With every season that passes from the Detroit Red Wings' Stanley Cup win in 2008, the number of current Red Wings without their name engraved on the Cup increases. Many holdovers are still around -- Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom -- but the ringless are starting to crowd those with a title.
It's not the rich history and multiple Stanley Cups that are fresh in the minds of the players in the Detroit locker room as the playoffs close in; it's the recent disappointments. It's losing Game 7 to the Penguins at home in the 2009 Stanley Cup finals. It's back-to-back seasons in which the San Jose Sharks sent the Red Wings home for the summer in the second round.
"I don't think anyone has enjoyed the last two postseason runs and how they've gotten cut off short," said goalie Jimmy Howard. "It's going to be up to us in the playoffs to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Detroit has made it to the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons, a remarkable number, but Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, GM Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock have created an atmosphere where simply making the playoffs isn't the end game. It's about winning it all. And it's been a while since they've done it.
"It's getting to the point where it's been a handful of years and they haven't won," said an NHL source. "It's time to win. Now, it's all about being healthy."
With the playoffs looming, the banged up Red Wings have slowly seen their lineup return to the one Holland envisioned when he pieced this team together. Babcock is getting glimpses of the team speed and physical play in the offensive zone the Red Wings need in order to be elite -- just not a consistent 60 minutes worth.