Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland has a playoff recipe for success that contains four ingredients.
Ingredient 1: Your best players have to be your best players.
In Game 6 vs. the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit’s top line of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader scored all four goals and had seven points between them.
Ingredient 2: Your goalie must be great.
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard stood tall, especially in the last two periods, when the Ducks fired 30 shots his way. Howard had two spectacular saves: a sliding effort against Teemu Selanne and a point-blank glove save off the stick of Corey Perry.
Ingredient 3: You must have a little luck.
On Abdekader’s third-period goal that gave the Wings a two-goal lead, his slap shot ricochet off the back of Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller and into the net.
Ingredient 4: You must stay injury free.
Detroit enters Sunday’s Game 7 with a relatively healthy roster, even though the loss of rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser was a definite setback.
From the above list, you would presume that the Wings walked away with a fairly easy victory Friday to stave off elimination.
Your presumption would’ve been correct, except that Anaheim scored two goals in a span of 51 seconds in the third period to send the game into overtime — and Detroit fans into a collective freak-out.
So with all due respect to Holland’s four-ingredient recipe, there’s a fifth ingredient that needs to be added to the playoff success mix: player leadership.
Make no mistake, the Wings won Game 6 because their leaders refused to let the team sulk or succumb to the disappointment of blowing a two-goal lead with under four minutes to play.
“Our leadership group did a good job of settling us down (in between the third period and the overtime) and getting us regrouped,” Abdelkader said. “It was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to us, to come back in here and look at the game as a whole.”
“Coaches can say all they want, but players have to take responsibility.”
Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg wouldn’t elaborate, but he did indicate that things were said in the room while the Wings prepared for OT.
“The guys who have been here before stepped up and said what had to be said, and we didn’t have to say that much,” said Zetterberg, who scored twice, including the winner in OT. “We had to flush it and go out and play.”
In essence, those who spoke told their teammates that they had worked too hard and played too well to let the entire season slip away. Detroit’s mindset entering overtime was to get back to playing solid hockey.
“Going into OT, we just found a way,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Everyone just said to each other, ‘We’re better than this. Let’s just go out and do what we do.’”
Actions might speak louder than words, but sometimes words spur action and then victory.
If you need proof, look no further than the Red Wings’ OT triumph Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.