Missed chances overshadow Wings’ improbable playoff run

Many of us thought that they’d never make it this far.

In all honesty, most of us believed they wouldn’t even make the playoffs, but here they were – one shot, one goal away from making the Western Conference finals. It wasn’t meant to be.

Detroit’s season came to an abrupt end Wednesday night in Chicago, as the Wings dropped a 2–1 overtime decision to the Blackhawks in their winner-take-all Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

As much as we may appreciate the Wings’ effort and the endless hours of entertainment they provided us during their unforeseen playoff run, the fact is, they blew a 3-1 lead in this series.

It doesn’t matter whether Chicago was the best team in the league or not, the Wings had a magnificent opportunity and wasted it. And they know it.

“Guys should be proud and disappointed,” Daniel Cleary said. “We had three chances to close them out and we just didn’t get it done.”

Ultimately it’s about winning. Regardless of the situation and the breaks that fall or don’t fall your way. When you have a team on the ropes, you have to finish them off.

After their OT defeat the Wings talked about a sense of accomplishment and being proud of their overall playoff effort, which is the way they should feel. However, as redundant as this may be — they couldn’t deliver the knockout punch to the Blackhawks.

“You’re never happy when you’re done playing,” said Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg.  “We played a good game today, but it’s not good enough.

“You have to win four. We won three; they won four, season over.”

Zetterberg is absolutely correct. With all the good things the Wings did this playoff season, with all the valuable experience their rookies gobbled up, with the emergence of Jimmy Howard being a stable presence in goal, they still need to be a much better hockey club.

During the course of their run, a false sense of security seemed to prevail over the hockey populace. Concern over Detroit’s lack of consistent goal scoring and a defensive corps susceptible to lapses and turnovers seemed to melt away with each playoff victory.

“We’re a team that’s getting better,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But, to be at this level where we’re at right now, we have to improve our hockey club.”

“This year we did a lot of good things, worked hard and things came together for us, but we need more if we’re going to be consistent out of this.”

Specifically, Detroit must acquire a top-six forward who can score goals.  If there is one aspect of the Red Wings’ game that has really fallen off, it’s their goal-scoring prowess.

Adding a proven goal scorer along with a top-four defenseman will go a long way in keeping Detroit in the upper ranks of the NHL.

Because, will, desire, moxie and karma are all admirable traits, but as we saw Wednesday night in Chicago, when the season is on the line, the more talented team, the better team comes out on top.