the Conn Smythe Trophy, while finishing the 2001-02 playoffs with 16 points through 23 games.
Tony Wolak: 1998 Stanley Cup Finals
Growing up a Red Wings fan outside Washington D.C., you can imagine how excited I was to see my Hockeytown heroes face the Washington Capitals for the Stanley Cup. A few memories stand out above the rest from that incredible — but one-sided — series.
Prior to the Final starting, I traded all of my Capitals hockey cards to my friend, Kyle, for all of his Red Wings cards. For us, this series was everything. So, when Game 2 was starting to look bleak for the Red Wings, the events that followed made our competition that much better (for me). Steve Yzerman’s short-handed goal, the Esa Tikkanen miss, Doug Brown’s tying goal, then seeing Kris Draper end the game in overtime — it was an incredible comeback all-around.
Fast forward to Game 4 — the Red Wings dominated from the start, and I was ready to witness a second consecutive Stanley Cup championship. Knowing what had happened with Vladimir Konstantinov the prior summer, the impending victory was going to be extra special. When there was a break in play and Konstantinov stood up out of his wheelchair to cheer on his teammates, the reception by the Red Wings, Capitals and fans throughout the then-MCI Center was something I’ll never forget.
In four games, the Red Wings swept the Capitals to accomplish their goal. It was only fitting Yzerman immediately gave the Cup to Konstantinov, and the team surrounded their fallen comrade. The team pushing “Vladdie” around the rink with the Cup in his lap was the perfect ending to a storybook season.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.